Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve Eve at New London!

Nonamei Scribe DJed tonight for a rocking pre-Christmas event in New London!  Here are some snapshots from this evening.

Kat as a sexy Faerie! 
gdn10595 dances with his sonic screwdriver. 
Laredo don't need no shirt!
Slartibartfass wins for wildest outfit! 
Paige Snowpaw! 
Our (literally) pint-sized DJ! 
No, really!  She's a super-tiny! 
 TheRani Reanimator dances like a fiend! 
Make that with a fiend! 
Calisto decided he didn't need no stinkin' flesh! 
A visitor to the sim got all antlery. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lost Who Episodes Recovered!

Krypton Radio has reported that two previously lost episodes from Doctor Who's early years have been recovered from a private collection!  According to the article, "Episode 3 of the William Hartnell adventure “Galaxy 4″ and Episode 2 of Patrick Troughton’s “The Underwater Menace” have been returned to the BBC archive.  The episodes were thought lost forever, but had been  purchased by film collector Terry Burnett in the early 80s – Burnett hadn’t been aware that the canisters contained the lost footage."

If you're a fan of Classic Doctor Who, this should be a real treat.  With a tip of the proverbial hat to K.R., here's a YouTube clip from "The Underwater Menace".


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jessica Lyon Proclaims Her Utter Contempt for Phoenix Users

In an insulting blog post that can basically be summed up as, "Here's a half-assed attempt at incorporating mesh into Phoenix, you whiners!  Now go install Firestorm already because we're through giving our users what they want!", Phoenix development team leader Jessica Lyon just alienated another chunk of what is probably going to be a rapidly dwindling user base.

Phoenix 1185 was, is and will always be our most stable release ever. Please do not expect this phoenix viewer with mesh to be as stable, it simply is not. If it has stability issues it's because it is now a hybrid of two different code bases. The bottom line is that a V1 viewer with a lot of V2 code hacked into the render engine is not going to give you stability as you've come to expect it from this project. Mesh was NOT designed to work with V1 code. We deliver you this viewer on an AS-IS basis.

Wow, that was unnecessarily harsh.  As if that wasn't bad enough, Lyon goes on to send a volley of hostility toward RLV users.

RLVa has not been updated in this Phoenix viewer release. This was my decision, not that of Kitty Barnett. Although I said some time back we would update RLVa in Phoenix it became obvious that the work/time commitment involved in doing so was simply not reasonable or responsible. Kitty is a very valuable asset to this team and I refuse to take her away from the ground breaking work she does in Firestorm and v2/v3 to put a large time commitment into a dying viewer code base. She is worth far more than that. If you want updated RLVa I would suggest using the Firestorm Viewer or Kitty's own Viewer Catznip. I offer you my sincerest apologies for going back on my word in regards to RLVa update in Phoenix, however I believe it was the right decision.

And now the condiment on this shit sandwich:

Please don't complain if this release doesn't work perfectly. If you find the viewer to be unusable you can return to our 1185 version without mesh or switch to the Firestorm Viewer. Complaints about the stability and usability of this release will largely go unheard, we did not modify the mesh code to work in V1 and will only spend limited time trying to fix issues resulting from it. Complaints about this project removing focus on Phoenix Viewer should go to me at [e-mail witheld by me — A.M.] .

Now, I get that customer support isn't something elitist tech heads are known far and wide for.  But even this lunatic ought to have sense enough to recognize that she's just invited a flood of angry e-mails with this.  How can a person spend an entire entry insulting and scolding her own user base and then be stupid enough to invite even more scorn than she's brought upon herself?  And her finishing move:

Phoenix Viewer is becoming harder for us to provide support for at an ever increasing rate. Almost all our support team members are using Firestorm (by choice) as their full time viewer, and being that Firestorm is now our default viewer this should be expected. Support for this release and the phoenix viewer in general will be far more limited this point on. Support will continue to try to help you but in many situations may be unable to do so. Please do not get angry at them if they are unable to provide help for you. Also, please remember... Our support team is not required to help you, they do so on their own accord because they want to.

In summation, "Suck it, Phoenix Viewer users!"

Now, I could go on to psychoanalyze Jessica Lyon's unhinged entry.  I could tell you that it is indicative of a spoiled little child who can't for the life of her understand why her backhanded attitude and lame insults toward her own user base aren't garnering her the respect and unbelievable oral sex she probably expected in return.  I could tell you that Lyon's attitude reminds me a lot of the Democrat Party of today, which continually insults its voter base while bending over backwards to placate the far right GOP that will still never respond with anything other than total political warfare with the ultimate goal of forever annihilating the Dems (hence my becoming a member of the Green Party in RL) — the only thing doing the opposite of what your base wants and then insulting said base accomplishes is to drive said base to go with another party, and that's always going to be true whether it's a political party or, in this case, a third party Second Life viewer.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm glad that the Phoenix development team finally decided to get around to producing a mesh-capable version of Phoenix, which always has been and always will be far superior to V2-V3-Firestorm.  But the fact is that as much as the Firestorm viewer itself is responsible for perceived negativity toward Jessica Lyon and her fellow clowns, so much more responsible is the shameful, over-hostile, elitist attitudes of the whole lot of them.  This is why alternate viewers such as Singularity, Cool VL, Rainbow, and other V1-based viewers will eventually outstrip Firestorm and the horrible viewers it's cloned from.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Phoenix Developers Release Official Firestorm Viewer to Mixed Reviews

So the official release of Firestorm is now available for download.  Many SL users, particularly those who never waste an opportunity to gush over Viewer 2 and Viewer 3 or dis Viewer 1, are singing its praises.  Unfortunately, many users are still experiencing the usual round of glitches and user unfriendliness.  Some criticisms include:
"hi hi just one question for you.... WHERE ARE MY GROUPS & FRIENDS ?"
"I'm having problems with the new version of firestorm. I can't rez and I have cleared cache, relogged. rebake and it's still not working. I've done this a dozen of times and i'm still a red cloud. Can anyone help me?"
 "I just downloaded it and logged in and don't like it. I'm a red cloud and can't get that to change, can't seem to get the 'advanced' tab, can't find anything... don't like everything spread out along the bottom and top, I'm a builder and no textures are rezzing... I'm using a new laptop with Windows 7. a An inworld friend said I could make it be more like Phoenix, which I do like, and there is a video to watch to do that. I'll try that... otherwise, I won't use it :( "
"Can it be that mesh is still summat, ummm, alpha-ish? How these releases could pass QA and get rolled out is over my head. I’ve been playing around with mesh-clothes on both versions and had a lot of issues with clothes not fully rezzing or not rezzing at all. I hear from others who are using the current releases that they only see (or rather don’t) my alphas but not my mesh attachments. I've tweaked several graphics settings, cleared cache, did clean installs -- but overall to no much avail. The issues persist. Given that mesh is one of the key features, or rather _the_ key feature, of V3-based viewers, this is simply absolutely intolerable from a plain player’s point of view. I must confess that I consider this not even beta-stage behaviour. It’s a clear show-stopper in my opinion. I’m well aware that this is very likely an issue which has to be addressed by Linden Lab, but all the same… And no, I didn’t test this against the current Linden viewer. I don’t want to climb up the wall and gnaw my way through the ceiling."
"On to day 3 of trying to get a working version of this viewer. Kinda hard to get anything done when this pile of code keeps telling me i belong to zero groups. friends list empty of names. This is getting more frustrating than making hair"
"Hi having issue with the latest firestorm viewer...ok so basically i did a complete clean reinstall and it works magically for about 10 mins then i spontaneously crash....i really dont know why i've tried lower my graphics reinstalling...i've tried the lesser graphic version but i'm still having these issue's as i use my partners alienware aurora to run SL i dont feel like its my p.c's fault ...any theories?"
 "did anyone else crash upon initial running of Firestorm.. or simply put, sim crashed? or is it just coincidence that i logged into a sim that crashed as firestorm began to load the world?"
"I've never heard of a sim crashing because someone logged in with a particular viewer. I'd have to guess it was an annoying coincidence. I've been getting errors about something called the LLAppViewer. I've looked at the Jira and apparently there are at least two others with the same issue. I'm starting to think that the latest version of FS wasn't quite as ready for prime time as they thought. On the other hand, anything with LL in the name makes me wonder if it's an SL issue and has nothing to do with FS. Actually, I do like FS.... when it runs. Sometimes it will run for hours with no problem and other times it crashes every few minutes for no apparent reason. Maybe I was wearing the wrong color socks."
"It is a lot better than previous versions of Firestorm. I simply hate though that you are so careless with space. Take the "People" window for instance: - First an almost empty line with only a minimize button on it. - Then a HUGE almost empty line with the word "People" on it and another 2 small buttons (geee.. that couldn't be all on 1 small line)? - Then another line where I can filter people. I don't need it but.. IF you want to use, at least place the options button next to it so you can ditch another row of pixels - then 4 tabs that are hardly interesting. "Nearby" is the only one ever used by me. the "Friends-tab" is already in conversations / contacts. Same with the "Group-tab". "Recent" might or might not be useful. So far I hear nobody who ever uses it... so ditch it? - Then you have a seperate button to add friends next to options. rightclicking on a name and then adding a friend is much more intuitive.. so get rid of that button? - Then there is a yet another row with "Profile", "IM", "Call" and "Share". Again... those things you can all reach by rightclicking on a username. That is much more intuitive and you can save another unnecessary line. This is just one window that has it... but litteleraly all windows have silly almost empty space in them or totally unnecessary options. I will not go back to Phoenix because I realise the technology is obsolete. On the other hand.. you have a very very long way to go till Firestorm has the compact and easy to use feel that Phoenix has."
That's pretty much the same set of problems people have been having with V2 and V3 since their initial release, and now on the official, non-beta release of Firestorm.  "Cindy" writes:
The bottom status / menu bar is still covered by windows, still no text labels, inventory / outfit management is still split over 43487565 different windows with different functionality / look and feel instead of 1,IM notifications are still in the bottom right and get covered up and missed, and the bottom chat entry is still on the same line as the buttons instead of its own line that pops up above the button bar as needed.

In general, windows still have too much crap in them filling my screen with stuff I don't need to see and reducing my view of the world.

So, it's better than the old firestorm but still contains the all the crap I didn't like about V2. You have added SOME v1 appearance, but all the badness of V2 is still there all over the place.
 Still no script pre-processor. OK, that makes Firestorm useless for scripting now as I was using that feature extensively, and once you have used it, ALL your scripts now NEED to use it if you want to edit them. Delete from hard disk.
I've been pushing to get the issues I've listed addressed since the first pre-release of FS. I must say that I'm very very disappointed that all the issues I created jira entries for are still problems in the "final" release. These are "core" to me and many others. My tone is based on the frustration of seeing some of our most critical concerns being ignored.

So what does FS give me that I can't get in other viewers? In other words, what is better about FS? Considering Mesh is in several v1 viewers so far it comes down to one, ONE little thing. Mulitiple clothing layers (such as wearing 3 shirts at once.) That's it. Why would I switch?

I was told by many many people to basically "shut up, it's still a beta, they will fix it!" Well, here we are, it's not not a beta anymore and still has some of the worst usability flaws ever seen in a modern software product.

I've been told that V1 viewers are a dead end, ancient technology, obsolete. Nobody has proven that however because it's not true. There is NOTHING that is currently in a V2/V3 viewer that can't be ported back. And guess what? Anything useful IS being ported back. If not already done, it's in progress.

I've been told that it's harder to make V1 viewers with V2 features than V2 viewers with a V1 GUI. Well, I have to point out that FS has been in development for 18 months by a team and is still lacking basic V1 GUI simplicity and usability, and that Mesh was ported to V1 viewers in 6 months by one guy. Ain't the truth a bitch?

As for Mesh, agreed it's not ready. Not at all, especially for clothing due to the lack of a parametric deformer (the ability for Mesh clothes to be re-sized or automatically sized to actually fit your avatar.) In-world objects though it's pretty cool, but as I can get it in Singularity or some of the other V1 viewers, I have no need to perform self-flagellation and use FS to see it.

According to the most recently available statistics from LL, more than 50% of the users still use non-mesh viewers so it's a little loony to wear mesh hair / clothing as you look like you are totally naked wearing a box or sphere on you to the majority. Best to wait until Mesh viewer adoption has reached critical mass (>90% of users.)
I've been hearing that opinion that V1 viewers will cease working as LL turns off services being repeated over and over since 2.0 first came out.

Let's set the record straight. First and foremost, while LL initially indicated that some back end services may be retired, they have since backed down on most of that retirement such as the NON-web profiles.

But here is the kicker - any viewer that is still maintained will continue to work. Why? Very simple. Any V1-only protocol that is retired will simply be replaced with the V2 version as needed - just as Mesh was ported over. We will still happily use the far superior V1 interface as more V2 features and protocols are pulled in. That's it. That's the whole secret that the Firestorm team and it's cheerleaders don't want you to know.

The Phoenix/FS team has declared that the next Phoenix will be the last. Don't let them fool you - after all, the Phoenix rises from the ashes, right? Isn't that what the name is all about? It's open source. I'm sure it will be forked and maintained by avid fans. I know several people who are holding off doing any work on it until the final version is stabilized Even if Phoenix doesn't in itself get picked up, other V1 viewer projects regularly are picking up ideas and code to integrate back in to their alternatives.

In my not-so-humble opinion, Phoenix is still far and above the feature king. It's the most usable and user friendly viewer available, bar none. It is suffering a bit from performance issues however - Singularity has it beat hands down there, but that should get resolved with the Mesh back-end.

 Even people who enjoyed the beta version are having problems with the official release.
 I loved the Beta. The Beta crashed sometimes, but it worked pretty well.

Now the new one is remarkably slower. It still doesn't keep settings, such as window positions. But now it doesnt even keep my graphic settings. I was hoping to get a fixed version, but now it turns out to be worse.

I didnt check out the mesh upload capabilities. But im not sure if I can trust them yet.

I'm not using Phoenix anymore, but I won't be using this version of Firestorm either. I'll just wait for a version where the show stoppers are fixed, because they are really annoying.
 And that about sums it up: Firestorm still isn't ready for official release.  I'm beginning to wonder if it'll ever be.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More Movies!

Here are my third and fourth projects for the first half of my film class. This first is called "Reunion", and it is about a man who has lost his beloved and longs to join her in the afterlife, which he ultimately does. The short was filmed on a Bolex 16mm camera in black and white.

The next video was shot on a Panasonic DVX-100 mini-DV camera. Called "Coffee Zombies", it's a humorous message about humanity's addiction to caffeine, with a bit of a poke at religion. If you can find the John Carpenter and Quentin Tarantino homages in this one, and answer what movies they honor, you get a free Internet cookie.

There were problems that arose with lighting on both projects, and the pacing on the second video could have been sped up some, but overall I was told by my instructor that the shots and composition were great. Next semester I'll definitely be improving my shooting skills with the camera, as well as tightening up my editing. Feel free to let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jumping the Shark with Mesh?

Rumors (and blog posts) are flying that some Whovian regions are using spiffy new mesh builds, with at least one sim going all in to completely revamp.  As I've written here and here, I think completely redesigning a region with mesh builds is premature.

For one thing, more SL users are still using third-party viewers that do not yet have the ability to see mesh builds in all their glory — stability issues with Viewer 2 and Viewer 3, and strong dislike for the crappy UI thereon, necessitate sticking with Viewer 1-based viewers.  This means that most SL users will not be able to see all those pretty mesh creations.

Another problem is in the cost of mesh imports, not only in terms of money but in prim-count.  The more complex the import, the more it costs to upload, and the larger and more complex the build, the higher the prim count.  While this may be fine for limited mesh importation in full-prim regions by people with money to burn, most people will find it cost-prohibitive.  What good is rebuilding a region completely when prims are limited and too many people won't be able to appreciate the work put in?

Does this mean that mesh is too impractical?  Initially, yes.  But things won't be so for long.  Third party viewers such as Cool VL Viewer, Singularity, and Phoenix have either already developed mesh-viewing capability or are on their way to bringing it into their systems.  The biggest problem, then, will be the cost prohibition.  Wiser land-owners will want to keep mesh imports to a minimum to help keep prim-count and lag down, as well as save money.  It will probably take a massive user petition to Linden Lab to bring down the monetary and prim costs for mesh, too.

For a more positive outlook on mesh, here's a review worth reading.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Is Second Life a Community, or a Business Venture?

I happened on a blog that discusses, among other things, Second Life (you don't need to know how), and found what turned out to be a very interesting discussion on just what people think SL is and isn't.

My own opinion is that SL is pretty much what its users choose to make of it. Some prefer to make it all about business, destroying competitors, and being the end all and be all of whatever fan- or niche-based community they settle into in this virtual world. Others use SL to socialize — to connect with people who would otherwise be so far away as to make personal interaction impossible; through the magic of cyberspace, people are able to make those connections and grow from them. Still others employ SL as a way to explore their creative abilities and share the results thereof with others. You've got people who use it as another form of online gaming. Over there are the educators who use SL to enhance the experiences of their students. Then there are people who do some combination of those things, and much much more. The list can go on for quite a way.

Me, I fall into the combo category: I like to explore my creative talents (though I've admittedly cheated and gotten caught, but no need to go into that again) while socializing with people I ordinarily wouldn't be able to connect with. I consider myself much richer in terms of the bonds I've formed than I was before I discovered SL.

One point that was made by a few people in the thread including myself, and I happen to agree with this, is that while the activities we all engage in are pixel-based and have no more substance than the air we breathe, the people behind the pretty avatars are very very real. Our feelings are real, and the actions we engage in, both on and off the virtual grid of Second Life, can — and all too often do — have real consequences.

Fortunately, unlike real life, SL has a mute button. We can block out the griefers, the ego-driven stalkers and bullies, the card-carrying liars, the narcissists. Sometimes it isn't always possible to do that, like when people violate the virtual boundaries of SL to go after people in the real world. But for the most part, we don't have to put up with the drama. Once that simple thing is done, once that mute button is hit, we can go about our virtual experiences and have fun — the very reason SL exists.

Bottom line: whatever Second Life is to you, is just that, and what others make of SL is what they make it to themselves. That's the real magic of SL and similar virtual communities.

I made movies!

Here are the first two projects I did for my film class this semester.  Footage for Project 3 should come in today or tomorrow, allowing me to edit it all into something awesome. These film shorts were filmed on a Bolex 16mm film camera, in glorious black and white.

This was the one-shot project; our assignment was to gauge our ability to shoot something in only one take, with no cuts or stopping of the camera. In the above-linked short, two guys meet, ostensibly to discuss something important, but things quickly degenerate into a physical altercation that sends #1 to the ground. #2 comes back to deliver a kick to #1 while he's down. If this were applied to me versus life itself, I would be Guy #1 and Life would be Guy #2.

This was our in-camera-edit project. We had to film the bits in sequential order. We also had to present assigned shot types, such as close-up, extreme close-up, Dutch or canted angles, tracking and tilt shots, and so on. In this film short, a couple is having problems communicating. The woman is trying to explain that her guy doesn't listen very well, but what he hears isn't what she's saying. She loses her temper, finally prompting the guy to pay attention to his gal's feelings. The shaky dolly shot of the opening door wasn't actually intended to be shaky. We were moving on a highly uneven sidewalk.

I'll post my edited Project 3 once it's finished and uploaded.


I may soon be able to log onto SL from where I'm currently staying, so I won't have to rely so much on school terminals.


Last night I witnessed a deer be hit by a car and live to run away. The poor thing ran out into oncoming traffic, because its territory had been eliminated forcing it to exist in the city. I saw this animal tumble-fly and land badly, but it was able to get back up right away and run the rest of the way across the road. The driver not only chose to keep going when the deer ran in front of his or her vehicle, but didn't even stop to check if it was alright. Asshole.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Homelessness: Week 2

I'm in my second week of homelessness.  Tomorrow I go to apply for public housing assistance, though the waiting list is two years or more.  Yesterday I shelled out money for a new copy of my birth certificate, since my old copy is deteriorating and is halfway to coming in half.  Always good to have a backup, right?  I have a film shoot to try and get done this weekend, which isn't guaranteed since classmates are all busy with their own projects.  I hope I don't miss being able to do my third film project, because I can't make it up once the opportunity has passed.

Had some more drama in-world, which I really didn't need.  You don't need to know from whom, but it really hurt considering my real-life circumstances.

Looking for better-paying jobs and not really finding anything, which isn't surprising.  Economy sucks and a guy my age who's homeless, still trying to get his Bachelors, and has no car simply can't compete with the dozen or so other people vying for every job out there.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Homeless in RL

So yeah, I'm now officially homeless.  There was no mercy at the eviction hearing.  Even the magistrate was taken aback somewhat by my "brother's" refusal either to grant me enough time to save up money to move out on my own again, or grant me time enough to get all my belongings out of the house.  Most of what I own is now in storage.  Where I'm going to live I don't know.  I'm crashing at a friend's house for a little while so I can get my bearings and figure out what to do, but really, I have no hope of finding a better arrangement any time soon.

I canceled my phone and Internet service, since I now have nowhere to hook up my phone and computer.  I can log on occasionally from school computers, but with things being what they are, I have to focus on getting a place to live.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Viewer Snobbery

The latest gripe fest on the Phoenix Viewer blog demonstrates just how out of touch the development team is with reality.  Now, don't get me wrong; I prefer Phoenix, which is still much more stable than, say Singularity, even though I believe Singularity will eventually supplant Phoenix as that development team ceases to update their viewer.  But the attitude coming from Jessica Lyon and her supporters is downright puzzling, not to mention irritating.

Lyon and her supporters are making the argument that trying to backport Viewer 2 and Viewer 3 features into Viewer 1 interface is like "taking a diesel engine from a school bus and fitting it into a ford pinto".  But Henri Beauchamp, the developer of Cool VL Viewer and whose code the Phoenix team used to bring mesh capability to Phoenix, cleared up a number of exaggerated claims by Lyon.  Far from taking "many" months of work, it only took Beauchamp two, two and a half at most, albeit with him working overtime in his spare hours to get the work done.  And contrary to the diesel engine metaphor, Beauchamp stated on his forum, "It's more like replacing the battery and alternator of the car engine with newer, more powerful ones (ll* libraries), replacing the mechanical injection with an electronic one to make for the increased mechanical power demand from the alternator (v2 classes in the viewer code) then adding air conditioning to the car (mesh renderer). Nothing that would make the poor car into a weird hybrid vehicle."

So it really isn't that difficult to backport the Viewer 2-Viewer 3 code into the Viewer 1 interface, contrary to what Jessica Lyon and her supporters claim.

I get the impression that the Phoenix Development Team decided to follow Linden Lab's lead and go with the crappy, bug-ridden, crashtastic, user-unfriendly, outsourced viewer that most Second Life users can't stand and would prefer not to use.  That's why so many people refuse to use the default SL viewer, and instead go with third party viewers such as Phoenix, Singularity, Cool VL, Rainbow, and others.  That's bad enough.  Literally adding insult to injury, however, was the condescending dismissal of legitimate criticisms that Viewer 2 and its clones (including Firestorm) are highly unstable, have a tendency to gobble inventory -- say goodbye to no-copy items forever -- eat up loads and loads of memory even on newer computers, and tend to crash said computers when the viewers alone aren't crashing, by telling disgruntled users to buy new computers instead of the decade-old ones we're allegedly clinging to.

This is a false assumption on the part of the Phoenix Development team, for many if not most users are not on ten-year-old computers.  I, for example, am on a computer that is less than a year old, has a monster graphics card, and is built for gaming purposes.  Yet the Viewer 2 and Firestorm beta I tried kept crashing on me, and often crash my computer altogether (even Phoenix and Singularity crash my comp).  Another dismissive claim is that users only tried Firestorm for a few minutes before giving up on it, despite people complaining that they spent hours on Firestorm only to have the same problems.  Simply put, people don't like the user interface no matter how much the Phoenix team tries to gussy it up, and the viewer itself is a bug-infested resource hog just like Viewer 2.  It's not a matter of people clinging to old technology, rather, they simply don't like the craptastic interface of a product that messes up their newer computers.

I think what's really driving the outright hostility coming from the Phoenix team and its supporters is simple snobbery.  They hopped on board a product that someone told them was the latest rage, and they genuinely don't seem to accept the legitimate reasons most people don't like it.  What if Coca Cola had stubbornly stuck by its "New Coke" product even after the massive customer backlash?  That company would now be out of business.  Instead, Coca Cola wised up, came out with "Classic Coke", and remained competitive with Pepsi, its closest competitor.  That was honest of them to do, and they survived by accepting and acknowledging their business mistake and correcting it.  If Phoenix developers want their viewer to remain the preferred one used by SL members, they will have to accept and acknowledge their mistakes, make the necessary apologies for their attitudes, and keep working to correct their mistake by continuing support for Phoenix Viewer.  it's what more of their user base seem to want anyway, and it makes better business sense.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

You've GOT to be kidding me...

So we have the final episode of Series 6 (Christmas Special notwithstanding), and it's craptastic.  The Doctor pulled a switcheroo on everybody, and the oldest question in the universe is the name of the television showSeriously?

The Doctor has a date with death at Lake Silencio, but before he goes he takes a few detours.  One of those is a trip to the room where the Headless Monks -- who were featured in "A Good Man Goes to War" -- keep the heads of their members, to pick up the head of Dorium Maldovar.  The blue-skinned bodiless head tells him the oldest question in the universe, prophesying that "the 11th will fall when the question is asked and answered."  Stuff happens.  River rises from the lake, encased in the astronaught suit against her will, and defiantly depletes her weapons pack, creating a dying timeline in which all of history happens at once.  More stuff happens.  The Doctor gets River to let things play out as they should, and everything turns out okay -- the Doctor having tricked almost everyone by hiding inside the shape-shifting robot piloted by miniature people, which is what Rory, Amy, and River actually saw being shot.

You know, there are times when I really, REALLY can't stand cheap writing, and this is one of them.  After splitting Series 6 in two this year to help reduce production costs, you'd think Steven Moffat would have come up with something more dramatic, better written, and more epic.  But this episode felt more like an afterthought tacked onto the end of a really mediocre season.  And this alleged "slipping back into the shadows" thing, ostensibly to be less visible than he has been for more than two centuries, probably isn't going to last into Series 7, which may not even take place next year but in 2013, when the show reaches its fiftieth anniversary.

BBC, please please PLEASE replace Moffat with someone who knows how to write consistently well.  That is all.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Review: Closing Time

Tonight is the final regular episode of Series 6, so I thought I'd do a quick review of "Closing Time" before heading out to work on a student film project.

The Doctor is on a trip to visit old friends one last time before meeting his end in Utah, and his last stop involves dropping in on Craig, whom we last saw in "The Lodger" (Series 5).  He and Sophie now have added an infant son to their relationship, but the little tyke is more than either of them can handle.  Sophie is sent off on a much-needed holiday out of the house, setting up the events to come.  The Doctor and Craig save the world from Cybermen, and Craig gets a helping hand with his son, Stormaggedon, Dark Lord of All — okay, his name's actually Alfie, but he's a cute baby and he has his Stewie factor going on, so we'll forgive him his silly choice in self-naming.

What I liked about this episode was pretty much everything, including the running gag of a co-worker of the Doctor's at the local department store in which he's taken a temporary job misconstruing the relationship between Craig and the Time Lord.  The redesign of the Cybermats was pretty cool.

The only part I didn't like was the unexplained presence of the Cybus Cybermen.  How is it that they managed to crash a ship into Earth, in England, centuries before?  Time storm?  Maybe.  Crack in the universe from Series 5?  Probably, knowing Moffat.  I just didn't care for it.  I would like to see the Mondasian Cybermen meet the Cybus versions.  It might make for a really interesting clash of classic and new series.

Anyway, that's it for this review.  I'll write one up of "The Wedding of River Song" tomorrow after I've watched it.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hey, don't knock the free publicity.

I just read a friend's blog musing on the obsession a certain someone seems to have for her even though she has tried repeatedly to ignore him and get on with her Second Life.  I like to think of it as this harasser and his cronies giving my friend free publicity.  See, the more these people bitch and moan about who allegedly said or did what, the more people talk — about the target of the ranting and raving.  And I think, when people begin to realize just who it is that keeps initiating conflict, eventually they realize just what a loser Mr. Serial harasser really is.  Who the hell cares, you know?  Stop whining and complaining and move on with your life already.

But some people are incapable of leaving others alone.  It's a pathological compulsion, driven by fear.  What's to be feared?  No longer getting attention.  No longer mattering.  Obscurity.  Mr. Serial Harasser simply must keep up his harassment, domineering, conniving, lying, and bullying because without it all he is just another nobody.

That's actually a perfect description of my brother, now that I think about it.  The moment I'm thrown out onto the streets to be homeless, he'll realize that it's not he who is through with me; I am the one who will be through with him.  And then what will he have to live for?  He's already attempted suicide at least once — he's told me as much.  I pity the boy.

Anyway, to my friend who may be reading this, I say enjoy the free publicity.  Trying to beat the competition by constantly trash-talking the competitors is bad business for the one doing the trash-talking.  It's a sign of desperation.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: The God Complex

Only, what, two more 'regular' episodes left to go for Series 6?  Where DOES the time fly?  Oh yeah, in an alien-built hotel made to look like one from 1980s Earth, which is the setting for "The God Complex".  It's basically a retelling of the Minotaur story from Greek mythology, and Toby Whitehouse's script makes it an enjoyable one indeed.

I won't give too much away from the episode, for the sake of people who haven't yet been able to see it.  Suffice to say that it's a great stand-alone episode and a real heartbreaker at the end.  The character of the Minotaur, actually an alien in the story from a race of beings who literally feed on the mental energy generated by a person's faith, could have been portrayed as an irredeemable monster.  But just as in the Series 5 episode "Vincent and the Doctor", he's really just a victim himself, and proves worthy of sympathy.

It is here I will give away the most spoilers, because I really want to focus on the Minotaur.  Imagine a race of beings who feed off of certain types of mental energy, who roam from world to world setting themselves up as gods to be worshiped, feeding on the faith of their followers.  On a planet with thousands, perhaps even millions of followers, it is easy to feed without necessarily killing, except for the odd sacrifice every now and then.  One imagines this is what the Nimons were perfectly content with.  Somehow, however, one of their relatives got himself imprisoned in a labyrinthine prison with no escape, and a steady stream of faithful people from all over the universe brought in to keep it alive.  With so few to feed from, the Minotaur is forced by his survival instinct to take all of the energy from its victims, killing them in the process, something it may very well never have wanted.  But it can't help itself, and eventually, after many thousands of years, it is at the point where it no longer even remembers its own name.  It simply is, and it cannot help but run on pure instinct, full of sorrow at what it must do to survive but unable to end its suffering on its own.  Sooner or later a hero comes and kills him, ending the barbaric ritual of sacrifice to the half-god bull.

Clearly, the writer intended this to be the basis for the Greek myth, or a continuation of it, or some combination of the two concepts.  Whitehouse could have done a lot worse with his handling of the Minotaur myth, but he pulled it off splendidly.

Okay, I was wrong.  I gave away a lot more than I intended.  If I'm able after this weekend, I'll write my review of "Closing Time".

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review with Link: The Girl Who Waited

Somebody already wrote up a fairly decent review of "The Girl Who Waited", so I'm just going to link to it here and let you judge it for yourself.  What I write below is merely to add to what has already been written.

To begin with, I've never really understood the animosity some fans feel toward the character of Amy Pond or of the actress behind her, Karen Gillan.  Billie Piper's Rose Tyler was too weepy, and Freema Agyeman's Martha Jones spent most of her time making moon eyes at the Doctor while getting all silently angsty over his inability to notice her feelings for him.  It wasn't until Catherine Tate's turn as Donna Noble that I began to like the Doctor's companions again, since the dynamic of the on-screen relationship was such that I could really see some fleshing out of both characters without the annoying unrequited love thing taking over.

With the character of Amy Pond, I began to fear that the series was returning to the lovesick puppy routine, but that gimmick was quickly ended when Arthur Darvill's Rory Williams became a central figure in the show and the true focus of Amy's romantic love.  If Moffat's tenure as head writer can be credited with anything good, it's the strong supporting cast for Series' 5 and 6.  It is this context that I watched and liked "The Girl Who Waited", though it's not nearly as good an episode as it should have been.

I didn't like the throw-away explanation of why a person can spend literally years alone without food and water in an isolated environment while dodging badly programmed security robots.  Timey wimey, wibbly wobbly stuff aside, it's insulting.  I'd have preferred a better explanation of survival, maybe showing a fruit orchard that the older Amy has been raiding or something.  I also didn't like that she initially rejected Rory upon reuniting with him, rather than be overjoyed.  Rory literally waited centuries for her in a collapsing universe as a plastic recreation of himself who was continuously awake, retaining his sanity and love for Amy throughout all that time.  She couldn't return the favor for thirty-six years, especially given what she's gone through with him and the strengthening of their bond since "The Eleventh Hour"?  Come on, the writers can do better than that.

Still, for those faults, I did enjoy the dramatic dynamic of this episode.  The final, heart-wrenching scene was reminiscent of Russell T. Davies' superb ability to tear out our hearts, stomp them into greasy spots on the ground, pick them up and reconstitute them, put them back in our chests, and start the whole process over again for the next episode.  But then there was the logical question that sprang to mind: why is Rory so broken up when he has managed to rescue the Amy he knows and loves?  And that killed the moment for me as a punch to the gut.  (Now don't go complaining about a spoiler — if you don't know by now that the Companions, with rare exception, get a Hero's Death Battle Exemption every episode, you really should pay more attention.)

I give "The Girl Who Waited" a C-, which is a pretty generous grade in my humble opinion.  It's saved by the talents of Darvill and an ever-improving Gillan, but excellent acting can only go so far with a story this weak.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Torchwood: Miracle Day - Final Review

Alrighty then, seeing as How Torchwood: Miracle Day has come to its end, I thought I'd give you a review of the series.  (Fortunately, the three-day eviction notice hasn't arrived yet — I expect it to any day now, but until it does I have a bit of time.)

As I said in the last review, series creator and head writer Russell T. Davies doesn't disappoint us.  One day, nobody dies.  They keep getting older, they still become sick and injured, but they don't die.  Everyone on Earth has become immortal, while Captain Jack Harkness has lost his own immortality.  He reteams with Gwen Cooper to stop whatever is causing this catastrophic event as world society begins to collapse.

Inserted into this mix is convicted child rapist and killer Oswald Danes, whose role in this drama forces Captain Jack to deal with his own guilt over the death of his grandson, which he caused at the end of Torchwood: Children of Earth.  As the series unfolds, we learn that Danes is searching for the cause of the Miracle, too, for reasons of his own.  CIA operatives Rex Matheson and Esther Drummons find themselves thrown into the action along with Doctor Vera Juarez, an emergency room physician whose efforts to deal with the Miracle's devastating consequences inadvertently lead to horrific actions by the world's governments to contain the population overflow.

After watching the final episode today, I can safely say that there is a planned Series 5.  How can there not be, with things left up in the air as they are?  Rex, who was mortally wounded in the first episode, finds himself changed in ways he never imagined.  Jilly Kitzinger, a professional propagandist working for Phicorp, the shadowy business involved in the Miracle, is almost certain to return in a future series.  The three families responsible for the Miracle remain free.  With all those threads left untied, you just know Davies has more in store for us.

As for the Miracle itself, what it is and how it came to be are unknown.  It's simply there, and as far as MacGuffins go, that's enough.  I have to say I'm torn as to how Davies chose to deal with Oswald Danes.  It's obvious he got the fate he wanted, but why he wanted it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Given the nature of the character, maybe that's appropriate.

I guess my favorite part of Torchwood: Miracle Day is how the character of Gwen Cooper has evolved.  Davies wrote her, and Eve Myles portrayed her, as "a working mother" wracked by guilt but soldiering on because she has to, because who else will?  Gwen has become the quintessential mother figure of the series, responsible not only for her own nuclear family, but for her extended Torchwood family as well.  How she handles the illness and death of her own father simply rends one's heart, making the character and her job that much more easy to sympathize and identify with.

Overall, I'd have to give Torchwood: Miracle Day an A+.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Night Terrors and Torchwood: Miracle Day

Okay, I'm writing this before I have to prepare for my DJ gig in a couple of hours that will be immediately followed by me leaving (I hope) for a friend's birthday party.  I'll start with a brief review of the Doctor Who episode "Night Terrors" and then begin my review of Torchwood: Miracle Day.

"Night Terrors" is so much better than "Let's Kill Hitler" that I wonder how Moffat can stand letting himself be upstaged by someone who actually knows how to write.  George, a little boy plagued by the monsters inhabiting his room at night, does a ritual chant for expelling them, calling out for someone, anyone, to "save [him] from the monsters."  His loving but frustrated parents don't know what to do, since his fears have pretty much paralyzed not only his life but theirs since they have to drop whatever they're doing at any given moment to reassure him, all to no avail.  George's call for help is so powerful, psychically, that it reaches all the way out into space and time to write his message on the Doctor's psychic paper.  Naturally, the Doctor is compelled to go help, and the episode kicks off.

Okay, sorry, I should have warned you about spoilers.  But bear in mind that what I just described above only takes place before the opening credits.  What I liked about this episode is that it was generally bereft of the convoluted storytelling Steven Moffat has injected into the show since he began his tenure as head writer.  As a stand-alone episode, "Night Terrors" really shines.  It deals with the fears every child has about the toys and other things that, while ordinary and friendly by day, turn into scary monsters at night.  Only in this episode, those monsters turn out to be very real, and the Doctor must help banish them.

There's a closet (or cupboard, as it's called in the episode) where all the things that frighten little George are locked, the better to help soothe his fears.  That construct becomes a central part of the story.  Even more integral to the plot is George's father, who as it turns out has fear issues of his own as he is confronted by his bullying landlord.  His hangups and those of his son are inextricably linked, and we learn why by the end of the episode.  As it turns out, George is truly the son his dad always wanted, and is like him in so many more ways than one.  I wish more had been told of the relationship between the boy and his mother, who is largely absent from the episode, but given the obvious constraints the show's creative team are operating under, this was understandable.

Amy and husband Rory, as usual, end up being chased around by the monsters and in their now-typical fashion lend both credibility as horror-story heroes and comic relief.  A lot of Who fans haven't caught on to Karen Gillan's Amy Pond, but the actress seems to be really growing into the role — less sassy, more realistic, maturing.  Arthur Darvill as Rory is brilliant as usual.  At times I think he is the real star of the show under Moffat's tenure, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing;  for the first time in many years, Doctor Who's Companions are more than simply damsels in distress weeping over the Doctor or being helpless in situations — they're smart, strong, and proactive, though they don't always know enough to make sound judgments.  I can now easily see where Moffat is going with these characters as the parents of River Song, and their influence on her is crucial to that character's development.  If Moffat has done anything right since taking over the show, it's creating, developing, and evolving these two characters.

I will tell you this about "Night Terrors": how it plays out was written a lot better than it probably had any right to be given the creative rut Moffat has put the show in.  I was pleasantly surprised by this episode, and I sincerely hope that Moffat stays out of the rest of the series so better writers can tell his overall story arc.

"The Gathering", the ninth episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day, is the second-to-last one of this fourth series that tells the story of Captain Jack Harkness and his friends.  A lot of things are reaching their climax now, and I can hardly wait to see next week's episode, which will wrap up the whole series.  I'll give a more thorough review of this and other previous episodes tomorrow, but safe to say that Russel T. Davies has much, MUCH more in store for us.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Real-Life Instability

Okay, next week is probably going to see me absent from SL for an extended period of time.  There are some reasons for this that I'll explain here.  I'm posting this in case anyone who reads this blog wonders why I'm not online.

The happier part of my explanation is that I've not only started classes again at college, but that after nearly four long years I've finally got a job — with the college itself!  Okay, it's a part-time position with a maximum allowance of twenty hours per week; this is because college policy forbids the institution from saddling student employees with so much work that it hinders their academic pursuits.  It's also minimum wage, so I really can't sustain myself with it.  Still, it's better than nothing and I for one am supremely grateful for the position, which came at a badly needed time.

Which brings me to the monumentally screwed up part of my explanation.  It's long and may be a bit rambling, but please bear with me.

Back in July my younger brother decided to barge in on me unannounced — no phone call or e-mail to let me know he was coming over.  He takes a look at the clutter of my living area upstairs from my parents, and decides to give me one of his patented lectures on how I live my life.  Since I was unemployed, had no access to on-site laundry facilities or money for the laundromat, and extremely limited space to put things, naturally things are going to pile up.  I'm not saying I couldn't have made more of an effort to keep the place looking better than it did, but my situation simply does not allow me to do much, especially when I am literally forbidden access to cleaning materials needed to help keep the place up.  I make do with what I have.  Anyway, I told him to fuck off as anyone in my position would, and the little stain left promising to call the authorities and have me forcibly removed from the house.

Then, on August 5th, he brought over two women from the county board of mental health services to evaluate me — again with no prior announcement whatsoever.  After asking me some rather stupid and insulting questions, they left.  Whatever he hoped to "prove" to the board of mental health about me, it was a spectacular failure on his part.

So Monday the 8th comes along.  Another unannounced visit.  Younger brother hands me a thirty day notice signed by my mother to vacate the premises.  If I'm not out by the 7th of this month, they will proceed to deliver a three-day notice.  When I've failed to move out by then, a court hearing will be scheduled to evict me.  That take anywhere from two to three weeks, maybe less than two weeks.  It really depends on how busy the court docket is.  If I can't convince the magistrate to give me more time, I will be rendered homeless.  It is highly unlikely that I will be able to keep a roof over my head.  This may, in fact, be the last entry I'm able to make for a long, long time.  It may be my final entry, period.

All I can really do at this point is to try to convince the housing court magistrate that I've just started a new job and that I am willing to begin paying rent again, albeit with a firmly established and legally binding lease agreement that will protect me from unlawful retaliation, and hope that he or she gives me the necessary time to save up and move back out on my own.  After so many years of unemployment, and with wages stagnant while the cost of living goes up exponentially, it really is extremely tough trying to live in this country (the Corporate-Owned States of America).  It is unforgiving to the poor and without mercy.

Wish me luck, offer prayers, send money if you can and you're willing.  Because if I become homeless, I really don't think I will survive.  I probably won't starve; I bought the college meal plan and so will be able to get at least five meals a week until the end of the semester as long as I can keep my student identification card.  My job will provide me with regular enough income that I can replenish some of what I've spent of my financial aid money and, I hope, save for a cheap apartment somewhere and store my belongings.  But I can suffer and die from exposure, and news articles I've read on how homeless people are regularly assaulted by everyone from cops to spoiled rich kids fill me with dread.  To say that I am scared would be an understatement.

That's it for my explanation.  I hope to see (and be seen by) my friends soon.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Let's Kill Suspension of Disbelief!

Needless to say, I'm less than impressed with the semi-premiere episode of Doctor Who, "Let's Kill Hitler", that kicked off the second half of Series 6.  It's like Steven Moffat decided to give a huge middle finger to fans out of pure spite.  Not content with writing the insulting storyline of making River Song the child of companions Amy and Rory in "A Good Man Goes to War", the current head writer seems hellbent on doing even more to confuse and annoy fans with this episode, which was almost completely incomprehensible.

From the opening scenes showing some sort of human-sized, shape-changing android piloted by a miniaturized crew taking the place of an S.S. officer in an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler, to the climax of the episode showing the beginnings of River Song, "Let's Kill Hitler" never fails to fail to deliver.  Are we to believe that 1.) A human-Time Lady hybrid who has, as stated in this episode, regenerated into a toddler, somehow makes it from 1969 New York to 1990s Leadworth in England, 2.) inserts herself into her future parents' timeline in order to get an opportunity to meet and kill the Doctor, 3.) oh-so-conveniently regenerates into her River Song incarnation when a stray bullet from Hitler forces her to change, and 4.), after poisoning the Doctor with one of her lipsticks, suddenly is inspired by her parents' devotion to him to save his life by offering up all her remaining regenerations, and by episode's end be inspired to go looking for him again?

Okay, yes, I just gave away the entire episode.  Trust me, you're really not worse off for it.  This episode was so silly in its premise as to be unworthy of even bothering with.  For one thing, how can you have an episode called "Let's Kill Hitler" and then lock him in a closet and forget about him roughly ten minutes or so in — for the rest of the episode?  A better title might have been, "The Start of the River" or something like that, because that's really the whole plot of this sorry excuse for a story.

And naturally, there's the throw-away characters in the form of a group devoted to protecting the Doctor from River Song before she can kill him, or avenge him afterward, while also killing history's most evil figures at the end of their timelines.  Who are these people and where did they come from?  How do they fit in with the effort by the Silence to kill the Doctor and bring about the end of all things?  And really, is the explanation of the Silence as a religious movement using the bulbous-headed, mouthless aliens from episodes one and two as players in their game, worthy of Doctor Who as a series?  Not even close.

Moffat's increasingly been rubbing me the wrong way ever since the premiere of Series 5 last year.  He can't be replaced soon enough, in my opinion.  I can only hope that his eventual replacement will go out of his or her way to clean up the storytelling mess he's made of things.  It's natural to ask audiences to suspend disbelief when consuming fiction.  But to ask us to toss it out the window and forget what was established just one episode ago, or earlier in a season, is just asking too much.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Laluna Larimore Live Singing (Real Finish)

Alrighty then, the real finishing event to new London Festival is performed by Laluna Larimore, who treated us to her wonderful singing voice as she sang songs from her favorite playlist and took requests at the Pyramid Stage.

PSYCH!!! Bowie (played by Laredo) is On!

Betcha thought the party was over with Kat's set, didn't ya?  Not so!  Laredo Lowtide starts his David Bowie set right now!

Fox McLeod couldn't wait to get started, ha ha!

Laredo really got in costume for this!

Stage-Eye View

A Manowar t-shirt at a Bowie concert!?  What am I thinking?!?

Jayne rocking out on her guitar!