Tuesday 30 October 2007


After several years' absence I return to China on the morrow and abandon my home in Orion for most of the month of November. As many farewells as be stars in heaven, and to you my friends as many fond wishes as the miles between us.

Friday 26 October 2007

Versailles en filme

A tragic conclusion.


From the journal of Dr. Rafael Fabre, self-styled Steampunk Physician, I learned that the Palace of Versailles had been rebuilt in Second Life, and hastened there to see for myself. I have lived much too long out of my own age, among Victorians, Aegyptians, Edwardians, slave-trading barbarians, et cetera. What a profound pleasure to return to a part of the world and a place in time I recognize. Indeed, one feels quite at home dans la galerie des glaces - the Hall of Mirrors, et aupres des grandes eaux in the garden without. Voila, I cannot help but ascend to my native tongue, which has been worn out by so much English in recent centuries.

While chatting with tourists Mephistopheles Janus and Lilliput Little, the Quality made an entrance. I had the great honour of meeting a Duchess (la duchesse d'Orléans?) Janine Debevec, her lady-in-waiting StarMaker Boa, and their majordomo broc Zehetbauer, in period dress, and most friendly to these trespassers on their lovely build.

I implore you to visit: as ambitious as the magnificent Assisi, though perhaps not as accurate, Versailles is nevertheless a grand and wonderful build. I am sure StarMaker Boa will also want me to add, if you are half as delighted by their work as I was, you may vote for them in the green box by the entrance.
I shall return as soon and as oft as I am able, to study their fine work with much appreciation and no little joy.

Thursday 25 October 2007

Strange Encounter

"We have stood prettily much too long," I said to Osprey after we conversed about China and teaching art for the better part of an hour, "We should stretch our legs and find an admirer." For what better way to cheer one's self than go begging for compliments?
Osprey suggested New Babbage, where I had never been, and we presently arrived at a lonely train platform, haunted by a shade in a pretty blue dress and raven tresses amply piled upon her head. We were alarmed at first, but the phantom invited us to approach and delivered a prognostication! I shuddered as if we were Banquo and Macbeth before the Weird Sisters, but she was a solitary shade who spoke so equably and gently, we were much reassured. She spoke first to Osprey (whom I shall let reveal what was said, if it please her) and then turned to me. "Look to the stars," the phantom said, and "Much is expected of you, Young Geoffrion!" and more besides before she vanished.
A strange encounter! What does it portend?

Saturday 20 October 2007

Idle Afternoon

It has been ages since I have frittered away an idle afternoon with friends.

Enjah and Salazar engage in a little horseplay during rehearsal (taken earlier this week on Phobos), Enjah no doubt mindful of the burden she needs place on her hippo every weekend while dancing.

Ida and Theo as Polonsky and Keen (or are they Keen and Polonsky?) before a smaller, not always appreciative audience. The couple in front row suffered a disturbing illness throughout the show, and made ungenerous comments to Caitlin while she was in wildlife form, proving that you can choose your parents but you cannot choose your audience. Sharp words were said about a deficit of manners displayed in the pit, but I am less concerned about our own sensibilities as performers (we are vaux-de-ville players after all!) and more worried over the impression left on our more gentle members of the audience.

We danced backstage to delightful music, but in my eyes not everyone had returned to normal size after Shindigging as tinies. I would later suffer the same fate.... It's not often one stands so tall next to Salazar, so I did not mention it. We were happy to have Os back with us and electrified! Memory Harker replied to an IM and joined us before Osprey and Enjah left, and the two of us caught up on news before being joined by Furkettle, er, well with a name like that it's no wonder I don't remember his last name! Furkettle collects avatars (I wish we had Osprey's butterfly board to display 'em) and ran through some for us, mostly large and mechanical, clearly compensating for something, but I'm not sure what.

We all retired to my home in Orion, and were joined by this delightful creature in the most wonderful hair by Analog Dog (Queue Marlowe) and an exotic name.

Anhinga Chaika.

Furkettle is also a photographer and he showed us a lovely collection of his portraits, including several of Anhinga, who astonished us by declaring she was a grandmother!

Enjah later joined us (her beasts having dined I suppose) and I was especially delighted to run through my scene changes for Doctor Fluxus with a live and healthy audience, though much prone to puns and wordplay, which is highly contagious and for which I am poorly innoculated.

I cannot say what happened at this point, for in Enjah's view of the world I had kneeled and never returned to my feet, making obeisance to all and sundry cardinal points of the world, while I thought I stood quite straight. One learns never to trust one's perspective in this slippery Second Life. Enjah decided the kneeling knave deserved to be raised to peerage, but I was really just looking at the reflection of my face in her polished shoes, vain creature that I have become! You are invited to prepare your own caption.

Thank you to each and all for making it a perfect day!

Friday 19 October 2007

A finalist!

After writing a long entry on the vanity of appearances, my face appears on a list of "ten avatars who most engage on a human level". That sounds to my ears suspiciously like a crime, and certainly contains a level of human chauvinism unwarranted in our multicultural world (what will they say at Shindig and on the isle of Wyrms?).
Yet I am swelling with pride to be counted among others of evident talent and craft, "as happy a woman as any in the world, for the whole world appears to smile upon me."

Thursday 18 October 2007


Like a mouse in the pantry, I kept on a shelf in a dark corner at the back of my uncle's bookshop a collection of treasures. These were baubles, bits of glass, pinecone people with acorn heads, etchings and plates come loose from their bindings, and books liberated from the tables where they were to be sacrificed to commerce. I imagined no one knew of my mousehole, hidden as it was where two giant cabinets met at an angle, and reachable only by a dusty person of diminutive size, but I now think it was a luxury granted me by the compassion of a man toward an orphan with an appetite for knowledge. The largest (and most valuable, had I been sensible of such things) was a book of marvels by "the most miraculous mystagogue of nature": China monumentis, qua sacris quà profanis, nec non variis naturae & artis spectaculis, aliarumque rerum memorabilium argumentis illustrata, by Athanasius Kircher. This musty folio edition, published sixty years earlier, and based on the tales of jesuit missionaries and envoys, embellished and elaborated in Kircher's fertile imagination, introduced me to the wonders of the Great Wall, to the pine-apple, to Confucius Trismegistus(!), to the use of pictographs as a method of writing, to tea and silk, geomancy and flying turtles. I travelled across those tall Thibetan peaks many times in my imagination, and studied those complex characters until my eyes crossed in hope of deciphering their meaning.
It was therefore no accident that when in 1743 I was in dire need to flee as far as I could from my infernal husband I arranged passage on the Swedish East Indiaman “Götheborg" to Canton, and there stole ashore. For two years I journeyed in a country more wonderful than Kircher ever imagined. I have since returned to China many times, and long since learned to speak the language of the Mandarins, and read their classics, and contemplate the lessons and histories of their many scholars.
On All Saint's Day I return to China, once again by way of Canton, whence I travel northward to Shanghai and Beijing, for a fortnight and a week. I remain silent on the nature of my business only because it must gestate to term before being brought into public light, but I shall report on my progress where chance and opportunity allow. You will discover I am not fond of the moral condition into which business in China has descended (and which recalls to me the France of patronage and privilege of the Ancien Régime), nor the profligate waste and arrogance of the newly wealthy, no less than the importunity and knavery of the poor, but I remember it is a beleaguered population much confused and misguided by inconstant policy and ill used in the past. Great change is borne only with great suffering, and the material improvements that have been wrought at so enormous a scale and for the benefit of so many is no less wonderful than the Imperial glory long since vanished.

I, Avatar

This narrowly-framed gentleman, in spite of sinister appearance and habit, is the most gentle and creative Pighed Stonecutter, whose soon-to-be-published book I, Avatar will celebrate the vanity of Second Life. He has kindly invited me to participate, and we spent an hour taking photographs.
Spinoza chides us: "None are more taken in by flattery than the proud, who wish to be the first and are not." Tis an honest and painful sermon, esp. after I have spent so much money and lavished so much time on my cloak and cap and boots. But it cannot be so serious a sin to make one's self pleasing to another's eye, or to take pains in creating a delightful mein. One hopes our Qualities within might shine without, and the cloth only serve to frame them, as a curtain frames the stage. Second Life teaches us not to credit our prejudices, for our eyes behold at every turn a more fantastickal race of men and women (and other less classifiable creatures) than ever walked upon the earth. I have generally found intelligence and kindness behind the most ferocious and alarming face, and have observed that beauty and grace do not always go in hand. I am thereby convinced such unexpected pleasure and disappointment hone our judgment and sharpen our wit. The intoxicating unreality of the experience (for reality is a bland, watered drink, wouldn't you agree?) keeps one mindful of the great effort and great art embodied in every stranger you greet, and every strange place wherein you meet. Who would have expected fluent French from the founder of boar.com? Peut-etre M. Pighed sache ou je peux trouver des truffes.
When Goethe put Voltaire's Mahomet on stage, Schiller commented, "Appearances should never attain reality, and if nature conquers, then must art retire." I thank God and the Devil, and their armies of angels and daemons who inspire us, that art stands unconquered by nature in Second Life.

On writing a book:
but it's nice to get the first paycheck, because only a fool or one of the 12 apostles of Christ would write for any other reason. i'm proud of the fact i get the occasional royalty check, but they're not big enough to make writing books worth it. i'm not an apostle and so i must fall into the fool category.

Tuesday 16 October 2007

Call me Ishmael

It will be seen that this mere painstaking burrower and grub-worm of a poor devil of a Sub-Sub appears to have gone through the long Vaticans and street-stalls of the earth, picking up whatever random allusions to whales he could anyways find in any book whatsoever, sacred or profane. Therefore you must not, in every case at least, take the higgledy-piggledy whale statements, however authentic, in these extracts, for veritable gospel cetology. Far from it. As touching the ancient authors generally, as well as the poets here appearing, these extracts are solely valuable or entertaining, as affording a glancing bird's eye view of what has been promiscuously said, thought, fancied, and sung of Leviathan, by many nations and generations, including our own.

At last I had a few moments to spend with Osprey and Enjah. Our sparkling conversation soon descended to a dank discussion of shellfish, smoked carp and arthropods, for Enjah was on her way out to consume a dinner of raw fish. Osprey remarked she had eaten raw whale (or was it Enjah? I was preoccupied with maintaining my spiritual balance atop a unicycle) and before long came up with a poorly considered plan to ride one into the night. We managed to stay astride for a while but soon found ourselves wallowing upon the entry way to the creature's digestive tract. Exploring we found an ingress but no egress, which must be a relief for the poor residents who seem doomed to clean up after the whale passes overhead. I suspect the strain is the reason for the founding of the Fight Club nearby.
Yes, that is a pot of petunias off port bow. No, I do not know the reason for them.

Thursday 11 October 2007


Is it because I am inescapably a fictional character that I take what happens upon the stage so much to heart? That I so readily confuse actor and role? That the depiction of a matter becomes for me the matter itself? Jenůfa is a disturbing opera, with characters so burdened with guilt and fear that they totter at the edge of their wits and reason, pulling their audience after them.
Jenůfa loves handsome Števa, Števa's brother Laca loves Jenůfa, and Števa loves wine and the attention of the village girls. Overcome by envy and spite, Laca cuts Jenůfa's cheek. Jenůfa carries Števa's child, to the shame of her mother, the powerful sextant (Kostelnička) of the village, who knows Števa will never marry Jenůfa. Mother drugs Jenůfa and kills her baby in the frozen river, then tells Jenůfa the baby died while she was in a fever. Števa marries the mayor's daughter but even when Laca learns Jenůfa gave birth to Števa's child, he still wants to marry her. Their wedding is interrupted when the baby's body is found in the melting river. Horrified, Jenůfa says the infant is hers and Mother admits her guilt to save her daughter from being stoned by the villagers. Steadfast in love, Laca does not leave Jenůfa's side.
And you thought Second Life was dramatic!
Now I simply cannot watch violence being done to a woman and no less can I abide a depiction of such without stirring. At the end of the First Act, I was on my feet with my sword drawn and rushing to the stage when the curtain fell and the audience was plunged into darkness. I was calmed by several gentlemen (who suffered sharp words from me for blocking my advance) and persuaded back to my seat by the ushers, who assured me all would turn out well by the Third Act if I put my sword in their care until I left the theatre. Well, in the Second Act I was on my feet again, though the infanticide was never shown on stage. But I am glad I stayed for the final act, for in spite of the characters' burdensome sins and the unhappiness borne with it, they forgave each other in the end (even if I could not) and after all, Eva Urbanova and Karita Mattila sang beautifully.
I had the same difficulty when I saw Pagliacci long years ago, when I could not contain my repugnance and anger and injured an innocent tenor! I have learned to avoid such performances when I am forewarned of their unpleasant stories.
I do not understand the artistic quest for realism in the theatre. Is its goal to provoke a realistic response from its audience? I have seen quite enough cruelty off the stage that I do not care for its representation upon it, and thereby spoil my evening. I do not consider it an artistic accomplishment to have incited my revulsion. I was chastened by the charity of the characters in the final act, but it was small recompense for having to stand aside while a woman is forced to her knees and cut in the face! Oh it makes me shake!

Tuesday 9 October 2007

A Sticky End

After the devil knows how many months I at last had a couple of brief hours to spend in Second Life. Like any good adventurer I looked about my neighbourhood to see what had changed while I had been absent. What a delight to discover a gallery district has sprung up not far from my home in Orion, with some ten or so art galleries across the street from the home of my friend and fellow architect Pablo Andalso, all of which I shall explore in more detail and report on in good time.
But I was longing to see a familiar face, and as if having received my most devout and earnest thoughts, Osprey replied to an message I had left, announcing her own immanence and saintly return to the world! She was finishing up some building in Bodega, but abandoned it with a bah! and we chatted, then pinned ourselves to a card, hoping possibly to be collected by a passing lepidopterist. But that is quite normal in Second Life: one enters on a wing and a prayer, and ends up crucified for silly science.
At the first chance I get, I shall be back, for my time with Osprey was much too brief, and I burn with impatience to see Enjah, Salazar, Ida (if she can be persuaded to return), and my other dear friends. There is no law that one must spend three days harrowing hell after one is crucified so expect me before long, singing with singed wings.

Monday 8 October 2007

Anti-Pragmatic Manifesto

Heather McDougal has written an anti-pragmatic manifesto that is eminently sensible, and will find, I am sure, many sympathetic readers for her always interesting Cabinet of Wonders blog. I have taken the liberty of reproducing it here, but I urge you to visit her wunderkammer, as you may wish to add to her list, and explore the many other marvels her blog contains.

- I will make things myself sometimes even if it ends up being more expensive and odd.
- I will not do the dishes until there is a full load.
- When inspiration strikes, I will write down the idea, regardless of where I am and how stupid and/or rude it makes me look.
- I will have breakfast for dinner sometimes.
- I will let the house go to hell while I read a great novel.
- I will have parties even if I can't afford it.
- I will be poor so I can squander time.
- I will buy balloons, flowers, or ice cream for no reason, with whatever change I have in my pocket.
- I will procrastinate, especially if it means that lightning has time to strike and make the end result more brilliant.
- I will bring home huge boxes from work so I can make forts with my children.
- I will drop everything when I'm sick (bugger everything else).
- I will do impractical things that make me happy, like keeping chickens and a garden in the city.
- I will always be late if it means not yelling at anyone.
- I will find any reason to dress up, just because I like to.
- I will continue using and teaching real-world skills, like making bread or sewing, even though they are outdated and unnecessary at the moment.
- I will not stop creating, even if no one ever buys my creations (in my case, writing).
- I will continue to make puns, even if it makes others groan.
- I will sing, because singing should be part of life, even if it's terrible (especially if it's terrible).
- And lastly, I will always, always, choose being silly over being cool, because silliness is much cooler in the long run, anyway.

Magick and Circus Solarum

Blessed is the man who expects nothing for he shall never be disappointed. From a David Copperfield performance I expected a performance: an engaged, witty, sincere and magnetic personality; fantastickal staging that would transport the audience to another realm; a series of illusions that inspire and amaze. Instead, for the exhorbitant price of admission, I was delivered a bored, evidently unhappy actor with a stale act and an insipid and often unintelligible patter, who mugged half-heartedly at his audience. Evidently he thought so little of us that he did not bother to change into stage costume. I was saddened in particular by his willingness to trivialize his own grandfather's history and turn it into a parlor act (if any of the story he told us was indeed true, for he but read his lines by rote, with no shred of emotion or sincerity). He showed us card tricks and some illusions, but I saw very little magick on that stage.
"Ka" was quite different. I saw this Cirque du Soleil show in previews several years ago, and while they have not improved many of the weakest scenes, it is still a compelling, magickal and inspiring presentation. Street performers have always aspired toward art: opera itself was born in the marketplace and the forum, and Cirque remains glorified street performance in spite of their ambition and cash. The company seeks to astonish and move, but without libretto or unified score, it does not speak to the heart or the soul. "O" approaches art most closely, but "Ka" tries too hard to impress and dazzle the eye. We in the audience long for something familiar on stage, a door where our spirit may pass into those of the characters on the stage (and I am in mind of the sympathetic performances of Fidelio and Leonore), but Cirque strives to make all utterly alien, bizzare, remote, unapproachable, impossible. There is one moment, a simple scene in which two performers comfort each other with hand shadows cast upon the vast, moveable stage, momentarily turned screen, that is masterful and touching by virtue of its universality and humility. For that one moment all the rest is forgiven, nay, transformed by that pure moment into a symbol of art impoverished by commerce.
I once thought The Show Must Go On should sell tickets, if only to eliminate griefers and idle rabble at its performances. But I have changed my mind, and agree with Osprey that it is valuable because its creativity is unrestrained and the passion of its performers is born of love, not financial need.
I am returned to Orion, though with little time to spare in world, and missing my friends rather more than usual. My word the desert is dry, in more senses than one!

Thursday 4 October 2007


The opera season has begun! I missed Act 1 of Fidelio last night due to badly managed travel arrangements (the stagecoach between Las Vegas and Los Angeles suffered an unexpectedly long change of horses in Baker) but Act II and the beautiful Leonore Overture #3 was magnificent: a standing ovation from the entire house for Anja Kampe's Leonore and Klaus Florian Vogt's Florestan. Eike Wilm Schulte played a deliciously wicked Don Pizarro, earning boos, hisses and applause! In my opinion however, nearly tone deaf as I am, the star of the show was the production design by Pier'Alli that depended heavily on projection of moving images upon several transparent scrims, confusing the artificial reality of the stage with the illusionary reality of the screen.
I have tickets for Janecek's Jenufa tonight but will have to miss it, for my coach takes me back to Las Vegas in a few minutes.
In haste,

Monday 1 October 2007


ArtExpo is an annual congregation of international artists, rather more commercial than one expects to find in Basel or Miami, but with tremendous appeal to most of us who do not belong to the cognoscenti (smelly cogs, I call 'em). I have attended every year since 1997 when it was still held in Los Angeles, then later in San Francisco, and then in New York after the West Coast Expos were abandoned. This year they have returned to the West Coast to the centre of high surrealism that is the mythical city of Las Vegas. It was a smaller show than New York, but large with over 600 exhibitors, and very a satisfying assembly of multiple styles and personalities. The regulars were there: vibrant Hessam, young Ascensio, charming Jia Lu, heavenly Terbush, plus some remarkable work by new talent (new to ArtExpo I should say): Nikolai Blokhin's dramatic paintings and Jack Storms’ dichroic and optical crystal sculptures.

ArtExpo Las Vegas

ArtExpo is an annual congregation of international artists, rather more commercial than one expects to find in Basel or Miami, but with tremendous appeal to most of us who do not belong to the cognoscenti (smelly cogs, I call 'em). I have attended every year since 1997 when it was still held in Los Angeles, then later in San Francisco, and then in New York after the West Coast Expos were abandoned. This year they have returned to the West Coast to the centre of high surrealism that is the mythical city of Las Vegas: I am just returned from there. It was a smaller show than New York, but large with over 600 exhibitors, and very a satisfying assembly of multiple styles and personalities. The regulars were there: vibrant Hessam, young Ascensio, charming Jia Lu, heavenly Terbush, plus some remarkable work by new talent (new to ArtExpo I should say): Nikolai Blokhin's dramatic paintings and Jack Storms’ dichroic and optical crystal sculptures. No, it's not all to my taste, and sometimes it is simply awful, but I am fascinated by the melding of so much heart and optimism with sometimes cynical commerce and silly self-promotion.