Time to get amped up!

SL11BTomorrow, Saturday 28th June, Spiral will be performing live for an hour at 10am SLT – that’s 10am PDT, 11am Mountain, 1pm Eastern, 6pm UK etc. You will be able to join him at Second Life’s Eleventh Birthday party stage in the Astonish SIM and listen to his set whilst enjoying the view. And what a view that is! The stage itself is a work of art, any avatar that hasn’t seen it should go along just to see how mind-blowing a bunch of pixels can be.

Spiral Sands

Spiral Sands

Then there’s the music. Second Life’s Birthday is offering a fabulous selection of performances: everything from Chinese Ballet to Bluegrass, all showcased by truly talented individuals. Of course, you won’t want to miss Spiral as he works to bring you the very best of his music, live! He’s also got a neat little set that adds to the whole feel of his concert (particularly if you set your windlight to midnight) and if you’re very lucky (and I have the nerve), I’ll be up there with him too.

Come and join us! It’s not too late to get an avatar if you haven’t got one, just drop me a message and I’ll try to help you get set up if you want. You can email Spiral who will pass it on to me, or find me on Facebook as GypsyWitch Handle.

We hope to see you there! Here’s the SLURL for you: Astonish Live Stage

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Eleven Good Reasons…

It’s Second Life’s eleventh birthday on June 23rd 2014 and that means an excuse for one of the biggest celebrations on the Second Life grid, and one that will involve Spiral himself!

For those of you who aren’t on Second Life, the scale of this event will be hard to comprehend – and the fascination with it possibly harder. Let me attempt to give you my perspective and show you a few teasers along the way…

It opens at midday Second Life time (Midday PDT, 1pm Mountain Time, 3pm Eastern, 8pm UK etc.) on June 22nd 2014 and will be attended by tens of thousands of avatars (that’s people!) all over the world during its run until 6th July. I was privileged enough to get a Press Pass which allowed me in for an exclusive “Press Only” tour prior to the opening – and it’s this tour that turned up some some very good reasons to get yourself to SL11B,as it’s affectionately known. Eleven, in fact.

One: The Pod

In Pod We Trust

In Pod We Trust

Whatever you do, you must get a Pod. This futuristic method of travelling will help you get around and act as a tour guide. Of everything. These nifty little cars allow two people to travel together and will take you all over the eleven ( notice a theme?) SIMs hosting the event. The Pod gives a running commentary of what you are seeing as you travel, and it’s so clever that when you run out of road and have water to traverse, it turns into a boat and when you need to travel by air, it turns into a hot air balloon!

Catch a Pod here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/SL11B%20Spectacular/154/225/22

Two: Spectacular Sci-Fi

View from outside the Antenna

View from outside the Antenna

View from inside the Antenna

View from inside the Antenna

The theme of this year’s event is “The empires of the future are empires of the mind” (Winston Churchill). This has meant that a lot of creators have seen the word “future” and gone all out to express their idea of “future”  in the most fabulous ways you can think of – as well as many you probably can’t. Expect to travel to other universes and back – or simply take the elevator up this incredible tower to see the view from the antenna at the top. Very apposite – SL is a haven for music both live and playback ; so beaming that out around the grid, and the world, is just one thing it does so well.

Three: Exceptional Art

Edge

Edge

Art is everywhere in Second Life, because Second Life IS art. Everything in this world was created by one of the inhabitants of this world, so it’s not surprising that art exhibits are commonplace and really exceptional art is not hard to find. You can explore a wide range of different artworks at the exhibition – and lose yourself for days. This one piece caught my eye, and the quote that goes with it (by Pablo Neruda). Profound, I thought, but then I suspect I have the heart of a poet, despite having the tact of a bulldozer.

Lair of the Evil DJ!

Lair of the Evil DJ!

 Four: Superb Socialising

SL11B offers so many different types of interaction it’s hard to believe. DJs, both traditional and live mixers, can be found all over the grid. A full schedule of Live DJs will be performing at SL11B, and they are blessed with a fabulous build on which to show off their skills. Designed to give the impression of a comic-book villain’s lair, the DJ set sits amidst a cave of desert boulders, and is full of futuristic machinery. Despite this look, the venue is thoughtfully geared up (pun intended) so everyone can party!

Shimmy on over to the DJ stage at: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/SL11B%20Impressive/124/144/39

Five: Terrific Theater

Press for Success

Press for Success

DJs are not the only performers you’ll find in Second Life. You can find performances on everything from Shakespeare to Stand Up comics. SL11B has a great theater to showcase a variety of acts. When our press delegation arrived, a rehearsal was going on for a Chinese ballet – so you can be guaranteed diversity! The set is fantastic – don’t miss your chance to experience some of the best performance art on the grid!

Visit the Theater here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/SL11B%20Fascinate/199/69/22

Six: Curious Contemplations

Music in a Bell Jar

Music in a Bell Jar

Ever wanted to get inside someone’s mind? Second Life can let you get into thousands of minds, and in some of them you’ll find wonders (in others you’ll just wonder… !). I stumbled across this beautiful piece of art that was a story all unto itself – kind of like a collection of memories. The whole thing was built into a giant bell jar, which you could walk into and around. The fact that there was a musical theme in there might have been another reason I had to stop and take a photo. In case you’re wondering, the paper next to the Cello says:

“This world was a magnificent, mysterious thing… thrilling as a dance on the precipice of the earth. Charred with unspeakable unnameable powers that rose up out of this land and plummeting from the night, possibilities invisibly colliding and exploding all around… Rushing, inaudibly roaring to the ends of this universe. And… they were the center of it.”

Seven: Spaced Out Snacks

Space Cake

Space Cake

Food, despite its irrelevance in a pixelated world, is actually a big part of it. Every birthday party will have a cake, and SL11B is no different. What a cake, though! You won’t see anything like it on your dining tables at home, which is kind of handy, as you’ll need crampons to get to the candles at the top of this one! I recommend you set your windlight to “Midnight” and stand well back to enjoy this especially designed Second Life eleventh birthday cake. No, you’re not hallucinating!

Enjoy the view from here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/SL11B%20Astound/256/222/33

Eight: People’s Politics

HEleven

HEleven

Even in Second Life, you’ll find opinions expressed openly – and why not? Last year I got to visit the Second Life tenth birthday exhibition, and was pleased and amused to find “The Church of Philip Rosedale”, an allegedly religious institution claiming Philip Rosedale as Creator. They’ve got a point, you know. He DID create Second Life! On my travels around the SIMs I managed to find this exhibit and had to take a picture, because I knew it would be appreciated by followers of the blog. She says what we all KNOW is true, right?

Nine: Real Life Vision – Second Life Twist

Tron's Eye View

Tron’s Eye View

Every public exhibit in SL11B has had an enormous amount of thought put into it. Some of it brings Real Life (known as RL in Second Life shortform) into Second Life and adds a twist. This picture shows one of two live music performance stages – with a very Tron-inspired decor. Seating here is up in the Gods – or more accurately in seats and boxes that hang over the light show spectacle with a galactic feel. How can one not be inspired?

Grab your seat here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/SL11B%20Enchant/2/144/31

Ten: Teddies!

Do It For The Teddies!

Do It For The Teddies!

You know you want one. In fact, truth be told, you know you want as many as you can get! Along with the spectacle, Second Life birthday bashes are known for the fabulous collection of free gifts you can get. This year you can get all manner of things, teddies included. If you really, really want to burst your inventory, you can take part in the SL11B massive hunt. Hundreds of gifts all around the eleven SIMs, kindly donated by creators grid-wide. So: the fun of the hunt and the chance to pick up an enviable and sizeable collection of fabulous free gifts! You’ll find a couple of gift stations at the exhibit; the hunt you’ll find everywhere!

One gift station is here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/SL11B%20Wonderous/177/217/22

Eleven: The REAL Reason

Got To Hand It To Live Music!

Got To Hand It To Live Music!

Last, but not least, Spiral! The swirly one himself will be appearing on one of the most spectacular and evocative stages you are ever likely to see – at 10am SLT (10am PDT, 11am Mountain Time, 1pm Eastern Time, etc.) on Saturday 28th June. It’s an event not to be missed – at a location where you can sit, dance, chill, whatever you wish. Make sure that whatever you do, you find a way to be there. Take a look at the picture and you’ll not need any more convincing you have to see and hear this! If you’re very lucky*, you may just see me, too.

Come and give Spiral a big hand here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/SL11B%20Astonish/11/94/22

You can keep up to date with SL11B by following their blog here.

«Gypsy Witch«

*Or unlucky!

Multi-World Music

Ancient Lights and Gypsy, Atomic City Party

Ancient Lights and Gypsy, Atomic City Party

Yesterday was Atomic City HQ’s opening, coinciding with a real life performance by Mr Spiral at the Otterbox Ditigal Dome Theater in Fort Collins, Colorado.

It’s an exciting concept, being able to listen to live music while interacting with people all over the real world in a virtual world. I think that those people who’ve never experienced something like Second Life might find it hard to see what the attraction is, but it really is like attending a concert and having the fun of being able to discuss the performance, hang out and basically share the experience with others – despite living oceans apart from them.

Mr Spiral’s performance was wonderful, and I particularly enjoyed his interaction with the audience before he performed his pieces, it’s great to get people to engage with what you’re doing and Mr Spiral is a master at it. One particularly fun piece he performed had a riff that has become a personal earworm, interspersed with samples from “The Trololo Man“!

Those in Atomic City had a great time and it was nice to link up with Stillstream’s chat room and interact there, too. Hard on the fingers with all that typing, but great to speak to all the people that came together to cheer Mr Spiral back! Don’t miss his first Second Life performance for some years at the Second Life 11th Birthday event – details to come soon but put 10am on 28th June in your diary NOW!

«Gypsy Witch«

Atomic City HQ Official Opening!

WelcomeIt’s here – an excuse to officially open Atomic City HQ! Spiral will be playing a real life concert in the Otterbox Digital Dome Theater in Fort Collins, Colorado at 6pm Second Life Time (SLT). That’s 6pm PDT, 7pm Mountain, 9pm Eastern etc. To celebrate, I shall be hosting a get-together inworld at our new headquarters. I would love it if you could dust down your old avatars (or join Second Life free and get one) and join me for cupcakes and champagne while we listen as Spiral streams live from CO to the parcel and to Stillstream Internet Radio. There’s a free and exclusive shirt (see picture) for all his group members, too.

This also gives you the chance to get ready for his performance in Second Life at the spectacular 11th birthday celebration of the grid itself. These celebrations are legendary, and well worth attending. With Spiral* playing there and streaming live, even better! Needless to say, more details will follow before the event.

If you’d like to join me and want help with your avatar or want to get one, you can email me at gypsywitch729@gmail.com . When inworld, all you have to do is find me in search and ask for a teleport, or you can let me know you are coming in advance and I’ll send you a friend request.

Don’t miss it! A great way to meet up with friends over good music and victuals that won’t add inches. All welcome! See you there!

Here’s the SLURL to speed you along if you’ve got an avatar:  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Fellin%20Hill/230/39/43

«Gypsy Witch«

*Might even get to see me…

Pink Pearl Portable!

As some of you know, my old studio was a horridly ugly and bad-sounding room with no space for collaborators to join me. It was a tiny, enclosed womb, if a womb was dirty and dark and uninspiring. I called it Subterranean Scumbarge Studios for obvious reasons.

Late last year, I cleaned up the room, changed the monitoring system, got rid of a LOT of equipment and stripped it down to the bare essentials, and renamed it Pink Pearl. One of the biggest challenges, though, was building a live performance rig that could easily and seamlessly be removed from the main studio without causing any major grief.Dome Rig

And so I have. Here’s Pink Pearl Portable, the rig I’ll be bringing with me to the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery tomorrow night at 7 PM for a concert in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater. I hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it, you can still listen to the concert on Stillstream.

Oh, and by the way—Gypsy will be in Second Life at Atomic City HQ listening to my concert on the live streaming feed, so if you’re in SL and want to meet other fans and visit with them while enjoying the concert, please drop by for a chat and a free mindSpiral T-Shirt!

MrSpiral

Jürg X Saladin, Ph.D. — R.I.P.

How strange to learn that one of the most important men in your intellectual life has vanished from this world without you ever knowing it.

I just got a letter informing me that nearly 3 weeks ago, Dr. Jürg Saladin of the University of Pittsburgh, Professor Emeritus of physics and my graduate thesis advisor in the 1980s, had died after a long illness.

Jürg and I had a very conflicted relationship. I wasn’t the best student he ever had, but he acknowledged that I was a hard worker and I wanted to succeed, and he helped me do so. He taught me a great deal about what it meant to be a scientist and of the value of proper scientific inquiry and hard work. Those lessons served me well as I worked for him as a postdoctoral researcher, and then moved on to Florida State University before deciding to leave science.

JX_Saladin

J X Saladin

Jürg was a short, burly fellow with the strength of a bull and a huge laugh. He was full of stories about his past, especially about the famous scientists who trained him, such as Wolfgang Pauli, and he had an aphorism for everything. When I despaired of having an experiment ready for beam time (a deadline that was as certain as the ones I face every month, and considerably more costly if blown), he would laugh and say, “As my commanding officer in the Swiss Army used to say, Mike: ‘Saladin, there are 24 hours in the day… plus the whole night!'”

When he got mad, he got REALLY mad. And when he was triumphant, he was REALLY triumphant. Whenever we did an experiment, no matter how large or small, he always insisted that his graduate students be photographed with him in a portrait next to the apparatus, as a record of what we had achieved together.

He was easily one of the most picturesque people I have ever met, and that’s saying something, since after changing fields I’ve met everyone from Thomas Dolby and Buckethead to Gary Numan and Peter Gabriel.

Just one of the many stories I heard about him during our time together: when Jürg was an officer in the Swiss Army in the years after World War II, he was leading an armored column on practice maneuvers during a storm. The column got lost and night was falling, and the road they were on gradually petered out into a dirt path and then just ended at a nondescript barbed-wire fence. Captain Saladin, not known for his patience in his youth, ordered sappers forward with wire cutters, made short work of the fence, and led the column onward. Minutes later, the column reached a road, picked the most likely direction to get them where they thought they had to go… and promptly drove up to a frontier post on the French border.

From the wrong side.

The French authorities decided that the paperwork would be too much hassle—it is possible but unlikely that they were cowed by the tanks—and simply opened their gates and let the column through, back into Switzerland, thus making Jürg the most recent military commander in history to successfully invade France. When I heard this story, all I could think of was, “Yep… that’s Dr. Saladin, all right.”

It’s strange to think that I will never speak to him again. My condolences to his family and colleagues.

MrSpiral, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, Physics and Astronomy, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 1992

A Day In The Life

I would imagine that people must wonder why a virtual musician would need a PA*, and what “life” must be like in a virtual world. I thought I’d try to explain, primarily for those visitors to this blog that have no experience with Second Life. I also thought I’d make it fun – hopefully you’ll think so as you see the pictures.

Woke up, fell out of bed

Woke up, fell out of bed

Firstly, people do have whole “lives” in Second Life. So yes, I have a home. I also have a bed and I have jammies – and I can simulate sleep if Spiral is overdoing it on the drones in the studio, too.

Dragged a comb across my head

Dragged a comb across my head

There is never any real need to worry about either cleanliness or grooming in SL, you can look perfect all the time. However, SL is really a whole role-playing environment, and it can be fun to simulate these things. What you will not get, though, is a decent reflection on a mirror. You may do on water, but never in the glass. One skill I find absolutely indispensable is being able to manipulate images in my graphics programme (GIMP). As Spiral’s PA, I produce posters and other promotional material for him to use in SL while he concentrates on the music – and exactly the same in real life, too.

Found my way downstairs and drank a cup

Found my way downstairs and drank a cup

A reasonable understanding of SL photography is another skill required. How can one produce promo material if one can’t take decent pictures of the venue? In the picture on the left (“Found my way… “), you can see a totally different lighting scheme and shadows as well as morning sunlight. This was not some process in GIMP, but lighting chosen within Second Life itself. Knowing how to change lighting, shadows, depth of field and so on is a very necessary skill (some of these are lumped into a catchall term “windlight”). When you see photos of Spiral in the future, there is a good chance that a lot of them will have been taken by me.

And looking up, I noticed I was late

And looking up, I noticed I was late

Knowing how to find things in a virtual grid (that is so vast it’s hard to comprehend) is another skill. If it can be imagined, it’s probably in SL – but how do you find it? This is something I’ve learned to be pretty good at – and if you look at the picture within the picture on the right you’ll see how good. I wanted to find the Dali image in Second Life and worked on the theory that if I can think of it, it’s there and I just have to find it. I’ll go back if I have The Persistence of Memory (snerk).

Found my coat and grabbed my hat

Found my coat and grabbed my hat

Hmmm, what to wear? The choice of clothes in SL is vast – and for so many different types of creature as well as human it’s hard to know what to wear. Knowing what looks right in a picture, on a stage, to other avatars… if you’re trying to help promote someone you have to have a fair idea. I have to admit, Spiral isn’t exactly slow when it comes to figuring out decent ways to dress – but he’s not quite a quick as I am at finding a bargain. Between us we do OK – because not only do you need to know how to find clothes and what to wear; you also need someone to tell you if you look ridiculous!

Made the bus in seconds flat

Made the bus in seconds flat

Another absolute requisite for the PA of a busy musician is the ability to build in Second Life. Everything that one can see in this world has been made by its inhabitants. It is sometimes my job to liaise with people who want Spiral to appear at their venue – and not all of them have a venue that has any kind of set – so it’s boring and would make his concert visually dull. I build, so I can make a set that will suit the venue and suit him, too. You can see the wheel in the picture and the edit dialog box that comes up when you build. If I had really needed to (I didn’t), I could have made the bus in seconds flat!

Found my way upstairs and had a smoke

Found my way upstairs and had a smoke

Another ability that is sometimes required is scripting. I’ll be honest, now. I can’t script. I can’t do HTML in websites and I can’t write code in any world. What I can do, is find other ways and means of getting things done and it is pretty necessary for a musician’s PA to be able to find handy scripts to make things work – like the smoke you see issuing from me in this picture. I may buy a gadget, I may find a free script, I may buy one.. but however I do it, making things glow and pulse and poof and explode – what stage show is complete without the SFX?

And somebody spoke and I went into a dream...

And somebody spoke and I went into a dream…

The most important ability, though, is learning to dream – and this works in both worlds. Yes, in the picture you can see my dream – but it is more for humour than a truthful representation. A musician must be able to dream, to imagine, to explore. What good is a PA if they can’t follow or create a vision? In any world – Spiral and his music are meant to express dreams and soundscapes – and in SL I like to think I provide some for him to work with, and help him to reach his own.

«Gypsy Witch«

*Dogsbody, General Factotum, Gofer, Jill of All Trades.