And now, for something completely different… Araxes!

Those of us old enough to remember when all of the members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus were still alive will recognize the tag line with which their trips into surrealist humor began.  Arguably one of the highlights of the BBC’s oeuvre, along with their adaptations of great novels to film.

I promise you, this’ll be different from my last post (the one before I shared R. Crap Mariner’s post on collaborative creation with you), where I either bored you or made you look askance (what the emoticon O_o means) at me for sharing about my verbal jousts over politics in SL.

I’ve got better things to do with my Second Life. Here’s one of them.

Araxes is a sim which hosts a rich, multi-threaded tapestry of science fiction role-play based very loosely on Joss Whedon and Tim Minear’s tragically short-lived US television series Firefly and the movie Serenity based on the same characters, as well as other science-fiction and mythopoeic fantasy, going back to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

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Above we see downtown  Araxes, nestled between huge bluffs against the sandstorms which blow in from the surrounding desert.

Araxes and the neighboring space and land are a hive of internecine intrigue, usually seriocomic. There’s a subplot of resistance against the Alliance dominating the cluster of stars to which a remnant of Earth-that-was’s population fled, when their ancestral planet’s ecology died.

The town has a starport on its outskirts. It has the sort of ambience that makes me hear Sir Alec Guinness intone

“Mos Eisley Spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”

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Across the starport’s runway , that grey blocky building with red trim on its sides in top center-left in the photo above is my workplace, Araxes Medical Center.

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Here, I’m Patricia, Comtesse de Chenier, MD, FCCP.  I’m also a not-all-that-secret agent from the Chenier Moiety of Worlds headquartered on Gliese 581c, 30 light years away. I’m here to investigate a common threat to Araxes, the other worlds on the Rim of the ‘Verse, and my own group of home worlds. I’m just not clear on what it is.

I do my little bit to keep the pot stirred here in Araxes. Between political and diplomatic maneuvers, I treat the orphan Cheryl Anne, whose illnesses are puzzling and strain even the combined resources of Chenier and Araxes.

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Especially puzzling, and not a little disconcerting, are when Cheryl Anne acts out violently, which places me and medical gadgets fetched here from 30 light years away equally at risk:

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At times like this, a quick shot of sedative works wonders.

When I’m not being mysterious and secretive or trying to avoid chairs flung by Cheryl Anne (or trying to find out why she wants to do that), I’m an epidemiologist doing my plodding best to comb Araxes for what’s making people (it’s not just Cheryl Anne by a long shot) turn unpredictably violent.

That involves lurking around every inhabited spot of Araxes, one of the first things I did. (You can tell that from the snapshots, because I didn’t wear hijab that day, and spent my whole day’s water ration washing sand out of my hair later).

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You have to admire the sense of humor of the folks who named this one place “Haven”, though during terraforming, it might have been a haven by default….

But I went as far as checking out orbital facilities where some of the minerals mined here, like “energon” are assayed and processed:

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For trips like this, I don’t even try for “space pretty,” and keep a firm hand on a hypo gun full of “the last kiss good night”.  Just in case “space pretty” is close enough….

Araxes has Firefly-class transports all over, just as, in medieval times, “obsolete” military transport aircraft were found all over Earth-that-was decades after the wars in which they were made and first used, hauling all sorts of things of a non-military nature, like tourists or cannabis sativa.

If you look out the window past me, you’ll see a Firefly parked alongside the shuttle I took back from the orbital mining station.

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What’s making my patient and an increasing number of those who live on or pass through Araxes violently ill (in every sense) could have come here from off-planet, so I took the chance while this freighter’s crew was grabbing cold refreshment in the bars of Freeport to crawl under their ship and take samples around the hull and landing struts.

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Gawd, what a sexy beast!  Modern shuttles and freighters are more efficient, faster, and you can hang more guns and other deadly toys on them, but the Firefly transport just stirs something in a pilot’s soul.

One day, when I’m too old to be useful to the Moiety of Worlds or do any other chores that my older clone-sisters are too busy or exalted to do, I’ll buy one of these handsome brutes and.. well, smuggling’s about the only thing they do better than anything else.

You can touch a Firefly down anywhere, take off anywhere, send its shuttles out for side trips (or smuggle merchandise that’ll fit in a Firefly’s shuttle), and it’ll run on swift kicks and prayers.

And smuggling has a certain homely appeal compared to what I’m doing now.

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“Take off those No-colored glasses” – by R. Crap Mariner

“Take off those No-colored glasses” – by R. Crap Mariner

Words to (second) live by, by an SLer with the best avatar name, EVER. Seriously, this guy explains how creative collaboration happens, and he explains it very clearly.

SL Blogger Support

Happy to annouce that R. Crap Mariner (Crap.Mariner) is the first in our new series of guest-bloggers! According to his own SL Profile: ‘I am a sentient clockwork mechanism, manufactured for The Great Exposition of 1851. Various inventors and scientists have tried to improve upon my original plans, but have only twisted and damaged me further.
Crap has his – Secondlife – home in Edloe and is the founder of 100 words stories. His blog is retired but he uses Flickrto tell us about his ideas and views.


Hi there. Caitlin asked folks for helpful advice for bloggers, and I want to tell you a little story about getting over yourself…
Long ago, I used to do some SL Birthday stuff, but things got a bit strained between that crowd and me. I took a few years off from the lag-fest, but during SL13B…

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Bush Said it All in Three Short Sentences

Bush Said it All in Three Short Sentences

“Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”

Former President George W. Bush, at the memorial service for the slain policemen at Dallas, Texas.

Music to read this by (I can’t get it out of my head, and it bears on this column):

“There’s been some hard feelings here                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      About some words that were said                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Been some hard feelings here and what is more

There’s been a bloody purple nose                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           And some bloody purple clothes                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              That were messing up the lobby floor

It’s just apartment house rules so all you ‘partment house fools                                                                                                                                                                                 Remember one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor                                                                                                                                                                                                 One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor…”

One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor, Paul Simon

It’s time to break up the circular firing squad we have going, and discover what unity we can as a nation, and as a world.  I’ve found very few occasions when there’s been anyone in Second Life who didn’t come here to make friends and have fun – without hurting others.

That said, a political argument I had with someone from another country got out of hand last weekend.  Doesn’t really matter over what.  Nothing about this issue would have changed, had one of us been converted to the other’s viewpoint.

As the argument escalated and became more personal, I pleaded for us to stop, just stop conversing at all for a while, and give each other a day to relax and view it all in perspective. That wasn’t happening, so I blocked her for a day.

Suddenly, all the complex science-fiction related role play infrastructure, world creation, everything we’d been developing fell apart. I was kicked out of one RP-related group we’d worked together on.  She left me on another such group, but I was also angry now, and resigned from it.

Months of work on what might have been great Second Life gaming fell apart, just like that.  I can’t control what she did, but I ought to have had better control over what I did.

I ought to have explained why I was blocking her and that it wasn’t hostile; exactly the opposite, I was trying to preserve a friendship and a good working relationship. I suppose just dropping out of world was an option, but that seemed cowardly to me.

So it went.

RL Politics will kill Second Life if we let it. It’s not uncommon, unfortunately, to read comments in Nearby Chat criticizing one of the candidates in this year’s Presidential elections.  I don’t like either of them, to be honest. My decision will turn on who’s the lesser evil.  Who I think that might be is my business, and I don’t go to dances to hear who someone else thinks should be President.  I’m holding out for Elon Musk in 2020.

Anyone reading this, I don’t care what you think on RL political issues. I hope you don’t hate anyone for their religion or their heritage or their politics. If you do, let me know so we can part without rancor, or keep it to yourself and consider working to overcome it.

“Seven Facts About My SL”

This is in response to another blog challenge by Strawberry Singh, “My Seven SL Facts”

Not that you’re getting anything like sensitive info, my RL weight and age, my banking info, any of that. We should both live so long.

Nope, these are facts that may heighten your appreciation of my Second Life presence around you.

  1. My username “angelpatty” is from my persona in Utherverse when I came to SL over five years ago.  My avatar in Utherverse is a Fallen Angel.  Not a woman who sells sex, but an angel cast out of heaven. I was the angel Vepar, patroness of warships, munitions and things too gross to full_on melusinemention here.  Vepar’s one of the few fallen angels who appears as a woman – but unlike those Botticelli angels who made me melt inside at church, she’s… edgy. Vepar shows up as a mermaid, like my persona in Second Life, Patricia, the Melusine Comtesse de Chenier.    Like Vepar, Patricia’s also fond of implements of war and manifests as a mermaid now and then – though not usually with a thunderstorm and fleet of warships at her back. Patricia’s the “kinder, gentler” version of Elder Archangel Patty.
  2.  While I have a Facebook page, I don’t visit it often. My Second Life takes up a great deal of time, as does my RL, so Facebook tends to lose out. Nothing personal, Facebook friends
  3. About the Estate of Chenier – it largely depends on the amount of disposable income I happen to have at the moment.  chenier aerialA lovely lady hosted Chenier Island in Ile de Femme for a glorious year, but like me, she also had a need in RL for the money that kept Ile de Femme‘s 42 sims afloat – so Chenier Island and all but two of the others sank.               I’m optimistic I can improve my finances enough to give us a pied à terre  apart from my landscaped Linden Home.  Snapshot _ Chenier Embassy Patio Park stairs
    Ideally, it’ll be a little island on navigable water, with flyable air over it because we don’t just have beach bunnies in Chenier, we have our share of pilots and sailors. We’ll see what I can do.
  4. While I blog, it’s not about “this is what I’m wearing” unless I really like what I’m wearing for a photo shoot and want to let my friends know about the goodness. I mostly do photo shoots for my Flickr feed. Even that’s not so much a reliable document of my Second Life as a venue for artistic expression.Drow Countess Patricia
    Pulp fiction creeps in now and then…
    cary and patty going all fantasypunk…between shots of the lovely Princesse Fee Cary and me ballroom dancing.
  5. I’m disgusted with everyone in the current US Presidential race, and won’t support any of them – but I’ll denounce the worst of the three evils I see, just as others do. Don’t criticize where I live in RL because “all right-thinking people” do. It’s rude. As Lynyrd Skynrd sang in Sweet Home Alabama, “we all did what we could do….” (and the press ignores massive Federal corruption while concentrating on the weird laws they pass up in Jackson).
  6. While I collect everything from home builds to ballroom dresses and smart couture to boats, planes and the munitions I am patroness of in Utherverse, I’m not such a hot combat RPer. Three gunfights – two draws and one where I went to the pavement full of holes. SL medicine and Firefly/Serenity RP are more my speed.
  7. Once you and I get to know each other, we’ll share stuff like why I’m not in-world more than I am but in general, it’s to do with my health.  I’m working on that, too.

“This bloody road remains a mystery…” Invincible, Pat Benatar

This is a link to Pat Benatar’s “Invincible”, a somber song to read a somber article by.

Contemplating the shootings at the Pulse club (when are we going to dtop the “gay” modifier for clubs that admit the whole LGBT community and straights?) in Orlando, Florida by Omar Siddiqui Mateen, there are more unanswered questions than answers.

  • There’s nothing good about tragedies like this, but one of the worst things is how discussions on how to keep stuff like this from happening in the future degenerate into fights over gun control, immigration, religion – all sorts of things. I got into a row in a lesbian bar’s Group Chat because I suggested Omar Siddiqui Mateen might have been shot down before he killed 49 people if more people in that bar had been armed. I expected an argument. I didn’t expect my sanity and intelligence to be questioned. People were so nasty to me, I quit the group. Disagreeing with someone’s politics is no excuse for intolerant and discourteous speech.  Wonder why we have a polarized society?  That’s why.
  • It’s also why I now won’t speak about politics to people I don’t know and trust in Second Life, and why if I’m in a new club and people start in on the state I live in, or on gun rights (“gun control” is un-Constitutional, I prefer to focus on the civil right to keep and bear arms), then I very quietly leave. You can’t fix intolerant and that’s not why I’m here in SL.
  • Why politicize this tragedy at all?  When the New York Times made this incident all about the Republican party it was they, not the Republicans, who shattered the national unity we so badly need to confront this menace and to mend our nation.  The inevitable pushback to this remark by the New York Times is that Omar Mateen was a registered Democrat, which fails by the same logic as that idiotic New York Times editorial – you can’t judge most of us by the worst of us. If we say all Republicans are like Trump, we shouldn’t be shocked when someone says all gays and lesbians are like Jeffrey Dahmer and Aileen Wuornos.  If you must play politics, please remember you – and the rest of us – may get what you dish out.
  • Second Life itself might take the chance here to pay more attention to when someone commits acts (as opposed to using slurs) against lesbians, gays, the transgendered, or the several other gender varieties one meets in Second Life.  My avatar’s been raped at least twice in Second Life, and my then-wife in Second Life and I confined against our wills in in a shootable cage in a supposedly women-only sim by someone wearing an avatar unmistakably male by its bulging erect penis and Schwarzenegger-like build. I filed Abuse Reports in each case.  Nothing happened to the offending player at any time.  SL’s got to recognize that ignoring involuntary violence against anyone (when we aren’t inviting it on ourselves in combat sims, as I’ve done a few times) may be the “taste” that gets a potentially violent person hooked on the idea of hurting or killing other people for truly inadequate reasons (“I’m horny. I’m bored“).
  • Expanding on the prior thought, when, in Second Life, a female avatar invites another female avatar for sex, disappear, then apparently re-appears as a male and rapes – has sex with the unsuspecting woman as a male, it’s not consensual role play. I’ve filed two Abuse Reports on incidents like that, and one on when a player in a male avatar trapped my then-wife and me in a women-only sim, whipped out his engorged penis, and in broken English told us to service him. I filed an Abuse Report on that, too, and again, the Lindens didn’t do a thing. The avatars/accounts concerned remained on line and for all I know are still with us. I’ve become much more careful about where I go and whom I’m with, which I ought to have been in the beginning. The question remains, “Why are the Lindens complaisant about the rape of lesbians in Second Life?”

Thinking about these and other questions percolated down through my artistic, right brain, and I did a photo shoot incorporating this character:

Drow Countess Patricia

I’ll save you the trouble of pointing out what massive pecs and arm muscles I’d need to wield a double-handed broadsword with single hand as a mere mortal.

In case you missed the point, this is a Second Life blog, and this character of mine is a Melusine, a merwoman with amazing abilities (like the ability to shift from mortal to mer-shape at will, just like Daryl Hannah’s character “Madison” in Splash!). That they include unearthly strength is no odder than that I can shift into the medieval mermaid form where my legs merge to become a tail, or sprout wings as Melusines have done to defend their families against siege by flying around the battlements of the castles sheltering their kids and ex-husbands.  (Melusines could serve as the tutelary spirits for first wives.)

Getting back to my main point, it’s time for gays, lesbians and other marginalized groups to take some responsibility for their own defense.  The police are far outnumbered by criminals, and it’s not their responsibility to protect people in advance of an armed attack – except for that off-duty cop at that bar in Orlando who, on seeing that the attacker had major firepower, ran off to get help.  I wasn’t where he was, but I’d like to think I’d have done my very best to put a few holes in Omar Saddiqui Mateen the minute he appeared in the place I was being paid to guard with an assault rifle in his hands.

The idea that defending one’s self with effective weapons is “escalating the chain of force” is garbage.  Nobody tries this stunt in Georgia, where bar patrons can and do carry firearms. Deterrence works with firearms just as well as with nuclear weapons.

“Patricia the Drow Countess” (probably I’ll be getting angry Email from other Countesses and real Drow Elven and Faeries now, accusing me of “misappropriating” their cultures) is a statement that there are alternatives to passively being hurt and killed, and if enough of us use them, the people who see us as easy targets won’t, any more.

 

Visit to an Airfield Hangar (where a 5/16″spanner was dropped)

Frank Jack Fletcher Airfield just opened recently, and invites went out over SL Aviation Chat to come see it, so I did.  I’m still exploring,so this isn’t a definitive report on what I think is a well-done sim, with period music streaming and nice Pacific island landscapes.

So, Debi Dastardly and Aeon Voom of THI Aviation, please don’t be offended if I laugh a little at one tiny thing:

First, the poster “No Cussing” which forbids the use of those filthy US and British customary units of measurement, including the dreaded inch.

fletcher Airfield_001

Now, stepping inside the airport, let’s take a long, admiring look at two of Aeon’s Bell Airacobras… one in US Army Air Corps livery, one in RAF colors:

fletcher Airfield airacobras

Now, I’m just a girl, but even I know that Bell airframes in World War II used “AN” fittings – all of which were measured in fractions of that naughty inch.

I guess that mechanics in this hangar are supposed to say “Hey, Bud, hand me that socket – the, you know… (voice dropping to a whisper) five-sixteenths.”

Just sayin’

The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries – My Interpretation

I have had the Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries in various Estate of Chenier properties for years.  In that time, I have contemplated each tapestry, and the circumstances under which they were commissioned and made.

They are now on display at the Chenier Embassy to the Second Life Mainlands, as shown below: The four tapestries from center to left show vain attempts of men to capture the noble, magical Unicorn, who escapes with a few wounds, but free.

The tapestry directly behind me, “The Hunters Enter the Forest” is (along with “The Unicorn in Captivity” seen later in this post) one of the two tapestries considered to probably have been designed and woven later than the five others in the collection. Those two share major stylistic differences I’ll discuss later.

tapestries at the Embassy_001

For now, consider the ornate border around the tapestry and the lush green background. Compared to the next tapestry in the narrative (if not in time of creation), “The Unicorn is Found” which you see at far left, “The Hunters Enter the Forest” is also much less “busy”. It’s almost as though the designer of “The Hunters Enter the Forest” thought better of the earlier works and resolved to do better – a more mature hand at work, or perhaps even a sharp rebuke from whoever paid for the tapestries?

To fully understand what makes these tapestries important to me, you must get to know the person generally credited as having had the tapestries made – Anne of Brittany.

Brittany is now the northernmost part of France, but before these tapestries were commissioned it was politically independent of France. The Duke of Brittany lost the “Mad War” between Brittany and France – resulting in a peace treaty that required him to get permission from the King of France before permitting his daughters to marry.

As he lay dying from injuries from a fall from a horse, the Duke made his oldest daughter Anne swear never to allow Brittany to be subjugated to France, then made her his heiress and political successor.  When he died, the young teenager Anne of Montfort became the sovereign Duchess of Brittany, Countess of Nantes, Montfort and Richmond, and Viscountess of Limoges.

To fulfill her father’s dying wishes, Anne contracted a marriage to Maximillian I of Austria, head of the Habsburg dynasty controlling Austria and Castile (part of modern-day Spain). However, Maximillian was busy in a war with Hungary at the time – when the French declared war on Brittany because Anne broke the peace treaty by marrying without the French King’s permission, the might of Habsburg could not protect her.

After a two-month siege of Rennes, the city where she and her forces had retreated, Anne agreed to marry Charles VIII of France if he were eligible to do so. She may have considered the fact that she and Charles were too closely related to be married under Canon law, her current marriage to the King of Austria and Charles’ betrothal to Margaret of Austria to be impediments which could not easily be overcome.  She was wrong.

Charles compelled fourteen year-old Anne to marry him, and Pope Innocent VIII annulled her marriage to Maximillian of Austria and dispensed Charles to marry her despite the remaining impediments to their marriage in exchange for important concessions from France to the Papacy.

This is where “The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn” comes in.  Anne and the Duchy of Brittany ought to have been safe from French interference, by the laws of Europe and the Roman Catholic Church.  Trickery and corruption made those things meaningless – just as, in the Mystic Capture of the Unicorn, the maidens shown in the fragments of that tapestry take the Unicorn by the mystic power of their virginity when strong men could not.

Mystic Capture at the Embassy_001

It’s almost a wicked parody of the folk tale, the similarity between the fate of Anne and her homeland and the capture of the Unicorn through subterfuge.  I don’t know this was the message behind “The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn,” but the parallels are strong, aren’t they?

The same thing happened seven years later –  Charles VIII hit his head on a door lintel and died not long afterward (probably from a subdural hematoma), but not before Anne became pregnant at least six times. Anne bore Charles four male heirs, most of whom died after having been born prematurely. The oldest died at the age of three from measles.

The marriage contract imposed on her at her first wedding obliged her on Charles’s death to marry the next King of France, Charles’s second cousin Louis, Duke of Orleans, who was already married to the King’s sister. Again trusting to the Church to obey her own laws, she agreed to the marriage if Louis were legally eligible to marry within a year.

Pope Alexander VI, also known as Roderic Borgia, issued another dispensation annulling Louis’ existing marriage and allowing him to marry the Queen Dowager Anne of France. This time, Anne was 21 years old, and more self-confident – her new marriage contract allowed her to style herself Duchess of Brittany, which Charles earlier forbade her to do.

Anne seized the chance to go back to Brittany, rule in her own name (even after her marriage to Louis XII, his orders in Brittany were issued in her name), strike coinage with her image on it (the prerogative of rulers), assemble the Estates of Brittany, earn a reputation as an able administrator, and become a renowned patroness of the arts and letters, which no other Queen of France had done.

Life as Queen of France, however, was still a trial for Anne.  She became pregnant at least nine more times by Louis, miscarrying five times and bearing two stillborn sons and two daughters who lived to perpetuate the Montfort bloodline.

It was during Anne’s marriage to Charles what are regarded as the earliest five tapestries were woven, ending with “The Unicorn is Killed”.

Death_001

The Unicorn’s death in this tapestry is almost hidden away in the top left corner of the tapestry – I focused in on it because otherwise, the eye is drawn to everything else happening in the courtyard where the Unicorn dies. All of Anne’s children by Charles died largely unheralded by history. Anne traveled where Charles did, trying to bear children while a child herself.

Scholars think that the first tapestry in the narrative, “The Hunters Enter the Forest,” and the last in the sequence, “The Unicorn in Captivity” were done much later, designed by different hands, and may be part of a different set of tapestries.  Their backgrounds are a lusher green, and both feature the “millefleurs” or “thousand flowers” background with detailed representations of over a hundred different kinds of plant, some which may now be extinct. Compared to the other, earlier tapestries, these two are much less cluttered.

As dismal as Anne’s life was in the French court, “The Unicorn in Captivity” may show acceptance of Anne’s fate – a political captive, Duchess of a realm about to lose its independence to the whim of French kings, but not without hope, and still able to fight for herself and her people.  The red spot on the Unicorn in this tapestry may be blood; perhaps the blood under Anne on her wedding bed, and on the beds where she gave birth so often, losing all but two children either at birth or early in life?

captivity_001

Anne Montfort of Brittany, Queen of France, who never gave up trying to keep the Bretons free and proud, died in 1514 of a kidney stone.  She was 37 years old.

I may be the only person who thinks the Hunt of the Unicorn has any special connection to Anne of Brittany’s life.  I like to think that though she could not even whisper her resentment of her captive status, these tapestries shrieked it out for anyone with eyes to see.  That they were presented to Louis XII as Anne’s wedding gift is, to me, a sublime statement of her true feelings.