Nov 27 2009

I give thanks for my ability to waste time yelling at internet people.

This is the best stupid Second Life argument I’ve ever been in.

I’m just pleased with how my last sentence there turned out. And the intended recipient will never read it! She is too busy being wrong on the internet someplace else.


May 17 2009

Persistence of location

There used to be an empty lot I had to go through on my way to the mall. One morning at the end of March or beginning of April, still sleepy, I was walking to the mall, and found that there was suddenly construction in that lot. Cement had been poured, and the ground was higher than it had been. This seemed unlikely to me; for a moment I wasn’t sure if I was in the real world or in a video game. I tried to check my inventory.

Continue reading “Persistence of location”


Apr 16 2009

Okay, guys.

Tag: i teach english,japan,second-life — 10:58 pm

There are some little windows in the classroom so the parents can watch classes from the waiting area. Obviously, when there are other kids out there, they come over to the windows and wave and pop up and down like prairie dogs and so forth.

So the other day Mr. Yodeler was in the classroom, and Mr. Weepy was outside waiting for the teacher for his other class to show up. Mr. Weepy came over and knocked on the window. Mr. Yodeler walked over to it, looking very solemn. They both pressed their noses up to it and kissed through the glass. Then they giggled, and loudly proclaimed one another to be “baragumi.”

I know that “bara,” which means “rose,” is used as a term for gay guys – I mean, that part of the whole interaction seems pretty clear – but I’m not sure about the “gumi” part. According to my dictionary it just means “group,” but I think I’ve only ever heard it used referring to military and police units. When I google for this in romaji I get stuff about the anime Sakura Taisen, which does, in fact, use the term to describe a (deeply offensive-sounding) all-gay military unit. But I don’t think a couple of four-year-olds are likely to have seen this show, since 1) the art makes it look kind of porny, and 2) Sleep-san liked it, which probably means it’s both kind of porny and too complicated for little kids. I could be wrong? Anyway, I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to ask the manager to clarify this one for me. His sense of humor can be somewhat lacking.

(The first google result in Japanese is somebody’s Second Life store, and I am deeply unimpressed by those dresses.)


Sep 13 2008

Having nothing to do today but wait to hear from people,

Deeply unscientific survey! Here are links to a bunch of images of a Second Life avatar’s face, with different skin textures applied: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

I would be extremely happy if people who had time went through them and told me in the comments on the LiveJournal (rather than on the website, which is behaving badly) 1) what ethnicity each one “reads” as to you, as short or long or vague or specific as you want, 2) optionally, some kind of description of your own racial/cultural background (like, “white American,” “1/2-generation Taiwanese-Canadian”). This is for a Top-Secret Grumpy Research Project about Second Life skins.

Today I finally did my laundry and grocery shopping. I think it’s been three weeks since I did laundry? I had some really good green tea ice cream at a restaurant a few weeks ago, so I bought some at the store. It turns out that not all green tea ice creams are necessarily edible.


Sep 06 2008

Second Life Adventures – Sim Name Squatters

Tag: second-life — 8:45 pm

The other day I searched the Second Life map for Lothlorien. This is what it looks like:

Snapshot_122

There are two different ways to search for places within Second Life. One is the default “search” function, which acts like a normal search engine (a crappy one), and lets you choose whether to search people, places, classified ads, etc. The second way is to open up the map and use its search function. This works differently.

Second Life is divided into a grid. If the owner of the sim changes his/her mind about what to do with it after choosing the name, or wants to squat a name he/she thinks will bring in traffic, or rents the whole thing out to someone with slightly different ideas, the name might not have a lot to do with the actual contents. The Harry Potter-themed Wizard’s Alley is in a sim called “Sunset Harbor.” I don’t think there’s any harbor.

I decided to see what other inappropriately-Tolkien-named areas I could fine. Continue reading “Second Life Adventures – Sim Name Squatters”


Jul 14 2008

Second Life Adventures Number Whatever: Pretend Houses and the Performance of Class

Tag: second-life — 9:32 pm

I’ve talked about nice things enough! This time, I’m going to make fun of somebody’s house.

Snapshot_203

Click the picture to zoom in and read the text. It is hilarious.

* It is a “Luxury Lodge,” with ad copy visually calculated to make one think of a ski lodge – the little bare-wood structure at the top of a sharp slope that the signs are in, the snowy picture (there’s no snow in the actual sim). And it has “privacy windows,” and you can also get a “vacation lodge” version of the house. So far we are doing a pretty good job here of invoking the Western stock symbols of wealth and privilege, but can we take it further?

* We can! We can call something “exclusive.” “Owners Group: An Exclusive Group for Arc Owners.” This group is only for people with big ridiculous houses.

* It’s called “The Arc.” This is my new favorite marketing thing ever. It conveys moral superiority, legitimacy conferred by authority, escape or sanctuary from a teeming rabble and/or hostile world, a sense of vast size and weight, and wood. It’s so perfect.

Continue reading “Second Life Adventures Number Whatever: Pretend Houses and the Performance of Class”


Jul 10 2008

Second Life Adventures 4: DB Bailey’s Blinker Hall

Tag: second-life — 1:43 am

This will be short because, though DB Bailey’s stuff is incredibly awesome, I don’t know that the vocabulary yet exists to allow me to explain why. There is no critical lexicon for 3D environmental design! Someone make one so I can use it! This is too hard!

When you’re working in CG, it’s obviously possible to do a lot of stuff you can’t in real life. You can make stuff turn into something else when you look at it from a certain angle, or turn invisible when you go around it. You can make invisible walls, and visible walls you can go through. The thing is that, in the twenty years or so that 3D video games have been common, we’ve gotten used to these things happening. They’re called “bugs.” When we see them, we are not impressed.

Sometimes we should be impressed!

Snapshot_048

Continue reading “Second Life Adventures 4: DB Bailey’s Blinker Hall”


Jul 06 2008

Second Life Adventures 3: Kingdom of Sands

Tag: second-life — 11:54 pm

Today I am making a really long post about design decisions made by the makers of a Second Life Gorean role-play sim. I hope you’re up for that.

Kingdom of Sand/Purgatorio/1001 Nights is, as is often the case when a Westerner devises a fantasy culture incorporating slavery, based loosely on the Middle East. Yeah, okay, fellow white people. (That’s you I’m looking at funny, Jane Yolen. Frank Herbert. Jennifer Roberson. C. S. Lewis.)

Second Life has a lot of Gorean areas, and visually, most of them are kind of a mish-mash of medieval Western European and Middle Eastern elements, with the European predominating. My understanding is that the books leaned more the other way, but there’s a lot of cross-pollination between the Gorean areas and the (obviously Europe-inspired) Elven ones – enough that some of the more conservative Elven-themed sims, like Avilion, will often warn you immediately upon entry that you better not go practicing any slavery in here.

You’ll also find branches of the same clothing and weapons sellers in both types of areas, and when Goreans and elves build prefab, they buy from the same people. (Julia Hathor, Baron Grayson, and Kriss Lehmann probably account for 25% of the Elvish and Gorean landscape.) The Gorean sims tend to read a little like NC-17-rated versions of the Elven ones.

Kingdom of Sands sticks to genre convention:

Snapshot_145

Cobras are the shorthand. Carpet sellers are also good.

Continue reading “Second Life Adventures 3: Kingdom of Sands”


Jun 21 2008

Pondering representation of race in manga

Tag: manga,second-life — 2:15 pm

(Note: Having finished writing this, I remembered that Matt Thorn wrote an essay on this issue, and googled it, and, uh. It looks like a lot of what I’ve said is just regurgitating stuff he said. Sorry, Mr. Thorn! Here, go read that.)

Most manga set up one or more “default ethnicities” within which the mangaka feels free to give the characters a pretty large range of physical variance – as in, members of the “normal” group can have whatever hair and eye colors the mangaka feels like (as long as they’re black and white, I mean), various facial shapes, and slightly dark skin (if the mangaka’s not allergic to that). CLAMP, for example, generally gives the full range to Japanese, Chinese, European, and mix-thereof characters. In this way, the Japanese and Chinese and English characters can’t be physically distinguished.

Then there might also be one or more “non-default/exoticized ethnicities.” An exoticized ethnicity isn’t allowed the full range of variance – some attribute (90% of the time hair color) gets coded as a racial marker, and can’t vary within the ethnicity. Example: The volume of CLAMP’s Tsubasa where they go to a Korean world, and everybody has black hair.

(Actually, I think that Kurogane’s feudal-Japan world is also limited to black hair, which raises questions about the human tendency to exoticize/racialize our own histories/ancestors…)

The more typical example, found in 90% of manga set in in modern-day Japan: Bisco Hatori in Ouran High School Host Club gives the full range of hair-color variance to Japan, but limits European or European-Japanese-mixed characters to blond hair. Hence the weird dissonance between the art and the writing, where people say that the mixed-race Tamaki and Nekozawa “stand out” and have a “foreign flair” because of their pale hair – while plenty of pure-blooded Japanese characters like Honey, the twins, and Haruhi’s dad also have light-colored hair.

The defaults vary within a mangaka’s work depending on setting and what the mangaka is trying to achieve. Osamu Tezuka drew Chinese characters as squint-eyed Western-style caricatures in Ask Adolf, set mostly in WWII-era Germany and Japan, but in Tezuka Default Style in Boku no Son Goku, set in folklore-ancient-China. Yuu Watase’s manga are mostly set in Japan and involve no non-Japanese characters or discussion of race, “allowing” her to give her characters a wide range of hair colors. Her Sakura Gari, however, limits its Japanese characters to black hair, presumably because one of the two protagonists is mixed-race, and a good deal of the plot revolves around this. (Sakura Gari is also set in the Taishou era, while most of her other works are set in the present day. See: exoticization of history again?)

(Incidentally: Ask Adolf‘s default ethnicities are German, German-Jewish, and Japanese, so those groups are drawn in Tezuka Default and are not readily distinguishable. The Nazis can’t tell from looking at him that the half-Japanese guy is half-Japanese, allowing him to join the Gestapo and so go crazy with guilt and identity issues and so forth. I don’t recall whether people within the story can tell the full Japanese characters from the full German ones, or whether the half-Japanese guy gets taken for white or Japanese in Japan.)

A lot of Western readers get confused as to whether that slight-tan thing that some manga characters have is supposed to indicate race, and why even manga like Petshop of Horrors, ostensibly set in a large US city, don’t tend to have any characters recognizable as black/Hispanic/Indian/etc.

The reason for the latter is that – to put things very crudely – Japan is racist to the point that most mangaka cannot draw these groups. The mangaka I’ve used as examples above all use basically the same techniques for racial identification of Asian and white characters. These techniques are part of manga’s basic visual vocabulary, in the same way black panel borders mean flashbacks and light reflecting from a character’s eyes means danger.

Western readers, when we first get into manga, tend to get excited about the depth and flexibility of this vocabulary – but the fact is that this vast, extremely codified vocabulary, which a mangaka must know and be able to use in order to get published, doesn’t have the words for non-Asian-non-white characters. They don’t get drawn enough for those words to be necessary.*

For the former, my experience is that the tans are just tans, and more what a Western** reader would call a class marker than a racial one. Generally, the tan is shorthand for “working-class/uncultured/trashy.” I would imagine there’s some association with the ganguro subculture (which manga tends to associate with working- and lower-middle-class girls – not sure if that’s the reality), but given that it’s also used on male characters, and there’s a fair amount of social taboo against dark tans in Japan, I think it’s probably more complicated than that. (People with tans = people who have to go out and work in the sun = lower-class? People with dark skin = tanners = burakumin? Dunno.)

Because the tan is already coded as a class indicator, it can’t be used as a racial one without carrying that baggage along with it – Fullmetal Alchemist is the only example I can think of that actually does use it to indicate race. Revolutionary Girl Utena makes use of the type for Hey Let’s Subvert Some Even More Stuff purposes – it is Not Done to make the dark-skinned characters rich, polite, cultured kids of impeccable lineage, and certainly not [spoiler spoiler]. (Also, one of them’s named Ohtori, which surname in Japan apparently gives off vibes like, I don’t know, “Muffy Vanderbilt III.”)

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* To stall off anyone considering writing a sorrowful comment about this is in my comments – no, the West isn’t much better off in this regard. Most Western artists cannot draw an attractive dark-skinned person, because the techniques they’ve learned and their ideas of beauty are all intended for the depiction of white people.

Because I’ve been brooding about this issue’s applicability to Second Life skins all week, I offer you up this example (slightly NSFW, scroll down to the bottom for the “black” one). This designer is extremely popular and well-reviewed, but all her dark skins have this unattractive ashy coloration – she seems to just do some sort of color-replace operation on her pale ones, not realizing that darker skin doesn’t reflect light the same way pale skin does. (I won’t go into the facial contours of her model, as there are some sensible reasons for a designer to display all her skins/clothing on the same shape.)

** I specify “Western reader” because, basically, the way race is constructed in Japan is complicated, and I don’t feel competent to try and come up with better vocabulary for this phenomenon.


Apr 28 2008

Also,

Several new and bewildering comments appeared on the entry where I made fun of a Second Life build and the designer and one of her employees showed up to respond. I thought at first they were a real person, but now I’m wondering if they might be some kind of spambot. Turing tests are either funnier or sadder now that we have the internet to show us how often people fail them.


Oct 31 2007

People who are not me need to start using Second Life.

Because Silver Rose Designs, which I already liked due to its very nice free clothes, has Kraehe’s dress from Princess Tutu. And this is important information about which, at present, no one but me cares.

The designer also has outfits from that one show with, like, the alchemists, though she has sneakily called them something else. They’re not quite as impressive, though.