Ho ho– oh!

Merry Christmas everyone. Did Santa creep into your room last night? Did you stay asleep?

Self, elfDeep Dark Fears

What a guy!

Photos of 40 scariest Santas of all timeVintage Everyday
Nowadays, everyone knows well the Christmas Santa in his red suit with a kind smile and his sack full of gifts. However, more than 50 years, the old bearded paunchy did not have the same nice look that we see today. For the proof, we let you discover these Santa Claus with absolutely creepy looks and clothes.

These are just a selection of the Christmas-themed Awkward Family Photo submissions. Follow the link for the cringey details behind each one.

But enough of Santa. We all know the real spirit of Christmas is best embodied in — traumatic Christmas movies!

Trauma surgeon breaks down every Home Alone injuryWIRED: YouTube
Trauma surgeon Annie Onishi … breaks down every injury from the first two films, explaining what would happen if Harry and Marv actually experienced the physical trauma that they sustain in the films.

Microscopic masterpiece

We’ve had Van Gogh’s Starry Night appear virtually in Second Life, and be recreated in Lego. Now look what we’ve got.

Mutant bacteria accidentally recreated one of Van Gogh’s most iconic paintingsScience Alert
When a certain gene is overexpressed in a bacterium known as Myxococcus xanthus, the individual organisms self-organize into tiny circular swarms within hours. Once the resulting swarms are artificially colored, the scene looks remarkably similar to Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

Caution: contents hot

So it was Parker, not Icarus, who managed to touch the sun.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe becomes first spacecraft to ‘touch’ the sunCNN
Sixty years after NASA set the goal, and three years after its Parker Solar Probe launched, the spacecraft has become the first to “touch the sun.” The Parker Solar Probe has successfully flown through the sun’s corona, or upper atmosphere, to sample particles and our star’s magnetic fields.

NASA enters the solar atmosphere for the first timeNASA
The new milestone marks one major step for Parker Solar Probe and one giant leap for solar science. Just as landing on the Moon allowed scientists to understand how it was formed, touching the very stuff the Sun is made of will help scientists uncover critical information about our closest star and its influence on the solar system.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe touches the Sun for the first timeNASA Goddard: YouTube
For the first time in history, a spacecraft has touched the Sun. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has now flown through the Sun’s upper atmosphere – the corona – and sampled particles and magnetic fields there.

Some interesting simulations, but what does it actually look like when you’re that close? This might help.

This footage from the first-ever probe to touch the sun will leave you speechlessScience Alert
The footage is made up of individual images captured between August 8 and 12 this year, during the probe’s ninth perihelion, or closest approach to the Sun. And, let’s be honest, it looks like something straight out of a sci-fi film.

Parker Solar Probe flying through plasma jets in the Sun’s coronaScience Alert: YouTube
The Parker Solar Probe flies through structures in the Sun’s corona called streamers. This footage shows data from the WISPR instrument on Parker Solar Probe.

Incredible, eerie footage. Reminds me of Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt’s experimental video, Black Rain.

But let’s zoom back out a little, to see a fuller picture.

A massive composite of 150,000 images reveals the swirling, feather-like details of the sunColossal
From dark spots and wispy flares to coronal loops that burst upward in brilliant arches, a giant new composite by Andrew McCarthy exposes the intricate, swirling patterns that cloak the sun’s surface. “Fire and Fusion” is a 300-megapixel image captured at 2 p.m. on November 29 and the Arizona-based photographer’s most detailed shot of the celestial matter yet.

And in case you were wondering

It takes two?

A pair of articles from Hyperallergic on two pairs of artists.

The neglected afterlife of the great Georges BraqueHyperallergic
Why is this show by Georges Braque such a quiet, hole-in-corner sort of affair? I find myself wondering as I wander around The Poetry of Things, a new exhibition at Bernard Jacobson Gallery of 14 magnificent still life paintings (and a single collage) by the man who is best known as the co-creator, with Picasso, of Cubism.

It doesn’t always work, though. Take this exhibition of the works of Marisol Escobar and Andy Warhol, for instance, “the queen and king of Pop“.

Does a pairing with Warhol do Marisol any favors?Hyperallergic
The basic plan of this show reveals an unfortunate curatorial lapse. To put Warhol’s famous works alongside Marisol’s now relatively unknown art does no favors for her. Rather than lift up her art, this strategy makes it look marginal and obscure, a minor version of what he did with such success. Jeffrey Deitch, whose judgments I take seriously, says in the catalogue, “Marisol, for me, was one of the geniuses who defined contemporary art. . . .” I would love to see a full Marisol show, so as to come to grips with her work on its own terms. These present comparisons don’t do that.

Purple(ish) haze

So Pantone have announced their Colour of the Year for 2022.

Pantone Color of the Year 2022Pantone
With trends in gaming, the expanding popularity of the metaverse and rising artistic community in the digital space PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri illustrates the fusion of modern life and how colour trends in the digital world are being manifested in the physical world and vice versa.

There’s that M word, again.

Pantone reveals 2022 Color of the Year: Very Peri, a symbol of creativity and the metaverseARTnews
According to Pantone, Very Peri’s selection was also a response to a burgeoning sector of the digital sphere in which hues such as this one can be seen with some degree of frequency. Its statement referred to the metaverse, a catch-all phrase for a world in which the boundaries between digital and physical have fully imploded.

Pantone Colour of the Year 2022 is a brand new colour, to reflect our “transformative times”It’s Nice That
It’s the most colourful time of the year for Pantone, as the company makes inevitable global headlines announcing its Colour of the Year: a tone it believes will define the following year’s visual landscape. For 2022 it’s Very Peri – no, not a saucy orange, all you cheeky Nando’s lovers out there – but a periwinkle blue with violet-red undertones which apparently holds “courageous presence” that “encourages personal inventiveness and creativity,” Pantone says. Not content with any of its thousands of existing hues, Pantone has created this new colour specially for the occasion, symbolic of the societal “transition we are going through”.

Perhaps not as calming as in previous years. And not that far off 2018’s. But at least it’s not this horrid colour.

World’s “ugliest” Pantone colour 448C is being used to deter smokersIt’s Nice That
Over 1,000 smokers took part in seven studies to choose the most unappealing colour, which resulted in Pantone 448C — named opaque couché — being chosen for its association with dirt and tar.

It’s such a strange concept, this Colour of the Year. Is it supposed to be an award or something? Is this colour cheaper to buy this year? We’ll probably never see this colour again, after this.

At least it’s just the one colour this time, not like last year.

Pantone picks two colors of the year, and they’re complete oppositesFast Company
Alone, a gray would be stagnant and depressing, while a yellow would be overly ebullient. Together, Pantone argues, the pair is meant to be both optimistic and thoughtful. “[Illuminating] is definitely an aspirational color, no question,” says Eiseman. “But I think with the solidity of the gray . . . when you juxtapose those colors against each other, the concept is clear, ‘Here’s what we’re hoping for. And this is the solid grounding to get us there.’”

Electric futures

Given the current climate crisis, you can understand why most visions of the future are quite negative. Over a hundred years ago, however, the future was imagined much more positively.

The future imagined in Albert Robida’s La vie électrique (1890)The Public Domain Review
Who participated in the first video date? A good couple for candidacy in this regard are Georges Lorris and Estelle Lacombe, who meet via “téléphonoscope” in Albert Robida’s 1890 novel Le Vingtième siècle: la vie électrique in which he imagines “the electric life” of the future. Adding a visual component to two recent technologies, the telephone (1876) and the phonograph (1877), this device lets scattered families in the year 1956 reunite around a virtual dinner table. For the lovebirds Lorris and Lacombe, the téléphonoscope facilitates their unapproved liaison in an immunologically fraught world. (And, for those without a beau, it also offers a service akin to on-demand streaming.) This proto Zoom / Netflix hybrid is just one of several prescient predictions in Robida’s novel.

Taking in the evening air.
A busy neighbourhood.

Take the future into your own hands

I’m coming across the term cli-fi more and more these days, the new name for fiction that “highlights and intensifies the risks of climate change in a way that reporting simply can’t match.”

A brief history of cli-fi: Fiction that’s hooking readers on climate activismMeans and Matters
It’s a truism that fiction teaches us about the world we live in: norms and cultures, values and beliefs, the complex interplay of external events and personal relationships that keeps us reading (or watching) until the end. Now, an emerging genre of writing known as climate fiction, or cli-fi, is teaching us about the world as we need to see it: a planet in the grip of a climate crisis that will shape our lives for as long as we inhabit Earth.

Here are a couple of books I’ve added to my to-read list, to get me started.

Of course they would: On Kim Stanley Robinson’s “The Ministry for the Future”LA Review of Books
The Ministry for the Future is thus a novel about bureaucracy, but it’s also about the possibility of a wide diversity of tactics in the name of a livable future that include fighting both inside and outside the system. Characters in the novel contemplate targeted assassination of politicians and CEOs, industrial sabotage of coal plants, intentionally bringing down airliners in the name of destroying commercial air travel, bioterrorism against industrial slaughterhouses — and they do more than contemplate them. How does it change what’s possible when we stop worrying so much about losing in the right way, and start thinking about winning in the wrong ways?

Neal Stephenson predicted the metaverse. His new book imagines something even strangerSlate
Stephenson’s fiction has never shown much—or any, really—faith in the efficacy of national governments. The characters in Termination Shock all seem to take an equally dim view of the agenda of mainstream environmental parties. They dismiss the Greens, a significant political force in Saskia’s kingdom, for such DOA policy goals as trying to “get China and India to stop burning shit tomorrow and crash their economies for the sake of Mother Earth.” What if, this novel asks, individuals with the daring and wherewithal to do something decisive about the problem simply went ahead and did it? Compounding the attitude that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission is the titular phenomenon of “termination shock”: the uncertainty, as one character puts it, of “what the consequences might be of shutting the system off after it’s been running for a while.”

Another Monday, another coffee

The start of another week. But what is a week, really? Here’s an essay on how we came to depend on the week despite its artificiality.

How we became weeklyAeon
Weeks serve as powerful mnemonic anchors because they are fundamentally artificial. Unlike days, months and years, all of which track, approximate, mimic or at least allude to some natural process (with hours, minutes and seconds representing neat fractions of those larger units), the week finds its foundation entirely in history. To say ‘today is Tuesday’ is to make a claim about the past rather than about the stars or the tides or the weather. We are asserting that a certain number of days, reckoned by uninterrupted counts of seven, separate today from some earlier moment. And because those counts have no prospect of astronomical confirmation or alignment, weeks depend in some sense on meticulous historical recordkeeping. But practically speaking, weekly counts are reinforced by the habits and rituals of other people. When those habits and rituals were radically obscured or altered in 2020, the week itself seemed to unravel.

History professor David Henkin explores the background of this man-made construction and highlights the impact the pandemic has had on our experience of it. Though it’s mainly from a US perspective, they’ve chosen to head up the article with a glorious photo from my own county in the north of England.

A sunny Sunday afternoon above the harbour at Whitby in Yorkshire, England, in 1976

Wherever the week has come from, it starts with coffee for most of us. But how many, that’s the question. Let Judit Bekker and David Lynch answer that for you.

Live-blogging a new projectData muggle
I might sound like a broken record, but this year I got super crazy about Twin Peaks, and I can only viz about the things that interest me. So here it is: I’m gonna count all the damn fine coffees that were drunk in all 3 series. It’s 50+ hours of content, so my mind might just go to the Black Lodge by the time I finish. But there are not that many Twin Peaks data sets lurking around to be downloaded from the internet.

And here’s the final data visualisation of the 258 damn fine coffees she saw being enjoyed in Twin Peaks, which you can also see and interact with on Tableau Public.

Living in a virtual democracy

My reintroduction to Second Life has been quite gradual, as I didn’t stray very far from the SL Book Club at first. But a comment there one evening about the Confederation of Democratic Simulators caught my attention, so much so that I now call it home.

So what is the CDS? It describes itself very simply as the oldest democracy in Second Life, but there’s more to it than that.

Confederation of Democratic Simulators
All are welcome to the CDS to visit, explore, and become a part of our dynamic community. Our estate consists of six regions that have loosely based Germanic, Tuscan, Alpine, and Mediterranean themes, representing different historical periods.

Accompanying its website, there’s a discussion forum, a Flickr group and a Facebook page. There are also a couple of entries in the Second Life Destination Guide.

The Confederation of Democratic SimulatorsSecond Life Destination Guide
The Confederation of Democratic Simulators (CDS), founded in 2004, is a community-operated by and for its citizens. … Land ownership in the CDS means citizenship, with the right to vote, run for office, and have a say in the direction and projects of the regions.

It’s a vibrant, active community that regularly comes together to celebrate such events as International Women’s Day, Oktoberfest and Dia de los Muertos.

Celebrating International Women’s Day in Second LifeInara Pey: Living in a Modemworld
The theme for this year’s IWD is #EachForEqual, a call for gender equality, and the day will be marked in Second Life at Celebrating International Women’s Day in SL, a series of events throughout the day organised and hosted by the Confederation of Democratic Simulators (CDS). These will comprise music, dance, live performances and interactive activities.

What marks this place as a little different from the sprawling, homogeneous Linden Homes estates in Bellisseria is its emphasis on democratic, resident-led project development, with its citizens being encouraged to play an active role in the political life of the community. This has been the case from the very start, as this introduction to the CDS from 2007 clearly shows.

Playing democracy in a virtual worldYouTube
The Confederation of Democratic Simulators is an old institution in SecondLife. Are they still alive and well? Is democracy in virtual worlds a delusion or can it be achieved? Newbie virtual journalist Draxtor Despres meets up with residents and administrators to find out how much free will can be handled by a simulated system….

Transcript of my lecture in Second Life on democracy in virtual worldsDavid Orban
Here is the transcript of my inaugural lecture of the Craedo Auditorium in Colonia Nova in Second Life. Welcome to this seminar about “The theory and practice of democracy in virtual worlds”. I want to thank CARE, CRAEDO, and the Confederation of Democratic Simulators for inviting me to give this talk at the inauguration of this auditorium.

It all started with a sim modelled after the town Rothenburg in Bavaria.

What became Neualtenburg was later renamed Neufreistadt.

Confederation of Democratic SimulatorsSecond Life Wiki
The Confederation of Democratic Simulators, CDS in short, is the latest phase in the project that started as the city of Neualtenburg in the mainland sim Anzere, then moved to the private island “Neualtenburg” and after a split-up of the two founders with the rest of the population, the citizens continued under the name “Neufreistadt”. When the project became more than just a single simulator, the name Confederation of Democratic Simulators was adopted for the government and the project in general.

NeufreistadtSecond Life Wiki
Since its inception as a group-owned tiered mainland sim in Anzere, the government model followed a rather long discussion period held mostly on the Linden Lab forums, for a period of about 10 weeks and involving around 20 people interested in jointly presenting a project to Haney Linden, who raised a challenge on Aug 31st, 2004, for projects to “preserve the snow sims”. A proposal based on the forum discussions was elaborated by Ulrika Zugzwang and presented by her and Kendra Bancroft for appreciation; after Haney approved it, the forum discussion moved towards establishing a constitution, a provisory government, and a layout of the city to be built, inspired on the Bavarian city of Rothenburg, and adhering to the “theme” of a medieval Bavarian setting. […]

Linden Lab removed the support to any similar projects after much public claims of favoritism, and a decision was made to move the whole city into a private island, called “Neualtenburg”.

That sim was soon joined by others.

Official blog of Colonia Nova
Currently, the CDS consists of one region, Neufreistadt, with another region in the planning process, Colonia Nova. Neufreistadt is one of Second Life’s oldest resident-governed regions and is widely known for its unique combination of politics, fog, and Bavarian architecture. Colonia Nova, a Roman themed simulator, is currently under development.

Locus Amoenus
Locus Amoenus is the 4th sim of the CDS, which will be built this summer. It will be located west to our Roman sim Colonia Nova, and again, the theme is roman. Main differences are that this sim will be more pastoral in essence, not a city core – and with a sea shore and quay.

This project has more history than I can get my head around. I’m not going to attempt to summarise all the chronologies and controversies here, but to give you an indication of some of the incentives and drivers behind the project, I found this from 2004.

Why discussing governments is so hard…Gwyneth Llewelyn
[T]here is no “easy” way to do it, if you just have a monolithical group with a few team leaders. What happens if the team leader gives up? Or gets angry with the group? Or “sells out” the land? All these questions pop up every time a fantastic project comes to an end because its original proposers, for one reason or another, simply “go away”.

One alternative, as envisioned by the Neualtenburg group, is having a form to “rotate” the leadership of the group, assign people different roles in mantaining the themed sim, get rules for what can be done and what cannot, and so on. The important part to remember here is change. People change, SL changes, the city should change as well. Monolithic group structures do not deal well with change. No matter how good the “Utopia” is, if there is a change, you need to adapt to change. It’s pointless to remain stubborn and insist that you want to “resist change” – SL is not different than RL in that aspect. You don’t want to change – you die.

And this is from 2005.

Neualtenburg – SL’s most hated projectGwyneth Llewelyn
All these issues make sense from a RL point of view: if you want to organise something and make it enduring, the best way we frail humans know to achieve that purpose, is having a democratically elected association of people to work together. That’s what Neualtenburg is about – a project which belongs to the whole group, and not just to a few “group officers”. It seems to be working. The currently elected “president” of the Representative Assembly – the law-passing body of the City Government – is neither a founding member, has no building skills whatsoever, is not an officer of the group, and has not contributed tier or money to the project This is completely alien to the whole concept of Second Life – either from the anarchistic or the capitalist group. And, thus, being alien, the project is viewed with serious distrust.

As with any kind of democracy, you can’t please all the people all the time. This is from last year.

The Confederation of Democratic Simulators – When democracy…failsThis Island SL
Wandering around the CDS, the place looks good enough, with public amenities, public footpaths and public buildings. However dig deeper and get into the whole political landscape of the CDS, you find the SL democratic equivalent of nepotism. Friends voted in by the RA into places of power within the two commissions. Friends voted into places of power, even though those friends have no clue whatsoever about what that position entails.

Setbacks and infighting notwithstanding, the community has persevered. It’s now certainly a larger, more detailed environment than it was before, with buildings being redeveloped and more regions being added (and with still more to come).

Neufreistadt – The new Antiquariat buildingMizou’s Second Life
This building in Neufreistadt was a replacement of an earlier built dating back to the creation of Neufreistadt. I rebuilt it in 2018 and you can visit it on the Marketplatz in Neufreistadt and familiarise yourself with the history of Confederation of Democratic Simulators.

The MonasterySecond Life Destination Guide
When consciousness first dawned, men and women were equally the two sides of human-ness. In reverence and longing for that balance long since lost, this Monastery is built as a place of remembrance for what may yet again return. The Monastery is based loosely on the “real life” Abbey of St Mary on the tiny Scottish island of Iona.

It’s interesting to compare Draxtor’s admittedly low-res video from 2007 above with his return in 2020, below — a testament to the community’s longevity.

Made in Second Life – Holiday StoriesYouTube
Happy holidays from Second Life! In this special edition of “Made in Second Life,” we hear how several community members are experiencing the holidays in the virtual world as they come together remotely to celebrate amidst the global pandemic.

Starting at around the 2:11 mark, Rosie Gray introduces a wintry CDS and showcases how they mark the change in seasons and celebrate the holidays.

And what excellent timing, to stumble upon that snowy video now, almost exactly a year later, as the weather in both RL and SL gets a little chillier.