The Inkwell- A NEW Live Music Venue!

We all get in ruts in SL, I think. I know a lot of bloggers and creators who admit to spending most of their SL time alone on a platform in the sky. Maybe that’s you. Maybe you’ve just been doing the same thing every day for a while now- same people, same things, same places. Some days (or weeks on end) I see no more of SL than the stores I shop in, the places I take photos and my own skybox. My communication is limited to IMs while I edit photos and type up my oh-so-eloquent (lolright) blogposts.

One thing that gets me out of my antisocial zone is music. I love going to a good DJ set or seeing live musicians in SL. I always feel a little less awkward joining in conversations and meeting new people in those atmospheres. If not for music in SL, I would probably have no friends at all to be honest. Every place I call “home” in SL, I found while using search and TPing around randomly. I popped in and there was music and cool people and I stayed.

TPing randomly is actually what brought me to The Inkwell. I was immediately charmed by the building and decor. It’s very eclectic and open. There’s a coffee bar and comfy chairs and a dock and a lovely scenic lawn. (You can see all these photos larger on my Flickr)

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After camming around,  I got to meet the lovely Jessyca Teardrop! We are actually friends on Plurk, so it was like, “Hey! Don’t I know you?” We got to chatting and she told me all about the place. She snagged her partner, Jennifer Python, as well, so I could get the whole story! I love to know the people behind the places. I hope you do, too. I decided to do this interview style, so read on!

Jennifer Python: Owner

Jessyca Teardrop: Manager/Builder

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Blogging with Roxi!

In my last post, I was super excited to have a chance to get to know a fellow Plurker and blogger named Shayariel Teardrop for Harvest Denzo‘s Posting With Others blogger challenge. Well, I was so thrilled and flattered to be asked to post with ANOTHER amazing blogger, Roxi Bluewood!

I am always very shy when it comes to fellow bloggers, and I don’t really take much initiative to reach out, especially inworld. You never quite know if they’ll be cool, and I have a little fear of rejection. Some people take their blogger status and use it as an excuse to be a super crazy diva bitch, which I just cannot deal with. Well, let me tell you, Roxi is NOT one of those people. I am SO glad I got the chance to meet her! She is very sweet and also very talented! I’d definitely recommend adding her to your “blogs to read” list. I’m really looking forward to the next time I get to hang out with her! Here are some snapshots of our the time together:

First, some closeups!

^Look at that sweet face!! And below, you can see me wearing one of my new favorite things-  Izzie’s teeth!

The woodsy, blurry backdrop of these next two is The Grounds. I HAD to take Roxi to see one of the prettiest sims on the grid (and home to The Pixel Bean, one of my favorite places to hang!)

By the end of our time together, we were feeling like two peas in a pod and goofing of with silly faces using our Anypose Expression huds.

I almost forgot to show you the cute shoes!!

Thank you for being brave and reaching out, Roxi. I had a lot of fun hanging out and I hope this is the start of a great friendship! (Make sure to check out Roxi’s version here!!)
Roxi is wearing:
Skin: My UglyDorothy- Mary
Eyes: The Sugar Garden – Spilled Milk Eyes
Hair: Action – Alison Hair
Shirt – ColdLogic – Shirt Perdue
Pants – ColdLogic – Trouser Kime
Shoes – Monso – My Leather Oxford
Bracelet – ASO – Leather Bracelet Cross
Izzie`s – Classic Nails

Maribel is wearing:
Sweater: The Secret Store- Oversized Sweater
Scarf: {mon tissu}- Skinny Scarf
Jeans: Tres Blah- Juju Jeans
Shoes: Ingenue- Ariane
Hair: Fashionably Dead- Sunday
Eyes: Insufferable Dastard- Ultimate Eyes
Teeth: Izzie’s- Teeth Set
Lashes: Beetlebones- Mesh Lashes
Eyeliner- CheLLe- French New Wave
Nails: Izzie’s- Classic Nails
Skin: Glam Affair- Lilith
Shape: Mine

I usually credit poses, but at time of publication Roxi was not online for me to ask her where some of these were from (and I forgot to ask earlier, oops!) so I will ask asap and update. Sorry!!

I *can* tell you that the  pose from the shoes pose and a couple of the closeups comes from Love Me Brutal cuz that one I brought along!

Mon Tissu Blogger Search- My Entry

Hey! So, I know I already posted today, but this is a special post! Mon Tissu is having a blogger search and I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring. I mean, why not give it a go? The possibility of blogging for one of my favorite stores on the grid narrowly outweighs my feelings of insecurity and my nerves… and… is it hot in here?

ANYWAYS, the rules are that I have to take a photo and write a paragraph, similar to my normal blog posts. So, I’ll ramble a little then show you what I chose to wear, ok? Ok!

Can you believe that just last year around this time, mesh was barely being used? The jacket and scarf I am wearing are beautiful and cozy but completely sculpty attachments and clothing layers. For you mesh holdouts, I’m not too worried about you guys finding lovely fall and winter wear. While Mon Tissu’s mesh offerings are AMAZING, their earlier items are just as beautiful and I’m not at all ashamed to run around in non-mesh items when they’re this high quality. The shoes I’m wearing ARE mesh, but not rigged. This means you can still reposition them and all that, they’re just much more detailed than, say, sculpted prims.

You’ve maybe seen me blog these Jane jeans 1000 times, and they *are* mesh, and wonderful and they fit perfectly, and… just go fatpack them, ok?

My earlier post photo was taken at Izzie’s and so is this one. I cannot stay away from this sim right now. Go check it out. If you see me there, say, “Hi!”

Jacket: Mon Tissu- Wool Blend Jacket
Scarf: Mon Tissu- Infinity Scarf
Jeans: Jane- sweet n low jeans
Shoes: Mon Tissu- Sloane Pumps
Ring: Shakeup!- Vintage Ring The Arcade
Hair: Magika- Tendency
Eyes: Insufferable Dastard- Ultimate Eyes
Lashes: Beetlebones- Mesh Lashes
Eyeliner- CheLLe- French New Wave
Nails: Izzie’s- Classic Nails
Skin: Glam Affair- Lilith
Shape: Mine
Pose: Marukin
Location: Izzie’s

Happy Birthday, Truth Hawks!

While there are many, many talented hair creators in Second Life, few are as prolific or well known as Truth Hawks of Truth Hair. It’s hard to go anywhere in SL without seeing one of his fabulous styles adorning the head of a pixel prince or princess.

Today happens to be Mr. Hawks’ birthday and the lovely and also very talented Kaelyn Alecto has been working hard on a project to honor Truth’s work and hopefully make him feel loved on his special day. I had the privilege of participating and having my portrait taken wearing one of Truth’s beautiful styles, called Lykie.

Altogether, Kaelyn compiled over 130 portraits. If you’d like to browse through them, you can check out her Flickr photostream.

Truth Hair has been part of my Second Life experience for years. I remember the first time I tp’d to his store, thinking “Woah, I barely even know where to start!” I have spent hours in his store demoing hair after hair, and I am sure I’ve spent more L than I’d like to be aware of.

Truth is not only talented, but he’s a really nice guy. He stopped by The Grounds (home of the Pixel Bean) one day and of course I fangirled and came over to gawk. He was more than nice and didn’t even seem to be bothered by my giggling and stuttering. He even goofed with a few of us and of course we all took photos to commemorate the occasion.

Truth, thank you. Thank you for your creativity, your creations, and being cool even though you’re uber SLamous. I hope you have a wonderful birthday!

❤ Merbs

 

Depth of Field Tutorial 2- Faking It!

Hi! Ok, so I wrote a DOF (depth of field) tutorial a while back, and one thing I have heard is that some people just don’t have graphics cards that can handle DOF. If this is the case for you, fear not! You can add depth to your photos by using Photoshop. It’s actually really easy and there are tons of ways to accomplish this effect. I am going to show you one of these ways. Stay tuned for other techniques in future posts, and feel free to share your own!

Tutorial begins after jump!

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The Importance of Some Things…

I know this is a fashion blog, but I must digress to share something incredibly important with you.

There are a few places in Second Life that sort of “are” SL to me. Places I have been going to for years, places I ALWAYS enjoy. They’ve become iconic.

Since 2006,The Velvet has been one of these places. With its eclectic look, variety of people, and consistently thought provoking, fun, and (imho) AMAZING music selection, the Velvet has stood the test of time in SL. If you’ve never heard of the Velvet, don’t feel bad. Somehow, it has been around forever but has stayed small, humble and true to itself.

The Velvet is not your typical SL club. The DJs love music (not to say that other DJs don’t- stop starting drama right now). They aren’t concerned with playing popular music and drawing huge club-fulls of people, though. They want to have a good time and share some stuff they like with other people who can appreciate it as well. There aren’t a million “HOOOOOOOO” gestures. There aren’t strippers. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a DJ at the Velvet ask anyone to do anything to their “naughty box.”

I say all that to say the following:

It was recently brought to my attention that there was an incident that almost killed The Velvet. The current manager wrote about it on The Velvet’s blog, if you’re interested. July 21-22, there is a GIANT reopening/clubwarming party. I want you to go. Please, check it out. The Velvet is NOT for everyone. It might be for you. This amazing venue is one of the best places in SL.

 

Check it out. Help if you can. Maybe you’ll find a new place to hang out.

❤ Maribel

Depth of Field Tutorial

There are may ways to make beautiful photos in Second Life. I am by no means an expert in ANY of them. I WILL, however, show you something I have been playing with lately, because it makes a really big difference and adds some really cool dimension to photos. (Note: I use the latest version of Firestorm. This should be pretty similar or identical on the LL official viewer and Phoenix, but it’s different in Exodus and Niran’s. The concepts translate, just not all the menus and commands will be the same.)

The Depth Of Field feature allows you to selectively focus on things. Basically, you can get that cool effect where only certain parts of your photo are in focus. You achieve this by going to Preferences (ctrl+P) and enabling Lighting and Shadows (your graphics card has to support this feature), and then also enabling Depth of Field.

There is a tab in Graphics specifically for Depth of Field.

VERY VERY basically (I am NOT a graphics or computer expert), the different settings pretty much let you decide how much and what kind of blur you want in the photo. Play with these sliders to get the look you want. I’ll give you an idea what to expect when you move the sliders:

Camera F number: This controls the “aperture” of your lens. Higher number = less blur.
Camera Focal Length: The length of your lens, or how far away you’re virtually zooming in from (hard to explain). Higher number = more blur.
Camera FOV Degs: Your Field of View. Again, I can’t properly explain the whys and hows of this (sick of me yet?). Higher number = more blur.
Camera Aspect Ratio: I have no clue how this related to DOF, to be honest. Moving the slider does nothing in my display. *shrugs*
DOF Focus Transition Time: More for machinima, this sets how long the transition between areas of focus should be (say, I Alt+click on the foreground, then Alt + click on the background) this decides how long it will take for focus to shift. For still photography, keep this all the way down to minimize wait time.
DOF Rendering Quality: Kind of self explanatory, no? Higher number = better effect quality all around.

How do I decide what’s in focus on my screen?

Hold down Alt and click on the area of the screen you’d like to have in focus.
Alt+ click and drag (or use mouse scroll wheel) = zoom
Ctrl+Alt+click and drag = tilt
Ctrl+Alt+shift+click and drag = re-position your subject in the frame.

You can also use Ctrl+0 (zero) and Ctrl+ 8 to change lenses, which allows you to achieve different zoom/closeup effects. Ctrl+9 returns your camera view to default.

Selective focus adds depth to photos. Example (these shots are 100% unedited):

vs.

Weirdness and glitches:

Ok, last thing and then I’ll stop boring you. When I have tried to use DOF in the past, I would get these crazy jagged lines across my screen. Here are some screen shots, to show you what I mean.

Without DOF enabled:

With DOF Enabled:

Zoomed out, with DOF enabled:

See it? I tried every viewer I could get my hands on, and had the same thing on every single one. Due to this, I sort of ruled out ever using DOF with my current graphics setup, which was very sad.

I actually manually blurred my backgrounds or used blur filters in photoshop to achieve a DOF look for a while, and on certain photos. I quickly got tired of how long it took, so I decided to try again, and maybe just crop the jagged area out. When I saved the photo to my computer (I use the largest size possible for my computer, 6016×3538) the lines were NOT THERE! I mean, I get these other weird lines but I’m used to those and they’re easy to fix. The glitchy, jagged lines were not there, though, and I was SO excited!

While editing the photo, I was zoomed in really close and found a few areas with minor jagged lines:

Those were pretty easy to fix in photo shop without much effort.

SO, do NOT let the lines that may appear on your screen keep you from trying DOF. At least on my own computer, They’re not as bad in the saved snapshot as they are in my UI.

My finished photo, courtesy of DOF (click to view larger):

All items worn in this post are credited in previous posts. Poses are Marukin. Location is T Town.

I also JUST learned that Luna Jubilee did a DOF Tutorial as well. Now that you’ve read mine, go read hers as it’s probably better!

My Digits!

Last year, when Strawberry Singh wrote a post asking everyone about their digits, I was not a blogger. THIS year, the topic is not only digits, but how mesh has affected your digits! See her post for all the details if you want to participate. Also, check out the Digits Flickr Group. It’s so cool to see how, even after mesh, we are all SO different! Ok, sick of my rambling? I’ll show you my digits.

Miss Berry also included questions with the challenge this year, and I think it’s some great stuff to talk about. Here we go!

1. How has the introduction of mesh affected your SL, if at all? Are you open to wearing mesh often or do you still shy away from it?

I have to say that mesh, in all its forms, has enhanced my SL. The clothing, hair, buildings, objects (that are well done)… are so beautiful. Mesh has opened a whole new realm of possibility. Learning about mesh and shapes and design and stuff has also made me more knowledgeable about SL in general. While I still see lots of room for improvement, I am confident that mesh will just get better and better and enhance SL more and more.

2. Have you changed your shape to fit into mesh? If so, did you go bigger or smaller?

I actually did a post on this a while ago. Basically, changing my shape for mesh was a big decision for me. After I did it, though, I realized it wasn’t such a big deal. I don’t define myself by my avatar’s boob or butt size. I have a ceratin “look” that I go for, and I have learned how to work within the parameters of standard sizing to make that look happen. I have learned a LOT more about shape making and how the different sliders affect the look of our avatars. I ended up having to go bigger in some places and smaller in others, but I am still very happy with the way she looks. I have always considered my avatar a work in progress, and I continually redefine her look, whether it be through skin or shape changes… so, to me, this has all just been another opportunity to improve and learn and update and experiment.

3. Do you think the mesh deformer will resolve a lot of the issues people seem to have with mesh and will it encourage you to wear mesh more often, if you don’t already?

I don’t know a ton about the deformer, but I truly hope they can find a way to make it work. It is a fabulous concept, and I really hope the execution is just as great. I have low confidence that it will come about and work well anytime soon, but I think they will get it together eventually. It seems to me that there are so many smart and talented people in SL that nothing is impossible. I’d love to see mesh work for everyone, not just those of us who are willing to change.

Thank you, Strawberry Singh, for the fun and thought provoking challenge!

Bikini: Artilleri- Annalee bikini
Nails: Sexy Mamas- Sculpted Prim Nails
Lashes: Beetlebones- Mesh Lashes
Eyes: Insufferable Dastard- Ultimate Eye Set/Hazels
Hair: [elikatira]- Away
Feet: Slink- Womens Natural Barefeet (Mesh Rigged)
Skin: Glam Affair- Giselle
Shape: Mine
Pose: !bang
Avatar Ruler available for FREE here!

Stand4Love

Stand4Love is a campaign about love. All love. Whether you are gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered, brown, peach, or any variation thereof, there is love in you. No one can take away your heart and no one has the right to stifle or condemn true, pure love.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” -1 John 4:18

On Mesh

Sometimes I feel like everyone is completely bought in to mesh, but then I leave my immediate circle. There is still a lot of misinformation and apprehension about mesh. Ask anyone, and I’m sure they’ll have an opinion about it. I have had some very interesting conversations on the topic, so I decided to do a blog post to tell you how I came to my own stance on mesh.

Last winter, when I came back to Second Life after my almost-year-long hiatus, I started asking my friends what was new in SL. The biggest new thing I kept hearing about was mesh.  Everyone told me how cool it was, and that it moves with your avatar, and that it’s so much better than prims and sculpts, and they just couldn’t say enough good things about mesh! Honestly, I wasn’t sold. First off, I had to download a new viewer to even SEE mesh, and even then it was hit or miss. Sometimes people would appear to simply be missing sections of their bodies (due to them wearing alphas, but their mesh not showing up for me). I went and tried a few mesh things on, and none of it really fit me. There was always something sticking out here or there or some gap or… ugh! It was frustrating.  I learned that rigged mesh is actually attached to the skeleton of our avatar, so it stretches according to the “structure” of our avatars, like width or height. What makes fitting tricky is the “fat” content of our avatars.  I am no expert, but as I understand it, the clothing is rigged at a certain distance from the skeleton to create curves and whatnot. The problem is, everyone was rigging these clothes to certain shapes, but no one knew what these shapes were.

I was told that in order to fit mesh, I would have to change my avatar shape. I was definitely apprehensive about that. First of all, I made my own shape, and I put a lot of work into it. I had spent a lot of time perfecting my shape. My shape is my own, not store-bought. I actually carried it over from my original avatar, and I’ve since modified it to continue to have the exact look I want. After almost 5 years of tweaking, I really didn’t want to lose my uniqueness.  Secondly, change what? Do I have to have giant boobs or be super thin or… like, what do I even change? I didn’t see the point of making all of these changes to fit mesh. Why go through so much effort for some clothes!?  I liked my system clothes and I was used to sculpts.

Even though it seemed sort of complicated, I decided to keep an open mind about it. This was mostly because so many of the new mesh releases I was seeing were absolutely gorgeous and I was starting to feel really sad that I didn’t own them.  For every good looking mesh item, though, there seemed to be a not-so-great one.  Mesh was still really hit or miss in my eyes, and I wasn’t ready to make a commitment to changing my shape for every single thing I bought.

I continued to talk to my friends about mesh and the reasons I wasn’t wearing it. I actually really wanted to wear mesh, but the uncertainty about how exactly to mod my shape and still be “me” is what most made me shy away. During one of these conversations, I was told about a new system called Standard Sizing that a few designers came out with. Through some research, they had figured out a few averages for avatar shapes and would now be making clothing according to these averages.  Their system allowed people to modify their shape just once, and then fit into all clothing made by these designers.

I found the Standard Sizing package here on the Marketplace and read the notecard. It answers these questions:

– What is Standard Sizing?
– What is the purpose of Standard Sizing?
– How do you know the Standard-Sized shapes are accurate?
– Where are female XL and XXL?
– Won’t we look like a bunch of clones if we’re all using the same 5 shapes?
– Where can I get these shapes and how much do they cost?
– What if my own personal avatar size doesn’t match one of the Standard Sizes?
– I am a creator. How do I make use of the Standard-Sized shapes, and how do I let my customers know I am using Standard Sizing?
– How do I let my customers know what Standard Sizing is?
– I create and sell shapes. Can I use the Standard-Sized shapes as a base for shapes that I sell?

It also gives you the 8 relevant slider numbers that will allow you to fit into every size from XXS to L. The package was recently updated to include male measurements as well.

I took the plunge and modified my shape (I even blogged my new shape). I chose to go with Standard Size XS because it was closest to my own shape. I did have to make my boobs and butt bigger, but a lot of the other numbers were within 5 of my original numbers anyway. I have since enjoyed wearing mesh very much. I still wear system clothes, and I still wear sculpts. I even wear a few non-standard items and slightly mod my shape to fit them. I have realized that what really makes my avatar unique isn’t those 8 particular numbers. For me, the clothes I choose say more about my style than my avatar’s breast size. I can still change every slider that pertains to bone structure. There are 5 standard sizes to choose from, and they will look different on every person depending on how they choose to move all the other sliders available.

I will show you how the different standard sizes look on my avatar, so you can see that Standard Sizing is not about enforcing some model shape or stick figure look (which is an argument I hear very often). My height is set to 25, and the only numbers I changed from photo to photo are the 8 that pertain to standard sizing. (Click image to view larger.)

Can I get really mooshy and cliché here for a minute?  I understand that our avatar is how we choose to represent ourselves in Second Life, and therefore we get attached to the way they look. We also tend to judge other avatars based on appearance. I am quite guilty of this myself. Let’s all take a second to remember what ACTUALLY makes each avatar unique, though. Behind every little pixel Barbie or Ken or Skipper is a real person with a real heart and a real mind and a real story. I hope that no matter what side of the mesh or Standard Sizing (or any other) argument you fall on, you (and I) continue remember that and treat each other like people, not pixels. ❤

Photo credits:

Top: coldLogic top- flynn
Jeans: JANE- sweet n low jeans
Nails: Sexy Mamas- Sculpted Prim Nails
Lashes: Beetlebones- Mesh Lashes
Eyes: MONS- Shocking Eyes
Hair: [elikatira]- Away
Feet: Slink Womens Natural Barefeet (Mesh Rigged)
Skin: Glam Affair- Giselle
Shapes: Mine
All Poses: (pda)

If you want more information about keeping your own shape while still fitting mesh, Luna Jubilee did a fantastic tutorial on fitting mesh here. Strawberry Singh also recently posted some links in one of her recent blog posts that are relevant to the next new thing being discussed in mesh, called a mesh deformer. As I understand it, this is something that will make it possible for mesh to fit any shape. It is still in very early testing stages, but it is a very interesting development. Just like all things in SL, mesh is just going to get better as more smart and creative people develop new fantastic ways to make it work for everyone!