In loving memory of Elizabeth Rofanui, 1977-2016
In loving memory of Elizabeth Rofanui, 1977-2016
To help protect our grid from content theft, Littlefield recently created a new venue for our premium content, that cannot be accessed by hypergrid visitors, but only by committed, active members of our own community. Unsurprisingly, in response to an article about it, this move was met by criticism from the very people who forced us to enact this change. They spouted self-righteous platitudes about how Opensimulator “must” remain open and interconnected. Pretty words… but completely empty.
We started out believing in that fanciful pipe dream of being all open and interconnected. But Opensim people took dreadful advantage of us. Too many hypergrid visitors took our content, not to use and enjoy for themselves, but to SELL, when we had given it away for free.
But to me, even worse than that are the people who assume that we created OUR content to support THEIR grid.
People often praise the quality of content on Littlefield grid. Our content is outstanding because we worked long, hard hours to create it, and because we spent, literally, THOUSANDS of dollars of our own money to purchase premium textures, animations and so on directly from the artists who created them. Those premium building materials are superior in quality, but, not surprisingly, they come with licensing agreements, including the agreement that those materials would be used only on our grid.
Why would we spend so much of our own money, and use it to create things that we give away for free? For one reason and one reason only: to build a COMMUNITY.
We give things to the members of our community because our community gives back. We have an awesome community of people who help and support each other. Most hypergrid visitors, on the other hand, rarely participate in our community. They come, they take stuff, and they leave. They don’t even talk to us. What good does that do our grid?
We aren’t here to show off our creations. We are here to build a community. We invest in content to support our community. That’s the only reason we do it. Letting our content off our grid (1) does not support our community, (2) violates licensing agreements, and (3) pads the wallets of copybot thieves at our expense.
Littlefield is not now, never has been and never will be a business. We have never charged a penny for our content and we never will. It will always be given away for free.
If people from other grids would like to own our content, I would be more than happy to show them where to take a class in building skills, and point them to the same artists who supplied our materials, so that you can buy from them also. But instead of putting in the time, money and effort to create things themselves, people want to take a short cut. Instead of creators, they just want to be consumers. They want to build their grid using our stuff. I’m sorry, but we aren’t here to supply your grid with stuff. I’m happy to show you how to create your own stuff, though.
What’s the best way to design and lay out a store in the virtual world? One of my responsibilities in our virtual world is building most of the shops, so this is a topic always on my mind. In search of some fresh ideas, I recently visited the Hair Fair in Second Life. Although the hair creations showcased at the event are interesting, I am always more fascinated by the venue–the design of the sims and the individual shops.
I complain that I struggle with creativity, that I am more of an engineer than an architect. But instead of just whining about my deficits, I do my best to try to learn what I can about design, style and composition, so that I can become a better builder. For my own education, I photographed all 60 shops at the Hair Fair, and made notes about what I liked and didn’t like about each design. I was struck by how each tiny shop was uniquely and meticulously designed, and how lovely they all were.
I decided to share some of my observations here, for the benefit of my friends on Littlefield Grid. We are blessed on Littlefield Grid to have a lot of creative people, who generously share their creations with other members, so we have lots of shops. While there is nothing wrong with pasting vendor signs on the walls of a rectangular room, it can be fun to challenge yourself to think creatively, and come up with new and different ways to arrange a store. Please allow me to support you, by sharing some of my observations.
There is no law that says you have to paste vendor signs onto a wall. Sometimes someone will complain to me that they have used up all their wall space. While making a bigger store for them is not a problem, there are lots of other ways to use the space. Use the middle of the room!
This shop sported hotel lobby luggage carts:
Here the signs were hung from the ceiling:
Products and vendors can sit on various types of tables, shelves and racks. This also allows you to use the wall for other things, like windows, to enhance the appearance of your shop.
Frank Lloyd Wright famously waged war against the tyranny of the “box.” When every room is a rectangle with corners, it gets pretty boring and can feel confining. Although the space assigned for your shop may be rectangular (as all these examples were), you can take steps to make the shape more interesting. When the corners disappear, the room feels more spacious.
These shops varied the shape of one end of the room, making it round instead of square.
Who says that the floor has to be flat? Or the walls or ceiling, for that matter?
Here they made the corners vanish into darkness.
This shop got rid of the corners… and the walls and the ceiling and the floor… leaving nothing but product.
You can make your shop more interesting with a theme or motif that reflects your style and the style of your products. Here are a few interesting ones I saw:
Make the indoors outdoors – go to the beach:
If you have to use the wall, consider creating alcoves to frame your product.
Above all, make the experience of visiting your shop an interesting one for your guests. It’s a great way to make life more enjoyable in our virtual world. Your creations are and should be the center of attention. I hope this shows you some ways to make them stand out!
We speak of “real life” in contrast to the virtual world, as if the physical world is more legitimate, more authentic. The virtual world is relegated to the status of playful fantasy. A dream.
When I entered the virtual world, I dreamed the person I wanted to be. I thought I was fantasizing. Some would say I was creating a character. That it was “playing.” I thought so too.
I immersed myself into the dream. It was rich with color and feeling, alive with relationships and possibilities.
The woman I dreamed was me inhabited a boundless world. There were no constraints on her. She could be anyone she wanted to be. She didn’t become anyone. She became someone. She blossomed, becoming an authentic individual with a unique personality and style. She was not a character. She was not a fantasy.
One day, I realized that this dream person is the real me.
The physical world that my flesh and blood body inhabits is confining. I am trapped inside walls of limitation. Not only physically, but in terms of just being who I am. I have never been able to be myself in the so-called “real” world. But I didn’t even know it, until I had the opportunity to dream myself into existence in the virtual world.
There are still a few who choose to look through my virtual self, ignoring me as if I were not real, or just some kind of placeholder, or at best, dismissing me as a fantasy character. They consider my physical self to be the “real” me.
That makes me sad. Because those people have chosen to limit me. They have chosen not to see the real me.
Dream the real world with me.
There is a lot to like: complex characters, sweeping cinematography, gripping plot lines, and a fascinating—sometimes terrifying—glimpse into an ancient culture.
Vikings “lived large.” They did not shun violence and brutality, but they loved as fiercely as they fought, boasted of their battles, cherished their families, thirsted for adventure, honored their gods and embraced expansive joy over and above guilt. They raided and plundered from England to Rome, taking what they wanted to take, dealing violence to anyone who stood in their way. The haunting “Vikings” theme song says it all: “Give me more, give me more, give me more.”
How different from our own morality! Or… is it?
We espouse noble values of peace, respect for others, diplomacy and moderation. But sometimes I wonder how deep those convictions really go. If you scratch the veneer of our so-called “civilized” world, does our inner barbarian still lurk beneath?
Imagine if you travel to another town, and see something you really like, for example a shiny new car. You want it. You fantasize about owning it. Your civilized self would go home, earn the money, and buy one. But your inner Viking, if empowered by strength, would simply take the car that you see. You feel entitled. Because you want it. Because you can.
In the real world, most of us would not simply take someone’s car. Most of us choose to live within the law, and respect the mutual agreements that constitute civilization.
But the virtual world, for some reason, seems to be different. In the virtual world, the inner Viking is unleashed.
Grid raiders hop from grid to grid, like 21st century Vikings, and feel entitled to take whatever they see. Because they want it. Because they can. Buildings, landscaping, clothing, hair, furnishings, vehicles, whatever.
Sometimes they make a ridiculous attempt to disguise their hypergrid plunder by giving it away and calling it a “freebie.” As if that fools anyone.
If you are a virtual Viking, at least have the courage to admit it. Vikings valued truth and honesty, along with strength and courage.
Personally, I choose not to unleash my own inner Viking. I will never take any so-called “freebies” from other grids because I know how often those freebies are plunder—the hard work of an artist who did not consent for it to be stolen and given away. But that is my choice. I can’t control what morality others choose.
In the end, who wins? It’s hard to say. I like to think that the consequence of respecting creativity is to create an environment that encourages more creativity, which benefits all of us.
Even so, it is worth looking at history. Ragnar Lothbrok and his raiders plundered England, taking as much treasure as they could, but 250 years after the events chronicled in “Vikings,” one of their descendants simply took the whole island. In 1066, William the Conqueror, the great-great-great-grandson of one of those same 9th century Viking raiders, invaded England and became its king. The present day British royal family, those figureheads of civilized values, are in fact direct descendants of the barbarian raiders who plundered Lindisfarne in 793 AD.
Is it possible that civilized values are not the opposite of barbarian values, but only a mask, a disguise? Is it deceptive, allowing us to deny the existence of our inner Viking? Or is it a way to protect ourselves, and others, from its power? How do we come to terms with the conflict between these aspects of our nature?
If grid raiders continue to be Vikings, taking what they want to take because they want it and because they can, without guilt or respect for law, will we be better off? Or worse? I don’t know. I can’t say what the ultimate outcome will be, or should be. For myself, for now, I choose to continue to let my watchword be respect.
And I’ll just watch Vikings on TV.
Back in the 1990’s, when it was still new to many people, my work involved conducting workshops about online communication. Twenty years later, most of what I taught then is common knowledge. But there are still a few points that might usefully be revisited.
One principle is that “silence cannot be interpreted.” When we are missing information, often our imaginations fill in the blanks with our fears and suspicions. Alternatively, our imaginations might fill in the blanks by creating a fantasy of that which we wish were true. Neither tendency is reliable. Without solid clues, you can’t know what is in those blanks.
Without the cues of body language, tone of voice, facial expression, and observing real-world actions, written communication leaves out a lot of information. People feel very deep emotions through the written word and very deep connections to other people. Thoughts put into writing can go very, very deep and be very expressive. But they are still only partial.
Imagine the phrase, “Thank you,” as said by the following:
The words are the same, but the meaning behind them could not be more different in these situations. You discern the meaning—and the sincerity—not from the words, but from the non-verbal cues—cues we don’t always have available online. Without that information, our imaginations make assumptions that may or may not be correct.
Some of us compensate for this lack of information by trying to add expression to our words through emoticons, or just by writing more elaborately. That can be very helpful. Unfortunately, it can also be a trap. It’s helpful when you are communicating something genuine. It’s not so helpful when one is communicating something false.
From time to time, one will encounter a person, quite skilled in the use of language, who seems to be very friendly, courteous and kind. Sadly, based only on their words, we cannot know for sure if they are genuine. They might say to you:
At first glance, this seems to communicate warmth, and friendship. It might inspire trust. Alas, you cannot really know whether this person really is smiling softly, or if they are blank-faced, or yawning, or laughing derisively behind the screen. I hate this, because words like those above appeal to my own fantasies about warmth and kindness. I really want them to be true.
For my own self-protection, over the years I have learned not to form opinions about people online based on what they say, or how they say it. Instead, I form opinions based on what people do—how they treat people, the choices they make, the actions they take. I love words. But actions mean more.
I admit I am disappointed when I meet someone whose words project an image of kindness and nobility, but whose actions reveal them to be manipulative, self-serving and deceitful. I really want them to be that kind, warm person, and it is a big disappointment to learn otherwise.
It is far better to place my trust in someone whose real-life actions repeatedly demonstrate generosity, honesty, kindness and real caring.
Being “nice” is only a façade if it goes no deeper than words and expressions. Buying into the appearance of niceness is a great way to get hurt.
The 9/11 Survivor Tree, at the 9/11 Memorial on Littlefield Grid.
A callery pear tree became known as the “Survivor Tree” after enduring the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center. In October 2001, the tree was discovered at Ground Zero severely damaged, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After its recovery and rehabilitation, the tree was returned to the Memorial in 2010. New, smooth limbs extended from the gnarled stumps, creating a visible demarcation between the tree’s past and present. Today, the tree stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth.
Our reproduction of the Survivor Tree was modeled on the original, by Ada Wong, who has beautifully captured the difference in the old and new growth, and even the saw marks where the damaged limbs were removed.
One year ago, on April 6, 2013, Littlefield Grid was born.
With the birth of the grid, we embarked on an amazing adventure. In just one year, Littlefield Grid has attracted a wonderful, active community of over a thousand members. In our very first year we have become one of the most active and popular Opensimulator grids. We have a fabulously talented group of people making this grid what it is. It makes my head spin to realize how much has been accomplished already. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
For me the first year has been a frenzy of building: creating the spaces to be the theater for the friendships and relationships that are the lifeblood of our grid; making something out of nothing. The occasion of the first anniversary made me sit back for a moment and take stock.
I am impressed with how much the grid has grown. But I am also impressed with how much *I* have grown. At my advanced age (rapidly approaching a milestone) I have developed a completely new interest – architecture. This is all because of my Master, Walter Balazic, who encouraged me to build a very BIG thing: a reproduction of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater. I had never tried to build anything of that magnitude before, neither in size nor in significance. It was a daunting task. But he inspired me and encouraged me and before I knew it, not only had I built it, but I had won an award, built a whole city covering nine regions and immersed myself in learning several new styles of architecture. Imagine! Truly, one is never too old to grow.
We are just getting started. But I just want to take a moment to reflect on a few of the architectural projects I have completed for Littlefield Grid. This is basically the web version of my in-world exhibit for the Littlefield First Anniversary Expo.
PAINTED LADIES are American Victorian homes in the Queen Anne Revival style painted in three or more colors to enhance their architectural features. First used to describe San Francisco’s colorful Victorians, the term also refers to Queen Anne Revival homes in other American cities such as Cape May, New Jersey. Distinctive features of American Queen Anne Revival style include a wraparound front porch, a corner tower (often round), painted gables, spindles and balustrades, windows crowned with pediments or gables, bay windows, and combinations of patterned wood shingles in a fish scale design.
My build: Littlefield Victorian Store
Famous RL Examples of “Painted Ladies“:
STREAMLINE MODERNE was a late type of Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s, stripping Art Deco design of its ornament in favor of an aerodynamic expression of motion and speed. The style emphasized long, sleek profiles and rounded corners. Applied to everything from automobiles and trains to toasters and radios, the futuristically aerodynamic style of Streamlining was associated with prosperity and an exciting future.
My build: Littlefield Adult Mall Store
Famous RL Examples of Streamline Moderne:
MINIMALISM is a trend in architecture in which unnecessary elements are removed to achieve serenity in design. Basic geometric elements of lines and planes are organized as simply as possible to define the space. Unnecessary interior walls are removed, creating open floor plans. Where walls are necessary, glass is used as much as possible to unite exterior and interior space. A single shape or the connection between two intersecting planes may be used as a design motif. Furnishings are often predominantly white, leading to the nickname ‘white chic.’
My build: Exhibit – One Year of Architecture in Littlefield Grid
Famous RL Examples of Minimalist Architecture:
BRUTALIST architecture flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s. Examples are typically large buildings, massive in character, fortress-like, with a predominance of exposed concrete construction, used for its raw and unpretentious honesty to communicate strength and functionality.
My build: Littlefield Engineering
Famous RL Examples of Brutalist Architecture:
‘PARKITECTURE’ is the nickname for the style National Park Service Rustic that was employed in the National Parks of the U.S. to create visitor facilities without visually interrupting the natural or historic surroundings. The style matured in the 1930s with the construction of the luxurious Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite. To attract Eastern visitors to the National Parks of the ‘wild’ West, America’s railroads built grand hotels like the Ahwahnee, offering every amenity of the era, in the guise of a rustic mountain lodge.
My build: Littlefield BDSM Workshop Center
Famous RL Examples of Parkitecture:
Littlefield, grow old with me. The best is yet to be!
It is a sad fact of life that “no good deed goes unpunished.”
Perhaps you have done a kindness by helping someone in need, as Androcles removed the thorn from the lion’s paw. But for every Androcles, whose lion repaid his kindness, there are ten who are attacked by the one they tried to help.
Some good Samaritans get so discouraged when this happens that they just give up, and stop helping others. If our motivation in doing kindness is to get a reward—even the reward of gratitude—we often will be disappointed.
Instead, we do kind things because that is the person we want to be. Do it for ourselves. Do it for our sense of self worth, our self respect. Do it for one’s own sake.
In his 1968 booklet, “The Silent Revolution,” Kent Keith advised, “give of your time and effort because you care and want to give, not because you are expecting anything in return… Do things because you believe in them, and the simple satisfaction of having achieved them will be enough.”
He goes on to admit that helping others often results in being attacked and mistreated by those you are trying to help. But his response was not disappointment. Instead, he proposed “Ten Paradoxical Commandments,” that rang so true even Mother Teresa posted them on the wall of her orphanage.
People are often illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may cheat you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give it anyway.
We show kindness to a lot of people on Littlefield Grid. We give of ourselves without any expectation of reward or profit. Sometimes, our kindness is repaid with gratitude. But that’s not why we do it. We extend kindness because that’s who we want to be.
Sometimes, we are repaid with thoughtlessness; and, on a few rare occasions, hurtfulness from the very people we helped. Thankfully, we have some terrific folks in our community, and that rarely happens. When it does, we could be resentful. But we aren’t. We keep right on extending kindness. And we always will.
We do it anyway.
I struggle a lot with Christmas.
Wait, let me rephrase that. Truthfully, I don’t struggle with Christmas at all. What I struggle with is fitting in during the holiday season.
Nearly everyone else observes Christmas in a completely different way from me. I have reasons for following a different path, but it’s very difficult to hold true to myself without offending the people around me. They tend to think that because I don’t do things their way, I must be criticizing them. I’m not, but their attitudes toward my customs range from indignation to puzzlement. Well, let me try to clear it up.
Up until about 25 years ago, Christmas had a very unpleasant stranglehold on me. Then one year, I finally broke free. At the time, my loved ones thought I’d lost my mind. I hadn’t, but I knew I would lose my mind for sure if I didn’t change my ways.
You see, my family, when I was growing up, was enslaved by a holiday defined by quantity and a drive to impress others with perfect decorations, food, presents and parties. My mother actually counted the number of gifts under our tree as a way of “rating” the quality of that year’s holiday. And it wasn’t only about gifts; to qualify for a “good” Christmas, our house had to be decorated better than any other house, inside and out, and we had to give “the” party of the season with the most impressive gourmet food and drinks. And of course we had to put on a good show, exhibiting “holiday cheer”—whether we felt it, or not.
From the outside it looked great; with decorations, parties and gifts my mother certainly knew how to “impress with excess.” But in the frantic rush to do everything, perform perfectly and be artificially happy, everyone got far too stressed, and made each other thoroughly miserable.
When I became a young adult, not knowing any better I began to duplicate that craziness. I, too, made myself crazy trying to give outrageous gifts and do everything perfectly for the holiday. I didn’t have financial resources like my parents so I tended to spend a lot more money than I should have. As things in my life started going sideways, the stress of trying to be perfect, and exhibit holiday cheer when I felt none became a bigger and bigger burden. Finally, in one particularly depressed year, I couldn’t face it, and I said: no more.
I knew that I had to change. I just wasn’t sure how to do it. My head was swimming, trying to grasp the difference between trying to impress someone, and trying to please them. My mother’s methods had always seemed a little aggressive to me, as if gift-giving were a contest that she was trying to win. It seemed less about pleasing the recipient and more about showing off how much money she had. I knew that was not the way I wanted to keep Christmas. I had to replace that competitive attitude with something more meaningful. I just didn’t know what that was.
The only thing I could think of was to start totally fresh, with a blank slate.
I declared a moratorium. I announced that I would accept no gifts, nor would I be giving any. That year I did not decorate, or prepare any special treats. I had no Christmas tree, did no shopping, and listened to no Christmas music. I rejected all offers of Christmas dinners, parties and other gatherings. It was a truly minimalist Christmas.
My only acknowledgement of that season was going to church on Christmas Eve, alone, in a small church nearby. I didn’t speak to anyone after the midnight service. I slipped out the back, and set out alone to walk the few blocks home. I remember feeling so light, and peaceful. It was a beautiful night, crisp and clear; it needed no artificial decorations to make it beautiful. The sky was deep black, studded with diamond stars, stretching to eternity, more stunning than any Christmas tree. It was still, and quiet. Quiet enough, finally, for me to hear what I needed to hear, without the noise of all that pointless activity. In that silence I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted and I breathed freely of the cold night air, feeling at peace for the first time in a long time.
Wrapped in that crisp, bright darkness, gazing up at the infinite night sky, I suddenly comprehended what it meant for eternity to enter into time. In one blazing flash of insight, I realized that Christmas is about one thing. To immerse myself in that one thing is all that I need. Anything that flows from and serves that one thing is good. Everything else is a distraction.
And at that moment, I realized that I was free.
Since that cold dark night 25 years ago I have settled into my own lovely, small Christmas celebration. Others are welcome to do as they wish, but I know what works for me. I ignore most elements of commercial and secular Christmas, not because there is anything wrong with them, but because I find them irrelevant. I have come to understand what is important for me, and I focus on those things.
Gift giving, for me, now, is not a way to impress, but a way to honor the gift that originated this holiday. I exchange modest gifts with a handful of loved ones, as I am able, not out of any sense of obligation, but because I enjoy pleasing them. My loved ones mostly feel the same, and I am always genuinely pleased by them, too.
I do not decorate. I have no use for Santa, elves, reindeer, or anything else commercial. I don’t object to them, but they are meaningless to me, and certainly not worth expending any money, time, attention or effort. For me, they have nothing to do with the one thing that gives Christmas meaning.
I keep a few quiet traditions that are deeply meaningful to me, but they are private, and ancient, and intimate, and since most people would not understand them, I tend to keep them to myself. I don’t need anyone else to understand them, and I feel no need to convert anyone else to my way of observing the holiday. I do what I do because it’s right for me.
People with families have different priorities, of course, but I feel no pressure to participate in holiday gatherings just because it is Christmas. I treasure time with my loved ones all year long, but I am perfectly comfortable with solitude. In fact, my most intimate Christmas ritual is spent alone, at home, on Christmas Eve morning, listening to a famous radio broadcast. I say alone, but I am not alone. I join an invisible audience of 200 million people who, like me, are in front of radios and computers all over the world, listening to the same broadcast at the same time. Even though I can’t see them, I know we are all attuned to the same thing. I immerse myself in the beauty of that one thing, and I wait to bow my head humbly, honoring that moment when the eternal and the now became one.
That is my Christmas.
I don’t expect anyone to understand it, and certainly don’t expect anyone to change how they celebrate the holiday. Others will find meaning in other ways. But hopefully they will understand that I am not judging or criticizing. I am simply honoring what is meaningful to me.
As the commercial holiday season gets underway, I wish everyone happiness, and joy, and peace.