Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The exhilarating and humbling sport of En Garde fencing

In the past few months, as I have gotten more and more enmeshed in the sport of En Garde fencing, I have made a wonderful and a terrible discovery. The wonderful discovery is that I seem to have some sort of knack for this sport. The terrible discovery is that the unpredictability of the sport seems designed to occasionally drive me round the bend.

For those not familiar with it, En Garde is an SL game that is simultaneously an animated fencing match and a card game of skill, strategy, and statistics. And luck. There's no small part of luck. The programming of the game randomizes the cards you receive to make your attacks, retreats, lunges, and parries. Sometimes you get cards that allow you to make clear-cut winning moves. More often, you have to do a quick mental calculation of the relative risks of various possible moves, and then take your best shot, hoping the odds are with you. Practice, skill, and strategy help you to make the most out of good cards, and to survive many mediocre hands. But sometimes the luck of the draw is definitely running against you and in your opponent's favor, and all the skill in the worlds can't save your game.

I have been taking my first steps into En Garde league tournament play, and had been doing well enough to please me--right in the middle of the pack, making it into the bottom of the finals before getting eliminated. Until this week, where I had such a thunderous string of losses that I swear I was close to pitching my saber in the trash barrel.

The human psyche has a naive grasp of statistical randomness, ascribing somewhat superstitious significance to lengthy winning or losing streaks when both are well within the long-term pattern of randomness. My rational self grasped that my losing streak could be plain and simple bad luck. My dratted ego, however, was irrationally enraged that I could be doing everything I usually did, and suddenly have none of it work. Had I suddenly started playing more poorly? Had my opponents somehow increased in skill, leaving me in the dust? I just couldn't get myself to accept that this time round I was near the bottom of the list of players and shut out of finals before the round was halfway through.

Finally I went and enrolled in a separate fun one-day tournament for tinies--put on my favorite tiny purple tiny tiger av, did a few rounds of Riverdancing with the other tinies to get in the mood, and then had at it--and beat a couple of high-ranking players before I finally washed out in a fiercely-fought 5-4 game. As I played, I made a point of noting how often I had to take risky moves--and how often, this time, the risks turned out to my benefit. Yes it felt good to break the losing streak, score some wins against really good players, and confirm that my skills were in fact still intact and growing. But it also felt humbling to realize to what extent my wins this time were just as random as my losses earlier in the week.

So--let's hear it for a sport that exercises not only the brain muscle but also the strength of the ego against the slings and sabers of outrageous fortune. Not to mention the fact that one always looks more dashing with a sword in one's hand.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A rezday celebration for a Lionized Caledonian; a film that helps define "steampunk"?

Attended a delightful and festive 5th rezday celebration for Miss Kamilah Hauptmann, Vicereine of Caledon, put on by Miss Eva Belambi in Winterfell Anodyne. Terrific tuneage was spun by my favorite DJ, Miss Magdalena Kamenev; and Lady Kamilah entertained us greatly by displaying her various "looks" over the past five years, and then enticing a few select partiers to cavort with her on a dance pole spirited into the hall for the occasion. Mr. Jayleden Miles was one such cavortee; the thrill of this invitation apparently so overcame him that he crashed off the grid and sadly was not able to rematerialize for the rest of the party. Despite the great number of people who turned out, however, we had few other crashes, and a merry time was had by all.

Meanwhile, my typist has recently been amusing himself by re-watching a film from his childhood (in his timestream), by the title of "The Great Race." This movie, an attempt by director Blake Edwards to capture the essence of old-time movie comedies, is a big ol' shaggy-dog story with lots of slapstick, derring-do and homages to everything from Laurel and Hardy two-reelers to The Prisoner of Zenda. And it has a wonderful foursome of lead actors in the persons of Tony Curtis playing the immaculate hero; Natalie Wood playing the feisty femme fatale; Jack Lemmon playing the moustache-twirling villain; and Peter Falk the villain's dim-witted henchman. Further, between the four of them they have some of the most memorable one-liners and recurring gags in moviedom (just to give one example, Lemmon's repeated command to Falk to "press the button, Max," following by the former's howls of rage when the button inevitably backfires with disastrous results).

As I watched this movie with my typist, however, I couldn't help but be struck by how much its spirit reminded me of my favorite places in the SL Steamlands, especially Caledon. There were Victorian manners and mores; there was mad science, and a mad scientist, and things that went BEWM; there were adventures into frontiers and wildernesses where the order and culture of the towns gave way to pioneer practicalities; there were acts of heroism and villainy, swordfights and pie-fights; a little romance, and a lot of comedy; and stunning outfits for days and days. (Edith Head did the costume designs for the film--nuff said.)

I have had occasion, in various conversations in the Steamlands, to be drawn into discussions as to what is the nature of "steampunk" -- a perhaps futile line of discourse since defining such fast-changing terms of fashion can be like attempting to nail jello to the wall. But now, at least, the next time someone asks me my opinion of what constitutes steampunk, I can respond by saying "well, I dunno what it is for you, but as far as I'm concerned, this movie starts to cover the territory."

One problem, though: for the moment, I am now obsessed with the possibility of staging scenes from "The Great Race" within Caledon. Wonder how I'd look all in white, like Tony Curtis' character The Great Leslie? Now to find someone to play Jack Lemmon's Professor Fate.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Myron T. Flamboyd at your service

I now think the somewhat overwhelmed feelings I described in my previous post with regard to reaction to my flamboyant persona was just a passing phase. For events and actions I have participated in since that posting have served to plunge me all the more deeply into flamboyance--and I find my main reaction is glee.

I ventured into the sport of En Garde fencing, discovered I liked it and seemed to have a knack for it, and suddenly went from timid sword-avoider to eager (if still overly-brash) swashbuckler.

An outer-east-side parcel on Caledon Steam SkyCity came on the market, and I suddenly found myself falling in love with the location and purchasing it. Next thing I knew, I was installing a pub on the parcel, named The Brazen Hussy, along with an En Garde piste to indulge my new obsession with the sport.

And when Relay For Life Team Caledon announced they would be holding a Miss Caledon pageant, and that they would makes the contest open to all genders, I could not resist nominating myself for the title.

I tell you, are these the actions of a man who has put a moratorium on all things flamboyant and attention-grabbing? I don't think so! And frankly, I am so glad I got over myself and whatever was causing me to be so jumpy about the whole thing.

On reflection, I think what was holding me up was the concern that someone, somewhere out there in the Steamlands might possibly be perturbed by my ridiculous carryings-on ... because, as strange as it may seem, I do have this odd little dread of displeasing even one person. But you know what? I'm having so much fun doing these crazy things, and so many people are apparently having fun watching me do them, that I'm just going to quit worrying about the possibility of someone taking it amiss.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Feathered Fthoughts

I do confess to taking a certain pleasure in making a spectacle of myself--it amuses me, and it pleases me when I amuse others. Still, nothing had prepared me for the sensation that would result when Mr. Trilobyte Zanzibar, co-proprietor of BlakOpal Designs, presented me with one of his clothier company's gorgeous peacock-feather suits. From the very first occasion I appeared in public wearing this ensemble, I have garnered amazing reactions--many compliments, certainly, which I found intensely gratifying, but beyond that a flurry of humor I have found both entertaining and thought provoking.

Some of the humor results simply from my looking like a great big bird in this outfit--the community's catgirls, nekos, and other feline-aligned persons simply can't resist batting at my coattails, especially when I disport on the trapeze at the Blue Mermaid Cafe on Wednesday nights. I will own to stoking this reaction by doing my best peacock-call imitations.

But beyond that, this outfit seems to increase the volume of whimsical comment concerning, for lack of less clinical terminology, my gender expression. Once again, I will be the first to admit I have made no secret of my affectional orientation and effeminate tendencies--in fact, I am often gleefully guilty of queening it up for humorous effect (see opening remark about making a spectacle of myself). And there is also no denying that this outfit's feathers and colors do push envelopes of male gender expectations, notwithstanding the flamboyant tendencies of the Steampunk interpretation of Victorian style.

Still, even I have been a bit startled at how my wearing this outfit has "upped the ante," so to speak, on all this business. I rush to add that all the comments directed my way have been uniformly good-natured (in fact at least a few have come from certain "birds of a feather," if I might apply the metaphor at hand). Yet the sheer volume of them has made me feel at least a little overwhelmed--as if I had created a bit of a Frankenstein's monster with my image, and that it was getting a little out of my control.

So I have retired the Peacock Suit to my wardrobe except for special occasions, and switched to slightly less flamboyant outfits for everyday wear. And I find myself pondering this whole business, including my reaction.

Some of it is that, while it is true that I am quite comfortable with, even fond of, my orientation and gender expression, I am also more than those aspects of me, and am now concerned that I shall be known only for those things and not all the other things that I am. Another point to ponder is why such beautiful clothing is seen as a cause for comment when worn by a male. In response I can only reach cross-time and cross-dimensions, to quote a popular song from a timestream a century ahead of the Steamlands:

"I would just like to say that it is my conviction
That longer hair and other flamboyant affectations
Of appearance are nothing more
Than the male's emergence from his drab camouflage
Into the gaudy plumage
Which is the birthright of his sex

There is a peculiar notion that elegant plumage
And fine feathers are not proper for the male
When ac---tually
That is the way things are
In most species"

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

At home in the Metaverse

I was very flattered, late last night, when a fellow Caledonian complimented me on how well and quickly I had made myself at home in the society and culture of that Second Life nation. If I am remembering correctly, he compared my quick assimilation to "a finger slotted into a glove."

I thanked him profusely, but also smiled inwardly. I have made no secret of the fact that I am an inter-dimensional traveler, having sojourned in many timestreams and planes of existence, but sometimes I get the impression that many people don't understand the full implications of that status.

For when you take on the life of such a traveler, learning how to fit into new realms and make new friends quickly and easily is not only a useful skill, but often a matter of self-preservation of life, limb, sanity, psyche, and identity.

At least Caledon, the greater Steamlands, and the SL metaverse as a whole, are generally well-disposed towards the concept of people from many different backgrounds and planes of existence. God/ess knows there are some realms I have visited in which I had to maintain deep cover at peril of my life. But in the SL Steamlands, thankfully, I can let my guard down and be easy and silly, and enjoy the life I am building there.

In fact, I think I might have at last found a world that can be my home for the forseeable future, a home base I can venture out from on further explorations, but always know I can return to. Thank God/ess--too long have I been totally rootless, the proverbial wandering Jew, on permanent diaspora from a time and a land that no longer exists ... but not to get all maudlin and melancholy about that. Just as the traditions of my mother's family taught that G-d had a greater purpose in sending us out into the world, I trust in my deities and guardian spirits that my wanderings also have purposes yet to be revealed.

In the meantime, I have been taken into the diplomatic service of another inter-dimensional traveler, one of impressive gravitas: Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, titular ruler of the nation of Europa in his home timestream, now representing that land as Consul to the SL Steamlands. As in so much of the rest of my life, I have no idea where this service might take me, but I shall be fascinated to see how things develop. If nothing else, I shall be pleased to become at least somewhat further acquainted with the Baron--a fascinating and complex man if there ever was one.