Thursday, March 26, 2009

There Goes the Neighborhood

Like real life, Second Life has a few places that are just painfully hip. One of them is a sim called Tableau, which I don't know much about but folks assure me has been home to stylish designers and funky avatars forever—which I interpret to mean since at least 2006. I do know Tableau is home to SL designers Nylon Pinkney and Polyster Partridge, who I gather respectively run the in-world SL business Nylon Outfitters. Or have something to do with it anyway. Their items have a distinct, playful, slightly disturbing, off-kilter retro style—but, so far as I've seen, they're high quality and often very whimsical. Nylon Outfitters was even tapped for some of the default avatars and accessories offered to new residents when they sign up for Second Life.

Anyway—confession time. I found Tableau fairly early in my Second Life adventures…and found it to be a distinct, playful, slightly disturbing, off-kilter and laggy sim populated by avatars who were all hopelessly hipper and cooler than me, sporting mammoth 'fros, enormous bell bottoms, t-shirts and suspenders, Toughskin jeans with iron-on patches, and all manner of tacky plastic jewelry. The first couple times I landed there—usually as the result of an inworld search—I dutifully looked around and got frustrated by lag. When I got a better computer, I went back…and got frustrated by vendors in the stores because I couldn't tell if any of the clothing items would actually fit an avatar of my short-for-SL stature. (Although I didn't say so at the time, some of my SL fashion rant back in January was directed at stores in Tableau after a particularly exasperating shopping experience.)

But a few weeks later I found myself hanging out in Tableau with my friends Lette and Trilby. Apparently the sim was going to be torn down for redecorating and, therefore, was being "attacked" and set on fire by giant hamsters (did I mention whimsical? And slightly disturbing?) in a last gasp before the owners blocked it off and rebuilt it. It was actually quite an odd night—we were set upon by a kinda amateur griefer (Lette has some pictures of the incident…sigh). And Tableau played host to a gathering of veritable Second Life celebs who all gathered around to watch the sim burn.

SL celebs watch Tableau burn back in February:
Polyester and Nylon are to the right.

What was my interaction with this higher social order? Did I impress them with my wit, my erudite conversation, inimitable fashion sense, or stunning smile? Nope. Instead, Polyster had to come play nanny and ban the griefer from the sim.

I think after that I decided I was done being passive with griefers.

Anyway—Tableau recently re-opened, and it's a whole new sim! Most of it is propped up on a mesa just below SL's perpetual fog layer (familiar to anyone who hangs out at Ode) but it's a vastly different look: crooked, ramshackle buildings that kind of look like they've been sketched into place, a wacky central courtyard…and, yes, the sim is still littered with painfully hip avatars. Last night Lette, Trilby, and I went back to hang out on a rooftop patio:

Mhmm. Yep. I'm the one in the middle with the
star-shaped glasses and UFOs coming out of her head.

No griefers accosted us this time, but I'm sure the creators of Tableau are thrilled I was there, bringing down property values in my granny boots and sweater. It's true: they'll let pretty much anyone in. Until they catch you, anyway.

And the product vendors in the new Tableau? Seem pretty much the same as the old Tableau. Sigh. I guess all the cool kids will just have to cope with the burden of staying cooler and hipper than me.

2 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure Tableau exists in part as a response to the Glamazon Barbie culture that makes up so much of the rest of SL... which is good. But in working so hard to reject mainstream SL, they've created mainstream ugly SL, where skewed shapes in granny panties and oddball eyewear are the new cool. And, on the levels you've mentioned, that's backfired on them. It does get a bit hipster -- and, I think it's important to point out that their stuff isn't actually that high quality (check the seams on your t-shirts sometime).

    I enjoy the fringe of Tableau, but I will never be ugly enough to really fit in there (in any avatar). I'm an artist, and I enjoy beauty where I find it in RL and SL -- my favorite Tableau is empty Tableau, where the creativity put into texturing, building and environment (note of nostalgia: I miss the more narrative atmosphere of the former Tableau) really shines. I've taken some great photos in Tableau that would never fit in with the crowd that created it (including some from the other night ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/trilbybutton/tags/tableau ), but to me Tableau is really only beautiful when I take the place on my own terms. It's a lot like NYC (also a capital of hipsterdom and where at least one of the Tableausters are from).

    So there is mainstream "beautiful" (and by that I mean the standard Glamazon SL culture, which isn't really something I find pleasing) and there is mainstream ugly. I keep an eye out for the beautiful ugly in SL, and a few people do it well, like Cutea Benelli of Grim Bros., who creates insane and truly unique things. Unfortunately, a lot of what Tableau puts out has lost its beautiful ugliness, partially because of the hipster bullshit factor, but also because so many are doing that same sort of thing now and cranking out that manufactured funkiness.

    But anyway, we made our own cool the other night -- starfruit and UFOs, green skins, granny boots, red pigtails -- so who cares about the hipsters! Sucks to their assmar and bah to them. Keep on bringing your own coolness to the table.

    /me shrugs and grins. ;)

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  2. When I first discovered Tableau, all I really thought about was how amazing the colors were and how cool the builds looked. I loved exploring every nook and cranny of New Orleans-era Tableau, wandering into the Cafe de Croc and stumbling upon the underground club. Tansie and I began squatting down there -- Tableau was "home" for nearly six months for us -- and we just loved living amid the quirkiness and the creativity. If they had actual rental properties there, I'd have paid whatever they were asking to be an official tenant.

    I met a lot of people who stumbled upon the underground club or decided to sit down for a hookah puff in the middle of the courtyard with me. Most were just good for an interesting conversation, but a couple are still in my contact list. I never felt like the usual avs wandering through were "hipper and cooler" than anyone, really, much less me, though I'll confess to having some celebrity awe with respect to the brains behind the design of the place. I think it's easy to build up a mystique around people (as I admittedly do with some content creators) and let that substitute for reality before the distance between you dissolves.

    The new Tableau doesn't feel so much like home to me yet (maybe I should pretend I'm homeless and find a semi-secluded space to squat in again), but I still go there to soak in the eccentricity, buy a powdered wig, and sometimes to indulge in an interpretive dance.

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