Friday, September 27, 2013
Interview With Tuna Oddfellow and Shava Suntzu
By Bixyl Shuftan
For those not familiar with "The Odd Ball," it was one of Second Life's more unique shows (youtube link), run by Tuna Oddfellow and Shava Suntzu. Tuna himself described it as, "nothing you can ever expect. It is like no show in the metaverse. I have been called the Peter Max of virtual worlds. It is like the 60s but with much better graphics. The show is trippy. Some people consider it to be there tome to relax. It is a mix of psychedelic graphics and experimental music. The audience is encouraged to be wild and dress crazy."
For several years the show ran performances in Second Life. Then earlier this week, Tuna and Shava closed the Odd Ball. The reason: Linden Lab had changed it's Terms of Service so that they claimed all rights to all content loaded onto the Grid. They made the decision to move their performance to the virtual world of Inworldz. Second Life Newser contacted Tuna, and a meeting in Inworldz was arranged. I met up with Tuna and Shava at their new club. Tuna's appearance was much as it was in Second Life, top hat and psychedelic collared suit with a mohawk hairstyle and pointed ears. The only difference in his appearance was his skin was less pale. Shava was all in black except for the whites of her eyes and a few places on her outfit, "(giggle) I'm all dressed in freebies!" Yours truly was without his characteristic "fox news" appearance, looking like a newcomer with only a few days experience.
"So this is home now," Tuna told me, "I have had an InWorldz presence since 2010, but my virtual life was tied to SL. I just purchased this club today from Maximillian Svarovski. It's going to take a little bit to get those crowds regular here I suspect. I will be starting events in phases. I will be rebuilding the new Odd Ball here and I don't want to perform before it is up to standards. So I am going to be doing my particle show here at my smaller club in Dolphin Bay. … I am putting together a collection of special effects - lights shows and sometimes fireworks. It's never the same show twice."
Of the smaller club, Tuna remarked, "I see this smaller space being used as a coffee house where anything is possible. When I did shows at my castle sometime the ceiling would open for an out door light show. - I have big plans for this place too. You need to wait and see but creatively I see this move as an opportunity to try new things. There actually three club locations that I am working with to get the show going in different directions. The Odd Ball that is."
It was at this point, we were joined by a friend of theirs, Madog Garsztka, "Hi Guys. Shava, its like I haven't seen you in forever." "Madog! Heya!" Shava told him, "Yes I haven't been haunting virtual space much." "I hope to get Shava haunting InWorldz," Tuna commented, "We have a lot of ideas to hash out." Turning back to me, "Madog is a member of the Tunaverse who came back to InWorldz following us for the show." "You Bet," Madog spoke enthusiastically, "Odd Ball is the best! Theraputic value too (smile)." "The community is slowly pulling together to make this transition easier. The land we use for this club is sponsored by Quadrapop Tree." "This is such a story of community," Shava told.
"… the virtual world community is long since broken out of SL," Shava commented, "it's in twitter, G+, Facebook, it's on blogs and has it's own metagame media, and it's own set of grids. It's time we broke free and started liberating ourselves of the mindset of the mothership. We have a multiverse, a whole Internet. Part of it is 3d, and all of it is us." "From the angle of some Second Lifers it is only there though.," Tuna added, "This needs to change."
"Ultimately we are the people behind the keyboards," Shava continued, "if it's our world, our imagination -- that world is the world we create where ever we go. It just takes a little more work. If you were in SL long enough ago, you remember how much work it was. We all started with a cube at some point. We're starting with a whole lot more than a cube here." "And we were all told what we did with that cube we owned," Tuna commented. Shava added, "And now we're told we don't own it -- someone else can sell it, re-sell it, and never tell you?"
"This is what the original vision was at Burning Man, right?" Shava asked. "That creators would be coming in and creating things that the Lindens never imagined, and the Lindens would not lay claim to, and that would enrichen the entire community. What happened to that? I think they left it on Linden Avenue. Maybe it left with Governor Linden and Pathfinder. So that vision gets to find a home elsewhere. If people want to stay in SL that's their choice."
So why did Tuna come to Inworldz and not somewhere else like the OSGrid? "I came to InWorldz in 2010 because I am a metaversalist," he answered, "I believe in the bigger picture of the metaverse beyond SL, and many of the former Lindens wanted to be bridges to the metaverse. And it never happened. (The) OS grid is something I am on, but it is less secure with content than SL. It has a huge learning curve to get it done. And if you hypercube well they have not gotten a way to secure assets owned by the avatar yet."
Of the new terms of service, Shava felt legally the Lab had covered its bases, "the law will support that TOS and the TOS says 'All your cubes are belong to us.' By the time anyone straightens it out, in the case of a bankruptcy, unless you do your own free legal work and don't value your time -- you will be very deep into buying a new boat for an attorney. And it won't be made out of prims." Tuna added, "I am friends with some of the owners of InWorldz there is no TOS here that is taking your work away from you and you are safer with your IP in InWorldz right now than any other grid. Sure that can change." "But this is what artists face all the time." Shava completed.
I mentioned the debate among Second Life residents about the new ToS, some saying this was no big deal. If Linden Lab abused it's authority, they'd be shooting itself in the foot. Tuna responded, "If Linden Lab was to go under tomorrow would they be shooting themselves in the foot to cash in on the assets we signed away Bixyl? If bad TOS happen in a virtual most of us wont read the TOS and then many will just follow as sheep. It's the way these things work. Shava and I are leading a movement to educate creators we have been doing things like this in SL our entire career." Shava added "If you don't stand up in numbers, they will smile and tell you 'Of course, we won't do anything to harm you. It's just a contract.' In my professional life, I'm the member of a writer's union. And I actually do sign contracts all the time that sign away perpetual rights to work I do on contract. But they PAY me!"
So did Linden Lab enact this change as a desire for greater control of Second Life? Shava commented, "Even if they aren't, you don't have to assume they are malicious. If they aren't they need to change it. But if they don't, if they don't change it, WHY NOT?? It's like I said on g+, they are either lazy, dumb, or malicious. They said to Hamlet that they wanted the same template for all their businesses. Sounds lazy. They wouldn't use the same policies for a trucking business and an airline would they? I'm pointing out a good case for why even if they have good intentions, it's not safe for them to leave it as is. If the company goes bankrupt, it's just not safe. So they need to change it to a limited license for SL for this one business. If they don't, then, we go from lazy, stupid or malicious to stupid or malicious. Because it's not just lazy, we've informed them that it's not just slack."
Of Hamlet Au asking Linden Lab about the issue behind closed doors, Shava commented, "So, we have Hamlet asking them, what about this case of going into receivership? Now, I like Hamlet but he tends to love the one he's with, do you understand what I'm saying? (a reference to his special relationship to the Lab following his time as their embedded journalist) So let's see what they say to him and what he comes back with. (smile) But I have a perhaps vain hope that Hamlet goes in, and we come out with a revised TOS. It could happen. And then, I ride off into the sunset and say, 'My work here is done!' (grin) And maybe put out a tip hat... (smile) How do you do that for something like this…?"
Shava wasn't feeling that great, "Man, my stomach has hurt for days … This sort of thing used to be my main line of work back in the day... it stresses me out more than it used to. This sort of thing used to be bread and butter, Bixyl. This isn't exactly the NSA or the Arab Spring, heh." "It has been so hard watching things happen." Tuna commented, "This all came to a head for us a couple days before my 45th birthday, which is September 24th. 'Happy birthday you need to rebuild your show and dismantle your inventory.' " "Tuna handed me the TOS -- whose article was it, Jo Yardley? And I just said, 'Oh, no...oh, we have to pack out…' And then wrote the G+ piece, and told him, 'Don't mourn, organize -- well, ok, mourn, and organize…' And told him, 'You do the technical stuff, and I'll write and all.' " "We are struggling," Tuna commented, "and I had just gained momentum at doing multiple shows per week to pay the bills."
Of the issue, Tuna informed, "I am also doing a lot of community outreach and education." "I looked at it," Shava added, "and thought, they've already smoothed over one wave of panic. It's going to be hard to get people to understand that, no, this really is a problem. I have EFF, Berkman, LiberationTech, Ben Noble and other folks watching, but none of them are interested in getting involved, they are all watching it like a lab experiment. There's no case, nothing's happened. No one's brought a suit."
Shava commented, "We're an example of a virtual 'life, liberty, property' colonial rule situation in a virtual world. Essentially, the people are observing what we're doing, because no law has been broken. No case has been brought before a judge." Tuna spoke, "Many watch just to see if the community can convince the corporation to make the change." "Right, well, I don't think LL anticipated a former VP of Marketing from an Inc1000 entertainment marketing company with LIMA membership calling out 'WAIT! We don't all have to be SHEEP!' I mean the whole legal situation in SL is a little loosy-goosey at best anyway, it would give most real licensing lawyers hives. But this is just totally over the top. No one really understands the virtual goods market very well anyway."
"We are looking for more of us Bixyl," Tuna told me, "I spoke to Roxy Gellar who runs a music venue in Second Life. She was considering doing a blackout demonstration if she could get 5 other venue owners to do it with her." Shava asked, "ow do people take goods and achievements and whatnot from one game or one network or through a social network contextually by license or whatever mechanism without the lawyers killing each other or making the microtransactions not be worth the business itself? it's a bunch of hard questions. A lot of these issues in SL have been solved with the shakespearean gordian knot: First we shoot all the lawyers. That worked when the lab was small. So now, someone noticed and freaked out, and applied the gordian noose, which is now, we choke all the creators. Or hang them out to dry I guess."
I asked how many would join them, or at least take a break in making content. Tuna answered, "Too many creators are not going to notice and go about their lives. I met someone here today. Purchased the club we are now in. Gave him the article from SLNewser. After reviewing who I was, he said he was pulling his stuff out of SL. Another person who read my most a music who I know by his real life but not his SL name, he is pulling his media out of SL. People have short memories though." "But these things start somewhere," Shava reminded, "and where we are having an impact is on merchant forums, blogs -- the metagame forums, twitter, your article, Hamlet's article, buzz …"
Shava commented if the Lab changed it's Terms of Service back because of her efforts, "that's a good bit of influence right there. I have a lifelong ambition, Bixyl. I would rather be influential than famous. If I could fix this without getting any exposure or whatever at all, I'm fine with that." Tuna retorted, "I would rather be famous and influential." "Yeah, Tuna likes fame. Not me." "I am the brand." "I never saw fame make anyone happy when I was growing up. I think he's nuts." "Or odd?" I mused. Shava grinned, "DEFINITELY Odd!"
"But if we could fix this with minimal disruption that's fine too," Shava spoke, "What it does is it makes people think, well, some people, about what the future might look like. Even if this time this gets fixed, do I need a second grid home?" Tuna commented, "I can not imagine not playing in InWorldz too even if SL fixes tomorrow." "Exactly," Shava affirmed, "We're not going to get caught like this again. We're not going to think about the metaverse the same way even if LL fixes the TOS tomorrow. And I don't think anyone else should either." "II have had a place to keep as home in InWorldz since 2010 I knew I would need it some day for something."
Tuna stated he would still be on Second Life some, "I am guild leader of a Tiny Empires 3000 guild in SL, Tunaverse Immortals. I need to spend time in SL for my people." Shava commented, "I've always thought that the people who played games within SL were working extra hard -- it's not a graceful environment for 'MMO' style gaming. But the people who do it do it because of the community. If we had something that was more like Steam for SL chat and community to base out of so the community could become more multi-game, We might diversify more freely. I see more of people I know from SL on twitter and G+ and maybe even Steam on a daily basis than in SL. But I'm not as active in SL as I used to be for a lot of reasons. We are a tribe that is distributed across the net. I used to game with folks in various MMOs I knew from SL (that I) never met in real-life. But they seemed more like real life friends because I knew them from SL, than people who I just knew from gaming." Tuna added, "I share this experience in my MMO gaming. I have even brought people from SL to the MMO I was playing at the time. (City of Steam) Virtual worlds are something you just have to be part of to GET."
I asked Tuna how soon it might be before the Odd Ball gets to what it was in Second Life. He answered, "Once I have the rezzing device coded here I will be able to do a show that no one would recogize as anything but the best Odd Ball." "Depends on the code porting gods," Shava commented. Tuna then began to express some doubts, and Shava would hear none of it, "He's always like that -- he feels like that about most shows in SL anyway. Don't let him make you think that would be new here. He'd just have a new reason for it. He cusses at the screen all the time and everyone is jumping up and down and telling him how awesome the show is. And he's talking about how everything is going wrong. It's hilarious." "My cursing is your entertainment - humpff!" "When he's doing real life magic, he'll drop the cards sometimes, and pick them up and just say, 'This is part of the show I didn't plan folks -- the floor show!' And sometimes people will really think he did it on purpose."
Of their relationship in real life, Tuna remarked, "We are like an old married couple. Even if we are now best friends with me demoted to annoying little brother." Shava told, "Oh, we still live together but we aren't a 'couple any more. But we are still family. It confuses the hell out of people." "We were engaged in real life and married in Second Life. Our SL wedding made business week." "Most people can't see how we do it. But we love each other we just aren't in a lover-type relationship. It's platonic. We have another roommate, we just are best friends. And I tell people I demoted him to annoying little brother, because we are so obviously family." The reaction of most in real life has mostly been confusion, mostly.
Shava informed, "He has a girlfriend, and I think she's awesome and we get along great. And it confuses the hell out of his parents that we still are housemates. I guess I'm supposed to hate him because we 'broke up.'" "She saw the Odd Ball for the first time over my shoulder last week," Tuna told. "And our other housemate is in SL now, or I guess I should say in virtual worlds. She's more of a tablet sort of person than a 3D type." "She has a Mac though, she plays Minecraft." "I didn't know that. … That's right I forgot she has a Mac." Of Minecraft, Shava told, "My son's got a server and I got a license, but I haven't done anything with it."
It was about this time that Tuna and Shava needed to leave. So we went our separate ways, and me soon back in Second Life and my familiar foxy form.
Since the interview, Tuna informed me he should have a show of some kind in Inworldz by Saturday Sept 28. If all goes very well, it will be the Odd Ball reopened. But this time in a new home.