When I was a child, the first movie I ever saw was "Fantasia," the Disney movie based on the fairy tale "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." Gosh, I was tiny and the movie screen was big and this was a really REALLY long time ago but the look and feel of that experience is a lot like Second Life, of course...
Starax's disappearance from Second Life -- most head-lines punned that he had waved his wand and vanished himself from the world or the Lindens had poofed him -- is a very simple or a very complicated story, or both.
Yes, Starax Statosky is gone from the People list, his store is gone from slboutique.com and he is not answering email. In fact, spending an hour flying around to all the places where I thought I might find his sculptures, like the sculpture garden in Taber, I couldn't find a single one, nor was he in any find list of places or classifieds (someone said a classifieds was placed 8/2, but it timed out). You can see some of them on some resident blogs and picture sites and there are some bloggers who recall the hours of fun they have had with his wand, and the internal game played with it.
Perhaps he was banned for a recent, typical forums-reg smutty jpeg, in this case, we're told, some very fat woman on top of a dinky man, which Torley removed, but since Governor Linden seized his land in Patagonia, it seems unlikely. Still, if you don't pay on your bills after 7 days, you disappear from the list and the Gov grabs your land -- so it's possible he just went on vacation or didn't pay his tier or something. But, unless he has more land somewhere, this was only a 512, which would come automatically with the $9.95 premium account (he'd probably have the oldbie 4096m2 freebie, wouldn't he?)
Others find the story more complex and emblematic of many of the tumultuous changes underway in SL.
The original Sourcer's Apprentice story is about an apprentice to a wizard who misued his powers and wrecked havoc.
But in our SL version of the story, it was just the opposite -- at least, I *think* it's about just the opposite. The magic wand that Starax created, an awesome, very expensive device that could conjure up whole world-within-worlds, was broken by the Lindens' latest software patches.
Starax very politely and briefly and wittily asked about this on the forums and was told that yes, his wizardry, which depended on temp-on-rez functions, was broken. Starax seemed to couch his curt query in the sardonic manner typical of the oldbies, saying his goldfish Bubbles would die without food if he couldn't sell his wand for Lindens to cash out dollars. But...you couldn't be sure if this wasn't a bit of bravado covering up a decidedly ambiguous feeling about the Platform and the way it eats its children. There's GOMing...and then there's having your stuff wrecked and your business ruined just for the sake of the new edition -- without even a proper drama or wind-up.
Few people seem to have bothered to ask Lindens whether this was true and what they thought about it, so I did.
"You killed him," I said to one Linden. I find that you have to speak truth to power, and often only negotiate from a position of strength, which is of course ludicrous in a situation where they can "kick" you and ban you forever "for any reason or no reason". I feel the direct approach often works.
After we both climbed down from our huffs, this Linden told me matter-of-factly that he hadn't heard about Starax' departure, and found it odd, since in fact LL was working hard to repair just that very thing that made his wand go poof. Evidently Starax knew that? If true, it was sad that Starax was leaving, and unnecessary.
If the idea was to grandstand, and get the Lindens to realize that they must stop their ceaseless folly, cease this collision of one patch after another breaking the world in bits, just in order to make the web for companies to show off their 3-D media campaigns, and they must stop, look, and listen to their old residents who were hurting and literally having the magic sapped from them...then the campaign was a bust. They weren't noticing. And anyway, they were working on it. And anyway, isn't that new camera flashy thingy cool, though?
Earlier, another Linden had explained to me the bit about Starax's wand, when I contacted him about another issue involving how all the objects on a sim return in batches in order of ownership when some asswipe fire-prims your sim and overloads it, so that his new griefer prims get pride of place on a sim, and your builds are dumped into the ether (but I think they've fixed this now). I spoke with others about this as well. The issue of temp-on-rez is separate than that issue, they were at pains to explain, and I let them talk, because trying to let them know that I already got the point wasn't working. The problem of "where stuff goes" when you rez out too much of it, even temporarily, is of course, um, "at issue" in SL. In all kinds of ways. The bad stuff of fire-primming and grid-crashing with the self-replicating stuff is related to the wand stuff of making hippos and flags and monks appear in the air as Starax did.
A few weeks ago, I wrote to Starax, who was my neighbour in the northern atoll continent sim of Patagonia. in one line, something like, "Is it true that your wand was killed in order to make it possible for my tenants not to have all their builds returned when they're fire-primmed?"
He may not have found that funny -- or maybe he did. Or maybe his messages capped. In fact, maybe Prokofy Neva, that philistine realtor, killed Starax by seeming to revel in his tenants finally getting to save their builds at the expense of other people not being able to rez out shit all over the place (remember when Pete Fats was the subject of constant forums mongering on the land scanner temp-rezzing issues?) But...the issues are likely technically unrelated, or, if related, not a quid-pro-quo as I fancifully imagined, and anyway, I was speaking in a more metaphorical way:
Do the old ways have to make way for the new? Does the past have to die somehow, even in a world in which the Eternal is always a copy in your inventory? Is the Golden Age of Heroes over, and now we are in the Iron Age of Replication? Are small-beer sleazy real estate agents now going to be served, for their blingtard tenants' needs, and the fine talents and sensibilities of the Staraxes of the world to be trampled by the Almight Dollar and greed and lust? Or...is the age of sleazy realtors and blingtards going to be swept aside for the glory of big RL campaigns rolling out mass entertainment on 40-only sims? Well, um, yeah, maybe. But...I'm not the one who published the picture of the fat lady crushing the little man.
A curious -- but not so curious -- counterpoint to the Starax-is-Missing drama was provided by Shack Dougall, another post-FIC, post-Age-of-Heroes figure who has achieved much in his own right through sim design and innovative realtor work (he specializes in finding prizes and landscaping them and has also developed Liferain in Alviso and Bonny Doon and other sims). Whether feeling envy or irritation or both, Shack was prompted to gripe that "anyone could make these wands" or "these sculptures are possible for anyone". He seemd to have a convulsion of sorts, and a very public one, about the necessity of going on to keep glorifying these old early adapters. It led him to be shamed by others who were close to Starax, and let him to be compared unfavourably.
But he's right. The dog barks, the caravan moves on. Shit happens, people leave. I was going to blog even 6 months ago about some brilliant new sculptresses I've found around town, who have quietly gone around Starax by picking areas he didn't work in, and doing them really, really well, i.e. horses or angels. So, Starax may not have even survived as the dernier cri in the world of prim-rustling. Or maybe he decided it was better to leave gracefully, before it was really time. Looking in the list today, where once Starax was one of a only a few sculptors in SL, today there are a 100, with numerous gardens, galleries, tours -- and quite a few of good quality, possibly even exceeding his, though none had that Fantasia-like narrative power.
Starax is more about a sensibility, however, than anything else. Geek. Goofy geek. Arty geek. Geek who was here first. Geek who is friends with the Lindens and hangs out with them and pals around in the IRC channel. Geek who knows code out the wazoo. Geek who makes a Really Cool Thing that bonds with Lindens who love it to pieces. The era of geek is passing, however, in part, not because there are less geeks -- but because there are more. There are thousands of programmers and designers with RL credentials in SL now, and there will be millions. Most of them never heard of Starax and may never hear of him, any more than in their day, people all over the world might never have heard of Michaelangelo (that came later).
Starax, of course, was probably best noted for taking these rigid prims that have no malleability, (or didn't when he began sculpting years ago) and making sculptures, including of the human form. It's a little bit like trying to make Michaelangelo statues with popsicle sticks, but he pulled it off..most of the time, but my own first encounter with his works in the roiled waters of the Ravenglass/Carlisle border on the famous "They Don't Get It and I Sure Don't" thread was as kitsch, albeit noir kitsch: a man fishing being picked up by the neck by a vulture (was he the one who made THAT King Kong, too???). Most of the sculptures I saw of his had more elegance.
Still, Starax was one of those tastes of the core sims, an aquired taste. You have to like looking at the round/hollow eyes of sculptures and prim torture. Most 2004 and post avatars didn't buy Starax because he's primmy and they needed the space for their dinette sets. Even the really arty preferred less realistic stuff.As for the wand, it cost $15,000 on slboutique.com and while only $45 US, it's a lot to fork over. I personally got fun more quickly and cheaply from Jesrad Seraph's spell caster, which is built on the same principle, but of course, of more limited capacity.
Of course nothing could match a Starax wand. Cory Linden raved about it on the film for the Google people, and that's where you can see a bit of a demonstration of it. So it feels like the ultimate irony that the Lindens would then go about breaking it. The Google movie will stay on the Internet forever, showing Cory and Philip's dog-and-pony with SL, for the glories of the web, while Starax is gone from the world.
They break stuff like that because they have to make something different than our world. They have to make their platform. The platform cannot be sacrificed; the things on the platform have to be sacrificed. Platform is platform. Things are things. Get your priorities straight. Maybe down the line they'll fix it up again.
There's a lot about Starax I don't know. That's for other people to write. My own take on him was that he was arrogant like all the FIC, even if he was probably actually quite warm and witty and fun and clearly beloved by those close to him.
Why? Because he didn't make his store public. Among other things, like his irreverent forums' posts, I could never for the life of me figure out why he kept a 512 square in Patagonia next to an ugly black box club on the next sim. Titled, "Patagonia 7, mature flat green," just the way Bob Bravo the Realtor had named it when he sold it aeons ago, it had nothing on it, not even a tree. Starax was impervious to IMs asking him if he wanted to sell when prims got tight on the sim.
There was no sign, no teleporter, no nothing. You just "had to know" that his store was there, with the wand, way up in the air. I didn't know, until I clicked on a SLURL or something on the forums and landed up in the air, then started falling as his store is gone now. nimrod Yaffle explained to me that the store was up there -- I'd never seen it. How would you know? It wasn't in classifieds that I ever saw, it wasn't in search, though probably in "picks". It was funny, to me, all the time, for months, staring at the square. Why did the famous Starax have this square on our sim, with nothing on it?
And that seemed to me in retrospective so typical of the FIC. Their friends knew -- you just "had to know" it was there because they'd never do anything "so tacky" as put a sign and a teleporter on the ground. Possibly he didn't need or want to sell a lot of those wands.
When I looked at the impromptu memorial site erected in Patagonia, I saw a jury-rigged mat put into place on the Gov Linden land, where normally you can't put stuff, saying "We Miss You, Come Back, Starax." Roses scattered. A kind of Mr. Potato Head expression made up of the kind of bits of prims Starax would have used was clumsily deployed with a frown and a tier. I rezzed a candlestick on my land nearby and levered it into place on the Linden land. The scripts were turned off on the land so I couldn't light it, an eloquent statement about magical things in our world which are so easily broken, and so easily forgotten, but not so easily replaced.