Friday, August 7, 2009

La Dame aux camelias

Alright, you haven't read the book, in all probability. Alexandre Dumas (fils) wrote it in French and although it was translated in English, anglosaxons are more likely to have seen the play, which was rather inexplicably dubbed "Camille". If you haven't seen it on stage, it is possible you saw one of the 8 films that were made (one with Greta Garbo), the last one as recent as the 1980's. A lot of other movies were influenced by the story, not in the least the movie "Moulin Rouge". If those passed your notice, there is always the good chance that you saw or heard the 1853 opera 'La Traviata' by Verdi, who happened to attend one of the first stage versions of the book, back in 1852, which illustrates how quickly he decided to put the story to music. To say that book and play were immensely popular is an understatement.
The story is of romantic simplesse : the prodigal son of noble antecedents gets involved with courtesan Marguérite Gauthier (Violetta Valéry in the opera). He falls in love and can't let her go. The father appeals to the courtesan, pleading that any marriage prospects of his children are ruined by the scandalous relation. The courtesan acknowledges this and breaks off the relation, even though it is against her own best interest. The courtesan falls ill and dies of consumption, the romantic death par excellence. Much lamenting follows.
The book is interesting in its own right, as it demonstrates the existence of influential courtesans in the first half of the 19th century, well before the hay days later in the century, and offers us glimpses of how they were perceived back then. We could discuss the literary value, the dreams of romanticism, the survival of the story into later, more cynical ages, and so on. Most people will probably dismiss the story as romantic fiction, as the courtesan with the golden heart seems a bit too good to be true. Fie, to all of you! How could you be so mistrusting! You all, having visited our establishment and conversed with our fine ladies, should know better.
Fact is, Marguérite Gauthier was based on the life and death of a real courtesan. Her name was Rose Alphonsine Plessis, born in 1824 and died, of consumption, in 1847, only 23 years old. Dumas published his book in 1848, no coincidence. He was genuinely shocked by the lady's death and felt remorseful for his absence at her death bed. Remorse, because Rose and he were once lovers and they still were friends after the breakup. Unmentioned in the book, the later shining courtesan had a squalid youth, with a poor, drunk and violent father, who abused his two daughters, and more then likely prostituted them too. It could have ended with that, and Rose would have disappeared into the nameless legion of street prostitutes, but before she reached the age of 15 she ran away to Paris. She took the "stagename" Marie Duplessis (the "Du" before her family name to suggest noble descent) and was quickly noticed for her beauty, as testified by drawings and paintings that were made of her when she had become famous. She quickly collected a string of lovers, of ever increasing station, who were able to finantially support her ravenous apetite for shopping, at least for some time.
Her entry from the Demi-Monde into the Beau-Monde came when she started a relationship with Agénor, son of the Duc de Guiche. He flaunted her in public, much to the distress of his father, who appealed to Marie's good sense, pleading that the marriage opportunities of his daughter would be ruined by the scandal. Now that does sound familiar, no ? Marie ended the relation, though probably not out of romantic motives : she wasn't going to antagonize a powerful Duke. And she had reached her goal : she had been noticed.
At first, it seems a mystery that the lady became so successful. She was beautiful, alright, but suitors of a courtesan wanted to shine with their conquests, and that meant that the courtesan had to keep her own in polite conversation. Not exactly what you would expect from a poor girl with hardly any education.
Marie defied those prejudices. Contemporaries testify of her pleasant character, her sharp wit and profound knowledge of the topics of the day. The list of goods, sold after her death to satisfy part of her debtors, includes an impressive library that would not have shamed a fashionable young man with a cultural interest. She had her own salon, which was eagerly visited because of the intelligent conversation that could be expected. She could play the piano with more than average skill and was a well known sight in opera houses. We can only let our jaws drop in silent admiration that the lady had the good sense, the energy and the intellectual capacity to catch up so fast.
Contemporaries on the other hand, also point out with some shadenfreude that she was the archetypical prostitute in her vices: she was prone to be hysterical and she spent money like water, more than once embarassing her lovers finantially. Money was, in fact, one of the motives why Dumas broke up with Marie in august 1845. Much of what he wrote about the passionate early stages in his book was based on how his own relation with Marie had developped. Her spendthrift got him into difficulties, however, and -insult to injury- he wasn't amused that she continued to see other men .
Marie returned to Paris, quickly gaining a new band of devoted lovers, reputedly the composer Liszt amongst them. Eventually she married one of her lovers, count Édouard de Perregaux. Soon after the marriage, the disease that would kill her took hold. At her deathbed, her maid, her husband and her former lover count Von Stakelberg were present. Dumas was not in France at that moment, and learned of her death months afterwards. The rest was history.
Her funeral was lavish and attented by hundreds of people. Her grave still exists today and people still put flowers on it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

the perfect outing

To the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Pearl, and residents and visitors of Victoriania;
Lately we have had the honor of Carnivale` here in town. As the name suggests, it is an event featuring big tops, animals, games, rides and all sorts of fun and innocent mischief. At such events we may perform tricks for our friends, or feats of strength. We may gorge ourself to bloatation on such treats as cannot be found at any other place or time of year in Victoriana. We may win a stuffed bear for that special someone, or compete and play sport with our friends and neighbors. It is truly a delight, a purely angelic divertation.
However, as many of you may know, we here at the Pearl have a few naughty habbits - one of them being that we cannot simply enjoy a good thing without some adventerous accidents or unexpected mischief. This Wednesday past was just such an occasion.
While most of the circumstances that result in our crazy hijinx are often planned, themed parties, today's festivities did not result from previous study. Instead, a group of the finest Ladies and Gentlemen found themselves standing around the garden with no plans for the afternoon and little hope of adventure.
In such instances reader, it is no longer a matter of having a good time, once a plan is struck, but having the best time possible. As a Lady of the Pearl, I am proud to say that we almost always are able to achieve levels of delight in our little outings than most other parties can conjure. But this should not be unique to the Pearl - and so I shall tell our story, and explain the four rules for having the perfect outing, as we at the Pearl so often do.
It wasn't long into our menage a quatre` in the garden that a decision was reached, and soon we were bumping and grinding against each other as the rickity train swung back and forth on the tracks, carrying us to Carnivale`.
This party consisted of Lady Anske Beatte, Lady Vlana Thespian, Lord Skylark Bedrosian and myself, though we would be joined by others as the afternoon progressed. The phrase 'the more, the merrier' is often more true than most people believe, as any dedicated member of the Pearl will attest to.
For who among you can say, truthfully and without flush in your cheeks, that you have not thought on such an outing, "How much I should enjoy to have Mrs. B with us, but her husband is hardly acceptable society!" or "I long to have Aunt Emily here today, but she has no money to leave us, while Aunt Gertrude has capital a-plenty, and she has been looking rather poorly of late...."?
That, friends and foes, is not how business is conducted among ladies and gentlemen of the Pearl. Only the best, acceptable company is permitted to join our fun, and that company is based not on stature or society, but on who is the best enjoyment and who is determined, in turn, to enjoy themselves. This is the first rule of enjoying a carnival the Pearl way: you must attend the event in the best of company, and a company inkeeping with your own attitude and a slave to no one elses'.
As the trip progresses in your own adventure, and you find yourself vague on the next step to an exquisitely good afternoon? You must always recall: Be witty, charming, and agreeable.
Agreeable society is always the most...agreeable. And for the perfect good time on a sunny May afternoon, agreeableness must not only come from your chosen compatriots. For how are they to be charming and agreeable to you if they have no provider of charming and agreeable banter in return? Being charming and agreeable to oneself is impossible: sooner or later we all find ourselves to be dull and unsurprising, and seek the company of others. You must be wanted as much as you want.
Lady Vlana made a good demonstration of this soon after our arrival at Carnivale`, as she may be seen here. Quite literally, she was dancing on a ball for our amusement - and how amusing we found her to be!
Of course, for all of you familiar with Lady Vlana, she is witty and charming in and of herself. Most people, in fact, are not nearly so agreeable as our Vlana, so I use this demonstration here for you less-agreeable folk to notice and take note upon. Even if you are dull in comparison to your society, you may still manage to make yourself pleasant to them with a little bit of effort! In turn, they will desire to make themselves more pleasant to you, and a good time may be had by all.
Now once your party is properly chosen and your transportation arranged, you may ask; "Lady Jas, we are now at the carnival. How may we best enjoy this spectacle with the adventure that the ladies and gents of the Pearl do?" And I shall answer, "You must be fearless."
Take, for instance, Lady Shashasha - who joined us with Corporal Prissk Sahara later in the afternoon - here presented pinned to a spinning wheel, while Lord Bedrosian amused himself with the careless tosses of sharpened blades at her poor form. Now there is nothing in this rule, reader, that states that you should not be concerned for your friends and loved ones. But you must remember that this day is for everyones' amusement, and that must always be respected.
Brave Lady Sha did not scream, though there were many times that we all glanced away. I shall spoil the story now, reader, so you are not overly concerned with the fate of our precious lady: Lord Bedrosian tossed his knives and clipped her dress, and even I dared to try a few from my own hand. Lady Shashasha was removed from the wheel, unscathed and with a heightened courage.
But fearlessness does not come from braving daggers alone. There are other dangers that must be faced in order for the most pleasing and adventorous time to be had by all. These are the dangers of society. This is most often where I lose most people, but I pray that you will stay with me here.
Society is one of the most dangerous things to face. Wounds heal, but the scar society may mark you with is generally much more longstanding. Hester Prynne may remove her letter on occasion, but it takes years of good deeds for the stigmas to go away entirely. This is the excitement of brushing against society's bone-rigid corset ways. This is what makes it fun.
The kissing booth is an excellent way of achieving this. It can be considered scandalous to let lips do what hands do with a stranger, someone whose attraction is only in their appearance. But even this can be considered acceptable, leaving a none-too-serious scar on one's personal life in the community.
We at the Pearl take that danger and rub up against it, test it, tease it. Lady Vlana again presents a wonderful example, with the aid of yours truly.
I was happy enough to participate in the kissing booth, and had a few gentlemen kind enough to pay their dues in exchange for a brief moment of contact. But what I did not expect was Lady Vlana to sneak upon me and press softness to mine in the most gentle kiss I have ever known. Everyone stood, aghast, in shock and absolutely delighted.
The most scathing part? She didn't even pay.
If you have come this far, reader, I must applaud you. Most people would not be so brave, but you must appreciate the utter enjoyment that can be had from an afternoon performed in the style of the Pearl and her people. It is absolutely the most pleasant way to spend an afternoon. As a reward for your dilligence? I give you the last rule to having the perfect afternoon trip.
Enjoy what is given to you.
My last example taken from our Wednesday trip involves all in attendence. As the sun waned across the sky, we decided that a relaxing ride in the hot-air balloon was the best way to finish what had been the perfect outing. While some got left behind, and some lept out of the basket over the ocean, the rest of us were given the opportunity to enjoy something magnificent.
The balloon took us all around the nation of Victoriana. We saw beaches, large hedge mazes, a tower in the water and a collection of the most delicate and beautiful homes to be seen anywhere. All of us in that basket came to realize how very lucky we are to have such friends, a lovely neighborhood, the Pearl and our good wits and snappy sense of style (for all of my friends are stylish ones, reader, I shall abide nothing less).
There is always something to enjoy in life, or even in a day, reader. This last lesson goes further than just an afternoon - in order to be in good spirits all of time, it is quite important to take a little something each day and appreciate it. A lover, a beautiful gown, a flower - there is always something that you can find. Not doing this leads to ornery people and ornery people have a very difficult time with finding a pleasing afternoon.
These are my four suggestions for the perfect outing, the Pearl way. For some, these rules may be difficult; for others, impossible. Should you manage to abide these four rules, I promise the most delightful time to you.
Although, on second thought, there are few people outside of our humble abode that I know of that may be able to abide all these rules. Indeed, if you are one of those rare individuals who is willing to follow all four, you may be unable to find people with whom to follow them with. No, on reflection, you are better off to come by the Pearl if you are one such individual to share in our experiences. It is the easiest way to abide these rules.
Until next time, reader, I remain most faithfully yours,

Lady Jasmine

the Adult Viewer(2)

It's been a while since I wrote my last post on the new Adult viewer. In the mean time, the release candidate has become the official viewer and you should now all be using it; all sims are updated too to accomodate the new "Adult" status. Zindra, the Adult continent, has risen from the waves and already clubs are starting to move to it. The Lindens have started to scan the mainland (i.e Linden owned land) to trace those parcels with Adult content and owners of said parcels receive the SL version of the eviction notice, explaining them what the problem is and citing a deadline before which they must have moved or adapted.
Adulthood is everywhere, in other words, but I still hear questions and remarks that indicate that many people still do not know what actually is going on, so i will use this post to tackle some of these questions.
1. you must be age verified to be an Adult
ehh, no. Age verification is one possible way to get recognized as an Adult. As the process is far from reliable or even practical for non US users (Elivis Presley got through the age verification process, no kidding) , you can also use the alternative : payment info. If you have bought Lindens via the LL webpage, you already have given your payment info to the Lindens and there is nothing you have to do. The reason for this is clear : in order to have paypal or a credit card you already went through an agecheck
2. payment info is unreliable : a teen can borrow his father's credit card
Quite right, but so is Age verification, as is evident from the Elvis Presley example. You can cheat with both methods, and the treshold to cheat with a credit card is actually higher, because you have to get a credit card first, whereas Age verification can still be fooled with minimum effort. The Lindens are actually not interested in watertight age proof; they are interested in an official statement from your part, so that they can sue you if it turns out you lied.
3. you can only get into an Adult zone if you are age verified
Wrong. Payment Info and Age check both make you an Adult. You don't need to do the two. It is possible however, that you didn't get into an Adult zone, even though you have declared payment info. There are two possible reasons for this : a) you didn't set the PG, M & A setting in the viewer settings. The default setting is PG & M only. To amend this, see what I wrote about that in my previous post b) the owner has set an additional setting on his parcel that bans people that are not Age Verified. The same can be done for people that have no payment info, by the way. The combination of an Adult parcel that bans one or both categories is downright silly, but it happens.
4. if you use the parcel settings to ban non age verified AND non payment info, your parcel is Adult
Nice try, but no cigar. Adult is Adult and that status is alloted at sim level, not at parcel level. The whole idea is that the sunday school variety of SL residents can safely walk into a parcel and know for sure that there will be no Adult content. These users want to be blocked from entering an Adult parcel, even though they are age verified and/or payment info declared. Parcel settings do not do this.
5. I don't want to be an SL Adult. That would make me a pervert.
Wrong. As stressed in the previous point, someone having Adult status (because he has a paying account) may still want to be kept away from Adult sims. They would be quite shocked to hear that you consider them perverts. Besides, in the recent Linden blog post about their intellectual property rights initiatives, it was clearly stated that in their future program to protect buyers, the Lindens should have the identity and payment info of the seller on file. In other words, they should be Adults. It is clearly the objective of the Lindens that being Adult will once be the normal state of a resident.
6. Is this the end of the free account ?
Good question. So far, the answer is no. You can have a free account and still have payment info on file, so you can have Adult status. Looking to the content protection initiatives mentioned earlier, a free account could still have himself recognized as a seller.