An interview with artist vroum Short of VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery

A few notes before we start: this piece is very video-intensive, but the format of this website isn’t especially well-suited to displaying video art, particularly the videos taken in landscape mode, as I’d like it to be. For best results, on any of the videos, zoom them out to full screen by clicking the full screen icon in the bottom right hand corner of each video player. To bring your screen back to normal, just hit your Escape key, like you would with any other video player.

In addition, because I’m not on a top-of-the-line computer, I have to disclaim any videos I’ve captured here accordingly, because the frame rates of said videos may not be 100% what the creators of the works of art would hope for, and that should not reflect on them as indicators of the quality of their work. I did my best on getting tolerable frame rates from video captures, and made multiple passes on many of these pieces to get the best results I could. For the best viewing experience possible, especially on the full-immersion art installations, I strongly recommend that you visit VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery, where the original works reside.

[Image Description: a black and white photo of artist vroum Short, a humanoid cat presenting as female, with dark fur that has lighter facial markings, wearing Ray-Ban-esque eyeglasses and lipstick. In the background, the bubble lighting of vroum’s club Le Chat Noir are visible. Photo courtesy of vroum Short.]

If you’ve never heard me gush about her work before, vroum Short is, in my opinion, the single best and most imaginative visual artist working in Second Life, and one of my favorite visual artists in any medium, real or virtual, for years running now. Since she began making art, vroum, while dabbling in some physical mediums on rare occasions, has near-exclusively created three-dimensional, abstract digital sculptures, preferring to solely using the original object creation tools available in the Second Life software whenever possible.

Some of these sculptures take the form of paintings that have many moving parts, and utilize light and color in outstanding, mind-expanding ways.

[Image Description: video of [VP 20] SIDERAL multi vroum Short, a three-dimensional, digital motion painting by artist vroum Short. Psychedelic, glowing, strands of blue, green, yellow and purple light appear to breathe from within the painting.]

Others are sculptures of plant life from VeGeTaL PLaNeT, a place born and reborn from vroum’s imagination. Others still are the new installations of what vroum and her collaborators refer to as “Immersiv’Art”, fully explorable 3D spaces that enable you to actually walk around inside a work of art.

[Image Description: video from Glowing Fall, one of vroum Short’s “Immersiv’Art” installations in Second Life. Yellow lights and purple fog shimmers around plant life from another world in its autumn colors of green, yellow, orange, red and brown.]

[Image Description: video of vroum Short’s Metamorphosis, one of her “Immersiv’Art” installations in Second Life. Red, orange and yellow otherworldly plant life floats in a black void as white smoke swirls around it and the plants emit bright red lights.]

Recently, vroum opened the latest iteration of her space in Second Life, VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery. Throughout its history, which has included a number of different builds over a dozen years (which, in Second Life, is an extremely long time), VeGeTaL PLaNeT has consistently been an incredible place, with an evolving, but consistent vibe. This latest build puts that history into sharp focus, largely in art gallery form, but it also has an eye toward both the future of vroum’s art and that of an emerging collective of visual artists who have coalesced around VeGeTaL PLaNeT over the years. As someone who’s known vroum since nearly the very beginning of their time in Second Life, it’s been incredible to watch their body of work, as well as the scene that’s formed around it, grow.

[Image Description: video of a room in VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery in Second Life, showcasing vroum Short’s motion paintings, in this case, works that use grey, white, silver and purple colors on grey and black backgrounds. The largely circular objects in the paintings resemble vortexes, gears, and other geometric shapes, and appear to be in perpetual motion.]

[Image Description: a photo of Le Chat Noir, the nightclub that exists at the heart of VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery in Second Life. At top center, a sign reads “LE CHAT NOIR” in white, futurist lettering, just above a set of orange and black cat eyes. Below that, a black cat-themed DJ booth sits on the back center of the dance floor, which is black, with a layer of swirling primary blue fog close to its surface. Black cat-shaped couches, and cocktail tables are spaced throughout the main floor of the club. To the left and right of the dance floor, staircases lead up to the rest of VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery, labeled “GALLERY” in the same white lettering and futurist font as the “LE CHAT NOIR” sign. Just above the “GALLERY” signs, neon signs say “MORE UPSTAIRS” with an up arrow pointing toward the sky. Many bubbles of various colors float in the air from the ground up, throughout the club.]

At the center of VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery, there is also a nightclub, Le Chat Noir, where regular DJ nights (full disclosure: I have done, and will continue to guest DJ sets at Le Chat Noir in the future, as the venue’s regulars are awesome, but I am not a full-time employee of vroum Short and/or VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery), live performances, and art take place, and beneath it, a second outdoor performance space, The Garden, also hosts similar events.

[Image Description: video from The Garden at VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery in second life Luminescent alien-looking blue and orange plant life hovers above a glowing, bubbling lagoon.]

There will be two events at VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery this weekend (10/31/2020 and 11/01/2020), in The Garden, featuring live DJs. Kaia is a pretty great psydub (assuming I have my subgenres straight) DJ. I haven’t heard Jadeyu DJ before. oooOREOooo is…well, let’s just say they have to be seen to be believed, but I’m pretty sure their sets won’t be dull, to say the very least. Once you’re there, either before or after the event, I highly recommend exploring the gallery, as there are some great works of art there.

Below is video of the flyer I received for those events. Yes, I had to get video of a flyer, because there are three-dimensional, moving objects embedded in it.

[Image Description: an animated video flyer for VeGeTaL PLaNeT’s “VeGeT’ Halloween” event in Second Life. Lights and colors swirl around a surreal alien landscape with a moon that appears to be on fire, purple skies, and strange vegetation, decorated with sculptures of skulls with glowing eyes. The text of the flyer, in white lettering, reads…

“VeGeT’ Halloween

Saturday & Sunday

Oct 31 at 2 PM slt & Nov 1st at 1pm SLT

Les Chats Furieux presents:

Jadeyu – Kaia

oooOREOooo”]

vroum has taken a generous amount of time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions about the genesis and history of her work, the recent creation and opening of VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery, and the movement of artists that has spontaneously happened in her orbit. (It should also be said that all of vroum’s resident artists have been great about answering some of my very last-minute questions about their work that surfaced as vroum talked about them in the interview, as well, and I thank them kindly for that.)

I need new hobbies.: How did you get started on making art in Second Life?

vroum Short: Even before thinking and knowing that it was possible to make art on SL, I realized that everything visible on SL was made by avatars.

The creation! I am fascinated by everything I see. Who made this object? Why did they do it?

Twelve years ago now, I put down my first wooden cube and started to make basic, ugly but recognizable objects: a table, a chair…I soon realized my incompetence and understood that I wasn’t going to be very interested in making utilitarian objects on SL.

I then tortured cubes, obtained improbable shapes that I assembled and then I put on these deformed heaps of vegetal textures to which I added scripts for the movement. Very quickly I understood that I was going to need a very large field, as large as possible! A SIM!

I had no trouble finding a name for it, “la planète végétale” in French. I mixed English and French and it became VeGeTaL PLaNeT.

I need new hobbies.: How many distinct versions of VeGeTaL PLaNeT have there been in total, since you started?

vroum Short: There have been seven: Coral Spring (2008), Alaqua (2008-2010), Okabu (2010), Eternal Desire (2013), again Coral Spring (2015-2016), Oak Park (2017/2020) and Oreo (2020).

I need new hobbies.: Are there things you miss about any of the previous builds of VeGeTaL PLaNeT that, due to space, time, resource, design or other limitations, you can’t duplicate in the current space?

vroum Short: From the moment you create or install on SL, there comes a moment when something is always missing: available prims. How frustrating this limitation is!

Oreo is a concentrate of VeGeTaL PLaNeT, contained in galleries and boxes. This new gallery tells the story of VP. It was important to show the essential. For the moment, nothing is missing in this new version. In fact, it’s the opposite, everything is there. And when I say “everything” I include in priority my friends who are always present.

[Image Description: video of [VP 20] AMNIOS 05 vroum Short, a motion painting by vroum Short. Brightly colored liquid and gaseous shapes, mainly greens, blues and orange colored, swirl around on a black background.]

I need new hobbies.: When we last spoke at length, before the last VeGeTaL PLaNeT shut down, you’d mentioned some burn-out and needing to rest. How long did you actually end up resting before you started working on VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery?

vroum Short: For all these years, the successive constructions of the different Planets have required a lot of time and energy from me. Apart from the purely creative work, there are exhibitions to plan, events to organize…there comes a time when exhaustion is felt and it is time to stop. I closed Oak Park at the beginning of March 2020, shortly before COVID-19 really started to worry us. On March 17, the whole of France was confined. Planet Earth, too, was forced to rest.

I need new hobbies.: Approximately how long did it take you (in hours or days, whichever is easier for you to estimate), from concept to opening, to plan, build and curate the space?

vroum Short: My friends and I had taken care before the closure of Oak Park to rent a piece of land to meet up. We didn’t imagine that we would also be confined to SL for more than 2 months. Any desire to create had disappeared.

The 11th of May, the date of the deconfinement (in France), did not diminish our worries, but we started to discuss together a new project, that of creating a gallery to exhibit our respective creations. I found a quarter sim’s worth of space in a sim called OREO.

It took me two months to build and set it up. I took out of my inventory everything that could best represent the scope of my work over all these years. At the same time, Adwehe, Aneli Abeyante, Eylinea Seabird and Sasha Arivalhagan, VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery’s other resident artists, were installing their creations in their respective galleries.

[Image Description: video of a room in VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery in Second Life, showcasing vroum Short’s work, in this case highlighting works using the colors red, silver and black. An impressive array of sculpture, motion painting, and all sorts of use of light and reflection that I can’t begin to explain properly are visible in this video. At the center of the room, a small lounge is present.]

I need new hobbies.: Are there specific works of art within your gallery that you’re more personally invested in showing people than others at present, and if so, what are they?

vroum Short: What I consider to be the most important thing in all that I have been able to achieve on SL are the plant compositions. The creation of planets, atmospheres and environments that are always different. Unfortunately at the moment I don’t have ¼ of sim and there is no longer a planet as there used to be but I couldn’t help creating a small garden at ground level.

[Image Description: vroum Short’s painting [VP 20] VeGeTaL PLaNeT vroum Short. A painting on a vertical, rectangular canvas. In the painting, abstract designs resembling alien plant life from science fiction films, set against a background of globes that look like planets in the background, float on a metallic blue and silver background. The plant life designs are a blend of  blue. purple, pink, red, orange, and yellow, though the primary color of their composition and the planets in the distance is a purplish pink.]

I need new hobbies.: For I believe the first time, I noticed actual paintings from you in this iteration of the gallery. You’d mentioned, in a moment of mind-reading when you saw that I’d immediately bought prints of all of them, that your time painting was a short and unsatisfying one, but I found that the paintings you did were a pretty logical extension of your digital art, particularly [VP 20] VeGeTaL PLaNeT vroum Short. When you describe the work as unsatisfying, was it that the process was unfulfilling for you, that the results didn’t match up to your hopes for them, a mix of these things, or something else entirely?

vroum Short: The RL paint was a test. One day, an RL painter I met on SL encouraged me to paint. I bought all the necessary material, and I painted …

I didn’t hate painting, what weighed on me was the feeling of doing it without much enthusiasm, without a precise goal, without immediate sharing, without feeling a connection with people. It was a great moment of solitude. It takes real talent to paint, unlike SL, mistakes are hard to fix. As far as the result is concerned, I wasn’t very satisfied with it. Nevertheless, I admit that there is a link, not to say a resemblance between my RL paintings and my SL creations. I dared to exhibit them this time, because they are part of VeGeTaL PLaNeT’s history.

Even though I spend long hours working on SL and I am alone, my goal is to make something that will probably touch people emotionally. Just thinking that this is possible, I am already with them throughout the creative process. Of course I don’t know who these people are, I just know that some of them will react and we will necessarily have to communicate. On SL, satisfaction is present even before the painting is finished.

I need new hobbies.: Do you still have all of your physical world paintings, and if so, are any of them available for sale?

vroum Short: My paintings are in my attic. They are not available for sale.

I need new hobbies.: Another thing that’s new to VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery are the installations of what you call “Immersiv’Art” in the gallery. What can you tell us about those installations?

vroum Short: As far as Immersiv’Art is concerned, it is a concept that allows you to travel inside a painting. In front of some paintings present in the gallery, visitors can teleport themselves into different universes. Each artist who exhibits at VP builds their own installation and can modify it whenever they wish. We have chosen the name “Immersiv’Art”, but it could have been called “Have you ever wanted to enter a painting?”

[Image Description: video of vroum Short’s Splash, one of her “Immersiv’Art” installations in Second Life. Spilled paint of all sorts of bright colors swirl around in mid-air, among tubes and bottles of paint, paintbrushes, and pillows that match the various paint colors in a free-floating black environment. An avatar presenting as male with white skin, black hair and a black bodysuit lays on the purple pillow. In the distance, a canvas with pictures of the other “Immersiv’Art” installations is visible, as is a DJ rig.]

I need new hobbies.: What can you tell me about the other resident artists at VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery (Adwehe, Eylinea Seabird, Aneli Abeyante, and Sasha Arivalhagan, their work, and how they came to be the other residents in your gallery? Were they artists who rented space from you, then became friends, or were they friends of yours who started creating art in your space after they became friends?

vroum Short: Adwehe is a person I met just over a year ago, she was working in the VP sandbox. A beginner in creation, I understood that she was discovering the functionalities of SL tools. Her progress has been spectacular and I immediately loved the way she works with light and shadows. She now creates animated paintings and sculptures. Passionate about photography, you can see some of her pictures in her gallery. Adwehe also creates beautiful immersive locations. We quickly became friends and I am happy that she shares our life as a VP.

[Image Caption: video of Texture Painting – #1a by Adwehe. Over the course of three minutes, the colors and light, and objects contained in six panels of a large painting evolve completely through a spectrum of light and color. At around 2:40 in the video, the light in the first panel shifts on the box in it to reveal what looks like a picture of a dark, blurred figure.]

Aneli Abeyante is the founder of La Maison d’Aneli. Real-life painter, she is a person who devotes a lot of her time to RL/SL artists. She organizes monthly vernissages in her gallery to present the works of more or less known artists. Aneli allows us to discover new artists each time and the evolution of SL art over time. She also creates beautiful sculptures and animated paintings.

[Image Caption: a video of Cage, a motion painting by Aneli Abeyante. Blue and black bars shift throughout the video of the  painting, raising and lowering on a vertical plane while moving left and right on a horizontal one, and shimmering in blue light.]

Eylinea Seabird began creating 3D animated paintings a year and a half ago. The evolution of her work is rapid and I am sure she will continue to amaze us. As a drawing enthusiast, she is gradually starting to integrate them into her SL work. She also creates immersive places where moving sculptures reflect astonishing lights. She has her gallery in VP, her own gallery Art Is Tic, and several other exhibitions of Eylinea’s work are visible on SL.

[Image Caption: a video of Disco Square by Eylinea Seabird, a digital motion sculpture of a counter-clockwise rotating cube with two cubic, reflective compartments (top right and bottom left) on each side of the cube, balanced on a shiny black cone and a black cylindrical pedestal. The compartments reflect squares of yellow, light blue, pink, green, and purple onto the ceiling, and those lights, in turn, reflect shimmering colored light of those colors onto the shiny, textured black floor. In the background, Eylinea Seabird’s exhibition space at VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery is visible.]

(Content Advisory: while this is in no way whatsoever any sort of judgment on its quality, before we proceed, it needs to be said that Sasha’s work frequently and explicitly deals in themes such as human sexuality. Viewer discretion is advised, if you’re visiting Sasha’s gallery space.)

Sasha Arivalhagan is a genius in the art of transforming images. When looking at her work, we discover a multitude of Trompe l’oeil which directs our attention not to what is immediately visible, but to what is judiciously hidden. Each of her photographs is an invitation to play with light and shadow. I don’t know anyone who does this on SL. I am happy that we can finally appreciate her work at VP.

[Image Caption: Ravishing, by Sasha Arivalhagan. Against a bright yellow background, a person presenting as female with fair skin and orange hair smiles. Their left eye and the top of their head are cut out of the picture. Their neck and bare right shoulder are visible, and their hair, on the left side, appears to be wind-blown. Behind their right shoulder, two brighter, almost white spots are visible in the background, though it’s unclear if they’re windows or not. The larger and clearer of the two is diamond-shaped, from the angle the photo is taken, but could easily be a square window. The entire picture is in soft focus except for the right shoulder, and there is a dreamlike quality to it.]

[Image Description: A clubgoer, left center foreground, watches an array of orange, green and pink laser lights (done by Mario2 helstein) and bubbles at Le Chat Noir, the main nightclub in vroum Short’s Vegetal Planet gallery in Second Life, while vroum Short, right, dances in the foreground and yet another clubgoer, background center, dances near a table with a pink and purple cake and a bottle of champagne on it. Photo Credit: Scott Crawford]

I need new hobbies.: At the opening party you held at Le Chat Noir, you had someone doing a pretty incredible additional light show, which was (I believe) supplementing the standard light show in the club. Who did the lights, and what could you tell me about them?

vroum Short: The opening night was really successful. I was surprised to see Mario2 helstein who improvised an incredible particle show. He couldn’t have given a better gift to VP who was celebrating his 12th birthday. For me, Mario is one of the most talented artists in SL. He creates extraordinary particles that he stages in shows that he organises on a regular basis. A great work of synchronisation between sound and light effects. Emotions guaranteed! Mario also has a shop on SL where it is possible to buy particles, the most beautiful ever made.

I need new hobbies.: Who are some of the artists that have influenced your work? This can cover anything from people working in the same medium as you to things like film, music, etc., literally any art.

vroum Short: Artistically, nobody influenced me on SL. Nor did anyone teach me how to use SL tools for construction. When I started building VeGeTaL PLaNeT, I settled 20 metres underground, in an aquatic environment, in total apnea and above all out of sight. I wasn’t exploring SL because I was so busy with what I was experimenting with. I didn’t know that an artistic network was already well established, that there were galleries, painters, sculptors, musicians, poets…

In my real life, I had absolutely no interest in art, and when someone told me I was an artist one day on SL, I laughed.

My influences are related to real life. My source of inspiration comes from everything that has not been created by humans. Earth, oceans, animals, plants, the sky, stars, planets…these are elements that can be found in each of my creations.

I need new hobbies.: Approximately how many completed 3D animated paintings have you made in Second Life?

vroum Short: Impossible to answer precisely. Sometimes I make a hundred paintings so that at the end I have only one left. Most of my work germinates in files in my inventory. Out of 50,000 items I own, I would say that half of them are dedicated to my work.

[Image Caption: a video of [VP 20] ENERGY BALL 44 vroum Short, a motion painting by vroum Short. Against a white background, a white globe with a large black spot in its top half appears to be consumed by orange and yellow energy, while an orange-ish red fluid appears to be dripping from its yellow core.]

I need new hobbies.: Above and beyond the VeGeTaL PLaNeT builds themselves, how many different works of immersive art (3D spaces that people can walk around in and such), even before the “Immersiv’Art” installations began in this iteration of the gallery would you say you’ve made, in total?

vroum Short: Just like the number of paintings I have been able to create, it is impossible for me to know how many floral settings or immersive places I have been able to create. There is what’s buried in my inventory, waiting and tidy, and a whole bunch of possible constructions that are very present in my head.

[Image Description: video of a room in VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery in Second Life, showcasing vroum Short’s motion paintings, in this case, works that are black and white in nature, using black, white and grey colors exclusively. The artwork in these pieces, various geometric shapes, in perpetual motion, seems to move slower than in the other pieces showcased on this website. A lounge is visible in the right hand side of the room in the video.]

I need new hobbies.: If you’re comfortable discussing it, do the works of art you sell in Second Life, along with things like tip jar contributions at the gallery, provide you with an income above and beyond the gallery’s operating costs, or is this a labor of love that breaks even or less?

vroum Short: In 2008, I didn’t spend any money on SL. The sale of my paintings allowed me to pay the rent of my sim. In 2010 I was even able to pay the rent for two sims (Coral Spring and Alaqua) at the same time. Back then, the price of my paintings were 10 times more expensive than they are now. Visitors stayed long hours at VP, we took the time to chat, they bought paintings and were generous with tips. Those days are gone.

Currently on SL, it seems to me that artistically the only people who can interest people are musicians, singers and DJs. This is still great news. We are living in a time when we need to be comforted. Music is the best refuge there is.

I need new hobbies.: What’s been most satisfying for you about creating art in Second Life, and in general?

vroum Short: Second Life made me discover a new passion in my life, that of creating virtual objects. Nothing predisposed me to that. It seems to me that the possibilities in this field are infinite.

Beyond creation, I was far from imagining that it would be possible to forge such strong links with people. People who over time became real friends in my real life. Thank you Second Life!

I need new hobbies.: At the level of detail you’re comfortable giving us, what’s life like for you when you’re not in Second Life?

vroum Short: My life is calm, it takes place between a house where I live and a garden where I dream.

You can visit VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery in Second Life, or check out their Facebook Page for more information, including event dates/times.

You can also very affordably purchase copies of nearly all of the artwork of vroum’s (as well as that of Adwehe, Aneli Abeyante, Eylinea Seabird and Sasha Arivalhagan) that I’ve featured in this article at VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery, and I’ve provided direct links, whenever possible, to the areas of the gallery where you can find each piece I’ve featured, for your convenience. You should know that the gallery is MASSIVE, featuring hundreds, if not thousands of works of art, and while I encourage you all to explore it, if you’re looking for something specific, it definitely helps to know your way around.

Every new journey begins with a first step…

Ken Griffey Jr. baseball card

[Image Description: A custom Ken Griffey Jr. baseball card by Baseball Card Breakdown, in the style of 1991 ProSet Super Stars MusiCards. The card is a horizontal rectangular shape, with a yellow triangular upper right border, pink triangular lower left border with “KEN GRIFFEY, JR” written on it in black letters, the main photo in between those borders in what looks like a thick top left to bottom right diagonal line, and a black box in the bottom right hand corner with “Pro Set SUPER STARS MusiCards” written in white and purple letters, with a yellow star between “SUPER” and “STARS”. On the main picture of the card, baseball player Ken Griffey, Jr., a Black man with medium brown skin, visible from his ear and neck, and black hair, wearing a white Seattle Mariners baseball uniform with “GRIFFEY 24” written on the back, a blue undershirt, blue helmet, black batting gloves, black and white cleats, and carrying a black baseball bat behind him in his right hand, strides toward the on-deck circle, which has two bats and a rosin bag in it, on a clear day at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. In the background, baseball players, including one wearing a #3 uniform, are visible.]

Ken Griffey Jr. baseball card

[Image Description: a black box in the bottom right hand corner with “Pro Set SUPER STARS MusiCards” written in white and purple letters, with a yellow star between “SUPER” and “STARS”. A pink triangle with “KEN GRIFFEY, JR” written on it in black letters serves as the top border of the card, and two adjoined yellow triangles serve as the bottom border, with the main white space of the card forming a thick V shape. The main text of the card reads “There’s no denying the impact Ken Griffey Jr had on baseball in Seattle. The Mariners playoff run in 1995– highlighted by beating the Yankees in the ALDS– was due in large part to Junior’s performance down the stretch. The team’s play energized the city and helped secure a deal for a new stadium. The future security of a franchise long rumored to be on the move was locked up for years to come with the construction of Safeco Field, opening in 1999.” A black card number “24” is in the top right hand corner of the card, and at bottom left, along the left yellow triangle, a copyright notice reads “2020 Baseball Card Breakdown”.]

I think I did this right, or as best I could (both descriptions are a bit longer than I’m used to seeing these, but to use less text would leave out important information). To say that uniform standards for image descriptions are all over the place is a bit of an understatement, but I’m trying.

Anyway, it’s a lot of text, but now, people who come to this site will know what the images I’ve posted actually are. I can imagine that some of you are thinking “Wow, that’s a lot of extra work”, and it is, intimidatingly so, but, assuming that I’m doing it correctly, anyway (and please, reach out and politely tell me if I’m formatting this sort of thing incorrectly), it also means that people aren’t left out of what I do because they can’t see the pictures. I don’t know that I’m expecting everyone who reads this and has a website of their own to follow suit with this, but I’m gonna do my best, and of course, it’d be nice if people did follow suit.

To get to the other business at hand in this post, Gavin made this card, and, as I love the Super Stars MusiCards, I had to have one. It led to a trade where I got a few other great customs from Gavin, which I should be getting to in the much nearer future. They’re scanned already, and just need to be uploaded, described, and otherwise written about. I keep tellin’ y’all that regular posting is coming back, and gradually, it will be (I also have a big interview with a Second Life artist friend of mine just about finished, more cards scanned and ready to write about, and undoubtedly some other stuff to talk about), but I’m getting close here.

I should also mention that I have a slightly more general interest, but private Substack these days that’s seen A LOT of daily posts in this time between my posts here (yes, I’m cheatin’ on y’all). It doesn’t cost anything to join, but you cannot sign up by yourself. If you would like to sign up, please either let me know via email (including the address you’d like me to subscribe you at), or, if you feel comfortable putting that information in the comments, please do so.

Onto the next step!

…and then I disappeared for 4 months.

Sorry about that.

I did not abandon my mission or anything like that, and as you know if you follow me elsewhere, I am still alive and as well as I was before the pandemic started, from what my doctors and I can tell, anyway.

It’s just been something of a weird time to put aside the world’s troubles and think solely of hobbies, even if I am still engaging with mine. I will say that I’m doing so tentatively, for a variety of reasons. I’ve made a handful of card deals (thanks to Madding, Night Owl, AJ, Vossbrink and Gavin, and I hope I got everyone there), but haven’t quite managed to get all the scans done that I want to.

To talk a little bit more of cards, I also picked up something really awesome that I want to feature here, but again, for a variety of reasons, I haven’t had the time or energy to do it justice yet. Until 5 minutes ago, I hadn’t even opened it, even though I got it in late June, and that’s a damned shame, because it’s amazing, it’s something I think a lot of you are going to want to get for yourselves, and I’m glad that writing this post got me off my ass to look through it. I know that not even telling y’all what I got is a big tease, but I wanted to let everyone know I was alive here, before I started scanning and writing at length. It’s gonna be a little while longer on this one, too, because I have a lot of card backs to read, and a lot of card fronts to look at more closely. Stay tuned, and your patience will hopefully be rewarded.

I haven’t just been doing things with cards, though. While I’ve tried to keep the number of transactions I’ve made for frivolous things to a minimum, mostly because I don’t want people to have too much unnecessary contact with one another, here and there, I’ve grabbed some things. A record or two, a few DVDs, a couple video games, some comics, that sort of thing. I’ve not been in a retail store of any “non-essential” kind since March 6th (thankfully, my local comic shop does both curbside pickup and delivery), and my local flea market did the difficult but sensible thing and never opened up this year, but some stuff still found its way to me, and I’ve caught up on some other stuff. I even completed a few comic book series I’ve been working on collecting for a very long time: New Teen Titans Vol. 1 and All-Star Squadron, with the last issue of Son of Satan on its way to me as well, thanks to that eBay coupon (and thanks to Grogg for alerting me to that, as well, because I didn’t get an email notification about it).

A lot of this stuff, I haven’t spent time with yet, though, because again, it can be hard to focus on fun things with a series of looming existential threats around us all. As I’m able to get past all that, in tiny chunks, I’ll be telling you about it.

In the meantime, I hope that you’ve all been well and safe, or recovered fully if that wasn’t the case. I also hope that you’re managing to keep yourself busy with fun things on occasion, too.

A Thing About Image Captions

In the process of frantically wrapping up the year in review/hobby goals stuff overnight, I forgot to talk about a thing I’ve started working on.

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve added more thorough image captions to newer posts on this site (and while I honestly may not get to it all, I have intentions of doing this with my older posts over time, as well). If you haven’t noticed it yet, yes, it’s a thing I’m doing intentionally. This is a work in progress, and one I’m honestly finding to be pretty challenging, but I think it’s worthwhile work, not just for me and my site, but for all of us.

Somehow, I made it decades into my time on the Internet without thinking enough about how my posts, which are occasionally very visual in nature, were severely under-serving visually impaired people. This was a mistake, and I’m sorry that I made it. I’m far from alone in making this mistake, but that doesn’t mean I, or any of us, should just keep making it.

So, recently, I’ve started looking into best practices for captioning images for the visually impaired. This is still a work in progress, without a ton of agreement on a style guide that I’ve been able to find. (If you know of one that’s largely agreed upon, please let me know.)

With that in mind, I’m reading the things I can find on the subject, and am doing my best. On my best days, I’m not great at brevity, so I’m still working on being both concise and descriptive. If you do a lot of this work and have suggestions, please let me know.

If there’s anyone wondering how something like this applies to baseball cards, for instance: I grew up hearing stories about my great-grandfather (my mom’s grandfather), who lived with my mom’s family, and had lost his sight somewhere along the way. He was a big Brooklyn Dodgers fan, but he’d listen to any game on the radio or TV. I don’t know whether he had much exposure to baseball cards, even with younger grand-kids in the house, but given that he was a fan, the information on those cards was just as relevant to him as it is to anyone sighted. If Red Barber and Vin Scully could describe things about the game to him, then I can certainly try my best to do the same for everyone else.

More recently and personally, my eyesight has been deteriorating, most likely as a result of the head injuries I’ve sustained. My last concussion changed my prescription significantly. I can’t read most ingredient lists on food packages, or most card backs, without eyeglasses at this point. (Topps needs to start thinking about big, legible numbers on their cards soon, because their customer base is aging rapidly.) I’ve been pretty fortunate, in that I made it to my 40s without these issues, but it’s still frustrating to lose the ability to do things.

I try not to be a person who only cares about a thing if it’s happening to me, or to someone I know. Above, I noted that I should’ve been doing this work all along, regardless of how well I or anyone else I know can see. Sometimes, these anecdotes help other people understand experiences they may not have had, though, so I’m sharing. In a perfect world, people would do things to help people who need assistance because it’s part of being a decent person and a member of a functioning society. Alas, the world isn’t perfect, and plenty of us aren’t taught to do the right thing on stuff like this (absolutely my experience). So, if me talking about my great-grandfather listening to Dodger games or my not being able to read card backs leads to us making the Internet a better place in some small way, awesome.

This news about captioning also means that this site will transform in some other ways. I’m probably going to opt for shorter posts moving forward, with fewer images. In fairness, the amount of information, especially visual information I’ve included in some of my posts has been excessive at times. (No one *really* needed to see my entire 1971 Topps set, fronts and backs, in a single post.) This may also mean more posts from me, as I’ll be compartmentalizing information a bit more. We’ll see how all of that goes.

In the meantime, if you have thoughts about this subject (and please, be kind, not just to me, but in general), please let me know in the comments, or email me.

My Year in Hobbies 2019: The Wrap-Up, and 2020 Hobby Goals

OK, we’re here!

First, some stats without much context:

Comic Book Series Cancelled On Me: 9 (at least)

First-Run Movies Watched: 8

Series of Television Shows Binge-Watched: 12

Games of MobilityWare Multiplayer Solitaire played: roughly 4000

Mego-scale action figures acquired: 11

Trading Card Sets Completed or Acquired Complete: at least 4 (1951 Topps Ringside, 1989 Topps Senior League Baseball, 1992 Topps Stadium Club Baseball, 2008 Topps Football)

Video Games 100% Completed: 1 (No Man’s Sky, at least before the Beyond expansion. I’m way behind now, but hopefully will get back to it soon)

States Traveled To/Through: 7

Other Countries Traveled To/Through: 0 (first time since 2016, though my next foreign country could be a while, given what’s going on…)

Live Pro Wrestling Events Attended: 3

Live Pro Wrestling Events I Saw Lance Archer Wrestle At: 2

Live Pro Wrestling Events I Saw Orange Cassidy Wrestle At: 2

Live Pro Wrestling Events I Saw Kris Statlander Wrestle At: 2

So, how’d I do in 2019? I’m still here in 2020, at least for the moment, and you’re presumably still here, too, if you can read this, so let’s start right there. If I’m writing this, and you’re reading it, perhaps we don’t know what the future holds for us, but we’re here, now, and hopefully that doesn’t suck for you. I’m OK with it.

I was in bad, bad shape at the beginning of the year, because I somehow managed to give myself a severe concussion and a small skull fracture on my wedding day, as some of you may know. I’m furious at how on-brand that is (I have unfortunately had a ton of head injuries, especially for a non-athlete). I saw a lot of doctors last year, including three different neurologists and a vestibular therapist, who mostly had me play Wii Fit for the balance exercises (but it did help).

As I write this in April of 2020, just under 18 months from my wedding day, I’m feeling better than I did for most of 2019, though I didn’t really start to until December. I’m hoping that I continue to improve, I’m hoping that I don’t hit my head in any serious way ever again (it’d be a really bad thing at this point), and I’m of course hoping that none of the other things that are going on here in 2020 end up messing me up.

That probably looks more like general information than hobby-centric information, but it does help to be coherent, remember things, not have the room spinning and so forth if you’re pursuing a hobby, just as it helps to be able to spend time around other human beings and touch things that they’ve touched to do so. (This is going to color a LOT of 2020 in hobbies, but we’ll get back to that.) I just wanted to update my status, and talk a bit about the process.

I’ve actually had 2 years in a row where I’ve had serious health problems (2018 started with a serious flu and then a bunch of respiratory stuff which I’m coming to the conclusion was at least aggravated by allergies, if not caused by them entirely), and that can slow a person down a LOT. It has, too.

It’s also made me think a bunch about What Will Happen To My Stuff Once I’m Gone. Some of it, my spouse will want, and some of it, I’ve willed to people, but a lot of it is “just stuff”, no matter how cool I may think it is, and without me to love it and share it with people who happen to get to see it, it’s a burden on my loved ones. Unfortunately, right now, I think it’s a pretty bad time to be a seller of physical goods (there we go with 2020 intruding on the 2019 talk), so until I hear otherwise, any attempts to downsize are probably on the shelf.

I can say that, at least for the moment, I am feeling better and making better health choices than I have in quite a while (or am at least starting to), and hopefully that leads to me sticking around for a long time in relatively good health, but these are really uncertain times.

Onto some actual hobby talk!

Just As A Reminder: I started writing about my 2020 hobby goals by clarifying what goes where. That’s still current, I think.

Trading Cards: I decided (and this has been building for years) that I’m really not that excited about new and recent physical trading cards (baseball, in particular) anymore in 2019, so it’s looking like 2020 may be my last year of trying to collect new baseball sets (which are the only new sets I’m still building). It’s a nice, round number, 2020. It’s a year where we all may have a real hard time getting product anyway, because the world’s on fire. It seems like a million years ago now, but there’s also that small matter of issues with the integrity of the game of baseball that came up over this winter, issues that made me not so thrilled about two of my player collections (Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman; thankfully, I’ve not invested a lot of money in either, but I was enjoying watching them play before this all came to light, and I don’t know that I’ll be able to continue doing that whenever/if baseball resumes).

I just think it’ll be easier for me to have a cutoff point, for space reasons, for “not just trading away old cards for new ones” reasons (though I’ve been pretty successful at building Topps sets I couldn’t afford to keep up with over the past few years by doing this), and for “maybe I should focus on older cards” reasons. I started 2020, so I will work toward finishing the sets I’ve started or have an interest in (Topps, Heritage, Allen & Ginter, Stadium Club, and Donruss, if they’re all made available; physical comic books have been disrupted, so it stands to reason that baseball cards could be, too), but from there, I think I’m just going to collect players I collect, and work on finishing the older sets, once we’re able to shop and trade normally again, if we are. If physical cards are still a thing, I’ll probably buy a few packs here and there, just to do it, and trade off what I’m not excited about. I reserve the right to change my mind if there ends up being an amazing set of cards in the future, but I’ll be able to focus on that better than I would if I keep just putting in time on this stuff for completism’s sake, too.

With that said, I finished the biggest physical card set I’ve ever built in 2019 (1992 Stadium Club Baseball), and as I said above, I made some really nice strides on the past few years’ card sets in trades by shipping off some older bulk cards for the newer stuff . I didn’t get a ton of cards in 2019, but I got some really fun stuff, and I completed a card set from 1951, so I guess I did OK.

I should mention here that, since I am differentiating “physical” cards, 2020 Topps Bunt has been the most fun I’ve had in years with any of the Topps digital products, and also that I’ve been collecting New Japan Pro-Wrestling digital wrestling cards in their NJPW Collection app. Topps rolled out digital cards in a few other licenses since I was last paying attention, and when I catch my breath from whatever’s going on right now, I’ll be poking at those, too. Digital cards could end up being a way for me to feel like I’m in touch with the hobby during the downtime between now and when it’s safer to touch other human beings’ belongings again.

Comic Books: It’s a weird time to be a comic book collector. As I type this, there is no new physical comic book distribution happening in the United States for the first time in the history of the business, and it’s been hanging on by a thread for years now, because of mismanagement both by the comic companies and the distributor that has a near-monopoly on the comics market. Where back issues are concerned, the comic books I collect can be close to worthless forever, until someone licenses a property for a TV series, and then I can’t get my hands on them at all because of speculators. I love comics, but comics don’t always love me. With that said, I made solid strides toward finishing, yes, finishing the collection I started as a kid, and even if new physical comic book sales don’t happen all that often anymore moving forward, I will hopefully get to complete a library that 10 year old me would be proud of in the relatively near future.

Video Games: I got and played some video games that I absolutely love in 2019 (Stardew Valley comes to mind), and played deeper into No Man’s Sky, which is one of the best games of all time in my view. With that said, I’m playing video games less than I’d like to be, and I want to work on that in 2020. I have a few new ones to work on (Coffee Talk and Untitled Goose Game), a few other newer games I have my eyes on, and I pretty huge back catalog of games. I’ve been thinking of downsizing some here, too, and eventually I will, but again, not a great time to be trying to sell physical objects, so I’ll just try to play what I have more often, see what I enjoy playing, and eventually, put the games I don’t enjoy or haven’t been playing in the hands of people who’ll enjoy them more, ideally without some of the regret I have over selling things too soon or under duress (Panzer Dragoon Saga, anyone?). I’ll also continue seeing how high I can make my online Solitaire ranking, because that’s fun.

Tabletop and Other Games: Will there be a fantasy baseball (or real baseball) season this year? Will my D&D group be in the same room with one another any time soon? These are tough questions to answer. As for fantasy baseball, 2 out of 3 of my leagues drafted teams a week and a half ago, so we’re ready to go if MLB is. The other league will draft when an announcement of a start time is made. The DM of my D&D group and I have been talking a little about remote play, and hopefully once he finishes a project he’s working on at the moment, we can all give that a try (which would also widen the base of available players we may have to play with).

Internet: I expect that there’ll be a lot of this. The past few weeks have been kinda Wild West, with people embracing new platforms and then sharply turning on them in some cases (hi, Zoom). Where the one I talk about here the most (Second Life) is concerned, I’m still there, and Heck is, too, but it’s been pretty quiet since the fall. There’s been an uptick in activity since the quarantines started, unsurprisingly, but I’m not sure where my little club fits into all of that. It’s tough for me, because my sleep issues make it difficult for me to schedule events there. Right before the shit hit the fan, Vegetal Planet closed, as well, so there’s a vroum Short-sized hole in the grid that no one’s figured out how to fill yet. We’ll see what’s what. I did have a better than average year at Heck in 2019, with a few busy months, new DJs at the club and so forth, but it’s tough to maintain momentum on stuff like that, especially on a platform that people think died years ago, and one that Twitch banned from streaming years ago.

Live Events and Travel: At least I got some of this in during 2019, because it’s gonna be dire for a while. There are bigger priorities (really, bigger than any of what I’ve been talking about here), like simple survival, but I’m going to miss going out and doing stuff, even though I often struggle with not wanting to go out and do stuff. I hope we’re all back to it soon. I’ll think back on 2019 things like seeing a sunset at the Gulf of Mexico, standing in front of Salvador Dali paintings, meeting Tomohiro Ishii, getting to see Julia Michaels, Wand, Massive Attack, Choir Boy, P-Funk and Fishbone, and even just visiting new-to-me book shops or hitting the flea markets in the meantime.

Toys: Mego were firing on all cylinders as 2019 began, and then around mid-year, their distribution got weird, and I haven’t been able to get the figures I’ve wanted from them since. It’s been disappointing. I did get some other cool action figures during 2019 (lots of DC Directs), but I was in a holding pattern for a while before COVID-19 showed up, and I predict that I’ll remain that way for a while. Bigger fish to fry right now, of course, but it’s still sad when you can’t do fun stuff. Even if everything returned to “normal” tomorrow, I don’t know that I’d run into much in the way of toys I love that I can afford at the moment.

TV and Movies: I watched a bunch of fun stuff, and I’m continuing to do so. I’ll be talking about that over at my other website from here out. I covered a bunch during this Year in Review thing, but I decided midway through writing it that, unless I’m talking about physical artifacts (Blu-Rays, etc.), the place for that is over there.

Overall: While I complained about it a bunch as it was happening, and went through some hard times during the year, 2019 was a pretty good time, relative to this present moment. 2020 is a weird and scary time. I hope it becomes less of a weird and scary time soon. I hope you all stay healthy and safe, and I hope that we all stay in touch, find ways to stay connected to the hobbies we love during the downtime, and make our way back to something resembling normalcy as soon as we can. When the goal for the current year is just to physically survive and stay in good health, the other stuff becomes a really distant second, but that doesn’t make us love it any less, I don’t think. Be well, and like I said, please stay in touch. I wanna know that y’all are doin’ OK, or be able to offer whatever support I can if you’re not. Take care, until then!