|The Head of I'mSoNotaDiva Bartlett|
Looking Good in a Pumpkin
The Bob Saga
XXXVII: The Unveiling
Using the notecard illegally copied by Neelix Nesselrode, Sweetie and I, in disguise, jumped to I'mSoNotADiva Bartlett's unveiling.
We had no idea what, exactly, Diva would be unveiling as her premiere piece of criminal performance art, but both of us suspected it might have something to do with our Bob. Our plan was to protect our 30-foot, 40-ton, deified granite purloined drinking bird at all costs.
We had purposefully arrived early so we could scout our surroundings, but apparently everyone else had jumped early to avoid the rush. We were barely able to get in.
We had materialized at night, in a valley surrounded by low hills. Behind us, a bridge vanished into the distance. In front of us, firefly particles and tiki torches provided soft light while vendors sold ImSoNotADiva t-shirts from a line of tents. We Heart Diva pennants flapped in the wind.
"Remarkable," said Sweetie. "There are more than a thousand people on the sim. How is that possible?"
"Stolen technology!" I said. "Diva must be using the new Open Sim software. In her former capacity with the U.S. Justice Department she would have access."
"Looks like she gets 45,000 prims, too," said Sweetie. "I'm envious. Are you certain we're not in InWorldz?"
"Nope, we're on the Agni grid. It's Second Life."
"Any sign of Bob?"
"My Conover's object scanner isn't showing him," I said, "but parts of the sim are no-build. He could be in any of them."
"Oh, I think Diva is about to make her entrance," Sweetie said. Then, louder, in her best fake Cockney accent, "Scones! Get your carmel-covered throwing scones 'ere! Three for two Lindens or five for twenty Lindens."
"Five for twenty?" I asked.
"For those poor at math," Sweetie said smugly, "it's a bargain."
Diva-- or, rather, Diva's head, arrived in a shower of particle effects, escorted by four Bay City policemen on horses emblazoned with the words Fast, Easy, Fun (n.b., Linden Lab's latest stupid catch phrase). The crowd grew hushed.
Diva began. "Ladies, gentlemen, ladies pretending to be gentlemen, gentlemen pretending to be ladies, humanoids of indeterminate sex, robots, vampires, tinies, furries, artists, agents, promoters, critics, curators, and patrons, I welcome you tonight to a celebration of the birth of something new and vital to the virtual universe-- criminal performance art!"
"Someone is actually applauding her!" hissed Sweetie. "Can you believe it?"
"Sorry," I said.
"Why is it art?" thundered Diva through a wall of speakers. "Why? Because I say it is! Why is it criminal? Because it's against the law! And why is it a performance? Because it requires a lot of energy and ingenuity to pull off something this clever!" The crowd roared.
Sweetie was busy dispensing her caramel-covered throwing scones, and it seemed to me she was selling a lot in the pen in which the journalists were corralled. I dunno, maybe journalists aren't good at math.
Diva's head-- that being all that was left of her these days-- was embedded in a carved pumpkin and spectacularly lit by a phanyx of no-doubt stolen nuclear avatar personal lights. It was flanked by two pillars of stone.
Wait! Were the stones moving? Yes, they were!
"Pssst!" I said to Sweetie. "Those rocks are the golems!"
"Yes," Sweetie said. "Here, Sleezy, have a free caramel scone."
The golem on the right reached out a clay arm and lifted Diva's pumpkin high into the air. As the crowd cheered, Diva continued her speech. "For too long Second Life art has consisted of particle emitters moving in random patterns," she screamed. "For too long Second Life art has consisted of strangely-shaped prims stacked atop one another and called sculpture! For too long Second Life art has consisted of imported first-life photographs in one-prim frames! For too long Second Life art has been pretense wrapped in ego and pasted onto prims! For too long Second Life art has manifested itself as first-life architecture brought to virtual space. For too long Second Life art has been musicians singing other people's songs in their bedrooms in their underwear to people in their own bedrooms in their own underwear! For too long Second Life art has consisted of ripped-off quotations pasted in avatars' profile pages!"
Diva continued as the crowd-- with the exception of the reporters' area, which was uncharacteristically quiet-- screamed in approval. "Art is what I say it is!" she shouted. "I'm the-- yes, I'm going to say it-- the ultimate Diva of SLart!"
The audience was going nuts. "What has been lacking is the criminal element! A van Gogh is just a van Gogh," she said, "but a STOLEN van Gogh-- that's art!
"Art must have a criminal element," she screamed. "What is Linden Lab's permissions system but a deliberate attempt to suppress our ability to steal objects to create art? What are the Terms of Service but a plot to destroy our ability to pursue our criminal careers? We must be free to take what is not ours-- for our art! For our art!"
"Yaaaay!" typed the audience.
"My new criminal performance piece-- which we will now unveil-- will re-establish art in Second Life-- and it won't be just art-- it will be art as it was meant to be, made vibrant by cunning, conniving, and thuggery. I call it Criminal Performance Art! I urge you to avail yourself of our fine line of CPA t-shirts, postcards, and embossed mugs."
The crowd, thanks to cunningly hidden poseballs, did The Wave as the leftmost golem shuffled over to a huge white-draped form.
"Bob!" I shouted. "Bob is under there!"
Diva continued. "Our first piece in the new school of Criminal Performance Art is under this drape," she said. "On my signal, my henchm-- assistant here-- will pull the cord and reveal what is beneath.
"We found this piece of art neglected on the sim of Whimsy," she said, "where it had been reliably rocking back and forth for more than two years. It being our prerogative, we took it.
"What makes this work so exceptional," she said, "was the effect on its creators and former owners. They responded predictably, and we drew them out with a series of clever postcards and false ransom demands. We cleverly manipulated one of them into providing month-long coverage (and hence publicity) in her blog.
"Until now no one has DARED to blend criminality with art. We are the first--"
An amplified voice suddenly cut Diva off. "J'Accuse!" it roared.
"Who said that?" screamed Diva, as the crowd wheeled to look at-- Sweetie.
"You lie!" Sweetie yelled through her freebie megaphone. "You're not the first!"
"I know that voice," said Diva. "You! You!"
"You're not the first criminal performance artist," said Sweetie. "I'm the first!"
"No! You can't be!"
"I'm her nemesis," said Sweetie, in a confidential aside to the crowd. Then, through the megaphone, "Who embarked upon a life of high-fashion crime, wearing only the most in-vogue designer dresses and stole only the most exclusive designer items? The Fashionista Bandits, that's who! And who are the Fashionista Bandits? Me! And Cheyenne!"
"I know nothing," I said to the stunned crowd. "Nothing!"
"Who broke the security at the Moulin Rouge and blogged about it? Me! Who broke into the Bay City Police Department and turned their bland office into high concept space? Who removed their accursed donuts and replaced them with that ultimate of pastry art, the beignet? Who? Me!"
"It was all her," I said, as the policemen on horseback began to edge toward us.
"Whose illegal redesign of the horridly-textured scanners of the Teleportation Security Authority inspired a 15-part blogline about her crimes and subsequent trial? It was me. It was me! It was all me!"
"It was her," I said.
"What was all that if not performance?" Sweetie said. "What was it if not art? What was it if not criminal? You're not the first. You're a fraud, Diva!"
"Seize her!" screamed Diva, and the police horses broke into a trot, headed toward us.
"Look at me," yelled Sweetie. "Just look at me! I'm the very picture of the modern criminal performance artist! I'm the original! And I'm here to stop this travesty!"
"You're too late," screamed Diva. She gestured (with her eyes, of course) at the golem beside the draped figure. It pulled on a cord, and the drape fell.