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Gentleman Takes Polaroids – a 2021 retrospective

I started last year’s retrospective with “So, 2020. That sort of happened, didn’t it?”

So, 2021. That—  Yeah, no. Let’s get off on a better foot than that, and dive right into this post. It’s two days before Christmas as I start writing this, and that’s no time to ‘Bah, humbug’ at the world. Let’s take a look at some of my favourite things from my digital life this year, both inworld and out. And there will be a few more categories this time around, so prepare for a deeper delve than last year.

However, as always, we will begin with…

Okay, I’ll admit it: I cheated a teeny bit on this one. There are more than twelve images, since I literally couldn’t pick and choose for a couple of months. So, in no particular order…

I did somewhat lose my fashion mojo (gasp!) toward the end of the year, so my Flickr output slowed down a little. However, in the above series of composites I have a few of what I honestly regard as some of my favourite images I’ve ever taken of my avatar. The advent of EEP, in particular, really upped my lighting game (and I’ll admit that I was a very late adopter of EEP; I waited until almost the last minute, as Firestorm was about to block the final non-EEP viewer that I still happened to be using). I played around a lot more with lighting and specific post-processing effects this year – particularly things such as light leaks – and I really liked the results. One of the above images is even my desktop background at the moment, but I’ll leave you to guess which one it might be ;-)

Full sized images of all the above shots can be found on my Flickr.

I tried not to duplicate the above images in this next section, but… uh… I don’t think that’s possible. Here we’re going to go into a bit more detail over some of my absolute favourite looks of the year. Links will come directly from my Flickr, so if they’re not showing up for you just come back to this post in a few hours (once Flickr is over its latest episode of ‘Bad Panda’ issues).

We start with a simple portrait:

You know me: I’m all about the cheekbones, and I snagged a set of gorgeous contours from Cazimi in one of the weekend sales. Together with a gorgeous EEP setting they made for this portrait shot that is – for me – one of my images of the year. Vango really upped their hair texture game (I’ve been buying pretty much everything they release lately) and I spent a lot of 2021 wearing far more simple and classic looks like this (when I wasn’t doing The Fashion Thing).

OK, I did say there would be some repeats:

A couple of really old system items (the shirt and corset) used in BoM format, and updated with some newer mesh items. I had a lot of fun with my BoM Redux series this year, where I dig back through my Flickr to find old looks and update with using BoM and mesh. The look above wasn’t exactly a BoM Redux, but yet again BoM gave me reason to bless my packrat tendencies and my inveterate habit of never throwing away anything. Dear god, did my already-stuffed inventory explode this year after I started unpacking all of those archived system items. I’m still slowly wading through the detritus and telling myself I really should try all that shit on and get rid of (nope, no good; I can’t do it) box up all the stuff that really doesn’t work.

This next one was a BoM Redux. You can see the original system look – taken back in 2015 – here:

This was almost identical to the original look. I just added the mesh jeans, boots, and gloves. And, of course, the mesh body and head, as well as… yep, mesh nipples. Some of those old system skins had nips that looked a bit… weird on my Legacy body ;-)

Syd, of course, needs to have an outing, otherwise he’ll never let me hear the last of it:

Once again, Hotdog graced inventories around the grid with a selection of weird and wonderful items, and this shrapnel coat was no exception. I love the way this appears to glitter in the light. This was one of those rare looks when I flung this on, then grabbed that, added this hair and that makeup, and it just all came together in a very short space of time. Those are the magical looks; the ones that seem to create themselves.

And, finally, the look that I have waited years to recreate in SL, and I at last got to do it thanks to Wings Hair:

An homage to David Sylvian’s look, during Japan’s Gentlemen Take Polaroids era. I did a spoof cover of the album many years ago in 2011, but the second I tried on the demo of this hair I actually – and literally – shrieked. It’s absolutely perfect, and Wings have been releasing style after style that reminds me of all those gorgeous boys in makeup in the 1980s (Sylvian’s Quiet Life era look followed literally a few weeks after the above image).

As with last year, the weekend sales expanded my inventory considerably. In the general realm of clothing, ContraptioN and Hotdog once again stood out in the depressing morass of sweatpants, sweatshirts, tank tops, sneakers, and hoodies. Toksik, also (dear god, thank you for that sale!), Rodex, Ascend, ERAUQS, Gild, and ArchiveFaction.

I’ve actually reined in my spending (yeah, I know; I’ll give you a minute to catch your breath after that admission) toward the end of this year. I realised I was buying things and then never even unpacking them; that ‘just in case I need it for a photoshoot’ mentality that so many of us bloggers struggle to shake off. I’ve started to ask myself things like, “Am I actually going to get more than one photo out of this?” If the answer is “no” then I (usually – I did say it’s a hard habit to shake off!) pass it by.

Yay! New section! This will by no means cover every new-to-me store that I found this year, but I want to highlight just a very small handful of creators whose work I absolutely loved.

Vango – Okay, yeah yeah. I didn’t find them this year, but – while I’d bought one or two styles from them in the past – their texturing and styling was insanely good from around the end of 2020 and into 2021, and I’ve been buying a lot more styles from them. They sell as fatpacks only, but at such incredibly reasonable prices, and they can usually be found at the big menswear events such as Man Cave

Wings Hair – This one just about squeaks in as a 2021 discovery for me, as I think my first purchase was sometime around January? The ombre HUD for Wings hair became my go-to for quite some time earlier this year, and once those 80s styles started coming out I had to start fatpacking them.

Mizu – Some of the most amazing animated items I’ve seen in SL have come from Mizu this year. I discovered them at Fantasy Fair, and bought all three of their items on sale there. Since then, if I see a new animated item release, I’m almost guaranteed to get it

Deep Static – I blogged Deep Static’s gorgeous eyewear earlier this year, but what sold them for me (apart from the great styles) was the way the arms of the glasses can be edited separately, since they’re part of a linkset rather than one single object with the glass frames. As someone who has always struggled to get glasses to not dig into the sides of his head without editing them to be too big, this is an absolute godsend.

I struggled with this one last year, trying to narrow it down. This year I decided “Sod it”. No restrictions. So here’s what made my ears happy and kept me going throughout 2021. First up, the albums:

I was lucky to be able to work from home for most of this year. I have a job that requires quite a bit of mental focus, so I listened to a lot of lofi and a lot of soundtracks, mostly on repeat. Sometimes I need something quiet, so I can really focus, and other times I need something absolutely bangin’ so I can crack on with a massive task. Spreadsheets go a lot more easily when you’ve got synthwave blasting into your ears ;-)

As an aside, you can find my Spotify Wrapped for this year currently in the sidebar of the blog.

The individual tracks were a bit trickier to narrow down, but some absolute standouts for me this year included one or two oldies (and, in fact, one really oldie):

Lena Raine was such a musical discovery for me this year. As you’ll see when we get into the final section of this retrospective, something that very few people know about me is that I’m a bit of a Minecraft nerd. Lena Raine’s contributions to the almost sacrosanct existing Minecraft soundtrack are absolutely stunning. I struggled to choose between Rubedo from the Nether Update soundtrack, and Left to Bloom from the Caves & Cliffs Update soundtrack. I finally went with Rubedo, buuuuuut… ya know what? I’m going to give you Left to Bloom as well, because I put together these composite images before that track really got under my skin, and before I heard it for the first time in-game. I had just entered a beautiful meadow biome filled with flowers, the sun was beginning to set, and I just stood and watched it dip below the horizon as this beautiful track played out (before I smacked down my bed on the ground and hastily slept away the night before I could get creeper’d…) I’ve heard it several times in-game since then, and every time, I stop dead and just listen.

It starts just like raindrops:

And since I’ve touched on it already, the final category for this retrospective:

I have to preface this section by saying I’m not someone who seeks out triple-A games. I love the indie stuff, the weird stuff, the Steam Greenlight stuff. Sure, I’ve played some big games, but I’m not actually a fan of FPS titles. My thing is building stuff up, not shooting at or tearing it down. I adore games where I get to explore and build things, be that bases, factories, colonies, or empires, and I’m that weirdo who actually enjoys the early grind of some games. Go figure!

So, what games have I spent so many hours in that my eyeballs metaphorically dried up in 2021? You might be surprised by some of these…

Minecraft – I’ve already mentioned this one, so it won’t come as a surprise. This is a game where I love the early grind. Once my base gets automated to the point where I don’t need to do much (and sometimes that can be as quickly as my first few simple food, fuel, and iron farms) I’m itching to start a new world. And the new 1.18 update with its incredible new terrain generation is proving to be a wonderful place to explore. Who the hell I should link you to for this is anyone’s guess, but I love the Hermitcraft SMP, so maybe check some of them out; Season 8 literally ended yesterday with 18 ‘Hermits’ all dropping videos within one hour of each other. If you’ve never played before, but your interest is piqued, there is nobody better qualified to teach you Minecraft than Pixlriffs with his Minecraft Survival Guide.

PowerWash Simulator – If you’ve not seen at least one Big Name YouTuber raving about how weirdly satisfying this game is, then where the hell have you been this year? Yep, it’s a game about washing stuff clean, and it is insanely addictive, as well as satisfying. Just make sure you remember to blink now and then, because your eyeballs really are at risk of drying up with this one… Link: Full playlist of all levels by OfficialStuffPlus.

Graveyard Keeper – “I’m so refreshed!” With its fourth DLC released this year, this ultra-dark (yet cartoonish) 7 Deadly Sins themed game sees your character flung back in time and managing a graveyard, morgue, and church, while dealing with Communist donkeys and a disembodied talking skull with amnesia and a penchant for alcohol. What other game gives you the recipe for making burgers when you’ve sliced the first bit of flesh from that corpse on your autopsy table? Link: Playlist of base game and some DLCs by Aavak.

Rimworld – Crash landing on a planet with a useless chinchilla for a pet, gathering enough materials to start building a base, pyromaniac wanderers deciding to join your colony and having a mental break in the middle of your chemfuel depot, learning to brew beer and noticing ten minutes later that your chinchilla is now absolutely hammered after consuming half the production of your brewing stand, cargo pod drops of human meat, mechanoid raids… ahhh, what a wonderful worrrrld… Rimworld is the best storytelling game out there, if you bother to read all of the backstories and little flavour texts riddled throughout the game. Link: The best Rimworld series on YouTube (imo) – Pete Complete’s Ice Sheet Survival Challenge, with Cambiar the Cannibal (do yourself a solid and watch some of this, or at least watch the original launch trailer, and make sure you pause the video to read those reviews).

No Place Like Home – Like PowerWash Simulator, this is another ‘clean up the world’ game. I bought into this in very early access. In a post-apocalyptic world where almost everyone has abandoned Earth for Mars, you play Ellen: a young girl with a big vacuum and even bigger drill. Piles of trash are literally everywhere, guarded by jumping, spitting robots. Pro tip: always carry a well around with you for that handy-dandy water spray refill. Robot go brr! Link: One-hour ‘first taste’ playthrough video by Aavak.

Honourable mentions: Townscaper (not even so much a game as it is a relaxing little thing to open up and noodle around with during your lunchbreak), Stardew Valley, Starbound, and Factory Town.

This was a year for me realising that enough Bad Shit™ was happening out there that I didn’t want to bring more of it into my own life. I quit several online places that were doing my mental health no favours, be that stressing me out or winding me up and making me angry. I quit Facebook, I quit one particular forum that I used to frequent a hell of a lot, I quit my RL Twitter account (Skell’s Twitter is still around, but it mostly links to blog posts and Flickr pics, with only the occasional SL-related thing). I quit watching so much mainstream news and sought out more solutions-focused journalism.

And that’s this year almost wrapped up, my sartorial darlings. I hope you’ve enjoyed this slightly deeper dive into my online life, both SL and non-SL. My darling Daros has been there throughout for me; the beloved constant in my life in this bonkers and stressful world we find ourselves in. Thank you for always being there for me, for so many years. Love you to bits, gorgeous <3

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.

Skell x

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