Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hearts & Souls and the Great Halloween Heist by the Team From Hell

Disclaimer: When I post about negative experiences it is rarely if ever out of any smug satisfaction.  There are no winners.  It is a "buyer beware" as I stumble through the metaverse.  The next posts definitely serve this purpose.  Those not aware of to whom I refer have a story from which to learn from any mistakes I've made and spot warning signs in advance.  Those who know these people and find me relating a story: take it for what it is; there's no glory in it for me. I always blog with the expectation that someone is going to find out, whether there are tattlers or not. This is The Internet.

I don't like biting my tongue.  It turns fiends into tyrants. The George Zimmermans of the world are let go after performing atrocities and in their mind they have been condoned and are at liberty to do it again.

As some recall I've blogged about a sexual predator who was revered in a community and in time elevated to martyr as I shut my mouth and disengaged from them so I would no longer see her notices or her name everywhere.  Why does the victim have to go?  If these crimes were reported anywhere  nearly as often as they occur and were taken to heart instead of denied with a turn of heads or mocked by the stigma circus, I'd have less reason to see it as a flaw in human DNA.

So let's revisit something I wrote in 2012 about fundraising.  Some people become overzealous and feel their objective is above the law much less basic courtesy, thereby clearing the way for themselves to perform rude, unethical, sometimes unspeakable acts in the name of a higher cause (sounds almost like humanity's MO, doesn't it?).  Mind you there isn't a legitimate charity in existence which wants to be associated with unethical practices or anything which could give them a bad reputation.  It's dirty money, plain and simple. Another kind of predator and another kind of prey.

For those unfamiliar with Relay For Life of Second Life, it is *a* team as recognized by The American Cancer Society.  It is comprised annually of dozens of sub teams - aka inworld teams - any of which may operate under an array of circumstances and apply any variety of methods.  There are guidelines which when followed preserve the integrity of donations and one hopes the reputation of the American Cancer Society brand, but with so many operating independently of eachother, one can't ever be too sure. On the other hand, with so many inworld teams there are choices and a group for just about anybody to slip comfortably into.

That said, let me bring up the purpose of this post. There are Relay for Life of Second Life teams which raise gobs of money, and that's great.  There is one however that my team fell prey to in 2014. They exude a bubbly enthusiasm on the outside, and the moment RFL of SL relaxed their rules regarding dedicated committee positions, several of their members fell into dual roles (I've always been of the opinion that this policy anywhere at anytime is a conflict of interest and an invitation to corruption.  However this point is for another blog post).

I had a friend on their team plus their captain worked as an events coordinator at the start of the 2014 Relay season, therefore we had an amicable rapport.  There was no warning of what we were in for.

For those who have not been active in RFL of SL in recent years, since 2014 Relay Season there have been opportunities for teams to borrow the use of entire sims for large events free of charge.  In May of that year the captain of this team approached me with a proposal to collaborate on a weekend event on one of these sims to showcase teams which had not raised much thus far. Her vision was to bring these underdogs to the forefront and give them an opportunity to increase their totals into Bronze status (US$40) or higher.  It sounded like a very noble cause. 

Mind you their team was already Platinum (over US$2000 raised) or thereabouts while we may have squeaked into Silver (over US$400) by then.  We discussed a theme - I think she had something country or hayridish in mind - I honestly don't recall.  When I suggested Halloween she loved it; we'd hold a meeting to bring our teammates into the planning. 

We met in my TARDIS, which at the time served as our team's clubhouse, to work out who would do what.  One of ours would put together a hunt. One of theirs would landscape the sim based on our discussions. I would get the talent together for events including something big for Saturday night. They would set up booths for team sales. Before I invited DJs etc they indicated I would receive a list from them of prospective names to contact. Their co-captain (whom I will call JayZee) said the list would comprise of talent from smaller teams as well as theirs (at the time I was our only DJ).  Okay.  We'd also take on early Sunday evening 3:30-5pm SLT with one of us hosting their weekly 7seas Fishing contest on site and offer exclusive trophies and contest prizes.

It was also decided (not by me) to keep the weekend quiet & not promote it for participants (their list would cover that).  I'd also suggested inviting Relay Rockers to host a BYOK (bring your own kiosk) and work out maybe a Relay Rap (T1 Radio broadcasts an excellent talk show each week during Relay season) on location, but those two ideas were turned down. Certainly we could listen while those of us fished since we did that anyway each week, but Okay.

We'd use Google Docs to plan and schedule - meh all right.  At any rate we were set and it was going to be a great weekend.

First sign of trouble came early.  A few days later I asked their captain whether she knew if JayZee had the list of contacts ready.  I got a very defensive you're-backing-me-into-a-wall response.  Like catching a kid who is sneaking cookies & is trying to deny it while holding the goods.  I thought that was an odd sort of tone and instinctively my mind wanted to run screaming from a potentially bad arrangement.  But for the team I'd let it roll off; maybe she just had a bad day or something.

Our hunt person loved hunts but never organized them before.  I explained this wasn't gridwide and just involved getting creators to participate in putting objects a la scavenger hunt throughout the sim in specially shaped RFL hunt prims.  Placement would be such that they would be easy to spot and hunters would be led close to entertainment and booth locations so that said underdog teams would get some exposure... as soon as the other team deemed it okay to let us promote the hunt and weekend for creator participation.

About a week or so after our meeting I got an IM from someone else from their team.  Let's say their initials acronym into "That Shitheaded Dumbass" or "Tyrannical Sociopathic Diva".  He informed me that HE would be event lead. Just like that.  Oh shit, I thought, who the hell was this yahoo and what did we get into?  We agreed that after I got talents together (was still waiting for that mythical list at that point and asked a couple of non-RFL performer-friends) he'd fill in the blanks with their team and friends.  Meanwhile events and timing began to congeal on the Google doc.

No list after two weeks.  It also became annoyingly evident that JayZee had a mouth on her and didn't hesitate to let rude tumble from it when the mood struck her.  One week in and already I considered using mute but thought about the team (must think about the team) and that there was a greater whole to think about.  Checking her Facebook page she had shares on it which strongly suggested at the time that she enjoyed winding up men for the fun of it. 

Oh bruh ther.

Our huntress grew stressed.  Turns out JayZee had been giving her terrible advice and straying her to dwell on some bullshit gridwide project. What would be the point of that other than to make things more difficult?  As it turned out the date for the weekend crossed a major week-long mega thing for which our would-be huntress was a key player.  She didn't want to let us all down but knew that even under the best of circumstances it was impossible to do both.  I said don't worry about that because damn she had a lot on her plate.  This wasn't a time for her to get jerked around but a time to focus on her own event and see it through to awesomeness.  I offered to tell the other team that she wasn't going to host a hunt for the weekend.  You could just see the weight lifting from her shoulders that moment.

I only ever had one issue with this teammate: she never felt she was doing  enough for us.  This could not be farther from the truth.  Most of her socializing occurred off the grid, and she frequently entered donations via convio from RL collections made among friends and colleagues.  She was fantastic as far as we were concerned.  I wish she saw it that way, and that the substance of bodies or location where collections took place did not make her any more or less of a valued member of our team. 

As one would predict, the other team's captain got very cold and snotty on hearing the news.  I've no doubt she thought I was being tyrannical (there's that word again) and dictated my team's every actions.  I really got that impression from them as a whole at this point, like I told people not to get involved when most of my team wasn't actively participating in RFL events.  The attraction of Hearts & Souls has always been no pressure; if you just want to rez out a kiosk in your shop then that's fine; every little bit helps. We've always had a lot of those on our roster as well as off. Slow and steady wins the race.

About a week prior, with SL11B, Litha, and Burnal Equinox all set to coincide with our Halloween weekend with the Team from Hell, most of my team's talent prospects - including a live performer - bowed out for sudden RL commitments.  That left from us my opening the weekend with a DJ set, the Saturday night event, and our fishing contest on Sunday.  The poster I had provided for the event was discarded and they renamed the weekend and posted another image for billboards with our team's name conspicuously absent.  At about this time their captain asked me whether we needed our corner space for the whole weekend.  It appeared they wanted to remove every last evidence of our involvement as collaborators as quickly as possible and clear off the Saturday night event spot.  "What," I responded about the gothic ball space, "a whole sim and 1024sqm is too much for us?"  She got on the defensive again and denied this entirely, but why else would one ask such a thing?  That's rhetorical btw.

The land became available and JayZee got to work.  Our hostess for the Saturday night formal ball (the concept of a formal ball with classical music as a viable attraction appeared to escape them, which I found highly amusing) reported that they watched her silently like hawks (or buzzards?) as she prepared the spot.

I brought the ordeal - the defensive attitude, removing us from promotions etc etc - to the attention of a committee member, who observed the proceedings as of about two days prior and into the weekend.  They saw everything, as did all of our friends and teammates.

This is some of what transpired...

- A forced landing point in the sim's Eastern edge and no flying.  If your underdog team wanted to send out LM's to people promoting their donation items, your contacts could not land at the booth.  They'd have to walk a winding path into dense vegetation and through a swamp to the SW corner of the sim.

- This path eventually led up to a stage due west, which consisted of an open air structure like the remnants of a barn.  To the east of the stage's grassy clearing intended for spectators lay the entrance to their maze.  They insisted on "no fly" rules in the entire sim for it (because their maze and raising money for their team was more important).  When I opened with my set Saturday morning, I thought some of them had come to listen to the music but had instead set out to add more content to the entrance of the maze as well as kiosks for their team.

- There were kiosks liberally peppered everywhere, all set to their team, so much so that the few who made it over to my set after having braved the long walk to the west side inadvertently gave to the other team first and not to ours.  One acquaintance IMed me and expressed their anger at the nerve.  There wasn't much I could do.  With all the hype to entice us with altruistic intentions, one would have thought at the very least they would set all those kiosks to other teams.  Suffice it to say they raked it in that weekend,  IMHO at the cost of those less successful than themselves.  Including us.  Especially us given the aggravation we endured.

- Walking further north you came to our section in the NW corner, about 2048 in all between the hill for our ball and an open air swamp in the corner with a pier.  Presumably the pier was also used throughout the weekend for a zombie shoot.  We witnessed a similar experience with their maintaining a rotation of people watching us like cops during our fishing contest on Sunday evening.

- They scheduled events opposite ours - or tried to.  They had attempted to do something Saturday opposite the ball and had to clear out due to the turnout.  Ours was easily the best attended event that weekend.  We almost filled the sim for the ball, mostly with outsiders to RFL who mingled with many regulars and relayers.  It was an ideal and intended result.  My friend was the only one who attended from their team. It was a beautiful evening.

Sev, Nev, and Cluck
One of my teammates opted to join in on the BYOK event after we cleared off our fishing stuff Sunday evening.  The fishing event was a success as well, despite having had to teleport everybody in due to those oppressive land settings. Yes, you heard right: They invited the Relay Rockers to host a BYOK event after they rejected my suggestion. I'm glad they thought of it!

It was The Weekend From Hell with The Team From Hell for sure, and I gladly disengaged from some of them afterwards and outright blocked others once it was over.  The most horrible people to work with and I have to wonder whether they were just pleased someone else came up with a great theme for the weekend and then didn't want to deal with working with anyone else after that?  Maybe this was all a coordinated effort to discourage us early on and we didn't get the hint?  I suspect they've been less than gracious to others too, having done it so well. It was a slick operation.

I told my friend OldeSoul: if I ever come to you saying we're thinking of collaborating with another team on a weekend or mega project, you have permission to smack me upside my head as hard as you need to.

And I meant that.

As a captain my role is to protect my teammates and represent the team, as I had with letting those people know we could no longer run a hunt.  I expedite their wishes as much as I expedite my own.  My mistake was believing this other captain had any similar role as her crew appeared to work autonomously and she'd get bent out of shape over simple organizational questions.  Making it difficult to access other teams' offerings and even getting tips for themselves intended for others really has me wondering whether they changed EVERYTHING about that weekend - aside from the theme, which wasn't their idea anyway.

Just when I thought this nightmare could become a faded memory, in May 2015 they announced on a Relay Rap show  that they were planning "their" second annual Halloween weekend! They didn't even have the dignity of changing to an original theme  Yes, they had a nerve.  No, at this point I'm quite sure  that they are devoid of souls the lot of them.  Their ins with the committee led to expected results of non-action when I lodged a formal complaint.  I can't believe I lodged a formal complaint.  Why should anyone have to do that? What makes people act or think that what they do is justified? Or that karma won't step in some day? 

The committee threw out an apples and oranges analogy to justify the team's unscrupulous behavior.  Teammates in high places and all that. No method of escalation.  Soul stealers who are beyond the ethical values of us mere mortals and confidently out of reach of facing consequences.

Why did I pick Halloween?

Halloween is the artists' holiday here in New York City.  We dressed in hand-made costumes to High School of Art & Design, which I attended in the mid-Seventies.  I am a veteran Greenwich Village Halloween Parade performer from the late Seventies when it was privately funded and hosted until it got swallowed up by commercialism in the 90s.  It is also Samhain, a solemn day to mark harvest's end and a time to remember loved ones we'd lost and their legacies which remain.  In other words, those fucks usurped something near and dear to me and my culture and tramp stamped their team name on it to make it their own.  Dirty money..

By the way, you haven't heard the last about That Shameless Dickhead.  More to come about him, don't you worry.

There is much karma due them.

In 2014 I saw this as an isolated case with perhaps a reputation on that team which others chose not to mention or share. They all sure seemed confident. I still don't believe we were their first victims. Up until then negative experiences regarding Relay For Life of Second Life were few and relatively minor.

Next: Looking back at 2015.