Saturday, March 31, 2012

Willkommen! - Part II: Back in 1920’s Berlin

And of course I like Berlin a lot. It's such an interesting city.

Daniel Libeskind

Since my first blog about the 1920’s Berlin sim in Second Life (SL) I’ve been back several times.  Once for the New Year’s Party during my twenty-four hours in SL and, most recently, for my visit with the nudists.  I’ve befriended many of the sim’s residents and have come away with many ideas for more stories.  But, one story has been missing until now. 

That story is an interview with Frau Jo Yardley the woman who is the creator and driving force behind the1920’s Berlin sim. While I’d met her briefly during my wanderings and exchanged IM’s with her inworld, I’d never had the chance to sit down and interview this fascinating woman.  (If you’re curious why I call Frau Jo fascinating, visit the sim and meet the residents, words do not do them justice.)  This is long overdue as I’ve seen her work and been with her friends but haven’t spent any quality time with her. 

Recently, I was able to schedule an interview with Frau Jo to fill this gap.  We sat down to have a talk about herself and the 1920’s Berlin sim.  We met outside of the sim because TP-ing is not permitted within and I keep getting lost whenever I go looking for an address.  (Significant Other says I have the same problem in Real Life (RL).) 

Frau Jo role plays a forty year old war widow inworld who is somewhat old fashioned.  (More on this last point later.)  In RL, she is a historical consultant who has loved history for her whole life.  She enjoys looking up old pictures, doing research, and she loves realism.

For this interview, Frau Jo is OOC so I have an opportunity to talk with her about what was in her mind as she established 1920’s Berlin.  While we talk she is smoking.  (Among the benefits that SL has, lack second hand smoke is one of them.) 

I begin by asking about her interest in Weimar Germany.  She replies that she has always had a passion for the first half of the twentieth century.  However, when she first came to SL she didn’t see much on the subject. She had been to other historical sims and found them romantic but for her interests there was nothing. 

Frau Jo met several likeminded residents inworld and they decided to found a Weimar Berlin club as a test and for fun.  So, with only three months of SL experience behind her, she rented some land and began building.  At this time she says, she didn’t even know how to rotate a prim.  She spent most of her time learning to build and use textures.  Her good friend and colleague, Mila Edelman, helped her during this period. 

As soon as Frau Jo began to build, she says, her imagination began to take over. People began to visit and suggested that she add a few shops.  The rest is history.  (Please excuse the pun.)  She says that it’s been three years since the inception of the sim and she’s still learning. 

1920’s Berlin is set in the period eleven years after the Great War.  (Remember, back then WWII hadn’t taken place yet and everyone was still in shock from the last one.)  Everything that takes place occurs under the shadow of those events.  The sim has just had its annual remembrance ceremony for the deceased. 

I ask how does she keep a balance between what the sim is without slipping into the anarchy of what Weimar Berlin was really like.  Frau Jo replies that the subject of the sim is mostly "daily life" and even though a lot of wild stuff was going on back then, for most Berliners day to day life was still just going to work, having a beer and a dance in the weekend, school, and the like.  She adds that exciting times are often not exciting every second of every day but they do try and add some of the madness to the recipe as well.

My next question has to do with the local government of the sim. Frau Jo says that there really isn’t much to it.  There is someone who keeps an eye on everyone paying the rent, there is a police force and then there is Frau Jo. Friends help her out with events and other management “stuff”. But generally the community tries to let realism and authenticity rule the sim.  The rule is"how would they have done it back then?"  Which she adds is generally a good way to sort out stuff.  (If only RL were that simple.) Financially, the sim is self-supporting so Frau Jo is spared the worries that some other SL sims have these days. 

When I ask about how the reality of the Weimar Republic is handled.  Frau Jo says it’s there just as in RL 1920’s Berlin.  But, just like then, it isn’t in your face.  The demi-monde is represented in the sim.  There is a gentlemen’s club (one guess), an opium den, a gay/transvestite cabaret, and crime.  Walking through the streets, a disabled soldier from the war begs.  Women role play street walkers because they have no other alternatives.  There is a gritty reality in 1920’s Berlin which is lacking in most other SL sims.  Many of these activities are below the surface as Frau Jo puts it.  They have to be sought out.  Even the El Dorado club, a great place to visit and see the shows of Sonatta Morales who puts on a new cabaret every weekend, is located off the main tourist drags.  I plan to spend more time in the sim to explore these subjects and write about them in the future. 

Frau Jo says she doesn’t go to the El Dorado because she is old fashioned and her SL friends say she is out of touch with modern ways. She says that in RL she wouldn’t go to such a club or go to a nudist function either.  Which is my opportunity to ask how she gets her friends to come together and undress without her being there herself.  She assures me that this isn’t for her sake.  Frau Jo is just into her role of a forty year old widow who is set in her ways and just wouldn’t do certain things.  Something tells me that back in Weimar Germany there were many people like her. 

We next talk about the future.  Fra Jo says that the building program in 1920’s Berlin is almost done.  When the synagogue is finished and a few other improvements are made, the sim will be complete.

As for Frau Jo, she would like to move onto other historical sims involving Europe from 1900 to 1950.  I try to get more details but I fail.  I look forward to her future projects. 

One topic that we continue to return to in our talk is the 1920’s Berlin community. The residents are deeply committed and involved. This is not the type of sim where folks wonder around in fantastic anthropomorphic costumes.  People are in character here all the time.  The level of realism goes beyond simply the detail in buildings and streets. The residents have background stories and are developing a collective history for the sim.  This is another avenue for future writing from me.

In her closing remarks, Frau Jo adds that it is all about the people and that she’s been very lucky with the people she has attracted, very lucky with the unique community there and how much they love the sim.  And, oh, and she wouldn’t mind less lag along with lower tier fees and more prim allocations! 

I thank Frau Jo for her time and we part company for the evening.  Me, back to my home in Nowaki to write up my notes, and she to a world recreated in the bits ‘n bytes of a technology never dreamed of back in the day of Weimar Germany. 

As my readers may have gathered by now, I’m taken with this SL community.  Once again, a group of people from all over the world have come together to build something that would otherwise be nearly impossible in RL.  They enjoy this and they have passion.  There is a lot going on here and I plan to return periodically to look for another story.  I don’t expect to be disappointed. 

I encourage other SL explorers to visit 1920’s Berlin and to meet the residents.  Please remember there is a dress code and be mindful that the residents are in character.  Otherwise, have a great time! 

I’d like to thank Frau Jo Yardley for meeting with me at taking time form her busy schedule to answer my questions.    

As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Photo No. 1: Frau Jo Yardley

Photo No. 2: Alexanderplatz

Photo No. 3: Berlin Train Station

Photo No. 4: Der Keller

Photo No. 5: Brandenburg Gate

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