Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World II: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

In gardens, beauty is a by-product.  The main business is sex and death. 

Sam Llewelyn

          With this story I return to the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in Second Life (SL).   My last trip brought me to the Great Pyramid of Giza.  On this leg of my journey I go the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. 
For the late arrivals, my rationale for this series about the Wonders of the Ancient World is that I’ve been blogging about a variety of topics in Second Life (SL) lately.  Fashion, steampunk, sex, pirates, and friendship to name but a few.  (I’m nothing if not eclectic.)  However, I feel I’ve gotten away from my roots.  My original intention was to travel across the grid to see new places and meet new people.  I think I’m doing pretty well with the latter but the former maybe not so much. 
          So, I’ve decided to strike out and visit more places further afield inworld.  One group of places that I’ve always wanted to visit in Real Life (RL) and have been frustrated mostly by time and to a certain extent by distance is the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.   Given that only one of them still stands and that unfortunately seems to be surrounded by a swirl of political turmoil which looks like it won’t be ending any time soon, SL seems to be a pretty good bet to go looking for them.  (Significant Other also likes the idea of me not clocking up any more frequent flyer miles in RL.) This is the second in what will be a series of seven stories. 

          The ancient world has always had a certain fascination for me.  Maybe because I grew up in a country where we seem to have more people who are over one hundred years old than we have buildings and monuments has something to do with it. 

Working from Wikipedia’s list of the Seven Wonders, I was able to locate all seven within SL.  This was a good sign and I have my marching orders.  I’m going to visit all of them for my own sake and to bring the places and stories back to my readers. 
I arrive at the Hanging Gardens in the Babylon Empire Port inworld.  I’m in awe.  My last visit in SL to an Ancient Wonder had been, let’s say a tad disappointing, more like a poor Las Vegas copy than an impressive, ancient monument.  This is something altogether different.
What waits me is an a four tiered ziggurat which dominates an impressive recreation of ancient Babylon.  Pictures do not do any of these scenes justice.  They must be seen. 
Each level of the ziggurat recedes back from the one underneath it.  Trees, plants, and shrubs are placed on each level.  As I ascend from one level to the next, I see impressive views of the city and the sea coast.  (Yes, I know ancient Babylon was in the middle of a desert!  This is SL!  Creator’s license, whatever you want to call it.  Get over it!)
Attention to detail is evident everywhere.  Textures are varied and realistic.  Wall decorations are very reminiscent of those found in books and museums.  Bas-reliefs adorn the walls.  Besides being a work of art, the Gardens are an ideal place to come and meditate.
The scripters have done a superb job of recreating what the Hanging Gardens of Babylon could have looked like.  Since we don’t have much in the historical record and ruins have been scant.  (I hope I don’t ignite an academic firestorm here.) 
While I didn’t explore the surrounding city itself, my brief tour impressed me with both the quality and quantity of work done.  The city walls are marvelous and remind me of accounts I’d read previously. 
My last visit had left me worried about whether or not I was wasting my time with this series of stories.  This visit has reaffirmed my original enthusiasm for the project.  Like other ancient sites I’ve visited like Alexandria and Rome where there is considerable attention to period detail and the scale is large, Babylon and its Hanging Gardens impresses.  I hope that the next five Ancient Wonders meet or exceed these my expectations. 
As I wrote earlier, my travels across SL have brought me to many different places.  Admittedly, many of these journeys were random.  Now, I’m moving along on a journey with a purpose.  (Maybe I’m growing up?  Significant Other may have another opinion here.)  Searching for the famous sites from antiquity seems like a worthwhile thing to do. 
My reasons for this journey still stand.  First, how much of the ancient world can I find inworld?  Second, how well has the ancient world been reconstructed?  My travels to date have brought me in contact with many residents who are either building worlds in SL or are living their virtual lives there. 
One observation from my trips so far.  When I visited these sims, no one else was around.  Except for local sounds like birds or running water, there was total silence.  I’m beginning to think that in SL there are either monuments or communities.  The two don’t seem to mix.  Maybe I’m wrong but I’ll keep looking at this as I continue my journey.
The Great Pyramid and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are just the first stops on this journey and I have five more to go. Anyone who would still like to join me for part or all of it, please reach out to me and we’ll work out the calendars.  I’d be glad for the company! 
I’ve included links to several pictures of the Hanging Gardens that I took while there.  But check the site out for yourself.  Pictures, especially when I’m the photographer, are never as good as being there. 
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. 5 Gardens’ Bird Bath

Photo No. 10 Terrace View

Photo No. 11 Statues of Lions
Photo No. 12 Yet Another View of Babylon from Gardens

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Among the Dead

People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive.  It is as though they were traveling abroad. 

Marcel Proust

I know, I know! Everyone is probably wondering what I’ve gotten myself into this time.  Well, have no fear I’m still with us among the living.  But thanks to my old friend in Second Life (SL), Perryn Peterson, I made a short visit to the dead and lived to tell about it. 

Perryn is working on his next project for the public in SL.  He has prepared a sim based on the approaching Mexican holiday Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos in Spanish).  As always, Perryn never ceases to amaze me with the variety of his projects and the quality of their presentation. 

Dia de los Muertos is a national holiday in Mexico where people come together with their friends and families to remember their dead.  Offerings are made to the dead, graves are visited, and good times with the deceased are recalled.  Sounds like a good time to me!

Perryn gave me a sneak preview before the festival’s official announcement in SL.  I arrive in Fiesta Village, a small village reminiscent of those found in the Mexican countryside.  Merchants are still setting up their shops and stalls but the look and feel of the approaching holiday is there. 

When I meet Perryn at the landing zone, he points out a skull named “Cal” (short for “calavera” in Spanish which means skull).  He will be the hunt object for the mini-hunt which will begin from the landing zone.  Merchants have been asked to display merchandise with a Dia de los Muertos or at least a Halloween one in a stretch. 

Dia de los Muertos will last for a week from October 27 to November 4, 2012.  Perryn’s purpose in having this event is to observe the holiday (long a favorite of his), have a fiesta, and to provide an event halfway between STEAM 7  and the upcoming Renaissance Hunt. 

We walk through the small town.  Traditional Dia de los Muertos artwork such as catrinas is displayed by merchants and for esthetic value.  Anyone looking to acquire a piece of native Mexican folk art for their SL home should really come by and check out what’s available. 

Our stroll takes us past an ofrenda, or altar, with traditional offerings to the dead.  At some altars candles can be lit to the dead.  Paper decorations called “papel picado” hang on the walls just as they do in Mexico at this time of the year in Real Life (RL).  As would be expected for this festival, a small cemetery is located next to a church. 

Other touches of authenticity meet us along the way.  A burro, a gaily painted cart, and street decorations add to the sense of the holiday.  Many of these objects have been molded by Perryn himself.  From his private collection, he has hung talavera tile murals on a wall by Rose’s Cantina.  Rose’s place is intended as a place for visitors to come, enjoy some food (yes, individual portions of Mexican food are available), and relax from all the festivities. 

An open market, or mercado, completes the scene.  Stalls and carts are available for merchants to display their wares.  Speaking of whom, Perryn as usual has gone out of his way to attract some very talented builders to sell their wares during Dia de los Muertos.  Tattoo Lane (also creator of the event’s poster), Dmitri Mint, Elicio Ember, Raquel Gagliano, SunQueen Ginsberg, and IzelEleuia Resident are only a few of the prominent merchants who will be displaying their wares during the week.   

Tattoo Lane is a vendor of fantasy clothing, her shop is called Goddess Fantasies, and she is also a designer of logos, posters etc..  Perryn approached her to design the logo for the event - and as she’s British and had never even heard of this festival before (Perryn does have a knack for stretching people, I must say!) - it was a real challenge for her! So she designed the logo and is also one of the shop keepers at the event.

Curiosity attracted Tattoo to the theme.  She’s also been involved in Steam the Hunt for the past few years, and knows how well organized the Hunts are. They are always fun for her and bring a lot of people to her store. She also finds Perryn so lovely to work for!

I ask Tattoo what she expects to gain from this experience and she says that for her it's a learning curve, she had never heard of this … so it will be interesting to wander round and explore the other shops and see their wares  and probably buy a few things that take her eye! It is also a great way of advertising her own store, and meeting new people.

Tattoo loves working with Perryn.  (I hear this a lot.) She find that he has such a great imagination, and such vision - he makes it so easy to design for him - he knows exactly what he wants and has a great eye for design - so she hopes to do more work with him in the future.  Making posters and logos for these events is a great way to showcase her work - of which she is very proud (As she should be!) Tattoo is not a graphics designer in RL but is totally self-taught.  She has always been an artist in RL and love colors and textures, so perhaps this will bring some more similar design work her way.  Tattoo is so looking forward to this celebration!

Raquel was attracted to this theme because she lived and grew up in Mexico. One side of her family has close links to the Mayan culture, in the Yucatan peninsula, where the Day of the Dead is a very important celebration. So, for her, the Day of the Dead was always celebrated with a feast and altar offerings, even through not Catholic herself. The Day of the Dead, like the original Celtic Samhain, was a pre-Christian celebration that later was assimilated by the Christian world.  Raquel says that thus, it was only natural for her to want to share with people all over the world what this celebration feels like to her and what it means.

When asked what she wants others to gain from this experience, Raquel says for people to know and experience a bit of the Day of the Dead, which has a very different flavor and feel than Halloween has and heh, some sales of course!

          I enjoyed myself in touring through Fiesta Village with Perryn.  I would like to thank him for his time and hospitality in showing me around and answering my questions. I would also like to thank Tattoo Lane, Racquel Gagliano, and Elicio Ember for taking the time to answer my questions.

Perryn and his team have shown how they can move beyond their traditional steampunk space and do more in a totally different culture from what they normally are accustomed to.  Their attention to detail and realism are evident.  Finally, once again, a community of people has come together in SL and have done something extraordinary. 

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.

Below are a few pictures of Fiesta Village in SL where I visited for this story.  These do not do justice to the work of Perryn and his team.  I encourage everyone to visit on their own once it opens and see the marvelous and have a great time! 

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. 2 Perryn Peterson

Photo No. 3 Local art – Catrina

Photo No. 4 Offerings to the Dead

Photo No. 7 Talavera Tile Murals

Photo No. 8 Shop Front

Photo No. 9 Village Street Scene

Photo No. 11 Traditional Folk Art

Photo No. 12 Decorated Cart

Photo No. 13 Cal

Photo No. 15 Wall Mural


Friday, October 12, 2012

Sex and the Single Avatar in Second Life III: Nudity Does Not Mean Sex

I'm not for gratuitous nudity, but if there's humor, I don't have a problem.
Rebecca Romijn

I’m now at the third story in my series, Sex and the Single Avatar in Second Life.  So far, so good.  Traffic has been decent.  (Can always be better, feel free to distribute the link if you like my stories!)  Reader feedback has been favorable.  I guess I’ll keep writing!  As with my first story when a reader, Tiff Aristocrat, reached out to me and led me to my second story during the course of researching Paradise Sex Beach for that story I met someone who led me to write this story. 

Her name is Ilse Runo and I met her while she was sunbathing au natural on a beach at Paradise Sex Beach. Turns out, Ilse is a naturist in Real Life (RL) too.  This story is about her observations about the differences between naturism in Second Life (SL) and RL.  

Before we do that, some background to help the newly arrived.  For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a writer and explorer in SL.  I write about my travels across the grid and the people I meet and the experiences I have. (Usually involving me in some sort of embarrassing or ridiculous situation.)  My RL Significant Other patiently supports me in my efforts to become a famous blogger of the Metaverse.  She also greatly appreciates the anonymity of SL, less explaining to family and friends.  This story is the third in a series where I explore human sexuality in SL which I’m finding is something of a growth industry inworld.  I’m also finding that there’s a lot going on with the emotional side as well.  I’ll blog more about that in the future.

I strive for standards, nothing tawdry or lascivious.  There’s always Literotica for that.  I always quote my friend, Glorf Bulmer, as she would say, this won’t become that kind of blog.  Me?  I want to be informative and humorous and I always keep Bette Davis’ words in mind when writing in this series, “Sex is God’s joke on human beings.”

          Since arriving in SL, I’ve been noticing that nudity is fairly common in SL. I had my first encounters with nudity in the 1920’s Berlin sim and then ended up writing about naturism at the Wild Coast Naturist Resort.  At the latter I learned about the distinction inworld between nudity and naturism in SL.  Naturism (Caution, this link contains RL nudity.) in RL is more about enjoying being nude for its own sake and experiencing nature while in a state of undress.  Nudity in SL has more of a connotation of sex.  Here’s where I start talking with Ilse. 

          I begin our interview by asking her how long has she been a naturist in RL.  She replies her whole life adding that she guesses it runs in the family.  Being nude and being one with nature is what attracted her to the lifestyle. 

          Ilse started to look for naturist sites in SL because she enjoyed it in RL.  She laughs when she tells me that the big difference between naturism in RL and SL is that nudity is associated more with sex inworld than in RL. 

          I ask if the inworld sexuality ever become rude or aggressive.  Ilse says yes if that’s what someone wants but sometimes people are very pushy about trying to have their own way.  In fact, she belongs to a SL group dedicated to the idea that nudity does not mean sex. 

The next question is an obvious one for me, why does Ilse go to Paradise Sex Beach when there is so much sex in the open?  Ilse replies that it’s a really nice sim and there are really nice people to talk to.  Does the overtly sexual behavior bother her?  Ilse giggles as she says no it doesn’t and what can she do because is a sex beach after all?  (Ilse’s pretty open minded I have to say.) 

          I ask Ilse if there are other true naturist sites in SL like Wild Coast and does she visit them?  She lists Bare Naked Angels, Lupe's Magic Forest and Naturist Island.  Ilse doesn’t go to Wild Coast anymore because of the lag she experienced there.   

          My next questions have to do with what else Ilse does in SL.  She replies that talking with her naturist friends and getting to know them better, exploring places (which I find many are doing) and, of course, shopping.  (Ilse claims that she knew I was a guy in RL because of my limited interest in shopping.) Ilse used to build a lot inworld but finds she no longer has the time. 

My last question for Ilse is are naturists migrating to more sexually open behavior in SL or staying traditional over time in SL?  She smiles as she replies that yes she thinks so because for many people going nude is the same as having sex. 

          After my talks with Ilse, I had some time to think about what she’s said.  We both agree that many people do things in SL that they would never do in RL.  Unlike Ilse, I’m not a naturist in RL.  I believe that the anonymity of SL makes people feel safe and that they can get away with things inworld that they couldn’t in RL.  Sadly, this probably also applies to the coarsening of manners and social norms which is becoming all too common in RL these days.  (And, no, I don’t think it’s because I’m hanging around with a bad crowd.  Significant Other keeps a tight rein on my RL social life.) 

          I have no solutions here.  I’m merely writing about what I observe and I hear.  But, like many bad behaviors whether in SL or RL, they can only continue when we, yes “we”, permit them to happen and don’t call out the culprits.  If you see rude behavior, step up, and call it out.  This isn’t RL where you have to worry about getting punched in the mouth.  The target of the rudeness will appreciate it and I’ll guarantee you’ll feel better for it.     

          I would to thank Ilse for her time and hospitality.  I would also like to thank her for her candor and opening up to me with her answers.     

          In future stories in this series, I’ll continue to write about these different aspects of human sexuality in SL.  And, yes, I do mean human because as many continually remind inworld there’s a real person with real feelings behind that avatar we’re interacting with. 

          I welcome anyone who would like to share their experiences or opinions of SL sexuality with me.  I’d like to include these in my future stories in this series.  I look forward to hearing from you! 

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.

Below are a few pictures of the places in SL that I visited for this story.  And, no, there is neither nudity nor activity of a sexual nature contained therein.  If you want to see that then you’ll have to go there yourself! 

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 Ilse Runo

Photo No. 2 Paradise Sex Beach


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Among the Ghouls!

Where there is no imagination there is no horror.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle       

          Recently, I received a note from Jessii Warrhol  (Place SLURL/Link here.) about the haunted and scary events planned in Tribute City for the Halloween season.  Here’s what she had to say:

New a FEATURED SL Destinations event! (Check it out when logging in.) 

October 1 to October 31, 2012

The Tribute City News website has all the details. 

Haunted Fest is a month long list of events that relate to Halloween in Tribute City! Events include live DJ’s, music, contests, a Halloween photo contest, a Halloween merchants fair, tribute bands, and of course tricks and treats! The Tribute City sim also has many scary activities to keep you haunted throughout the month! This page will be updated regularly, so check back as much as possibly and join our groups in world!!


-October 5, 12, 19, 26, and 31 - Special 500L Raffles, where a lucky winner will win 500L's!! On October 31, 2012, a lucky winner will win 1000L's!!

-October 3-31 - Haunted Fest Halloween Hunt! Look for pumpkins to find freebies hidden throughout the sim!

-October 5 to October 7, 2012 - Tool Tribute Concert Weekend

-October 8 to October 31, 2012  - 5000L's Halloween Photo Contest

-October 19 to October 21, 2012 - The Human League Tribute Concert Weekend

-October 22, 2012 - 6 Hour Venetian Masked Ball

-October 22 to October 31 - Halloween Merchant's Fair

-October 31, 2012 - 8 hour Halloween Costume Party!!


-Check out our Haunted House, beware of what lurks behind doors and in certain rooms!

-Try our Haunted Fun House Ride!

-Escape the Room game - see if you can get out of the room in one piece!

-Look around the church and in the canal!


Check out our regular club events!! We have clubs open throughout the day! You can party at Club Capital, Capital Rock Club, xTreme CT, Amelias' Pilot Lounge, and Foxes & Hounds Pub! Check group notices and our event's calendar for dates, times, and events!

          I’d like to thank Jessii for thinking of my readers and me with this update.  She’s always got something going inworld and it’s always fun and involves lots of people. 

          Please drop by Tribute City during October to check out the beautiful work and all the fun.  Maybe you’ll run into me!  I’ve already dropped by for a quick looksee and have included a few pictures below.  The atmospherics are really cool and should be checked out. 

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 Haunt Fest I

Photo No. 2 Haunt Fest II

Photo No. 3 Haunt Fest III

Friday, October 5, 2012

STEAM 7 – The Wrap!

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.  

T. S. Eliot          

Sadly, all good things must come to an end.  STEAM 7 is over and all we have are the memories.  (OK, and some great pix!)  And, the promise of future hunts from Perryn Peterson.  I blogged about the kick-off party for the event, I checked in midway through the Hunt, and now, I’m wrapping it up. (You’ve got to admit, I’m thorough!)
          For those of you joining late, STEAM 7, a steampunk themed Second Life (SL) hunt ran from September 1st to 30th inworld.  As usual the Hunt had a subtheme to the main steampunk one.  This time it was “Time & Space” honoring H. G. Wells.  Participating merchants incorporated this concept into their gifts to the hunters.  
          As is the STEAM Hunt tradition, a wrap party was held to celebrate the end of the Hunt and to give team members, merchants, and hunters one last chance to get together. Unlike prior hunts, this wrap party was held on September 29th, and not the last day.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend.  (The attendees may say fortunately.)
           The party was held at Mieville Academy Asylum Library and Prof. Grey’s (AKA brian61 landar) prim handiwork was much in evidence.  Skeletons (with thirty-three prims each I’m told, almost as many as there are bones in a real skeleton) were numerous in the haunted cemetery theme used for the party’s venue.  The skeleton band really had things jumping I’m told. 
          Since the wrap party was not held at the conclusion of the Hunt, the Fave Five winners could not be announced at that time.  The Fave Five are the merchants voted by the hunters as best in terms of gifts, service, and whatever else it is that intrigues them.  But, the winners can now be announced!  Perryn just gave me the go ahead and here they are:
·       Gold (1st Place) - Epic Toy Factory - Mayah Parx

·       Silver (2nd Place) - Ghostraven's Steampunk and Pirates  - Marcel Ghostraven (No relation!)

·       Copper (3rd Place) - Joy of Steampunk Museum - Knowledge Tomorrow

·       Bronze (4th Place) - Land of Nodd - Noddington Schmooz

·       Iron (5th Place) - Ankh Morpork - Janeel Kharg

Congratulations to all the winning merchants! 
          Noddington Schmooz of Land of Nodd designed the trophies for the Fave Five winners.  Each trophy is in the base color of its award (gold, silver, copper, bronze, and iron) with its place etched on the front.  A little zeppelin flies around each trophy.  No wonder he was one of the Fave Five! 
Once again, I come away impressed by the organization, commitment, and creativity of a group of SL residents who have been doing this for over three years.  This is neither a fad nor a flash in the pan.  Come look at the work done by these merchants and I dare you not to be impressed.  Come see people working and playing together and tell me this is only a game that happens to use pixels as its medium. 
Steampunks are one of the few communities in SL I’ve encountered where social life, scripting, and creativity are all equally evident and important.  I’m not faulting other communities just calling out what makes this one special, unique, and successful.  Very successful.  Of course, there’s Perryn Peterson. Leadership counts as much in SL as it does in Real Life (RL).  Maybe more.  (Yes, I’m biased here but I’ve been around Perryn and his team long enough that it’s hard not to be.) 
I want to thank Perryn for his time and assistance. I look forward to visiting with the hunters and merchants in future Hunts and can’t wait to what clever new ideas they present.  I would also like to thank Noddington Schmooz, and Prof. Grey for taking the time to reply to my queries.  I would also like to thank Prof. Gray for his permission to use the pictures indicated below.
STEAM 7 may be over but it’s only six months to the next one and I’m sure Perryn and his crew are working their magic for us!  And, let’s not forget the Renaissance Faire which will be soon upon us!  (I still don’t know how Perryn does it all. He must have a lot of alts.) 
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.
Below are a few pictures of the STEAM 7 wrap party and other people and topics associated with the event.  I hope you enjoy them!  Again, thanks to Prof. Grey for the use of his! 
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. 2 Perryn Peterson

Photo No. 4 Skeleton Band

Photo No. 8 STEAM 7 Guests 1

Photo No. 9 STEAM 7 Guests 2

Photo No. 10 STEAM 7 Guests 3