Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World V in Second Life: Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness. 

Frank Gehry

          This is the fifth story in my Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in Second Life (SL) series.   My last trip was to the Statue of Zeus at Olympia.   So far, I’m three for four in trying to find the long gone Wonders of the Ancient World.  (One of the nice things about virtual worlds is that things and places long gone in Real Life (RL) are invariably around somewhere in the Metaverse.) 
          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. 
           A group of places that I’ve always wanted to visit in 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 fifth 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 that old has something to do with it. 
           Working from Wikipedia’s list of the Seven Wonders, I was able to locate all seven within SL.  (Or, I thought I had.)  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. 

This time, I’m visiting the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.  The Mausoleum was built by the widow, Artemisia, in memory of her late husband and brother, Mausolus,   (Whom am I to judge?)  during the fourth century BCE.  BTW, where do you think the word mausoleum came from?  The tomb at Artemisia built at Halicarnassus  (modern Turkey) for Mausolus was renowned for its architectural beauty and hence made it onto list of the Wonders of the Ancient World early on.  Only ruins and fragments in a few museums are left today. 
I TP into Museum Island where a short walk takes me to the Mausoleum.  In front of me is a three tiered structure.  A staircase guarded by two lions leads to the ground floor entrance to the tomb proper.  The second tier is a grouping of columns which in turn holds up the roof. 
Being the curious person that I am, I enter the tomb and see the actual sarcophagus sitting in the middle of a plain, unadorned chamber.  When the doors close behind me there is a feeling of solitude.   Despite the closed doors and lack of windows, natural light fills the space.  (Virtual worlds are wonderful, aren’t they?)  The designer has succeeded in creating a space that mimics its RL equivalent.  Some might suggest that when that occurs, one has moved from craft to art.
And, yes, for the morbidly curious out there, I do try and remove the sarcophagus’s lid and peek inside.  However, it was locked firmly in place.  (What?  Everyone knows I’d have tried even if I didn’t write about it.  At least I’m being honest and permit my readers to live vicariously through me.) 
That was it.  Mausoleums don’t have a lot to keep me around once I get past the architecture and whatever else of an artistic or historical interest there may be especially if I have no relationship to the interred. 
Like my four previous trips, I didn’t have any interaction with anyone.  No one’s around.  I guess that’s probably true of most burial sites.  This brings me back to that idea that’s been forming in my mind since I began this journey that maybe some places in SL are just meant to be viewed and not occupied.  This may also explain the low readership I’m having with this series.  (OK, maybe it’s my writing but I’m working on that!)  I’ll explore this idea in future stories and with other residents. 
My first visit had left me worried about whether or not I was wasting my time with this series of stories.  My second visit reaffirmed my original enthusiasm for the project.  The third was a disappointment because I couldn’t find my goal.  The fourth trip was a hit.  This time I was successful too.  I hope that the remaining two Ancient Wonders meet or exceed my expectations.  (Assuming that I can find them again.) 
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.  The Great Pyramid, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis, the Statue of Zeus, and  Mausoleum at Halicarnassus are just the first stops on this journey and I have two left. 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 I took of the sim I visited.  But check the sites out for yourselves.  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. 1 Frontal View

Photo No. 2 Entrance

Photo No. 4 Tomb Close-up

Photo No. 5 View from Front Steps

Photo No. 8 Aerial View


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Loss in Second Life

Eventually, everything goes away.

Elizabeth Gilbert

          Recently, I read a story in James Wagner Au’s blog about the large number of sims that have closed in Second Life (SL) over the last several years.  (If you don’t read this his blog, you should.  It’s a great source of information on both SL and virtual worlds in general.) 
          This got me thinking about my own experiences inworld since I began blogging almost two years ago.  I went back and revisited several of the sims that I had first blogged about when I began.  I was shocked to find that many were gone. 
          Not only were they gone but the communities around them are gone too.  Not just the prims and the scripts but the people who congregated there and the sense of belonging that formed around them.  To return to a place where there were once buildings, crowds, noise, and who knew what going on and to find just an empty field is a bit disconcerting.  I realize this may sound a little silly but there is a sense of loss when something one is accustomed to is gone. 

          For example, some of my first stories about different lifestyles in SL were about the vampire community, a family called Nulli Secundus in particular.  They had a wonderful castle (What else would vampires have?) with great recreational facilities.  I went to my first SL wedding there.  It’s gone now and the family seems to have broken up and gone its separate ways. 
          Another sad story, when I first began blogging, I wanted to use freebies. (OK, I’m cheap.  Get over it!  I also wanted to demonstrate that residents need not spend a lot of money to have a good time inworld.)  I wandered into a sim called the Hyles Info Center which had many freebies which my original avatar.  (Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about my makeover!)  I dropped by recently to find only a small remnant of what used to be there and few, if any, freebies.  This is a great loss for noobies. 

          One sim which has recently closed was the Island of Bare Naked Angels, a nude beach resort which was non-membership.  I had hoped to do a story about it for my Sex and the Single Avatar in SL series.  It was a well laid out facility with friendly guests.  I made several good friends there.  I TP’d in a short while ago to find it undergoing a change into a members only site. Recently, someone told me that even that has closed. 
          I’d blogged about breedable meeros in SL and visited several sims for research and background.  Mystic Bay Breedables, Blue Fusion Estate, Red Barn Meeros, and Lil Egypt Meeros Market are now gone.  (Although, Lil Egypt itself is still open.)  Maybe there was an oversupply of meeros.  Another old haunt of mine in the early days, Lollygaggas, Creative Junk is closed too.  

          Phideaux Mayo’s sim Esoterica where I interviewed her last year is now gone.  Flying Tigers, site of stories about air shows and V-E Day celebrations is now gone too.  Virtual Haarlem where I met Artemesia Sandgrain and Tom Bukowski for an interview has recently closed too.  (Maybe I should stop writing stories about places in SL?) 
          Why have all these sims closed?  (Besides my writing about them.)  Finances could be part of it.  Many of these sims depended on voluntary donations from visitors to help cover costs and, well, we all know how that works.  There may still be lingering effects from the Great Recession. 

          The overall community of SL loses when these sims close.  SL is a mosaic of people, their meeting places, lifestyles, and all the other things that happen when people come together.  While some loss is always expected, this steady deterioration is concerning.  Yes, new sims and communities may replace them but there always a loss when this institutional memory disappears suddenly. 
          Individual friends may disappear without warning and as hard as this may be, this is just one person.  When many people either go away or can’t come together again there is a greater sense of loss.

          As I tend to move around a lot inworld, I sometimes don’t get back to folks once I leave.  (Even in Real Life (RL), I’m very bad at staying in touch with friends.  Significant Other is amazed that I haven’t wandered off yet.)  So, going back and finding nothing comes as a bit of a shock.  I took too much for granted. 
          I’ll continue to check back on earlier stories and see where others have gone.  If I’ve predicted anyplace’s demise prematurely, please let me know and I’ll get the correct information out.       

          Below are links to a few pictures I’d taken of these lost sims.  Unfortunately, I can’t tell anyone to go see them anymore. 
          I’d be very interested in others’ thoughts and experiences about loss in SL.  Please use my contact info below to reach me.            

          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 Downtown Esoterica

Photo No. 3 Hyles Info Center

Photo No. 5 Blue Fusion Estates

Photo No. 6 Red Barn Meeros

Photo No. 7 Nulli Secundus Home

Photo No. 8 Flying Tigers Sim



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Trust in Second Life

To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.

George MacDonald 

          In Second Life (SL) as in Real Life (RL), we meet people and we have dealings with them.  But, for anything beyond simple greetings or rudimentary dealings, there needs to be a basis for a relationship whether that be simply friendship, romantic, or commercial.  This basis, in my mind, is trust.  Or, how willing are we to confide in someone else?  That they won’t betray, humiliate, or steal from us?
          For me, there are three fundamental questions about trust in SL.  First, what is trust?  Next, can we really trust anyone in SL?  Finally, is trust even necessary in SL?
          Let’s start with “What is trust?”  In RL, why do we trust others?  For safety, peace of mind, companionship, the ability to operate beyond our immediate span of control because we know we have the support of others are a few obvious reaons.  How about this, we want to know that we won’t get a sexually transmitted disease from our partner, that the father of our children isn’t running about spreading his seed to all and sundry with the consequences appearing nine months later.  (Really messes up providing for your own family to say nothing of estate planning.) 
          There are probably other reasons but you get the gist of what I’m saying, trust is all about knowing you can rely on someone for mutual benefit.  (I must sound terribly cynical, huh?)
          Now, the next question, “Can we really trust anyone in SL?”  Hmm.  Let’s see, for  the most part, we use fictitious names and identities.  Many people aren’t even the same gender as they are in RL.  (I’ve seen some stories that claim most female avatars in SL are really men.)  Then there are the avatars that aren’t even human. 
          See where I’m going here?  In RL, trust typically entails a relationship between two or more people where confidences are shared and there’s a level of emotional, if not physical intimacy.  What basis can there be for trust when everything is fictitious?  (Some might argue that much RL trust is based on fiction too so what am I getting all bothered about?  I’ll leave that one for Dr.  Phil.)
           Finally, is trust even necessary in SL?
          Trust in RL is all about protecting oneself from catastrophic harm either physical or emotional.  What’s the worst that can happen in SL?  We can always come back as an alt if need be.  Even if collared, an avatar can just log out and come back in.
          Now, as my friend, Lindal Kidd, pointed out recently in her blog, some SL residents swap passwords with partners.  This is definitely not a best practice and neither Lindal or I recommend doing this.  Some serious losses including RL financial ones can result from this.  But, here, SL is merging with RL and I’m avoiding that one for now.
          Likewise, voice, Skype, and RL pictures blur SL and RL when residents step off the Grid and this is definitely beyond my pay grade to sort out.  (Significant Other already thinks I’m dangerously close to going over the edge there as it is.) 
          Myself, I’d like to believe in trust in SL.  There’s something to be said for taking another person at their word even if I don’t know who they are.  There’s an old political saying that says the only way to know if you can trust someone is to trust them.  (Yes, maybe as President Reagan, once said, “Trust but verify.”)  
          Yes, I won’t be sharing my passwords with anyone soon but that doesn’t mean I can’t take people at face value and I want people inworld to know that my word is my bond because, if not, I’m going to have a hard time blogging about life in SL.    
          I can also say that I haven’t met anyone inworld yet who has broken trust with me.  (Please don’t take this as an invitation to drop by and do so.)
          I’d be very interested in others’ thoughts and experiences with trust in SL.  Please use my contact info below to reach me.            
          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.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Chinese Lunar New Year in Second Life

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.


          January is behind us and the New Year celebrations are behind us. Or, are they?  The Chinese Lunar New Year is soon going to be upon us and as my friends in both Second Life (SL) and Real Life (RL) tell me, it’s quite a shindig too.  (Truth be told, I’ve done a fair bit of Lunar New Year celebrating myself in RL.)     
          Some background first.  This is the Year of the Snake in the Chinese zodiac.  Using the corresponding Wu Xing (Five Elements), this year’s element is water.  Check out the links if you’re not familiar with the concepts because they are different from the traditional Western zodiac which many of us are familiar with.  They give an interesting insight into Chinese culture and its traditional underpinnings. 

          My old friend, Perryn Peterson, also one of the most interesting people I’ve met in SL and who I think is singlehandedly trying to recreate every holiday and festival in RL in SL, is hosting a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in the Mieville sim. 
          My regular readers, there are a few of you, will know that Perryn has recently hosted the Day of the Dead Celebration inworld followed by a Dickens Christmas.  

Oh, and by the way, if you’re looking for the New Year celebrations inworld this coming February 10th, the official date, then you’ll be out of luck because of a conflict with Perryn’s Mardi Gras celebration taking place at the same time (I still don’t know how he does it all.)  the Chinese Lunar New Year inworld will be celebrated from February 16th to 24th. (SL is nothing if not flexible.) 
           Here’s the program of events at Mieville:

新年好 Day 1 (Saturday 16th February)
12:00 PM SLT:  Parade!  Dress in Chinese costume and join us to open the Chinese New Year Festival in Mieville!

ALL WEEK:  There will be a mini-hunt for Lucky Red Packets! 
Reward of 2L per packet found!  Many are hidden!  Good luck!

新年好 Day 2 (Sunday, 17th February)
Cai Shen -- the God of Wealth's birthday and the birthday of all dogs!

10:00 AM SLT:  Bring your pet dog to Mieville for the Dogs Parade!

新年好 Day 3 (Monday, 18th February)
The return of the Kitchen God! 

We'll have a special celebration honoring this messenger to the Jade Emperor as he returns from Heaven.
6:00 PM SLT:  Meet for an evening of friendship, food and drink!

新年好 Day 4 (Tuesday, 19th February)
6:00 PM SLT:  Fireworks on the wharf!

A chance to explore the wonderful shops of Chinatown!

新年好 Day 5 (Wednesday, 20th February)
Everybody's Birthday (Renri)!

Today everybody gets a year older!
6:00 PM SLT:  Special Chinese birthday party!

新年好 Day 6 (Thursday, 21st February)
Since food is a great part of celebrating Chinese New Year, our Salon this evening will be devoted to discussing the customs and special foods eaten during the Chinese New Year festival.

Meet at 6:00 PM SLT.

新年好 Day 7 (Friday, 22nd February)
The day of Guan Yu, a famous Chinese general who is considered to be the Taoist God of War.

We'll have a fishing contest to honour this god!  Whoever is the fiercest "feesher" will win Lindens and lots of good luck!
Fishing!  Off the wharf in Chinatown!  9:00 PM SLT! 

新年好 Day 8 (Saturday, 23rd February)
Chinese New Year Weekly Theme Dance!

6:00 PM - 8:00 PM SLT.

新年好 Day 9 (Sunday, 24th February)
Lantern Festival!

There'll be FIREWORKS!
4:00 PM SLT:  You are invited to parade with lanterns as we celebrate the Chinese version of Valentine's Day and close the festival.
TURN IN your Lucky Red Packets! 

Reward of 2L per packet found! 

          As I hope you will see there is a full program of events around the Chinese Lunar New Year and I believe makes the wait all the more worthwhile! 
          I want to thank Perryn for forwarding to me the details of his Chinese Lunar New Year and taking the time to answer my questions.

          Below, I’ve included links to pictures from the site of the Mieville Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations but because a party is always more fun than pictures (especially when I’m the photographer) please visit it and see for yourselves!    
          And if you’re looking for something to do while waiting for the SL Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations then check out Perryn’s Mardi Gras celebrations from February 9th to 12th in the Mieville sim.   
          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 Perryn Peterson

Photo No. 3 Hong Bin House

Photo No. 4 Chinatown Harbor Area

Photo No. 5 Chinese Junk

Photo No. 6 Lobster Shack

Photo No. 7 Local Inhabitant

Photo No. 8 Tree

Photo No. 9 Merchants’ Market

Photo No. 10 Shop


Saturday, February 2, 2013

An Art Exhibit in Second Life

Every artist ought to be an exhibitionist. 

Egbert Oudendag

          Recently, a new friend of mine in Second Life (SL), Morgana Nagorski contacted me and asked if I would blog about Unified Heart 2013 – A Homage to Leonard Cohen, an art exhibition which is being held from January 26 to April 21, 2013 at the Palais Orleans Gallery Complex in SL.  The theme for the show is based on the words of Leonard Cohen’s songs. The exhibit is sponsored by LumiPro, billed as SL’s premier lighting system for photography in virtual worlds. 
           Morgana has been a fan of Leonard Cohen ever since she woke up in the night in 1973 to hear someone singing a wonderful song and had to ring the radio station the next morning to find out who it was.  (Now that’s what I call a story!)  She had often thought of doing an art exhibition of her own based on his words so when she opened her own gallery in SL she thought it would be exciting to ask a group of artists to participate.

          This is the second year that the exhibition has taken place. 

Last year’s, called Unified Heart, took place in January and had twenty artists participating including Morgana. It was such a success, nearly 1,000 people visiting, that she decided to do it again this year with thirteen of the artists from last time and eight more joining them. On February 16th  another sim is hosting "Unified Heart 2012 Revisited" where the pictures from last year will be shown again.

Morgana’s other reason for staging the show is that artists need to show their work. Otherwise what is the point she says.  Also, the pieces are of course for sale.  She invites the artists personally as it’s her gallery.  (Fair’s fair, I only write about what I want to write about because it’s my blog.) 

          Always looking for something new inworld, I readily agreed.   Having just done a series of stories about two artists, Anima and Hitomi Tamatzui, and the gallery where their work is displayed, I thought I was ready to go back for another look at culture in SL.  After my last post where I interviewed a SL domme, going back to culture is probably a good change of pace.   (Significant Other starts to worry when I spend too much time with the BDSM community.) 
          Turns out that Morgana is the curator of the event.  I TP into the opening night party and take in the culture and to meet Morgana.
          The Palais Orleans Gallery Complex is a large, airy modern structure located in Gardenia Islands.  The building permits the easy display and viewing of large artworks.  A gallery runs along the interior wall midway between the floor and ceiling.  Windows along the ceiling allow in natural light. 

          Guests had already arrived when I came in.  During the course of the evening approximately three to four dozen guests were present and lag was never a problem all the time that I was there.  The dress code ran from elegant evening wear to grunge chic.  (I was the latter, well, maybe more grunge than chic.) 
          Twenty-one pieces of art hang on the walls in two rows around the exhibit area.  Their style is primarily abstract.  Their colors create a happy mood in the building contrasting with the severe coloring of the walls.  Morgana has done a very good job of arranging the artwork.  The front wall on the gallery has portraits of the exhibiting artists. 

          Their work is very original and shows a high level of effort and originality all brought together by the theme of Leonard Cohen’s lyrics.  Morgana’s idea of bringing together art and music comes together very effectively and I recommend everyone to drop by and see the exhibit before it closes on April 21st. 
          With Morgana and her work, we have another example of a SL resident bringing together a community, this time based on art and music, and creating an event based on these themes. 

          I want to thank Morgana for inviting me to her opening and for taking the time to answer my questions.
          Below, I’ve included a links to pictures from the exhibition but they really must be seen in the gallery because my photos don’t do them justice.  Please visit Unified Heart 2013 and see them for yourselves!    

          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. 2 Morgana Nagorski

Photo No. 13 Thanks for the Trouble You Took from Her Eyes by Amona Savira