Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Visit with a Tarot Card Reader


I think there is too much focus on the cards and what they are supposedly trying to tell us, and not enough on the reader as an individual and how they read. It is our job to decipher. And it is difficult, if it wasn't then there would be no need for us because everyone would read their own cards.

          Recently, I came across a topic a little different from what I’ve been writing about lately.  (If you read my recent blog about how I write, you’ll understand how I can switch from nudism/naturism and BDSM to a totally unrelated subject.  You have to admit my coverage is diverse!)

          Now that I’ve built the suspense, let me introduce this week’s topic.  I write about a Tarot card reader in Second Life (SL).  Recently, I had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of Ivy Paderborn who is a Tarot card reader in both SL and Real Life (RL).  We agreed to meet and arranged an interview. 

          At the scheduled time, we meet in Ivy’s offices where she does her appointments.  I begin by asking Ivy how she came to be a reader.  She replies that she had always had visions and premonitions while growing up. Her mother taught her how to use the Tarot cards when she was a teenager. She has been doing them for many years now.  Ivy explains that doing readings is really no different in SL than it is in RL. Although of course people want to know about SL things too, like relationships. 

          My next question has to do with whether the ability to read Tarot is an innate ability or can it be developed?  Ivy thinks it can be developed. While it helps if there is natural aptitude to being open to messages from the universe, Ivy thinks that anyone can be taught how to read the cards if they are interested in doing it.

          I then ask about how she actually does a reading.  Ivy responds that for her, it mostly entails making a connection with the universal divine, and then channeling that energy into the cards as she pulls them. She thinks about the person's question, seeks a sincere answer, and then reads what comes up.  Once the cards are pulled, the understanding is based on the meaning of the individual cards and their significance in a combination.  Ivy says that sometimes she will pull a card and know its meaning, and can clearly see how it applies to the question.  Other times if a card seems like it is not a fit, she then has to look deeper and share any other messages that she sees or hear sin the process, in hopes that the information will help the querant.

          The mentioning of the universal divine makes me think this is key and I inquire about this. 

          Ivy affirms that to her that, yes, it is. She believes that this would be an essential element for any reader.  I ask if it can be defined or described?  Ivy says that for some people, they would call it God or Spirit.  Others just call it Universal energy.  Ivy is not religious, so she chooses a non-religious term for it.

We’ve been talking mostly about querants.   I ask if when she does a reading is a querant necessary or could she do a reading to forecast the future and what it could bring?  Ivy says that she can do either. What she tells her clients is that the more specific they can be with her in what they want to know, the more specific her answers can be, as she can interpret the cards more adeptly to their needs.  But she do general readings as well as very specific ones.   It all depends on what the person wishes to know.

          I have to ask how can she measure the success or accuracy of her readings?  Ivy receives a lot of feedback from her clients that is positive. She says, based on what she hears back, that her readings are generally successful in providing accurate information.  But there have been times where she has been wrong as well. No reader is ever right 100% of the time she tells me. Ivy smiles and says that, thankfully, the number of times she has been told about an error in her readings is very few.

          I move onto how does an actual reading work?  Ivy pulls the cards in RL and reads them to the querant.  When someone comes to Ivy for a reading, she asks them to tell her their question or the situation that they want to know about.  Ivy then takes a moment to take several deep breaths to center herself and asks that they do the same.  She draws the cards from her own deck in RL and lays them out for the answer, and then tells the person what she is seeing, what each card means, and her overall interpretation of the answer as it pertains to their question.

Ivy typically does a straight timeline card layout.  A spread of five to six cards, from left to right, or a yes/no spread of seven cards.  This is a matter of personal preference for Ivy.  She finds that format works well for her in answering the questions that she receives.  Occasionally she will do other spreads, such as the classic Celtic Cross, which is the one that most people think of, the one with the big T spread in the middle.

Moving on to time and fees, Ivy says that most readings last about half an hour.  Her fee is $500L for each fifteen minutes. The fee is based on time used, not per question, so if someone wants to pay for fifteen minutes, they can ask as many varied questions as they like during that time.

I ask Ivy if she has many customers and how many are regulars?  She says that on average, she does at least a few readings per week, and most are regulars. She does get new people from time to time, either from her classified ads, or as referrals.

           When I inquire about whether Ivy considers herself a full time reader, she surprises me by saying no. Neither in SL nor RL.   In SL, Ivy has many other interests and feels she would miss out on a lot if she read full time.  Her other interests inworld include going to live music events, exploring new and strange sims (no shortage there), participating in hunts, and Ivy also does medieval/fantasy role play.  In a word, Ivy’s a very busy woman inworld. 

          Then I turn to asking about Ivy’s customers.  How many of her customers are believers or are they just experimenting?  Ivy believes she has made believers of the ones who were just experimenting when they first came to her. She takes it as a real compliment, to have people come back to her again and again, because they trust her answers.  Ivy adds there are plenty who come just to try it, and find it's not really for them, and that's fine with her too. It takes all kinds she adds. 

I ask Ivy who are her typical customers.  She says that's a tough question since SL provides such a wide variety of self-expression, she’s had all kinds of avatars walk through her door.  But, she says as far as what the average person wants to know, it is generally related to love, job, or money.  Which is pretty much as it is in RL.  Ivy rejoins with since SL is really just an extension of who we are in RL that seems natural to her.

Does the SL medium change the experience for Ivy, I ask.  She replies not anymore.  At first, it was a little strange for her she admits. But having been doing it for several years now it seems very natural to her. 

Are the querants any different between SL and RL I probe.  Ivy had before only done in-person readings, where the other person shuffles the cards while they think of their question. Now she just connects to the person by talking to them electronically.  So for Ivy, it’s not really different.  She supposes visual appearance is the only major difference.  (How many furries go for readings in RL?) 

I ask if there are any challenges for Tarot reading inworld?  Ivy Paderborn replies that it is the same for SL as RL.  At first, it was a challenge for her to connect to the person she was reading for, but as she previously mentioned, Ivy is now used to doing in-person readings from RL to SL.  But with practice in tuning into the other person's energy while talking with them, it became a lot easier for her.  Now it just comes naturally to her.

We move onto if there are there any dangers or risks associated with Tarot readings? Ivy only cautions that people should feel that they got a good reading before taking any action on it. Sadly, Ivy says not everyone who reads is genuine. If someone gets bad advice about something really important, and then takes action based on that advice, it can be a mistake.

So reputation is important I ask.  Ivy replies that usually a reading will either feel like it "clicked" or it didn't, just like when people meet. If a querant feels that connection, then it is likely to be a good reading.

Coming to the end of my questions, I ask how is business?  Does it pay the bills inworld? Ivy replies that she has several businesses, reading Tarot is only one. But yes, she does pretty well.   Thankfully, she laughs and says she considers herself lucky to be able to support her shoe habit! 

We come to the conclusion of our interview, I thank Ivy and take my leave.  I keep an open mind about paranormal activities, card reading, and other psychic phenomena.  In meeting with Ivy, I met someone who has a passion for what she does and has been doing it for a while.  Ivy portrays for me, yet again, how people have migrated practices and beliefs from RL to SL.  Time will tell how the transition goes. 

I would like to thank Ivy Paderborn for her time and openness with 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   Ivy Paderborn

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Among the Naturists

What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful that the garment with which it is clothed?


          Earlier, when I blogged about my two visits to a nudist function in the 1920’s Berlin sim in Second Life, a couple of readers commented that if I was interested in checking out nudism inworld then I should visit The Wild Coast Naturist Resort.  I was told that this was a full time nudist location with decorum. 

          Well, I’m not always sure if places known for their decorum will necessarily want to have anything to do with me.  But, I’ve gotten used to rejection in life, both SL and Real Life (SL).  So, I decide to go visit. 

          Wild Coast is a nudity required sim.  Here, I was committing to more than an hour in a controlled environment as I’d done on my two previous forays into nudity.  But, after having wandered around strangers with all of us nude previously, this didn’t seem like all that much of a big deal anymore.  (Maybe there is something to the old saying that once you start doing it, it becomes natural.  Sorry, bad joke.)

          During one of my initial research trips, I met Sweety Basevi who functions as the general manager for the resort.  She agreed to meet me for an interview and I was all set.

          Before I go any further, I want to talk about terminology.  (Give me a break, I’m a writer, words are very important to me.)  I keep saying “nudist” or use derivations of the word.  Sweety very quickly pointed put to me that Wild Coast is a naturist (Caution: link contains pictures of nudity.) and not a nudist resort like other sims inworld.  Looking at the resort’s rules shows why.  Wild Coast is naturist in the classic sense.  People come together in a state of undress to enjoy one another’s company and enjoy SL unclothed just as naturists do in RL.  Public sexual displays are frowned upon and can get one booted out.  One prominent rule posted in Wild Coast is that men cannot have erections because Wild Coast is a mature sim in SL parlance and from a female perspective, it is threatening and intrusive.  (If only RL were that simple.)  There is another sim, Turtle Coast, which is an adult sim and is more liberal.  (Now that I’m so comfortable running around in the altogether, maybe another story in the future?) 

          With that cleared up, let me return to my interview with Sweety.  Like me she is nude.  Standing a little shorter than me (Come to think of it, how tall am I in SL?) with windblown (Aren’t AO’s something else?) shoulder length brunette hair, and tattoos, she is tanned from all her inworld hours spent at the beach.  (Look, if I said it was all the result of some clever programming in somebody’s basement in Detroit, it just wouldn’t have sounded as good would it?) 

          We meet at the Wild Coast resort at the appointed time and I begin with my questions. I ask about the start of Wild Coast.  Sweety replies that it is the third sim of Kaiya Islands and when a decision was made five years ago to open it, there was also a decision that it be a naturist site. 

I inquire about the sim’s current moderate rating as opposed to adult.  Sweety explains that this goes back to the earlier PG and mature ratings.  Due to other business activities like land rentals the decision was made to stay with the moderate rating when the ratings changed.  This is when Turtle Coast was established as an adult sim.  She continues saying that flirting is the most typical activity that occurs in Wild Coast and while there are secluded areas affording privacy, they are very careful about staying within the ratings guidelines set forth by Linden Lab (LL). 

My next question is about the one time membership fee of $450L charged when one joins.  Sweety explains how the fees help to pay the tiers for the venue, as well as the staff that work here, helping to ensure that everyone has a great time in a welcoming and safe environment.  From my visits, I can say that they have succeeded. 

From my recent visits with the SL BSDM community I know that many there practice the lifestyle in both SL and RL, I ask Sweety if she has seen this with naturism?  She responds that she understands how that can happen and suspects that people may first try naturism in SL and then be more comfortable with it in RL. 

I then ask her about why she’s a naturist in SL.  Sweety says working with the Islands, she goes where she’s needed.  She was a bit reluctant to strip initially she admits.  But after a short period of time, she got over it and now it’s second nature to her to be naked, she laughs as she tells me this.  Sweety says she can now sympathize with people who come here for the first time and are not used to being naked.  (I can sympathize as well.) 

Our conversation turns to how being naked in SL is easier than in RL.  (Those wandering eyes and normal male reactions I’ve written about elsewhere.)  Sweety states that we still associate our avatars with our own feelings and inhibitions.  She observes that once a newcomer has been naked for five minutes or so, they actually stop feeling self-conscious.  I wonder if it has something to do with us looking a lot better in SL than we do in RL? 

Social activities, as Sweety explains, besides the aforementioned flirting, include DJ's, concerts, and parties.  We discuss the appeal of Wild Coast.  Sweety uses terms like welcoming, enjoyable, and safe.  She admits this is probably the result of the controls in place.  There is none of the rude behavior that I’ve seen or friends have reported to me about other sims.  Whenever I arrive, I notice that others are rezzing in as well and as they enter, people call out their names and greet them. I haven’t seen that in too many other places inworld.  There appears to be a very tight community here in Wild Coast.

Sweety rethinks her use of the word “controls” and suggests that it’s more about making sure the rules are followed enhancing the members’ experience.  She speaks of the enjoyable vibes at the resort. 

Sweety also credits the staff for getting and keeping things going, and are truly awesome in her words. The friendliness, she thinks has a lot to do with the members themselves. For her, they are wonderful.  (I get the sense that this woman really loves her job.)  Coincidentally, while interviewing Sweety, a friend IM’s me and asks what I’m doing.  I reply that I’m doing an interview at a naturist resort.  She responds asking if I’m at the most famous one in SL, Wild Coast.  Turns out she’s a member too.  The grid’s getting smaller! 

The membership at 24,000 is very large.  (I wish I had that many readers!)  Average daily traffic for the sim is 19,500 which is another good number.  The biggest problems that Sweety encounters with members are those who try to break the no clothes, no shoes, and no erections rules.  (I have a very open minded SL friend, actually, she’s more of an anarchist, who has a problem with the resort’s no clothes rule.  She believes it’s another imposition of authority.  I’ll probably find her inworld someday dressing in protest of something or other.)

We talk next about what are the most popular spots within Wild Coast with the members.  Sweety says the public area at the arrival point and the main dance area by the beach are probably the two most popular locations at the resort.  The secluded areas are also popular for folks to go off to when they want some privacy to get to know one another better. 

My time with Sweety comes to an end and I thank her before taking my leave. 

Wild Coast is everything that I was told it would be. A friendly, safe, and enjoyable environment fostering friendship among residents.  Besides the social aspects, the resort is beautifully done and always has good mood music playing.  For anyone looking for a naturist experience in SL, I recommend Wild Coast.  Yes, there is a fee.  However, it’s trivial compared to what can be gained. 

The resort, in my opinion, follows in the tradition of RL naturist communities which were about enjoying nature and other people without the restrictions and prejudices brought on by clothing. 

One final point, I paid for my own membership fee to the resort so I could walk about and check things out for myself.  I will also return looking for new material for my blogs. 

I would like to thank Sweety Basevi for her time and openness with 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  Sweety Basevi

Photo No. 3  Public Area

Photo No. 4  Members Only Common Area

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pushing the Edges of the Envelope

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle, you see the blue center-light pop, and everybody goes ahh...

Jack Kerouac

          This is the final installment in my trilogy about Second Life (SL) that I’m writing as part of my first anniversary celebration of blogging about SL.  My first blog was a look back on my first year inworld.  The next was about how I write my blogs.  The third will take a more forwarding looking view. 

          One interesting aspect of SL that I’ve noticed about many residents is about their behaviors.  First, how many do things in SL they would never do in Real Life (RL)?  Then, there are those who do in SL what they do in RL but go over the top while they’re doing it. 

          All of them are pushing the edges of the envelope inworld as regards what they’re comfortable doing with others.  Myself, as I’ve reported in recent blogs, I’ve been nude at several functions and have been visiting BSDM clubs inworld.  (Trust me, I haven’t the nerve to do any of these in RL.  Plus, Significant Other has major input into my social life and acquaintances.) 

          While I’ve been inworld observing these happenings, I’ve been wondering why do people do this?  Act in a manner in a virtual world that they wouldn’t in reality.  I’ve come to a few conclusions.  (Warning this is an unscientific survey and definitely reflects the author’s prejudices and biases.)

          First, I believe people act out because of curiosity or a desire to experiment. What is it like?  How do I feel?  Is it fun?  Do I receive any satisfaction (whether emotional or physical) from this activity? 

          Then, there’s the anonymity.  No one knows who I am.  There’s no come back to me. 

          Next up is the relative safety and risk free aspects of whatever it is that I’m doing.  There won’t be physical repercussions.  Relationships won’t crater (at least they shouldn’t).  Unwanted pregnancies and STD’s won’t occur.  I don’t tire or become injured when I overdue it. 

          Now, some may ask, what about me, why do I push the edges of the envelope.  My two favorite excuses, er, I mean reasons, are professional curiosity and anonymity.  The former because my excuse is I’m searching for stories for my readers.  (Don’t you feel guilty now?)  The latter because I don’t have to worry about my friends and family plastering images of me all over the Internet. 

          So, what kinds of edgy behavior are folks engaging in while inworld?   Frankly, there’s a lot.  Let’s just look at the highlights.

          Relationships are one area where many push the edges of the envelope.  Some have SL partners who are not their RL partners.  Sometimes the RL partners know, sometimes they don’t.  (The last is definitely the edgiest.)  The partners may act as romantic partners.  Some go so far as to have children together.  These partnerships may opposite sex or same sex.  I’ve met many inworld who experiment with bi or gay relationships but are straight in RL. 

          Then there’s the perennial favorite of sexual activity.  Cyber sex is for me, by definition, pushing the edges of the envelope.  Somebody’s using all those pose balls lying around all over inworld.  Going further, there’s group sex and BDSM.  I’ve heard rumors of residents having in flagrante delicto in places they shouldn’t.  And, I can’t forget all the strippers, pole dancers, and escorts who are out there.  Not to mention all the shops selling sex organs for avatars. 

          OK, enough with the sex, there’s serious partying going on inworld just about all the time.  Folks just go out on the dance floor and dance and dance… Well, you get the idea. 

          Next, one of my favorite topics in SL, exploring.  Now, some may say how can SL exploring be edgy.  Just remember, this is the guy who spent twenty-fours in SL.  Enough said. 

          Some behaviors being pushed to the edge inworld are technical.  Like my friend, Glorf Bulmer, who I think has built the tallest, free standing tower in SL.   Wagner James Au recently wrote of a giant avatar built in mesh.  

          Another area where I’ve found residents have pushed the edges of the envelope inworld is the area of modeling.  Some expend considerable effort, not to mention money, on clothes, skins, body parts for their avatars, and the list just goes on and on.  Unlike myself and my juvenile efforts to make myself presentable inworld, others take their appearance very seriously.  And, they have the Flickr folios to prove it. 

Finally, and this one is not as much fun to write about, and that’s rude behavior inworld.  (And, I’m not talking about griefing.)  Some people think that when they go inworld they can just say whatever they want and do what they want.  Two friends of mine, Glorf and Lindal Kidd, have recently written about their own experiences. 

          So to the future, what does all this mean for my readers and me?  I want to continue to push the edges of the envelope as I go forward.  I’ll meet some of the participants in these edgy behaviors, and try to either observe or participate myself.  (I see trouble coming.)  And, of course, I’ll report back to all my readers what I find (and whatever trouble I get into). 

          Please come back and check in! 

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, May 12, 2012

Visit to a BDSM Club

Night time is really the best time to work. All the ideas are there to be yours because everyone else is asleep.

Catherine O'Hara

Recently, I attended the opening party for a new BDSM club, Domus Dominari Pietas , in Second Life (SL).  I dropped by and had a fun time.  Unfortunately, everyone at the club was busy having a blast and I had to leave for another appointment so I didn’t have much time to talk with the owners about Domus.  However, knowing that my loyal readers (OK, I know there’s at least one of you out there.) would want to know more, I made arrangements to return and have an interview with one of the owners, kitten. 

I return to meet kitten at the club one evening for our interview.  We begin by talking about the Ds family which is behind the club.  Kitten tells me that there is a Real Life (RL) BDSM family behind Domus.  She is one of the newest members and proud of the duality between SL and RL.  For safety reasons, kitten cannot speak about the RL part of their community.  I respect their desire for privacy.  (This isn’t News of the World!)

kitten describes herself as a slavemissive, a term coined by a RL friend of hers.  She does not consider herself property, but feels she is deeper than a sub which is a fine line in between she adds.  Kitten is collared by Master Wey, also an owner of the club.  (She is also the owner of Infinity Photography inworld and I hope to do a story about that at another time.) 

I ask her why she came to the BDSM lifestyle inworld and she replies that she had suffered a loss five years ago which left her masterless.  She shut off her subside completely and came here to see if she could even find her again.  kitten says that she came back with grace. 

Note how kitten refers to her subside as “she”.  I’m learning that subs refer to themselves in almost as many ways as there are subs. When I mention this to her, kitten replies that there is no sub handbook, no cookie cutter form, each sub/slave/slavemissive gives what they and their masters are comfortable with.   kitten hopes each one is different in their own way

I next ask her what satisfaction does she derive in SL as opposed to RL?  Her answer is being with a family 24/7 in both SL and RL is a good platform for roles and rules for an SL/RL relationship.  However, if it’s SL only then at least one can fulfill the inner need to serve and pacify oneself till finding exactly what’s being looked for.

I ask if it’s about the emotional side when inworld.  kitten says that she can’t speak for others, but emotions are first for her. Once a master has the mind and heart, the body will follow.  I then query if there is a physical counterpart to what happens in SL?  She replies again that she can’t speak for others but for her, absolutely, there is.  I continue asking if it’s sexual and she says yes, of course.  Wishing to save this line of questioning for another blog, I turn our interview to a discussion of the club itself. 

I begin by inquiring about the reasons for establishing the club.  kitten explains that the family had been to a few other clubs in SL, some were amazing, others not so much.  They wanted a place comfortable for Ds BDSM lifestylers.  Just family and comfort as she puts it.  This led them to establishing Domus. 

At Domus there would be no judging, all would be welcome.  Master Wey makes the final decisions but all the family members are owners. The only rules are nor griefing, no drama, and everyone plays nice in the sandbox. 

In reply to my query about how well they have been doing, kitten says that they are nearing their one hundredth member.  She adds that they are in no hurry to build membership numbers but prefer quality to quantity.  People being happy is the most important thing for the club. 

kitten continues, explaining about the social life.  The club is still working on a set schedule.  Various events are planned for Saturdays.  Discussion groups for members will be implemented.  There is a Submissive Sisterhood group open to sub sisters for support and guidance and they typically organize club events. 

Besides the main hall which serves as receiving area and dance floor, the club has several other theme rooms which can be TP’d to.  These include the Kitty Room, Bondage Room, Love Grotto, Interrogation Room (I wonder if it would violate journalistic ethics if I were to use this room for my interviews?), Medical Room, Dungeon, and something called the Sin Box.  Then there’s a race track called the Sky Track and I’m still trying to figure out how this fits into the grand scheme of things.  Kitty confirms that these are frequented at all hours of the day. 

My last question to kitten is what would she like my readers to know about the club?

Kitten smiles when she replies.  She wants them to that RL or SL makes no difference when it comes to their desires. 

They can choose to be stifled or can open themselves up to experiences that can enrich their souls.  kitten and her family want to offer that comfort zone to experience new things, either to submit or to dominate.  She adds that people should just be who they’re comfortable being. She explains that’s why one’s “skin” is so important.  (SL residents will understand that analogy.) They have to be comfortable in their skins.

What is really my last question is whether Domus is open to people who are new to BDSM and curious?  kitten says of course they are.  This is why the Submissive Sisterhood group and soon Sub Brotherhood group is coming.  These are “no dom allowed” groups for peer to peer bouncing of ideas and problems.  New and interested people are welcome, and even if it’s not someone’s cup of tea, they are invited to join their gatherings and talks.

At this point, I thank kitten for her time and take my leave.  My visit with her has been interesting and given me some things to think about. First, the connection between RL and SL for this BDSM family and how SL is used as social media. I don’t think Facebook lends itself to what they do.  (I’d like to see a Dungeon in Facebook.)  Next, so far, most people whom I’ve met inworld who are in the BDSM lifestyle also appear to be involved with it to some degree in RL.  Although, I want to be careful of generalizations here.  Finally, the BDSM community inworld is large, diverse, and I haven’t even begun to touch all its facets. 

          I’ll continue my journey across the BDSM community for a while yet.  There are still many people and places I have yet to visit and bring their stories back. 

I want to thank kitten for her time and willingness to share her life with us.  I’m also grateful to Domus for their hospitality.  I would encourage all who are either involved in the BDSM community or who interested in it to check the club 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: kitten I

Photo No. 2: kitten II

Photo No. 3: Domus Main Hall  

Friday, May 11, 2012

How I Write

My personality type was always telling me to pack light, run fast and loose, don’t ask permission, beg forgiveness instead if things went wrong, and improvise your way out of trouble.    

Richard Grant

          Since I’ve been blogging for the last year about my travels across Second Life (SL) I’ve been asked by my inworld friends and other acquaintances about how I write.  I think they mean where do the ideas for my stories come from?  Sometimes they ask about what the motivation is behind my blogging.  I think they are going to be surprised about the method to my madness.

          I know many writers (real writers, not hacks like me) have a methodology which they use to produce their stories.  Serial writers of popular fiction have templates which they use to turn out their regular installments like a well tuned assembly line.        

          I, on the other hand, do not follow such conventions.  I like to be a merry wanderer without commitments and deadlines.  (OK, I’ve failed miserably with the last, I do blog regularly.)  However, as I said previously there is a method to my madness and this is what I’m blogging about now. 

          Although, one nice thing about wandering about inworld is that I get to come home to my own bed in Real Life (RL) each evening.  (Virtual worlds have many advantages over reality sometimes.) 

          So what do I do?  Nothing terribly complicated.  I start by going walkabout.  In the beginning, I was looking to meet the various communities inworld and see what they were about.  I’ve been with vampires, nudists, and the BDSM community.  Then I hang around with them for awhile.  (I have to admire how they put up with me.)  I go where my leads take me.  For example, meeting someone in Nowaki, the neighborhood that I live in when inworld, led me to the BDSM community inworld.  Which in turn led to other folks and places. 

          While hanging around (and wearing out my welcome) I try to learn who is in the community.  What do they do?  How are they different from other communities?  Why do they let me hang around?  And, finally, what am I doing there myself? 

          I find myself staying longer and longer within these communities trying to answer these questions.  I’m also finding how open and hospitable folks are in SL. 

          This blog is the second in a trilogy I’m writing on the first anniversary of my beginning to blog about SL.  Next week, I’ll blog about pushing the edges of the envelope in SL.

          I want to thank all those who have helped me and guided me along my way over the course of the last twelve months.  The list is too long to write but I thank each and every one of you.  What I am truly grateful for is how each of you opened yourselves up and gave me something which I could share with the broader group. 

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.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

One Year in Second Life

The best things always happened unexpectedly when traveling.  The trick was to keep planning to a minimum and allow plenty of time and opportunity for random encounters, happenstance, and the pursuing of sudden whims. 

Richard Grant

Depending on one’s viewpoint, one year is either a very long time off in the future or it has been the blink of an eye.

For me, since I posted my first blog about my travels and experiences in Second Life (SL) the time has been the blink of an eye.  Something also tells me that the next year, while now seems a long way off, will go by just as quickly as I continue my journeys inworld. 

I thought having just past my first anniversary of blogging about my adventures inworld this would be a good time to stop and reflect about how I’ve spent my time inworld so far.  (Warning, this blog will resemble one of those flashback episodes on television that we all hate so.  However, there may also be teasers about future episodes, er, I mean journeys.  So, dear reader, you decide whether to read on or not. I’m awful aren’t I?)

I began writing because I wanted to share with a larger audience my wanderings about the grid.  Why was I even on the grid in the first place?  Well, traveling about in Real Life (RL) is not an option for me as it once was.  (Significant Other expects me home on a regular basis and quite rightly insists on a forwarding address those few times that I do get about these days.)  Also, I’d read the blog of Bunky Snowbear who had tried to walk across the SL grid before giving up.  I thought to myself, “Why not?”

SL was only meant to be the first step on a journey across the entire Metaverse itself.  But, SL offered opportunities and challenges to me.  How do I even get in?  How do I make myself look presentable?  Then, the big one which has driven away so many noobies, what do I do once I’m inworld?  Can I get a job and cover my costs?

Next thing I know, I own a house in Nowaki and I have many friends whom I’ve met as I’ve crossed and recrossed the grid. 

After figuring out how to exit SL’s arrival center, my next challenge was what should I look like?  I wanted to do this on the cheap (A virtue of mine in RL as well.  Significant Other has another word for it.)  Fortunately, there are many diverse and free options here inworld. Despite the raised eyebrows (Quite a trick inworld.) of some of my SL friends, I created a new look for myself.  My red eyes always draw comments.  (Yes, I know it’s a cheap trick but I couldn’t rely on my personality.) 

So, after finally getting my looks sorted out (Some might say that they still aren’t.  They’re just jealous.), I decided to go out and meet people.  Where to start?  I wanted to investigate the various communities inworld.  I started with nekos, vampires, and steampunks.  Tried to meet goths but that didn’t go anywhere.   I just went out onto the highways and byways of SL, stopped the people I met along the way, and started up conversations.

What I found was a terrific sense of community among those whom I did meet.  I spent considerable time with the vampires of Nulli Secundus.  I even attended a vampire wedding.   

From this starting point, I encountered the cultural life within SL.  I met particle dance performers, musicians, and writers.  Then there is the whole world of fashion.  I met models and designers. 

All of these people opened up their SL lives for me and took the time to tell me about their worlds.  Few ever rejected my request for an interview and in fairness, those that did said they either were too new to SL or didn’t speak English well enough to be able to help.  No one has been rude. 

I found people helping other people.  Fund raisers for RL causes and for SL residents who have issues in RL.  This is more than a game. This is a community that is coming together and becoming something more than World of Warcraft. 

I came across the 1920’s Berlin sim where Frau Jo Yardley and her friends have built an incredible recreation of Weimar Berlin before the madness descended.  Here too is a rich cultural community which I plan to return to in the next year. 

My time inworld has given me a chance to see and think about some of the things that could adversely affect SL.  The first of these was the Great Recession of 2008.  I spent some time trying to gauge its impact on SL.  The clues were all the blogs that seemed to stop at about that time, residents whom nobody had seen in years, and large inworld builds that appeared to be ghost towns where work had just stopped and everyone walked away never to return.  If people continue to leave then eventually the plug’s going to be pulled.  But, then they need a reason to stay, don’t they?  Which leads me to my next topic. 

The other major potential for trouble inworld is Linden Lab (LL) itself.  SL is coming on ten years old soon.  The infrastructure is aging.  What could have been a vibrant virtual economy is moribund.  New mobile technologies like smart phones and tablets are ignored.  Most telling of all, for all the time I’ve spent inworld, I’ve never met a Linden.  For late arrivals like myself, they are the stuff of legend.  Recently, someone told me that a Linden’s appearance inworld is denoted by a blue dot on the maps.  I have never seen a blue dot.  Finally, all the residents I’ve met complain about their tier fees.  This is the company that once graced the cover of Businessweek. 

For myself, I’ve had a few “events” along the way.  When CNN iReports did a technical overhaul last November I lost many of the features which I needed so I’ve been at Blogger ever since. Ironically, the only iReporters meeting that I went to inworld was their last one when they shut the place down.  (Story of my life.)

Next was my Twenty-four Hours in SL series of blogs where I actually spent an entire day inworld.  That was a lot of fun.  I had a chance to reconnect with many friends and revisit a few places that I hadn’t seen in a while.  I also made new friends and went to new place.  That’s the attraction of SL, one can never see it all.  Unfortunately, my one day inworld may have led to the third big event of this past year. 

My third big happening of my year in SL was the crashing of my laptop’s hard drive.  While inworld, I could hear that it was running hard during my twenty-four hour stint.  A RL friend (I do have some.) later said that hard drives can burn if played too hard and too long in an intense simulation like SL.  OK, I learned something.  While waiting for a replacement to appear, I went into the SL Diaspora in the Metaverse and was able to keep blogging until I could get back inworld.  I was impressed by all who helped me during this time and sent me their messages of support to me. 

But what about the future?  I’ve been writing so much about the past, what do the next twelve months look like.  There will be changes.  (At least I hope there will be!)  I will go back and revisit old friends whom I haven’t seen since I last wrote about them.  While I am a wanderer, I feel bad that I don’t return often enough to those who have helped me along the way.  Hence, be warned, I’m coming back. 

I will push the edges of the envelope more.  Recently, I was at a nudist function in 1920’s Berlin  and I’ve also been spending time with the BDSM community inworld.   I see opportunities for more blogs in those veins.  Don’t worry, I won’t become That Kind of Blog as Glorf Bulmer would say.  Although, who knows?  Maybe there could be Another Blog of That Kind?

The frequency of posts will increase.  I can’t commit to a number yet but there will be more.  I will also be using more social media to attract more readers.

I will try to use my blog to help across the broader community inworld such as the Occupy SL movement.  Much can be done to help residents with their RL issues. 

Finally, I will continue to seek out new places and new friends inworld and bring these experiences to my readers.  One of these topics will be SL relationships that crossed over into RL.  I also want to track down Bunky and talk with him. 

I want to thank all those who have helped me and guided me along my way over the course of the last twelve months.  The list is too long to write but I thank each and every one of you.  What I am truly grateful for is how each of you opened yourselves up and gave me something which I could share with the broader group. 

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.