Saturday, April 26, 2014

Are There Hobbits in Second Life?


In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

J. R. R. Tolkien

          For those of you who know me, and those who don’t are about to find out, I enjoy fantasy.  The tales of gods, dragons, and magic have kept me reading and playing games for quite some time.  (Significant Other is amazed that I ever bothered to take the time to grow up which in itself may be debatable.)
          Second Life (SL) drew me in initially because of the potential to experience that fantasy.  I’ve met vampires, Goreans, pirates, and visited the Ancient Wonders of the world.  Was chased by zombies, flew a dragon, experienced steampunk, and strolled the streets of Weimar Berlin. Let’s not forget my quest for Doctor Who and his TARDIS.
          All these experiences, whether pure fantasy or based in some former reality, I remember and cherish.  (Although, Significant Other and Real Life (RL) friends do tend to wander off when I begin to tell my tales.  I ascribe it to simple envy on their parts.)
          But, one experience has escaped me so far inworld and, that, that is the world of J. R. R. Tolkien.  (If you don’t know whom that is, please just stop reading now.  None of what follows will make any sense to you.  For that matter, why are you even reading me in the first place?)
          Anyway, back to my story.
          Recently, my good friend, Perryn Peterson, let me in on a little secret.  He was planning a Tolkien Festival inworld and wanted to know if I’d be interested in blogging about it. 
          Does a dog have fleas?  (For those who are offended by my analogy, please excuse me and remember that I’m American and just be grateful that I didn’t use the one about the bear in the woods.)
          Thanks to Perryn I was permitted to visit the Festival area prior to its opening.  What follows is based on my trips to Middle-earth in SL.  Stay with me and be amazed! 
          Arrival at the landing zone leaves me in a hobbit’s home in Hobbiton.  (Bilbo Baggins’ perhaps?)  The room has the look and feel of where a hobbit might lay his head.  (The bed is small!)
          Looking out the front window, I have a beautiful view of the town nestled in the Shire.  Other hobbit homes are visible and smoke coming out of chimneys tells me that some are home.
          I exit the house and take the pathway down into the village proper.  The look and feel of an old English village where Tolkien got so many of his ideas is there. 
          Walking through the town, I come to its edge and the woods where a path leads up a mountain to my next destination, Rivendell, home of the elves.  Here, I discover that Perryn has once again outdone himself.
          What awaits me is beautiful city of white marble looking out over the surrounding countryside. Gold gleams from towers.  There are few sights in RL comparable to what lies ahead of me. 
          Nature’s component is not overlooked either.  Waterfalls, trees, and flowers cover the mountains with their beauty. 
          This is where SL, and other virtual worlds to be fair, excel.  While the written word is a powerful tool, being able to stroll through a 3-D rendering of Tolkien’s genius has to be experienced to be truly appreciated. 
          Merchants’ shops will be here during the Festival as well as the dance floor for the social activities.  Fountains and flowers add to the festive feel of the city.
          From here, I teleport to Lothlorien, the forest domain of the elves, where Perryn’s partner, Mike Olbracht, has outdone himself in creating the woodland scene which opens before me. 
          I walk along a forest path with trees towering over me and flowers and shrubs lining my way.  The sun’s rays breaking through the foliage makes for a realistic scene.  A footbridge over a pond gives the sense of deep waters.  The water lilies only complete a perfectly natural scene.
          My stroll brings me to my destination which is a tall tower with Chauron the dragon guarding its treasure.  The dragon is still young and hence small unlike the massive one I rode recently.  Once the Festival begins, this dragon can be ridden as well I’m told. 
          This is a brief summary of the world of Tolkien’s Middle-earth created by Perryn and his team.  There are many byways and highways that I have yet to take here.  But, I’ll have to hurry and this sim opens today, April 26th, and will only remain open until May 11th. 
          Ninety merchants will have their wares on display across the sim.  A mini-hunt whose object is the “One Ring” will also be run.  (I’m told this hunt will be a little more difficult than most!)
          Many old favorites will be returning with their merchandise.  Longtime participant Aley Resident from Acadia Asylum will have her shop.  Several new merchants will be showing for the first time.  EmpyreanForge and Rahpture will be among these.  JSparker Resident is opening a tavern where whistles can be wetted!
          I’d like to thank Jadziyah, and fellow Whovian, of Eclectic Stars for sending a sample box full of Tolkien merchandise to sample for this story.  Make sure to check her shop out when you visit!  Her merchandise is highly authentic and of very good quality.
          Finally, a shout out to Tolkien himself!  Thank you very much for your heroes and their stories which have entertained so many of us for so very long! 
          I’ve included links to pictures of my stroll below but these don’t do the Festival any justice at all.  Go and see for yourselves.  You’ll be glad you did! 
          Remember, it’s only open until May 11th! 
          Also, please support the sim by contributing donations at the kiosks placed around the sim for this purpose and support the local merchants.  RL isn’t the only place where Big Box stores are squeezing the little guys. 
          I’d like to thank Perryn for inviting me in for a sneak peek at all the work he and his team have done!  I’d also like to thank Jadziyah for reaching out and sending her samples over to me! 
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.   
My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.
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 Hobbit’s Home

Photo No. 3 Festival Sponsors

Photo No. 4 Hobbiton

Photo No. 6 Hobbiton Street

Photo No. 7 Hobbiton Flowers

Photo No. 8 To Rivendell!

Photo No. 10 Rivendell

Photo No. 11 Rivendell Courtyard

Photo No. 12 Rivendell Waterfalls

Photo No. 13 View of Rivendell

Photo No. 14 Rivendell Dance Floor  

Photo No. 15 Road to Lothlorien

Photo No. 16 Woods at Lothlorien

Photo No. 17 Stream in Lothlorien

Photo No. 21 Flowers in Lothlorien


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Willkommen! – Part III Back to 1920’s Berlin in Second Life

 Ich bin ein Berliner!

John F. Kennedy

          In all my wanderings in Second Life (SL), I’m very bad about going back to places that I visited earlier and blogged about.  Sometimes, a place closes before I can get back or have a chance to enjoy it like Utopia recently did.
          One sim in particular, I visited very early in my blogging career and wrote about again is 1920’s Berlin.  The sim dedicated to authentically replicating Weimar Germany. 
          But, that was over two years ago.
          Yes, I’ve probably stayed in touch more with this sim’s residents than with most others.  I interviewed Frau Jo Yardley, the creator and force of nature behind just about everything in the sim, for the above story.  A subsequent interview was with Mila Edelman, the retro fashion designer who does such wonderful work in Berlin. 
          I’ve also did a few quick visits but not much else.  I didn’t walk about like I once did.  (And it’s not because the police were looking for me!)  I’ve made several good friends.  (At least I think they’re friends.  They may just be tolerating me to see what foolishness I get up to next.)  But, I haven’t really strolled the streets of Berlin.  (Significant Other asks if anyone is requesting that I do such.) 
          I’ve heard of changes in 1920’s Berlin so I decided to go back and look around on the ground.
          I arrive at the landing zone and take the familiar train ride into Berlin.  I notice that there are more warnings about being properly attired when visiting.  I’d seen communications from Frau Jo for a while about people not wearing period costume when visiting and I guess this is in reaction.  Sadly, the price of success may be more uninformed or uncaring guests.
          Upon detraining at the other end and going downstairs to exit the station, I go outside and feel like I’m coming home.  Everything looks familiar except for the new street car which I don’t think was here on my earlier visits.
          The streets are empty and some litter lies in them.  Like the period posters on the wall, all these details lend a feeling of authenticity.  The early hour of my arrival may be why not many are about.  I don’t see any of my friends listed in the Nearby directory.  (No, it’s not because they’re trying to avoid me!  I didn’t tell them I was coming so they couldn’t be away.  Significant Other taught me this trick.  I meet way more family and friends in Real Life (RL) than I used to.)
          But, as in any large city, I catch glimpses of people moving in the distance and do wonder what they’re up to.
          Walking along the streets (I don’t know which one, I always get lost in Berlin and depend on friends to TP me along my way.) and stop in front of the Café Electrik where I once spent a pleasant evening engaging in a discussion with a group of Berliners.  Now, it sits empty.  A few friends and a few cups of coffee would make for a nice picture.
          I cross the street to Hotel Adlon which has undergone some renovations since I first saw it.  The lobby is impressive with the main staircase leading to the upstairs rooms.  The dining room on the ground floor looks like it can offer some sumptuous dining.  Of course, as an itinerant and struggling writer inworld, I’ll just have to settle for the coffee shops.  (You can tell the sim’s deserted, normally, I wouldn’t even be allowed through the front door of a place like this.  I had a similar problem in RL until I started hanging around with Significant Other.)
          On the same street is the recently renovated Babylon movie theater which regularly shows period films.  The building’s interior has a comfortable screening room.
          Walking down through the Brandenburg Gate, I enter the Tiergarten and wander through the park admiring the trees and flowers.  A few expensive looking homes are discreetly back in the woods.  (Someone’s doing well here!)
          From here, I stumble onto the train tracks and manage to get run over a few times along the way.  (Sorry about the blood stains, Frau Jo, I’ll clean them up on my next trip through.) But, I have always wanted to know where these tracks run and now I know.  The tracks run through an industrial and working class neighborhood.  Knowing Frau Jo’s attention to detail and desire for authenticity, she probably researched old photographs for the effect which is very realistic.
          Reaching the train station again, I climb up onto the tracks (Significant Other comments is it any wonder that people avoid me.) and return home to Nowaki.
          I enjoyed my walk through 1920’s Berlin.  Unlike many other sims inworld, there is a serious effort to ensure period accuracy in all the buildings and features.  Even down to the lone policeman pounding his beat.  (Whom I avoided BTW.  Some small misunderstanding about being a political undesirable.)
          I strongly encourage all to visit 1920’s Berlin.  It’s worth the time and the community that resides there are a wonderful dedicated to reenacting this brief period of RL that existed before the madness fell over the Continent.
          Please wear period costume when visiting and remember that residents are typically in character.  Free costumes are available at the arrival area and Mila offers attractive women’s clothing at reasonable prices for those wishing to be a bit better appointed.
          I’d like to thank Frau Jo Yardley and everyone at 1920’s Berlin for all their hard work and the hospitality they show visitors to their community!
          Have a great time and tell ‘em web sent you!  (Unless of course, you meet the policeman, in which case I wouldn’t if I were you.)
          I’ve included links to pictures of stroll below but these don’t do Berlin any justice.  Go and see for yourselves.  You’ll be glad you did! 
My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld 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 Streetcar

Photo No. 2 Café Electrika

Photo No. 4 Hotel Adlon – Lobby

Photo No. 8 Tiergarten

Photo No. 9 Park Scene

Photo No. 10 Local Ride

Photo No. 11 Train Tracks

Photo No. 12 Bend in the Tracks

Photo No. 13 Main Train Station

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Want to Ride a Dragon in Second Life?

 Never laugh at live dragons.

J. R. R. Tolkien

          Last year, my friend and Research Assistant (RA), Tera Trenchcoat, (Yes, she’s still with me.  Significant Other believes it’s because she can’t wait to see what trouble I’ll get into next.  I’m still going with a sense of duty, professional curiosity, and my jokes.) brought us to the Da Vinci Gardens in Kalepa.  I was impressed and blogged about the sim then. 
          I’ve been meaning to get back to have a look around and finally had a chance this week.  (I try to write about what my readers ask about but sometimes I write for myself.  There’re advantages to being a literary type, or, at least having pretensions to being one.)
          I arrive at the landing zone and as before am overwhelmed by the spectacle around me.  Tall towers and castles stretch out from me as far as I can see on islands in a sea which reminds me of the Mediterranean on a sunlit day.  (I have seen the Mediterranean Sea on a beautiful sunlit day so I know what I’m talking about.  I wasn’t always confined to cyberspace!)  The sea stretches to the horizon beyond the archipelago. 
          Da Vinci Gardens is wide open and seems to just go on.  Stairways and causeways lead from one structure to another.  Doorways are everywhere.  Giant condors soar overhead.  Teleports hint at further secrets. 
          The architectural style is eclectic.  From Middle Earth to Moorish.  Dark Ages to the samurai.  Sci fi to who knows what.  Ships of sail and other means of propulsion yet to be identified.  Ruins loom over one island.  A telescope aims at the sky from an observatory.
          A very active imagination has been behind the layout of Da Vinci Gardens.
          I want to see it all, to do it all.  But, I know I don’t have much time.  So, I bound up the spiral staircase in front of me all the way to the top.  (I’m finding I get just as dizzy on spiral staircases in Second Life (SL) as I do in Real Life (RL).  Remind to tell you about my trip to the Statue of Liberty some time.)
          At the top of the stairs, a dragon stands.
          A very big dragon who breathes fire and smoke.
          A very big dragon who breathes fire and smoke and who is saddled and ready to ride.
          Why not?
          The beauty of SL is that no matter what happens inworld, we can always close down and restart.
          I mount the very big dragon who (you get the picture, I won’t repeat myself) and launch into the skies.
          Problem number one.  How does one steer a fire breathing dragon?  (Give me some credit, after fumbling for a while, I looked for instructions.  There were none.)
          Eventually, I get the situation under control.  (All those hours spent on flight simulators finally pay off.) 
          I soar.  I dive.  I hover over an erupting volcano.  I sweep through the courtyard of the Dark Ages castle.  I have a blast.  (Significant Other just sighs.)
          Somewhere along the way, I learn that this dragon is a combat dragon intended to fight other dragons.  I have fire control if I want and health gauge for my beast in case I start something I can’t finish.  (Significant Other smiles knowingly.)
           Fortunately, for my brave stead and me, we encounter no other dragons.  Yes, I resist the temptation to burn down buildings or roast the condors. 
          Problem, number two.  How does one park a fire breathing dragon and dismount?
          I’ll keep it simple.
          We end up at the bottom of the harbor surrounded by very big fish with very big teeth.  I guess at this point, my dragon figures out whom he has riding on his back yelling “Hi ho, Silver, away!” because I find myself standing alone on the sea bed except for those very big fish with very big teeth.
          At this point, discretion being the better part of valor, (As Corporal Randolph Agarn once said, “He who runs away lives to run away another day!”) I teleport the Hell out of there and head home.
          And that, dear reader, is my adventure with the dragon at Da Vinci Garden. 
          The feeling of flying among the condors and looking down on the beautiful scene below is an exhilarating one.  The sim permits avatars to fly but trust me on this, there’s nothing like flying on a fire breathing dragon.  (Even if I do get soaked in the end!)
           I plan to return to Da Vinci Gardens in the future and further explore all its secrets.
          I’d like to thank Tera for introducing me to the sim originally and sticking with the team as we work our way across the Grid!
          I’ve included links to pictures of my dragon riding exploits below but go and see for yourselves.  You’ll be glad you did! 
My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld 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 I Ride the Dragon

Photo No. 3 Over the Fire

Photo No. 4 Something Different

Photo No. 5 Double Head Shot

Photo No. 6 The Castle

Photo No. 7 Aerial View

Photo No. 8 Ruins Ahead

Photo No. 9 Aerial View II

Photo No. 10 Undersea

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Want to Build a Doctor Who TARDIS in Second Life?

Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, somewhere else, the tea’s getting cold.

The Seventh Doctor

          Recently, I blogged about the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who.  (Yes, I admit it, I’m a Whovian.  I’m out of the closet!)  I’ve also written about using social media more with Second Life (SL) which I’ve been doing of late.
          As a result, that story about Doctor Who’s anniversary has become really popular with my readers.  (Or, one reader really likes it.  Either way, I’m very grateful!)
          So, to reward my loyal Whovian readers, and to stick to my word about using social media and adjusting my blogging accordingly, I’m once again blogging about Doctor Who.  Admittedly, my arm didn’t have to be twisted too hard.  (Significant Other knows just how much pressure to apply and for how long.) 
          So, what does one blog next about the good Doctor inworld?
          I think that every Whovian who’s ever lived has wanted to take a ride in the TARDIS.  But, for some, there’s an even more elusive goal, to actually own one. 
          Well, thinking about this for a second, I realized quickly that not only was this possible in SL but one could actually build one’s own TARDIS to order inworld.  (Life is so much more fun when one doesn’t have to feel constrained by the physical limitations of Real Life (RL).) 
          I return to Hands of Omega TTC (Check here for the origin of that name.) where I’d visited for my anniversary story.  I had seen various Doctor Who paraphernalia for sale here and thought I’d give them a try.
          I wasn’t disappointed.
          For anyone considering building their own TARDIS inworld, Hands of Omega is definitely the place to start. 
          Several rooms lead off the arrival area.  Each dedicated to a particular aspect of the TARDIS. 
          What I like particularly is that one can construct a TARDIS for anyone of the Doctors one chooses.  And for those on the Dark Side, the Master’s and the Rani’s are available as well.  The sim’s creators have done their homework because other potential designs for the TARDIS can be purchased. 
          Another room contains various pieces of equipment and special effects which can be used to further customize a TARDIS to a particular Doctor’s tastes. Copies of the Third Doctor’s favorite mode of transportation after his TARDIS (An old automobile named Bessie for those of you who aren’t up on your Whovian trivia!) and the Fourth Doctor’s best wheeled friend, K-9. 
          One of my favorite sections has all those extra rooms we see for while in the TARDIS and then they go away never to be seen again.  Well, Hands of Omega has them all available for someone with enough Lindens (and the prim allowance somewhere) to build the whole thing.  The beauty of SL is that such a TARDIS would look like in does in the show, a small police box opening to many other nooks and crannies. 
          For those who’d like to see the merchandise before they buy, the TARDIS in the arrival area will take them to various recreations from the worlds of Doctor Who. 
          There are additional rooms with merchandise at Hands of Omega but I’ll save them for my next story on acquiring costumes inworld for the Doctors, their companions, Time Lords, and other assorted characters from the series. 
          Below, I’ve included links to a few pictures from Hands of Omega showing the various merchandise displays.  But, please go and see for yourselves because these pictures do not do justice to the worlds just beyond!             
          Now, in case anyone is wondering if I’m going to be building my own TARDIS anytime soon.  My first problem will be funding.  (I’ve promised Significant Other to keep inworld expenses to a minimum.)  My next problem is where to park the thing!  My dream TARDIS would be prim heavy and there would certainly be a “Disturbance in the Force” if I try to move about in SL with it.  But, once these two, small problems are resolved, Who knows…
My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld 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 TARDIS Enhancements

Photo No. 6 TARDIS Add-on Rooms