Sunday, December 30, 2007

Philip Dick and Second Life

Philip Dick's definition of reality perhaps more than any other epitomises the fundamental nature of Second Life.

'But I have never had too high a regard for what is generally called 'reality'. Reality, to me, is not so much something that you perceive, but something you make. You create it more rapidly than it creates you.'

Photographs of Christmas in Second Life... Christmas morning in the castle of Awakening with my cat... a snowcat I made ... a virtual Christmas card depicting my Christmas Cabin...

Perhaps Second Life can be more beautiful and closer to perfection in many ways and there can be a danger in that. One could be tempted to escape to the virtual world, to create a perfect vision of Christmas.

There is something in me, however, that is determined to keep one foot firmly on the ground, to embrace my own reality, however difficult and imperfect it may be. I love creating my own realities in Second Life but ultimately feel I am cheating myself if I spend too much time and energy there.

Nonetheless, memories of these visions now are as much a part of my memory of Christmas as any Christmas festivities in THIS world. Walking between two worlds is an enriching experience.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Chasing the Almighty Dollar

Where this particular post should be published, I am not certain, but this photograph is in stark contrast to the artists I admire in Second Life. Here is some one who cares NOTHING for the environment or the emotions and needs of others. Here is a crass greedy seller who only is concerned to make the LOUDEST, UGLIEST declaration possible by setting huge, bright revolving signs in the heavens proclaiming nothing more than land that is for sale...

Nearby, an artist named Azadine Umarov quietly sells her parcels and is willing to negotiate fair prices with buyers but THIS person is the ultimate selfish negation of all that is good and decent in Second Life.

Shame upon you and upon every one who thinks only of his/her own benefit in ANY world.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cynthia's Heaven

Cynthia Wilder is a very talented woman who has been in Second Life for less than a year but who has been very energetic in creating clothing and furniture as well as orchestrating social events from fashion shows to weddings and dance parties. She is Lebanese and her heritage is a rich resource that she has brought to her creations and her activities in Second Life. I have showcased her work on my 'Guide to Second Life' website.

These are a few photographs of outfits designed by Cynthia Wilder of 'Cynthia's Heaven'. The artist describes her designs as Gorean and traditional Arab, as well as Gothic. As you can see, the outfits can be worn in different ways. The burgundy gown has two different skirts and can be worn with or without the headdress and face veil. The black burqa is a very traditional but beautiful gown with complete burqa, allowing total privacy and concealment of identity.

She has created a number of dance poses in the form of dance balls as well as a rather clever HUD to enable individuals to perform traditional belly dancing. She has made some wonderful tents and items of furniture. I include a photograph of a wedding tent that she created for an elaborate wedding that she organised. More photographs of the wedding, her fashion shows and dance parties can be seen on her own site at:

Cynthia's Heaven

New Travel Guide Website for Second Life

It occurred to me that the world of Second Life is vast enough to merit a 'travel guide' of sorts. Furthermore, there were articles I wished to write about Second Life that dealt with places and experiences rather than particular artists. I decided, therefore, to create a new 'Travel Guide' page. You can find it at:

Travel Guide to Second Life

Articles about the Al Andalus and Roma sims have been posted there.

Meanwhile, I have commandeered my first Second Life Guide page now to feature articles about Second Life in general.

Freyashawk's Guide to Second Life

An article about Baron Grayson's recent Opera House auction for charity as well as an article about Cynthia Wilder have been published there.

Friday, December 7, 2007

How Art is Created in Second Life

This is not a new video, but it is a wonderfully detailed demonstration of the creation of a fairly complex object in Second Life. The object is a guitar and the creator is Robbie Dingo. The guitar was created for Suzanne Vega and her live performance in Second Life.

Incidentally, Robbie Dingo is the same artist who made the Second Life machinima 'Watch the World' tribute to Van Gogh. Although I posted 'Watch the World' on my main page some months ago, I am posting it again here as it is quite a masterpiece.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dark Adria's Winter Wonderland at Castle Row

Here are two pictures of the winter scene created by Darks Adria at Castle Row.
The third is of my own Winter Wonderland, created using the Winter Cabin made by Darks, a reindeer created by Bricklin & DeFarge and trees by Kriss Lehmann of Botanical at Straylight as well as some from Heart, one of the best sources for trees and plants in Second Life. The snowbells, a favourite flower of mine, are from Heart.

The Christmas Spirit in Second Life

As befits a world devoted to fantasies of every kind, Second Life began to exhibit the Winter Holiday spirit quite early. On Thanksgiving Day, Wolves Bain gave the members of his group an exquisite chapel. Various groups have begun to announce special Christmas items. The most generous of these have been attaching small gifts to their notices.

At both Castle Row and Paradise Pets, the owners and their partners have created Winter Wonderlands. Darks Adria has created a wonderful skating rink in the centre of an idyllic landscape, complete with ice gazebos and winter displays that exhibit both beauty and great humour. At Paradise Pets, candy canes form the foundation of a special holiday gazebo. Beneath the dome, incredible animated Winter creatures disport themselves on the ice. They are the creations of Don Bricklin. His partner Deborah has created reindeer for the season. The buyer can choose between a reindeer with the traditional black nose and one with a red nose! The reindeer are not stationary, but raise and lower their heads to browse the frozen earth for food and when touched, they will 'speak' in reindeer fashion.

Wolves Bain and Darks Adria always offer an assortment of free items to their visitors and Darks' Winter Wonderland is a place where many delightful treats can be found. Deborah DeFarge has created an entire booth filled with free items for the holidays. Within, you can find an exquisite tree, nativity creche, basket of pine cones, plate of mince pies, wreath, garland, Christmas stockings, bows and candy canes and sprigs of holly and mistletoe.

I have enumerated some of these gifts here to demonstrate the generosity of artists such as these. Where many merchants and artists in Second Life view the Winter holidays primarily as an opportunity to exploit the sale of products they create, the best artists are filled with the true spirit of Christmas and Yuletide and give freely of their bounty.

It is a great pleasure to support the creative efforts of an artist who is willing to share his or her creations with the public. There are many 'Christmas' bazaaars in Second Life where each of the items Deborah is giving to individuals would carry price tags on them. Landowners in Second Life must pay monthly fees known as tier for the most part, whether or not they build or sell ANY items. One recognises the need for landowners with large shops to make enough money to sustain their presence in Second Life but to me, the attitude of the artist is as important as his/her talent. When one purchases any item in Second Life, a small part of the creator is to be found within that object. I would not like to surround myself with objects created by mean-spirited or mercenary individuals, however beautiful their work might appear to be at first glance.

The second booth displays the animated figures created for the Christmas skating scene. It is impossible to capture the delightful versatility of these characters in a simple photograph. Each skater has a distinct personality. The Snowman and Father Christmas are more serene as they circle the gazebo, but the children engage in numerous skating feats and tricks and as often tumble to the ground as they succeed. It is very entertaining and extremely clever, like all the creations of Bricklin & Defarge.

Second Life is a living organism in a way, comprised of all its residents. Second Life therefore is defined not only by its objects and landscapes but by personal interactions as well. As a truly international venue, those who are open-handed and exhibit a spirit of kindness and generosity improve our world in general. A virtual world is a mirror of the real world, even if it may differ from this world drastically in form and appearance. As griefers in Second Life actually can cause emotional damage to real people when they target an avatar, the actions of those who give freely of themselves and their art must have a positive effect in both worlds.

Bricklin & DeFarge

Bricklin & DeFarge represents the partnership of two talented artists who are involved in a great Second Life romance. Together, they have inspired and created a multitude of incredible pets and magical devices. I wrote about their romance in a previous post. This article focuses on their shop, Paradise Pets, which is located on a ship.

Birds of various kinds soar above the visitor. One sees pelicans, hawks and seagulls. The cries of the seagulls and the lapping of the waves against the sides of the ship contribute to the idyllic atmosphere at this marvelous shop for animal lovers.

The photographs should speak for themselves to some extent. Paradise Pets does not offer only cats and dogs. Birds and an assortment of 'tamed' wild creatures are on display here as well.

One side of the ship is reserved for non-living items, although Don 'likes everything to work' as Deborah confided to me, and the so-called 'inanimate' objects they both create usually are animated and interactive to some extent. On sale here are many of the love tokens that the couple have exchanged, including the wood-burning tool that creates a heart, a 'breakfast in bed' tray and a music box that Don gave to Deborah both in SL and RL.

A small skating rink now has been included on deck with a marvelous skating snowman. I had intended to discuss the new Christmas display in this post, but will devote a separate post to it now.

Deborah is known for her aquariums and aquatic creatures. I have included one photograph of a room filled with examples of her fish and their habitats. Among other things, she made a fantastic water bed that is actually an aquarium, 'giving new meaning to the phrase: 'sleeping with the fishes'', as its creator remarked.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cats and Romance in Second Life

This website is a rather haphazard attempt to showcase my favourite artists in Second Life and my inclusion of an artist here depends primarily on two elements:
admiration of the artist's talent and work and secondly, the attitude the artist exhibits towards others.

This is a story of my cat and of a great romance in Second Life.

There are many excellent builders and artists in Second Life but they include a large number of individuals who are unwilling to give of themselves beyond the work they offer for sale. For some, the items they make represent no more than a profitable business venture. For others, their attitude is that they are represented through the items they sell and have no further responsibility towards those who patronise their vendors or shops.

To me, the greatest artists in Second Life are those who are motivated, even driven to create AND who possess an exceptional spirit of compassion and empathy towards humanity. The artists who are willing to take extra time and energy in order to help newcomers or any resident who needs assistance are the artists who inspire my own respect and admiration.

Don Bricklin and Deborah DeFarge are two amazingly talented artists. Their partnership is a marvelous example of romance in Second Life. Their creations are imbued with their passion for one another. They were kind enough to share their story and some of their work with me.

Very often, a meeting with an artist is circumstantial. My meeting with Don Bricklin and Deborah DeFarge occurred in the following manner.

I encountered a cat, a household pet rather than a Neko, at a lingerie shop. The cat was quite amazing, moving about in a very natural manner, and purring and meowing apparently as the mood took her. Cats are among my favourite creatures on this planet, so I interacted with her and received a notecard in return. The notecard enumerated the cat's abilities and included a landmark to the shop where she could be purchased.

Paradise Pets is an amazing place for animal lovers. The shop specialises in household pets and is located on a boat. It is filled with every sort of creature. Creatures of the sea include a large variety of fish as well as dolphins. There are a number of different types of birds. One can buy a turtle if one wishes. Finally, one can purchase a dog or cat.

There are other artists who have created 'pets' but none have the amazing abilities displayed by those made by Don and Deborah. The cat in fact was still in its 'experimental' stage, according to the notecard but I hastened to buy one, feeling that my castle never would be a real home unless I had a cat in residence.

The cat can be named and indeed will respond to his/her name. I named my cat Lionheart, mirroring my cat in this world. I allowed my Second Life Lionheart to roam the forest initially, as I realised that the threats that existed in this world would not be a problem there.

Ultimately, though, I wished to be greeted by Lionheart whenever I entered the castle. With that in mind, I placed him in my pocket and took him into my castle.
When I attempted to rez him on the ground floor, he vanished!

I searched in vain for at least half an hour before I finally contacted his creator. As always when one contacts an artist one has not met, one does not know whether or not one ever will receive a response.

I was delighted when Don Bricklin answered my message almost instantly and offered to come to my castle to search for the missing pet.

Don had a special scanner and he brought it with him. Unfortunately, Lionheart did not show up on the scanner, although all sorts of odd items in the area, including a dance pole located in one of my neighbour's bedrooms, did.

I actually was the one to find Lionheart. Oddly enough, he had returned to his previous location in the forest! I scooped him up and, with Don on hand to prevent any further mishaps, rezzed him once again on the castle floor. This time he behaved properly and appeared there, purring loudly.

During the search for my missing cat, Don told me of other projects and offered to give me a tour of some of his creations. I accepted with enthusiasm.

I have included two photographs here of the Angel Room, created by Don Bricklin for his beloved Deborah. He created it as a 'quest'. First he created a piece of wood with a wood-burning tool. When she clicked on it, the tool burned a heart with their initials into it and gave her a feather that bore her aloft to the magical Angel Room.

The photographs do not do justice to this magical place. The wings actually move to and fro, as though the chapel were a living entity. As the wings beat, the chapel appears to breathe and one truly is swept up in an illusion of floating through the heavens. One photograph shows doves as they fly across the chamber. They nest in a birdcage to the right of the altar and fly into the air at regular intervals.

The Angel Room is where Don and Deborah were married. They would like to make this magical 'chapel' available for other couples who wish to marry in Second Life.
In the sky to the left, you can see a cabin on another platform. I was given a tour of this cabin as well. It is filled with many wonders and they may make it available to other honeymoon couples.

Incidentally, a version of the magical wood-burning tool is for sale now. It will burn a heart with the words 'I Love You' into a piece of wood. I believe that a burst of a choice of particles is displayed at the completion of the task.

Don did not take his beloved to dinner at a fine restaurant on her birthday. Instead, he created an entire restaurant for her! The restaurant is extraordinary. Everything is 'real' there. A number of different dishes are offered at a buffet. Fresh pizza can be created in an oven above a roaring fire and can be consumed, slice by slice.

Outside vegetables grow in the garden, to be watered by a functioning sprinkler system. If one explores the garden, one may find an antique gold coin, protected by leprechauns! When I found a coin, I took it at my peril, as the guardians of the pot of gold were disposed to curse any intruder, but the leprechauns now have been chastised and allow coins to be taken with their blessing.

A photograph of the two lovers dancing in the restaurant is included here. The jukebox contains a large collection of songs and there is a guitar and Grand Piano. On the occasion of her birthday, Don dressed as Elton John and performed for Deborah.
Their love is celebrated in a thousand different ways in their creations.

Don and Deborah are extremely hospitable and are happy to share these wonders with others.

I must not lose sight of the other subject of this article, which is my wonderful SL cat Lionheart.

The two photographs of Lionheart were taken at my castle Awakening. Awakening was built by Wolves Bain and really is flawless. I have written about the art of the incomparable Wolves Bain elsewhere.

When I decided to take photographs of Lionheart, I thought I should amuse him by playing the harp. This particular harp actually CAN be played by an avatar and offers a selection of three pieces: Sonata for Harp in G Mayor by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Theme and Variation in G Minor by Handel and an Air and Variations by Krumpholtz. The harp actually has to be played in order for the music to be heard. In fact, a string of the harp must be plucked. Apart from this, the appearance of the harp can be altered with a choice of twenty different woodgrains, different colours and various textures for the metalwork. The harp was created by Persephone Milk for Musical Alchemy in Second Life.

Lionheart, however, is the real focus of this article. Although he officially is referred to as an 'Experimental Cat', he is far more sophisticated and complete in his abilities than any other cat I have encountered in a virtual reality.

One can give the cat any name one likes. Once named, he or she will respond to a number of different commands. The cat will come to his/her owner and follow the owner until commanded to 'Stay'. The 'FollowMe' command is rather amazing. The cat will scurry after its owner enthusiastically, but if the owner teleports anywhere, he/she must take the pet into inventory (the SL equivalent of a pocket or handbag) in order to take the cat to the next destination.

Some of the other commands are 'Sit', 'Lay', 'Stand' and 'LookatMe'. The cat can be set to assume random poses and sounds. There is an 'unhappy' sound and there is a 'Mad' command that puts the cat into an angry mood!