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!

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