Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Vacation Notice and Mainland Matters at SL13B

In a couple of hours in first life, I'll be heading across the Pond for a week in Ireland. No blogging while on vacation, tho' I do have a couple of very fun places to feature when I return! While I'm away this week, please do visit the Mainland Matters parcel at the SL13B celebration (pictured below). There are two mailboxes set up on the walls - the one near the map invites visitors to give me suggestions of great places to blog about, and the one on the opposite side of the build invites visitors to comment on "Why does Mainland matter to YOU?" The parcel was a lot of fun to put together; thank you to builder and scripter extraordinaire Anthony (adudenamed.anthony), to Patch Linden for permission to use the LDPW's fabulous "Visit the Mainland!" poster, and to the amazing Ziki Questi for all of her essential and continued help with the display. See you in a week! -Kinn

Thursday, June 23, 2016

"You Don't Have To Pick Up Your Toys, Okay?"

The D-lab railway station (pictured below) is a whimsical stop on the Second Life Railroad. Located in Poecila on the eastern edge of the Atoll (Heterocera), this storybook station is a charming place to hop off the train and look around. Wander along the stream, sit on a cow or a sheep, or take a ride on one of two UFOs that hover over the parcel. Then, head back to the station, look to the West, cross the tracks and the street, and head up the hill. Near the giant giraffe and panda you'll find a rocket which will port you to the sky garden high above.

Owned by Dazai Voom, D-Lab is one of the most creative spaces on the grid, and the toy store in the sky garden is the main attraction. Located on a floating platform powered by giant gears, the store is filled to the brim, inside and out, with interactive toy displays. Above the toys, one can find garden items for sale, and surrounding the shop are tree-lined village streets and shops with animal proprietors, including a bakery, a bookstore, an egg shop, a jam shop, and an animal theater. Outer platforms include a large pool area where you can test out some water toys, a pose shop (Andika, with whom D-Lab collaborates on toy poses), and even a dairy where you can milk your own cows.

Visiting D-Lab always brings up strong memories of my childhood. Not that there are stores this amazing in first life, but the former John Wanamaker's in Philadelphia was pretty cool in its time.  A kid-sized Monorail (pictured above, left) carried children above the 8th floor toy department at the John Wanamaker's department store from 1946 to 1984. Every November, on Black Friday, my grandmother would take me there, and I'd ride that monorail, peeking down at the toys, and feeling special because I was someplace where adults couldn't fit. We'd eat lunch in the Crystal Tea Room, then watch the light show (pictured above, right) in the cavernous atrium of the store before heading off to Gimbel's to see Santa.  

One of the things I love best about Second Life is that it seems to rekindle a sense of joy in play that a lot of us lose as we grow older and burdened by a myriad of responsibilities. I often joke that the folder labeled "toys" is the largest folder in my inventory, and that may well be true. Places like D-Lab (and Intrigue and Off The Wall) actively encourage joyful play, and I'm so thankful for that. First life can be stressful enough. May Second Life always be someplace where we can stand on our friends' heads, fly through the air in giant sneakers, have soapbox derby races, and run with abandon through wheat fields. And with autoreturn, you don't even have to pick up your toys in here. ;)

While you ponder that, enjoy this Shel Silverstein poem, read by the man himself, and take some time to go visit D-Lab!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Temple Of The Prim

Route 11 begins (or terminates?) on the southern shore of Corsica, as a narrow wooden walkway clinging to the side of a mountain (pictured below). Here, at the Kwaito Rez Zone, rather than following the walkway to see what treasures that route has in store, we will venture off the road and up a steep mountain path to seek the mystical and mythic Temple of the Prim.

Shigeko Tachikawa has taken an excellent photo of the mountain path, which switchbacks up the stone mountain to a fortress on the top (photo below). Venture through the drawbridge and up the stone stairs until you reach the courtyard (first photo, above). From within, a mysterious glow beckons you forward. 

Once inside, you'll find an ancient map of the world, along with three glowing, winged figures, each holding up a prim. Investigations reveal that these are "Ancient Prim Guardian Statues", created by a mole with a really great name, Mouldy Mole. Further explorations will show an empty, dusty room below this, and a subterranean river below that. But no other clues. What was this place? What led the moles to create it, here on this remote mountainside? And why, oh why, is there so much glow?

Some things, it seems, will remain forever a mystery. ;)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

"Life's too short, babe, time is flying..."

"...I'm lookin' for baggage that goes with mine." 

Okay, despite me now having those lyrics from Rent in my head, maybe not baggage. More a backpack, to be exact.  A week or so ago, Torley gave me this really cool backpack (see image below) that is actually a random teleporter. It allows the wearer, or anyone in the same region who clicks on it, to be teleported to a completely random spot on the grid. You can set it to find sims that are general/moderate, or general/moderate/adult. I put it on, clicked, a loud alarm went off, and local chat told me, "Random Sim Teleporter. Backpack. [Mod/Trans]: Kinnaird Resident has chosen to teleport. Please prepare for extraction :)" And off I went!

Because the backpack will port you anywhere on the grid, both to Mainland and to private sims, I had a few false starts  - one empty private sim for sale, a group of four private sims containing a planned town, one private house on Sansara with a security orb - before landing at The Haven. Looking up the parcel details, I found this description: "Set in Bordeaux's famed Haut-Medoc, The Haven celebrates the creativity of all who find a haven in SL and is a place to make and renew friendships while you explore its secrets." 

Owned by Sister (sisterbutta), and comprising most of the sim Molson on southeastern edge of Sansara, The Haven at ground level is a rambling expanse of forest, vineyards, and large buildings in the style of 18th century France. The arrival area places you right next to a fire-breathing dragon, which one can ride over the sim, although exploring by foot will let you discover a lot of fun details. Steps to the West lead up to an open-air French pavilion, with an adjacent Artist and Author's Terrace, pictured below. The crystal ball on the center of the table whispered to me, "Crystal Ball: You will partner with someone very wealthy and be given many many Lindens." /me casts a sidelong glance in Ziki's direction and grins.

"The Haven is really a big sandbox where I try things out," commented Sister when I spoke with her. "Most of the ground area I've leveled and am rebuilding. The only structure there now (pretty much) is the large house/salon. A friend in England did the build and then I furnished; it was my very first effort in SL. It is generally historically accurate; nothing is post 1786, in theory. It is not a 'palace', is is the somewhat mysterious 'hideout' for the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) during the years of suppression when the order was dissolved by Papal order." Visitors can explore the Salon here (outside of which is an awfully fun bubble rezzer) or a large exhibit covering the first 200 years of the Jesuits in a skybox here.

Continued Sister, "There are three other builds up in the sky...the Galactic Cantina (pictured below),  a bizarre halloween/day of the dead build that I can't bear to pack up (pictured above), and finally there is Lasata, a fictional small town in southeast Alabama (USA) that is the SL setting for a RL novel. It is probably the most interesting build at the Haven. It is all a hodgepodge, but I love every meter of it."

All in all, The Haven was a lovely find, and a great example of the creative use of Mainland space. Wander around, especially on ground level, where you can find an art exhibit under a canopy of trees, relax in the gardens of the French pavilion, or enjoy an outdoor meal on a small freestanding terrace. Then spend some time exploring the skybox builds, including the otherworldly landscaped area outside of the Cantina. What an impressive venue for a space-themed event! Thank you, random teleporter backpack, and thank you, Torley! 

I wonder where it will take me next? 

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Forum Cartel Hangout

Forgive me, blog readers, for first life commitments have caused me to neglect my exploring of late. However, after finishing two huge projects at work, and escaping to the beach for a weekend of steamed blue crabs and Skeeball, I'm ready to get back on the (virtual) road! First stop: the waterside hangout of the Forum Cartel's infamous Pie Throwers.

Tucked away on the south-central coast of Corsica is an open air building (pictured above) designed by the incredibly talented adudenamedanthony. This is the current incarnation of the Forum Cartel Hangout, a longstanding inworld gathering spot for residents who used to frequent the old Second Life forums. According to Marianne McCann, "the regular posters there, many of whom also hung out in a thread ironically titled 'Just ignore and let this die', eventually formed a group, which back then was headed by Chris Norse, Oryx Tempel and Brenda Connolly. The group led to the idea of an inworld hangout, and people started to contribute tier to the group in order to make it happen." 

A lot of history can be found on the deck adjoining the hangout, in a book entitled "A Brief But Inaccurate History of The Forum Cartel." Created for a SL12B exhibit, the book states, "The Forum Cartel was based on the concept of helping the Second Life community, making new friends, and enjoying this world we inhabit."

During our visit there, Ziki and I met up with Forum Cartel member Joaz Janus (pictured on the right side of the bar, below). Joaz commented, "I have barely been in SL for 5 or 6 years, but I was here when this place was built. The SL official forum was very lively back then, and some of the banter had turned to abuse. This place was conceived as somewhere you could meet fellow forumites face to face...and that whatever hostilities took place on the forum....this was a space we would all be civil together. It worked very well." When I mentioned to Joaz that I'd never participated in the forums, but a friend had turned me onto the group for the banter, she replied with a grin, "Yeah this was always the place for banter....wit....swearing....and generally lewd and unquiet behavior."

When I asked about the group tag, "pie thrower", Joaz wasn't quite sure of its origin, so I went digging in the Forum archives. According to Chris Norse, founder of the Forum Cartel group, the tag had a very specific meaning. "On the old forum, before they closed it and herded us over here, many members of the group were known for derailing threads with mention of pies and panties," Chris said in an old post comment. "We held a contest to decide what the group tag would be, and 'Pie Thrower' was the winner." One can still find panties strewn all over the dressing room, located above the hangout, and a free pie is available in a room of freebies behind the pool table.

In addition to the main hangout area, which includes a bar, dance floor, fireplace, and various games, the parcel also contains a bowling alley, an On-The-Roll table game, an inner tube rezzer, motorboat rides, and a bull named Black Bart. The current forums are located here, but I don't get the sense that they foster the kind of tight-knit community that the old forums did. Maureen Boccaccio, one of the current owners, commented, "We like to host parties here; the Halloween parties are great. We used to have New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, St. Patricks' Day, etc...and every Friday night was 'Formal Night'. We still host Hippie Bowman's Breakfast Club on Sundays every 8 weeks or so." 

Even if you never participated in the forums, you'll enjoy the friendly and welcoming bunch who frequents the Forum Cartel Hangout. "It is my hope," Maureen stated, "that SL residents visit the Hangout, spend some time and enjoy themselves.  I hope to revitalize the group and start holding more activities as we did in the 'old days.'" Check out the group Flickr pool here, and then stop on by the Hangout and join the fun!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Painting With Light - The Particle Laboratory

While wandering around the Particle Laboratory the other day, I asked Marianne McCann, she of the fabulous summer fireworks displays, what she could explain to me about particles. "Particles are two-dimensional effects in Second Life," she replied. "Any time you see water spray, or fog, etc., you are likely seeing a particle effect. (Or, of course, fireworks.)" "So," I said, "it' painting with light?" "Ya," said Mari, "I suspect that's a good description." Spread out over various locations in the sims Teal, Slate and Hina on the continent of Sansara, Jopsy Pendragon's Particle Laboratory is a longstanding and iconic Second Life destination for all those wishing to learn how to "paint" in this way.

At the landing point in Teal, click on the red arrow (pictured above) to go directly to the Laboratory. Or, hop a ride on the hot air balloon to journey to several other destinations in the area. States Jopsy, "The Particle Laboratory was originally built in April 2004 using materials that were originally used for my particle classes. Self-paced learning turned out to be much more popular, convenient and effective than making people wait for a class to be scheduled. Since opening, the lab has grown to occupy twice as much space, has been rebuilt three times and now contains at least four times as much content!"

"The Particle Laboratory is not run for profit," he continued, "and the full-perm particle example scripts and related scripts are all free (and royalty free). There is a consignment shop for premium particle textures and a script-generating console available for a modest fee, the proceeds of which go to helping cover the cost of Particle Laboratory's and surrounding land use fees, with any rare excess rolling over to cover the next month's fees."

In the Laboratory (pictured above), I looked around at the great number of tutorial stations, and asked Jopsy if particle creation was hard to learn. "It's easier to learn how to modify an existing effect than it is to learn how to create a new effect from scratch," he commented. "Fortunately there are many examples to start from, and all one need learn is which numbers to edit, after which it becomes a process of trial and error. Most Particle Laboratory visitors spend about 3 hours (not all at once) exploring and experimenting with the exhibits, by which time they're ready to start modifying basic particle scripts for use in their own creations. There are some rather advanced particle effects that can require a bit of 'real scripting' to make work. Prior experience can be helpful when working on these, but it's not at all required, and there are often people around willing to offer help and guidance."

All good info, but let's leave the tutorials alone for a bit and go in search of the end result. The hot air balloon ride also stops at The Cloud Chateau, located in Hina. The Chateau contains an amphitheater (pictured above) filled with ever-changing particle effects. You can perch on the chairs which surround the theater's edge, or you can dance on the floor, as I am, right in the center of the action. The ambient/electronic stream provides a perfect musical accompaniment for dreamy, trancelike dances. Once you are completely blissed out, wander back outside, hop on the balloon, and choose "whale" as your destination. This will take you to the Grotto of Lost Souls (pictured below) in Slate. Make sure you venture inside the cave (actually the mouth of the whale) and take a ride on the Circle of Life in mouselook.

There are other things worth visiting in the area, including caverns, several sandboxes, and opportunities to ride gondolas through the waters. It may take a few visits to see everything, especially if you decide to utilize the tutorials. When I asked Jopsy what started him on this journey, he said, "When I started in SL, there was almost no documentation. No wiki, no tutorials... just a few crude sample scripts floating around with no real explanation. Everything was learned through trial and error. With twenty two or so particle parameters (now more!), that's a lot of permutations and combinations to try out. I had the time and patience to really dive in and really 'learn' what can and can't be done with particles and found things that I thought other people might find useful or at least interesting, but I had no easy way of sharing what I'd learned with others, so I created The Particle Laboratory! Also, I believed that more residents with better understanding of SL's creative tools would raise the general content quality in SL. It was a goal I believe I shared with the two other 'old school' types like the late Lumiere Noire (Ivory Tower of Primitives) and Robin Sojourner (The Texture Tutorial)." Speaking of tutorials, Torley has created several based in the Laboratory, two of which can be seen here and here.

Jopsy ended by saying, "My interest in SL comes and goes. When I'm not inspired, I take some time off and do other things, but I've always come back recharged with new ideas and things to dabble with. For me it's the 'sandbox' quality of Second Life that keeps me coming back... turning ideas into things that can be shared with others is a blast." Come on down to the Particle Laboratory, learn how to create a particle or two, or just dance in the Cloud Chateau and lose yourself in the beauty of these magical little paintings of light. Here's some dreamy electronica to get you in the mood: Phaedra by Tangerine Dream. Enjoy your visit!