30 December 2011

Xen Closing

Quite a few Second Life businesses have announced their closings recently, and a couple times I somehow missed them, along with the last chance to pick up some of their items. So today when Xenius Revere sent out a note that XEN is shutting its doors I thought I'd post a note. In addition to the lovely sculpted items for sale this is a cool sim to visit—a nice place for photos—so stop by to see it before January 5th even if you're just playing tourist. There are a few free 'thank you' gifts available at the landing point, and lots of lovely sculpted items—ranging from a fairy-tale-like prefab house to cyber club spaces to steampunk goggles to a florescent aquarium—still for sale.

14 December 2011


Milvus is crazy, as if a hurricane has swept through it, leaving a bewildering array of things swirled about in its wake. And I mean that in a great way—creators Mandarine Scofield and Koad Sewell, who have built this place bit by bit, sometimes together and sometimes apart, provide one of the most dazzling sites in Second Life. "Rien n'est pas veritablement organizĂ©," quipped Koan. How they've created this on a homestead sim is beyond me—there are only 3,079 prims here as I write, but you'd swear there were many more. And Mandarine tells me they built the entire place in just 10 days!

The sim is so packed with material that I struggled to figure out how to even shoot photographs (click to zoom in). As you explore, be sure to visit the interior of the globe, where there's a delightful spot to dance. Everywhere you turn there are richly textured sculpted objects, so much so that it's easy to lose your orientation. (Oh, and there's a tip jar, so please lend Mandarine and Koad a hand!)

06 December 2011


Recently on Flickr, where I post a lot of Second Life images, I was thumbing through some by other people (there's a huge SL community there), and a photo by Ella Avro of a sim called Venexia happened to catch my eye.

I love great city builds. (I miss some old ones—I was really saddened that Virtual Krakow left, because it was remarkably true to the old town square.) So off I went to Venexia...and...wow. This is a masterpiece. This is the sort of place to which I'd drag any new Second Life resident.

I'm not into vampires at all, and this is a vampire roleplaying sim, but visitors are warmly welcomed. You can pick up a visitor tag (good for three days, and you can get more of them) at the entrance. The roleplay here is complex, based on interaction between gangs—there are a bazillion notecards you can pick up as you arrive—and the sim apparently has its own economy and currency.

Venexia, which opened on November 7th, is the creation of Baal Zobel and Kora Zenovka, who also created Kingdom of Sand, Golgothica and Nomos. Baal states in a note, "Venexia is gothic interpretation of Venice, a specific time period is not given. It is no earlier than middle ages, the times of the great plagues, and no later than pre industrial Victoria...This is a grey Gothic rather ugly interpretation of Venice. It is not supposed to look like Venice in the bright Italian sun light, where even the dirt and decay can look beautiful. It's more like Venice on a cold misty morning in winter, so bring a coat. At the very least we hope it is an original setting for role play. Leaving behind the standard dark city or fantasy castle set that is repeated over and over in SL."

I can't imagine attempting to building anything this complex (well, then again yours truly isn't exactly a builder). Baal says, "This was a killer, and I must admit to almost giving up many times, even nearing completion. This is possibly the last big project we will do before Mesh crashes in and changes the way in which big builds are done. This is rather regrettable as I actually came to SL to get away from that detached building style, where all the work is done off line in a dead cold 3D editor."

To get around, you walk by foot or teleport to one of several locations using the gondolas that are sprinkled about. The detail and complexity of Venexia is astonishing. I was so in awe of the place as I walked around and explored that I suddenly realized that I hadn't even entered any buildings. They're every bit as lovely and carefully executed on the interior. Above is a shot of an inn called The Slaughtered Lamb, and below is a large mansion library. (Click on images to zoom in.) If you want to get to the top of St. Mark's Campanile, the huge bell tower, there's a door on the first floor you can click to get a teleport up.

The music here is refreshingly appropriate too: Telemann, Mozart, Vivaldi...a nice mix of Baroque and Classical repertoire. And windlight settings—well, the creators suggest ShadowSet, but for photos the ones I found were most fun were [TOR] Sunrise - Farmatronic sepia, [TOR] Sunrise - Frenlite, AnaLu - Outdoor City, and, well, lots of others—experiment. :)

No wonder the Lab is promoting vampires. As always, please tip if you can—there are places here and there for contributions.

01 December 2011

Old Second Life: Governor Linden's Mansion

A long, long, long time ago, before there was Second Life, there was a place called Linden World. And one of the residents of Linden World, one Steller Sunshine—who later became the first resident of Second Life back on March 13, 2002—built a remarkable house, or at least remarkable for the time. Linden World, as it was known, was the alpha for what later became Second Life, you see. And this house was one of the very few things ported over from Linden World to Second Life. So, if you want to get a glimpse of that era, there's no better option. A gift from Steller to the Lindens, it's known as Governor Linden's Mansion, located in the old sim of Clementina. (I actually remember being at demonstrations here!)

If you saw someone building a house like this now, in 2011, you'd probably laugh and say, "Go learn to work with textures!" But back then, this was the most cutting-edge work you could imagine. Over the years, many things have been lost from the mansion, and some restored. There's something of a museum in the basement, complete with a bunch of archival photos, a copy of a 2003 time capsule and some other goodies. On the upper floors you'll find a kitchen, a living room, a game room, an outdoor pool, and so on. On the one hand, there's not much to do here, but on the other hand it's a remarkable place to reflect on how far virtual worlds have come in ten years, and to appreciate the great debt we owe to people like the early Lindens, Steller Sunshine and the many other early residents who paved the way. Plus, it's nostalgic as hell.

28 November 2011

Primordial Soup and Sandwich

I'm a total sucker for crazy avatars, especially ones that are as far from being human as possible. It's not so much being a dragon or a mosquito (for those I always go to Grendel's, of course!), it's more being something that's totally different, not even remotely human. I've collected a good number of those from Yeti Bing and Yoa Ogee (hmm, about which I should write a post!), and also from Cutea Benelli at Grim Bros.

A couple days ago I was hanging around at The Far Away, waiting for the infamously AFK AM Radio to wake up, and this uber-cool avatar wandered in, so of course I had to find out where he got his looks. And the answer is: Primordial Soup and Sandwich, a new place to me, designs by Madcow Cosmos. (Or maybe also Nowhere Phobos, who may well be the same person, not that it matters.) Off I went and bought twelve different avatars. (There are dragons and things like that here, too.)

Among my favorites is the one just above, a skeletal pair of fingers that do your walking for you. (Hello, Yellow Pages.) And the drum avatar below plays tons of music—you control the output by clicking on different parts, and I gather you can even sync with other avatars. From top to bottom here: Mole and the Far Plunger, Magic Hat, Handy, and Major Drum. Have fun!

25 November 2011


I was pretty surprised to discover a couple days ago that I've never blogged about Roche, because it's one of my favorite places in Second Life, and it's also one of the most popular places for photographers. The creation of ddsm2 Mathy, the island of Roche is breathtakingly picturesque, its slightly rocky terrain rising up out of the sea, embracing the aged and weathered (but often cozy) buildings peppered around the space.

I think the traditional entry point for Roche is in the northwest corner, where you'll go if you click on the slurl above, although you can really come in anywhere. There you'll find a number of small structures, including a refreshment stand, a bus stop (which you'll find elsewhere, even though the notion of buses here seems incongruous with the island) and a bicycle rental stand, where you can rez a bike to speed you about the little paths or roads that wind around Roche. And a friendly little black pug. Also near here is Roche Station, an apparent rail terminus alongside the water, with tracks that fade away into decay, suggesting a place that hasn't seen a train or rail car in a very long time.

But for now head in the opposite direction down the path to arrive at the Misaki Bakery, where you can warm yourself with some toast from the toaster, or a baguette or a boule. At the bakery there's a fork in the road, with the left side heading inland around the central pond (perhaps you see some sheep in the distance), and the right side hugging the coastline. Take the right fork, along the bare winter trees, to the next fork, where you'll find the cozy Cafe Gallery 414 (shown in the photo just below—click to zoom), greeted by two black cats at the door.

Here the jazz music and wood stove are sure to warm you up (if not, there are some cigarettes you can grab outside near the front door (not that I smoke!)). Right now there are some photos and works on art on display by several artists—Yurin Wirefly, natsu Serevi, yutaka Densmith and happyrose Lyle. There are some nice places to chill out or cuddle up here.

But, explorer, you're determined to press forward, to discover the rest of this sim. Head back and out and continue around, walking (or biking) around the south side of the island, where you'll take a bridge over the swamp that connects the pond to the ocean. Now you can see, up on the eastern ridge overlooking the sim, a modest one-room stone farmhouse. (It's below, in a photo I was trying to make look like a daguerrotype. :) ) Watch your step in the yard—there are chickens and a donkey here, you know.

If you complete the circle, you'll pass by an old fishing shack and a group of grazing blackface sheep. And off the main island you'll find some smaller islands that are equally quaint. Be sure to play around with windlight settings in Roche for some real delights—this place is just perfect for photography. And it's one of those sims that shows how much is really possible on a homestead with only 3,750 prims!

18 November 2011

The Mask Redux: Machinima

Back in mid-October I blogged about The Mask, a remarkable performance piece by Jo Ellsmere, Pyewacket Kazyanenko and Kai Steamer. You can now watch that performance in this archival machinima by Pyewacket Kazyanenko, which gives you a conceptual sense of the piece, although you can't see much detail. (I always start to try to zoom around when watching stuff like this, as if I'm watching inworld!) A better version for really seeing the effect of the three dancers can be had in the video immediately below, although you're going to hear Regiment from the David Byrne/Brian Eno collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts rather than Morton Feldman's magnificently ethereal Rothko Chapel. (In both cases the music works brilliantly, and sure gives a completely different experience!) Hopefully we'll see more opportunities to see this performance live.

Jo IM'd me inworld a couple days ago to alert me to her new machinima, Hegira, which I love for its simplicity and beauty—take a look at it right below. There's an additional Mask-like work on her on Vimeo stream entitled concurrence 1 if you want to see even more. Open these up in Vimeo to see them in a larger format. Enjoy!

13 November 2011

Jopsy Pendragon's Ethereal Lands

When I was new to Second Life ("A good while before Ziki's rezday," says my human, although how could that possibly be?) one of my favorite places to visit was Jopsy Pendragon's land in the sims of Teal, Slate and Hina. I stopped back a couple days ago and was really delighted to see everything again, although Jopsy has clearly given the entire area a facelift (maybe several).

The lovely Cloud Chateau (pictured above) certainly had a "wow" factor way back when, and even today it's mesmerizingly lovely—you take a seat along the edge and just watch the always-changing show of particles. I remember going here with friends, watching and watching. And particles are really what things are all about here, because not far from the Cloud Chateau you can visit the Particle Laboratory (immediately below) to learn all about particles.

To travel around Jopsy's lands (Ethereal Teal, Ethereal Slate and Ethereal Hina), you hop on one of the many transport balloons and simply click where you want to go. The balloon will whisk you to your destination, and there are many from which to choose. There's a Vehicle Laboratory, Jopsy's Store, the Caverns (photo below—once there you can take a gondola ride through them), a Theatre (where you can try The Porgan 1800 "particle organ"), a Fireworks show, a SkyCoaster (sort of like a roller coaster in a tube), a link to the Great Second Life Railway, and a bunch of other cool things—tons of fun stuff. So grab a friend and do some balloon-hopping! Thanks to Jopsy Pendragon for these captivating spaces.

12 November 2011


I recently blogged about the Choice!2011 hunt and the Halloween Hunt at Toyland, so I would be remiss in not mentioning the Dare2Bare Hunt, especially since my store, Babele Fashion, is participating! There are 77 shops in this one, a pretty huge list, and we're #27, so hang in there! ;) Really, you can start from any location, but you're searching for a dark violet "2", and some shops have hidden theirs pretty well. The Dare2Bare website gives you a hint for each location. Ours is: A fountain points the way.

Founded and managed by Julya Lykin, Dare2Bare, as its name suggests, is for those interested in exploring the more decadent side of fashion in Second Life, and I'm sure many of the outfits are more than a little revealing! Our hunt prize is in the top photo, although it looks a lot more interesting from the front than the side haha. Have fun ... I haven't even visited most of the shops yet myself.

07 November 2011

David Rumsey Maps

There's nothing quite like David Rumsey Maps in Second Life. Spread out on four sims are some remarkable cartographic treats—and I really mean spread out! The gargantuan map above is one of New York City from 1836, stretched out to be 200x100 meters, allowing one to literally walk around the neighborhoods (we're standing in lower Manhattan—click to zoom in). That's the Brooklyn Bridge around the center of the photo, spanning the East River. Most of the upper part of the island seems to be farmland, large estates, and military installations. But already, running way up the West Side, is Tenth Avenue. :) If you would like to get a smooth overhead experience, sit on one of the map viewers (brightly colored arrows) to pilot yourself around.

Elsewhere is an even more immersive map of Yosemite from 1883, above, which has been transformed into a three dimensional experience. A staggering two sims in size, the map shows the topography of the Sierra Nevadas in great detail, and hidden just underneath (you can dip down, as the prims are phantom) is the original map in two dimensions.

Two globes allow you an "inside" experience. One, pictured above, is a Celestial Globe from 1792, showing a map of the heavens, and there's also a World Globe from 1790. Both locations have seats allowing you to spin around. (Try them in mouselook.)

Near the landing point is the World Push Pin Map, where you can, well, stick in a pin in your home town and leave a comment (and read everyone else's). Other cool things include the Map Walk, a selection of over 150 maps (at a more normal size) from different places and time periods; the Tower of Maps, a huge cylindrical experience; a Japanese Scroll Map; a Grand Canyon Panorama (in layers to give a sense of depth—shown at the bottom of the post (and I'm there, a tiny dot on the left part of the walkway below the map!)); and the Museum, which is your not only your hub for teleporting around but also is a place where you can get tons of free maps for your Second Life decorating and enjoyment—40 in all—plus free orreys and spheres! If you want even more information—as this is in large measure an educational place—there are links to Rumsey's website, a rich resource.

P.S. Set your draw distance way up at David Rumsey Maps—512 meters if you can.

05 November 2011

"Project LR" - And now for something completely different...

Yes, really, really different! Alert (and lovely) blogger Alicia Chenaux got a peek Wednesday at the new experimental game sims on the Second Life grid, and thanks to Bryn Oh (there we are, below) I had a chance to pay them a visit last night. And this, my friends, is something unlike anything we've seen in Second Life. There's no sense that you're not in Second Life, but there's also no question that you're in a game, in a completely different kind of environment.

Here's what happens. You teleport in from a Linden sandbox location, and you arrive at a sim called LR 28. (At least I did—I notice on the map that there are three identical groups of 12 sims, all set up to play the game, so maybe you'll end up in one of the others.) (LR? There isn't any other information, but I'm guessing it stands for Linden Research.) [Edit: It's Linden Realms.] You're automatically fitted with a HUD—it simply appears on your screen, as shown on the screen shot in the top photo (click to zoom in)—that gives you a goal or task (the instruction bar running across the bottom of the screen) and some crystals on the top left.

Your first task is going to be getting to the workshop at the basecamp, and the fun begins right away because there are rock monsters that will try to catch you, and they're fast. There's a picture of one at the bottom of the blog post. You can outrun them, but you have to move quickly and constantly. (If you get caught, you get dumped at a safe spot from which you begin again.) There are wayfinding signs here and there, and eventually you'll reach the workshop, shown below—I'm there with Patti Daviau.

After you reach the workshop, you'll be given the task of gathering crystals, building a flare, finding a mountain peak, and setting off a cannon. As you gather crystals the totals are shown on the upper left of your screen. (Below, Bryn, Patti and I are at the cannon, just as Bryn set off her flare.) That's as far as I got, after maybe an hour or two. I really have no sense of how much time I spent, but it was immersive, addicting, and, we all agreed, very well done.

This place is a ton of fun. It's also remarkably free of lag, even when running full tilt from sim to sim, although there weren't many people there when I visited. The implications of this experiment are significant—I can imagine some amazing games being developed using the toolset that the Lab is assembling for this project.

If you go: word has it that only premium account holders can get in. You have to use a mesh enabled viewer—I didn't at first and soon realized I wasn't seeing most of the terrain! Use the region windlight settings to get a sense of the foggy, dark environment. And be prepared to run like crazy! :)

So how do you get there? Head here to Sandbox Exemplar and walk through the gate! :)

Update: I forgot to mention that the game is designed to provide rewards as you reach certain goals. If you manage to get your red flare to shoot off the cannon, for example, you get paid L$1 (woo woo! lol) and get a link to the SL Marketplace.

And ... the game saves your current status, so you can return and pick up where you left off.

03 November 2011

The Far Away

Even though AM Radio's masterful builds at IDIA Laboratories are now gone from the grid, we can still enjoy his smaller though no less beautiful artwork at Dreamworld North, entitled The Far Away. I must admit I hadn't visited in a while, and I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people enjoying this quarter-sim space, a field of waist-high wheat shining in the sun, enveloped by distant horizons. AM's ability to work in a small square while still achieving a sense of panorama and depth is remarkable.

The interior of the space is defined by two large objects—a rusted, abandoned locomotive and a windmill with neighboring silos—as well as smaller items set incongruously in the field—a desk with wireless equipment, a dinner table and china cabinet, all exquisitely textured. Telephone poles and a barbed wire fence stretch into the distance on the north and east. From time to time, a cluster of chairs might reach up into the sky. As always, interacting with objects provides rich rewards: have fun on the locomotive (a classic spot for photos), ride the wind near the windmill, and investigate a map of Union, Illinois, where we seem to look down on rusted train cars. Hopefully this build will stay with us for a while, but I don't know what AM's plans are, so be sure to take advantage of the time to visit.

31 October 2011

Two Fish: The Susa Bubble Story

Rose Borchovski's brilliant installation, Two Fish Art Landscape: The Susa Bubble Story, is a complex immersive space that, as it suggests, tells the story of Susa Bubble. Clearly a young female—asexual despite her naked portrayal—Susa goes to bed one night and wakes up with a double. As time progresses, more and more Susas come to be, forming something of a community.

When you arrive, make sure you're listening to the ambient sounds of the sim. To start your exploration, head over to read the story itself, either by winding your way east along the watery path or by clicking on the door that says Door to Susa Bubble Story. You'll find an illustrated narrative, beginning with:

This Is the Story
Of Susa Bubble
Who went to bed single
And woke up double

Woke up as two
In her single bed.
Who are you? Who are you?
She said, she said,

There was no holding on after that
Some were happy, others sad
They all came in the same tiny size
Had short little fingers
And blue round eyes

All of a sudden it stopped finally
And they ended up with thirty-three

What happens at that point in the "savage but sweet" story is more than a little disturbing, because the anticipated Susa 34 doesn't arrive. What does arrive is puzzlement, sadness, suspicion, fear and eventually violence. (I'm not going to give it all away, either.)

Rose's telling of the story employs recurring elements that you might see in other works by her—eyes, fish, water, chairs, trees, flowers, writing, numbers, occasional pigs, and, of course, Susas. This is a rich sim that deserves more than one visit to explore, and in fact the story has grown such that you can find continuations elsewhere in Second Life—some are listed on the notecard you can obtain as you arrive.

From the landing point there are some other teleport opportunities, including one to SaveMe Oh's space higher up overhead and another extraordinary installation by Eupalinos Ugajin, Someday my Cow will Come (both worth a visit on their own).

Oh, and I always say this: please leave a tip if you're able to! :)

25 October 2011

The Path

Many bloggers have already written about The Path, the beautiful new collaborative artwork on the LEA2 (Linden Endowment for the Arts) sim. In particular my friend Inara Pey offered an extensive post that excellently summarizes the delights in this three-month-long installation. But just in case you haven't seen any of those write-ups, I'll say it here: go!

Featuring artwork by Bryn Oh, claudia222 Jewell, Colin Fizgig, Desdemona Enfield, Douglas Story, Marcus Inkpen, Maya Paris, Rose Borchovski and Scottius Polke, The Path was created using the "exquisite corpse" concept whereby each artist worked in turn, a story or concept handed off one to the next. Your guide is the inventor (pictured above)—a click on his head will teleport you to the next installation. Be sure to have your sound turned on, and, if you can, set your windlight settings to change as you move from place to place. To begin your journey, click here.

And as you travel through The Path you might want to zip back and forth a little—or come back to revisit favorite places—so here's a handy teleport guide for your travels.

#1 - Bryn Oh (pictured here) - http://slurl.com/secondlife/LEA2/213/131/21. You'll have to walk a little ways to the main area, and then you can also step outside to the watery tree world.

#3 - Marcus Inkpen - my personal favorite because it reminds me of dreams I have :) - http://slurl.com/secondlife/LEA2/37/173/1003

#4 - Desdemona Enfield and Douglas Story - http://slurl.com/secondlife/LEA2/55/124/525

#6 - claudia222 Jewell - wow - http://slurl.com/secondlife/LEA2/223/50/39

#8 - Rose Borchovski - and be sure to zoom out and look down from the platform - http://slurl.com/secondlife/LEA2/56/64/1423

So there you have it. Plan to go back—I sure have, many times. And thanks to both all the artists who have shared their amazing work with us and to the Linden Endowment for the Arts. If this is a harbinger of things to come, we're no doubt in for some incredible artworks down the road.