Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas for a Neko

Dare Munro and Vasha Martinek are two artists who have created a multitude of amusing and clever toys, outfits and other items for cats, Nekos and their owners/friends.

For Christmas, they created a Cat Tree in which either a Cat or a Neko can lounge, sleep or play. A Neko avatar is shown here at the top of the tree, perched as an ornament next to the Star.

Another diversion for a Neko or Cat created by the same artists is the roundabout or merry-go-round, here shown in motion.

The Spirit of Christmas

The Spirit of Christmas in Second Life is exemplified by the many visual attractions created by artists as well as the gifts they offer to visitors. An amazing number of Christmas decorations are for sale throughout the world, from virtual mistletoe that includes music and kissing poses to a multitude of Christmas trees, with or without flashing lights, stars, ornaments and ribbons. There are 'live' and artificial trees in every style imaginable, from the classical Victorian trees to ultra-modern, even futuristic Christmas trees.

Gifts vary from small to large, from trivial to majestic. There are artists who give entire outfits, collections of Christmas decorations and jewelry. Others organise treasure hunts, with gifts hidden in holly sprigs or other objects. Many sims have set up skating rinks with free skates for visitors. Snow can be acquired in a number of different ways to be made to fall on land or to carry on your person so that you are surrounded by a flurry of snowflakes wherever you walk. One clever artist has designed Christmas fur-topped boots that leave an image of candy canes on the ground in lieu of footprints. The same artist created a truly adorable pair of 'pumpkin' shoes for Hallowe'en.

Decorating land for the Christmas holidays in Second Life is as fun and satisfying as decorating a Christmas tree in the 'real world'. Trying to balance time and energy in both worlds during the holiday season can be a challenge for those who are seduced by the creative potential in Second Life.

After all, any one who is drawn to magic can find it in operation in the virtual world and there is no distinction between adulthood and childhood in the world of the imagination. Every resident in Second Life is free to embrace the unbridled magic and enthusiasm of childhood... and this is particularly attractive at Christmas, a time filled with magical traditions.

My first holiday task in Second Life was to decorate the land. I created a little corner where snow lay thick on the ground and fell from the skies. Evergreens decorated with lights as well as snowdrops furthered the atmosphere of Winter. When I found a delightful Christmas Cabin created by Darks Adria, I realised it would provide the perfect Christmas haven for this little Winter Wonderland.

A reindeer created by Deborah Defarge soon joined the Cabin and an existing mountain lion who had basked on top of a rock in the sunshine during the Summer and Autumn seasons.

I waited until Christmas Eve to place a fully decorated Christmas tree in front of the Cabin. Christmas Trees in Second Life are not as expensive as those in this world and they require neither time nor energy to decorate as they usually are fully decorated at the time of purchase. I therefore was able to set a Christmas tree in each one of my castles in Second Life. My virtual cat seemed to be fascinated by the lights on the Tree and assumed a position as guard at the foot of it in the castle.

Many artists who design clothing in Second Life offered delectable outfits for the holiday season. How could one resist? In the real world, an outfit made of silk or velvet, trimmed with fur, feathers or diamonds would cost a fortune and probably not be worn unless one frequented palaces or state functions. In Second Life, any one can be a Princess. Why not indulge in total fantasy fulfillment in the virtual world in terms of fashion?

Bedazzled by flashing diamonds and glittering velvets, I decided to immortalise the fantasy in a photograph mainly for my own amusement. I created more than one avatar some time ago and slowly each has come to embody a different aspect of my personality. My Valkyrie Warrior avatar usually is winged and is a more serious character than my 'human' persona. I have a Neko or cat avatar as well... As I dressed two of my avatars for Christmas and took photographs of them, I suddenly wondered which of them was a truer representation of my inner self. All of my avatars are beautiful in a way, probably because I always have responded to beauty myself and try to surround myself with it... There are those, however, who find some of my characters forbidding, even frightening. We all have both Light and Darkness within us and in fact, without Shadow, Light would be undefined. Darkness should not be equated with Evil, in my opinion. It simply is the other side of the coin of Light. Day and Night both have their own beauty and purpose. I wonder, though, which one of my characters defines me more... but perhaps it is not necessary to make a choice. In Second Life, one is free to be many different beings at different times and places.

As far as the Spirit of Christmas is concerned, it became obvious to me that this has as many different aspects and faces as my own self in Second Life. There are some 'dark' sims decorated for the season that take one's breath away. There are heartrendingly beautiful sims and 'cute' sims. There are sims decorated with humour and sims decorated with aesthetic perfection. In Second Life, my Winter Ice Princess (with her hidden fangs) can find herself at home as easily as my Cat or my wholly human avatar in her Renaissance finery.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Where Worlds Meet: Charity in Second Life

Baron Grayson is an amazing artist with a powerful reputation in Second Life. He uses this, not simply for his own financial gain but to promote valid charitable efforts in the 'real' world.

Last Sunday, Baron Grayson and Sue Stonebender hosted an auction of one-of-a-kind pieces from the Opera House, one of Baron Grayson's famed builds. A portion of the proceeds of the auction were donated to the 'Gardens of Hope' project, a charity that provides food for orphaned children with AIDS in Lesotho in Africa. Items included the grand staircase, the original chandelier, individually numbered lights from the chandelier that was crashed into the theatre audience after the 27th October masqued ball, the domed ceilings and the golden statues.

Bids seldom were less than $10,000 and increased to sums in excess of $70,000. It was not an auction for any one who was not prepared to invest a serious sum of money both for charity and for the chance to own a piece of history.

By the end of the auction, almost $500,000 had been raised. In many cases, Baron Grayson vowed to match the winning bid with a donation of his own. Both he and his wife were indefatiguable in their determination that the event should raise a significant amount of money for the charity, but they need not have been concerned. Appreciation of the artistic genius of the Baron was demonstrated by the fierce bidding for each piece offered.

During the auction, Baron Grayson passed out gifts to each person present in the form of a special pennant designed for the sim where the auction was held: a RELIC Intemptesta Nox pennant. Later, he added music to the event, providing written notices of the songs being played, something I thought was a nice touch.

A live performance by a musician who is a member of the Tryst group followed. Unfortunately, he stood at the spot where new arrivals were teleported automatically and I therefore could not take a photograph of him that did not feature an 'unrezzed' avatar as individuals continued to arrive throughout the proceedings.

The work of Baron Grayson and Sue Stonebender can be seen at the Tryst website at:

Relic and Serendipity Studios

Baron Grayson in particular requires constant growth and change in his art and work. His sims always are 'under construction' because they represent the ever-evolving state of his own imagination and provide him with an opportunity to explore his own memories in an interactive art form. In allowing the public access to his builds, he gives others a chance to live in HIS mind. His work always is evocative and very emotionally-charged with a sensibility that he himself acknowledges to be rather 'dark'. The auction of items from his old Opera House very much demonstrated his philosophy. The Opera House was more than a 'build'. It had taken its place in the history of Second Life and those who had experienced significant moments in the Opera House were given a chance to become the caretakers of physical items that resonated with personal and collective memories.

In a dramatic and generous gesture at the end of the auction, Sue and Baron Grayson gave a woman who had danced with her beloved at the Opera House on the occasion of the masqued ball the balcony on which they had danced that night.

For those who would like to become part of the Tryst experience, Baron Grayson now is looking for literary participation.

In his own words: 'If you enjoy literary pursuits...Sue and I are looking for talented writers to help put into place an interactive questing aspect to the sim that works with a heads up display you walk the sim you interact with aspects that...'

Even if you are not a writer, you cannot fail to be enriched by any interaction with Baron Grayson's work.

My thanks to Mariner Trilling for providing some of the photographs as well as saving the text of the auction proceedings for me.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Taste of traditional Arab Hospitality

Cynthia Wilder in Second Life is the owner of a boutique and sim which she has named 'Cynthia's Heaven'. In fact, she has her own website at:

Cynthia's Site

A friend of mine took me to visit a Dance Emporium where hundreds of dances were displayed and demonstrated on platforms that resembled wine goblets turned upside down. It was a clever concept but quite frankly, I hated most of the 'solo' dances that were being demonstrated. They were the typical sex dances that bear titles like 'glazing the cherry' or 'whipped cream delight'. Movements tend to be gross rather than subtle, designed mainly to thrust sexual parts at viewers.

Dances of this sort are extremely popular, but my avatar never would be inclined to burlesque. What this place did bring to mind, however, was the ancient form of dance known in the West as 'bellydance'.

It is rather an ugly name for a beautifully expressive art form. Unfortunately, for the most part, it has been combined in Second Life with striptease. Role play based on the fantasy world of Gor has made a form of attire suitable for traditional bellydance extremely popular in the guise of 'slave silks'. Often these silks contain scripting that allow them to be 'stripped' from the wearer.

It is possible that the island devoted to dances may have included some bellydancing, but I did not see any. Instead, I performed a search and found a boutique that advertised 'bellydance' and 'Lebanon'. The inclusion of the latter made me believe that the place probably was fairly genuine in terms of dance rather than simply using the keyword of 'bellydance' to draw punters.

I was correct in this assumption. Cynthia Wilder is a Lebanese artist living in Austria who has brought some of the beauty and joy of traditional Arab dance and music to Second Life.

She has been involved in Second Life for less than a year and yet has made a name and reputation for herself not only for her fashion designs and dance animations but for her dance parties and a wonderful place where visitors can play backgammon and enjoy themselves at the beach as well as browsing in her shop.

She exemplifies all the traditional warmth for which Arab hospitality is known. She immediately invited me to a dance party at the 'Alhambra' in Andalusia.

The sim of Al-Andalusia deserves an article of its own. It is an incredibly beautiful, detailed reconstruction of medieval Moorish culture and is becoming a sim where Muslims can perform salat (prayer) at mosques as well as meet for social gatherings. True to the spirit of old Andalusia, however, it is a sim where Christians and Muslims both are welcome, as well as any one who eschews religious affiliations of any kind. The entire philosophy of the sim is based on harmonious co-existence between all religions and all people.

The dance party at the Alhambra was a wonderful opportunity to dance in traditional Arab style while listening to popular Arab music. Cynthia provides dance balls at her parties as well as offering live 'streaming' of Arab music. Her dance balls cleverly are designed to allow more than a dozen individuals to use them at the same time. For individuals who wish to control their own dances, she has designed a HUD that is simple to operate but allows the owner to choose which dance to perform at any given moment. I myself purchased the HUD and found it truly added to the versimilitude of the event as I could match my dance moves to the rhythm and words of the songs.

Cynthia herself is the centre of the performance, although she does not covet the limelight in any way. She has her own special dances that are not included in the dance balls or HUDS that she sells. As an artist, she combines dramatic outfits and dance moves to create a personal performance that commands attention. At the same time, she always is conscious of every one who attends a function, drawing the shy or reserved individual into the group and with her own infectious enthusiasm, making certain that a 'party spirit' prevails.

At her own place, she has created a magnificent venue for dance parties on the beach. Her own shop is located there as well, and she has rooms that are devoted to dance, clothing and furniture, including tents.

A detail that I found particularly endearing was the inclusion of backgammon at the sim. Backgammon is central to Arab culture and social life and Cynthia's determination to bring the spirit of Arab hospitality to Second Life is exemplified by her attention to details like this.

On display and for sale in the furniture section of her bazaar are wonderful traditional Arab tents as well as 'igloos' with sleeping bags. She has created tea and coffee services, traditional Arab tables and beautiful beds with Arabic calligraphy of 'Alf Laylah wa Laylah'. In English, this translates as '1001 Nights'.

Cynthia has created a line of cradles for infants as well, inspired by a friend who had a baby in Second Life. Creating a virtual family has become a popular trend in Second Life. Weddings now often are followed by an annoucement that the happy couple is 'expecting' a child. The woman's avatar actually can develop physically and proclaim all the traditional symptoms of pregnancy, including swollen ankle and and aching back.

For an artist who has been in Second Life for less than a year, Cynthia has created an incredible array of items. Unlike other artists who tend to specialise in one area, Cynthia appears to have no fears of the unknown. Her husband has helped her, in particular by creating the scripts used in her dance pose balls and HUD.

A fashion show she orchestrated was the subject of an article in a Second Life publication. One of the most spectacular events she organised, however, was a wedding. Photographs of both wedding and fashion show are included here, and more can be found at Cynthia's own website in her Gallery.

She can create a lavish traditional Arab wedding similar to the one shown in these photographs. The Arab styles appeal to a Second Life sub-culture based on a fantasy world named Gor although Gorean philosophy does NOT emulate traditional Arab values or behaviour. The wedding shown here actually was a Gorean wedding in SL.

In terms of clothing and fashion, Cynthia has created many traditional Arab outfits both for men and women, from desert to urban styles. She has created outfits in contemporary fashion as well. Dance outfits include some with disrobing scripts, otherwise known as 'strip silks' that allow another individual to remove specific items of clothing with the owner's permission.

I myself was most interested in the outfits that included a traditional abayah, jalabiah, thob and hijab. Although Goreans are attracted to Cynthia's designs, many of them would appeal to devout Muslims in Second Life as they are modest and offer an optional head covering as well as face covering in the form of a burqa.

The international aspect of Second Life is one that has unlimited potential. If a resident can 'travel' to the Alhambra or a French Canadian village instantly by teleport to become immersed in another culture without leaving his/her computer, this only can contribute to a wider understanding of the world. At this point in time, unfortunately, one may travel to another 'country' in SL only to find it devoid of any human presence. This is changing, however, as international cultural organisations attempt to foster a permanent presence in the virtual world. In the same way that Universities and other academic institutions are beginning to utilise Second Life in education, cultural institutions and organisations have started to take note of the potential that this virtual world offers.

Cynthia Wilder in her own way is bringing traditional Arab culture to Second Life, not with any overt political or social agenda, but simply by being herself. She is a warm-hearted, attractive and intelligent woman with traditional Arab values in terms of hospitality and friendship. Her talents as an artist, coupled with her social energy will contribute to her growing reputation in the world of Second Life.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sailing the Seven Seas in Second Life

One of the great delights in Second Life is 'freedom of mobility', something that has become a bit of a catchphrase in advertising recently in 'First Life' media.
Although the power to teleport originally was not available in the world of Second Life, it now probably is the most common means of transport. Flying, with or without wings, is as easy as walking. It simply is a matter of choosing an option.
Despite the existence of these otherworldly magical means of transportation, some of the greatest delights in Second Life are found in virtual sailing, driving and flying in crafts of one sort or another.

Every conceivable type of seacraft or aircraft can be found in SL, from rowboats to funeral barges, and from helicopters to elven dragonflies. There are spacecraft and houseboats, pirate ships and power boats, incredible yachts and cruise ships.

Even a fairly penniless individual can own a wonderful craft. Many boats and airships are given away free of charge. Owning land on a real beachfront allows one to 'rez' a ship from the land and sail it effortlessly from a dock but even if one is not fortunate enough to own beachfront land, one usually can find a place on some coast where objects can be rezzed. It may take time to find a spot but the rewards are tremendous, as I discovered yesterday.

I had a fairly simple pirate ship that I longed to try. My land is not on the beach but a friend of mine found a place where the ship could be launched. He also found a race course for us to try. There were 11 waypoints. I piloted my ship and my friend sat in the crowsnest. Although we had cannon, we had neglected to 'supply' the ship with the necessary ammunition to be able to fire them. It was of no consequence. Although the pirate ship was designed primarily for sea battles, we were more interested in sailing on this particular day.

With the help of my 'crew' who gave me the landmark for the next wayspot as I reached the previous one, we sailed through the night using navigational aids including the mini-map and coordinates. As in real life, the wind played a factor in our speed and I had to be conscious of the depth of water as well as land masses and obstacles. At one point, a very small quick craft sailing the same course appeared to be determined to ignore our presence completely. It was a bit of a challenge not to run it down and capsize it.

We actually sailed from waystation to waystation and reached the finish line after two hours of constant sailing. Much to my delight, fireworks erupted overhead as I sailed over the finish line. I thought that a very nice touch, but my companion confessed that he had been responsible for the fireworks! It was a wonderful moment and gave me a great sense of accomplishment.

Yes, these are virtual seas and this is a virtual ship. We could have teleported instantly from one location in SL to another, but the entire experience of sailing the ship was extremely real. The darkness with the stars overhead, the sound of the water lapping against the sides of the ship and the need to steer with the winds made it a real sailing experience. I could lower or raise the sails. I could moor the ship, stopping it at any point. If we had supplied the ship with ammunition, we could have fired our cannon!

For those of us who once lived on the water in real life and no longer do, the oceans of Second Life offer an incredible substitute. One may not be able to taste the salt on the lips but the sense of freedom is tremendous.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Another Second Life Site

I don't know what possessed me to think I could write any sort of guide about a world for which other, more 'expert' users have published tome after tome, but I will struggle forward as time permits.

Meanwhile, what may be of more interest is a page I have created to showcase favourite artists in Second Life. You will find it at:

Favourite Artists in Second Life

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Enjoying Music on your Land in Second Life

I feel that I am making a fool of myself even by attempting to create a Guide to Second Life, as I could make no claim to the title of 'Expert' in SL. Nonetheless, I hope to be able to share some useful information to other 'players' from time to time.

I had intended to create an organised little 'Guide' on this site, but I have changed my mind. I simply am going to write about random topics as they arise in my own SL experiences. I always can organise a proper Guide later...

When exploring Second Life, one will encounter music. There are live concerts, of course, but often music is 'tied to the land'. Moving from one parcel to another, the music may change radically. It is the owner of the land usually who sets the music.

I was a little unhappy to discover that music usually is 'streaming media' from a radio station, complete with the awful advertisements and announcements that emanate from these stations. What interested me, however, was the potential to choose radio stations from any part of the globe.

I dislike radio intensely, mainly because I would rather choose my own musical selections than have another person do it for me. Whether it is classical instrumental, opera, punk, heavy metal, French pop, Arab classical or Arab pop music, I far rather would listen to my own selections. Finding a radio station that happens to be playing a song or opera that I truly love personally is rather like finding a diamond in a rubbish bin. That having been said, some are better than others.

Paul Ge, an artist who makes musical instruments in SL, was the individual who gave me instructions on how to bring music to my own land. There may be other stations that provide URLs that can be used in SL, but there is one that actually is totally compatible with Second Life. That station is:


This site contains links to thousands of international internet radio stations. If you wish to find a particular genre of music, perform a search on the site and all stations that air that type of music should be listed.

When you have found a station that appeals to you, double-click on the 'Tune In!' button. It will open a download. Choose the 'Save' option and a file containing the URL of the station will be downloaded to your computer.

This is only the first step, however. You now need to perform a little trick that will allow you to see the URL and use it in SL.

First find the file. It will be in a .pls format. Do not open it. Instead, rename it by changing the .pls to .txt. You will see a prompt warning you that the file may become unplayable if you rename it. Disregard that, as you actually will not need to play the file, but simply wish to read it! When the file has been converted to a text file, open it and find the URL.

It may be obvious to many but not to every one that the URL will consist of everything from the http:// beginning to the last number before TITLE. Highlight and copy that URL, then go to your land in Second Life.

Right-click on your land to access the 'About Land' option and choose that. Now choose the 'Media' tab. In the Media window, you will find a box for the URL of any internet radio station that plays MP3 files. Paste the URL of the station you have chosen into that box. (You need to use the pull-down Edit menu found on the top of your SL screen in order to use a 'paste' option. If you right-click on the URL box, you will not be given any options to 'paste' or to do anything else for that matter.)

When you close the 'About Land' menu, you should hear the music from the radio station you have chosen. To change the station, simply perform the same steps again. Once you have downloaded the URLs of stations that you like, you simply can create a little file for yourself that contains the URLs of a number of internet stations that you like.

The description of a station sometimes can be a little misleading, however. I found a number of French pop stations but most of them alternated French music with American or British songs. The two Arab stations I found were far better in that respect.

Last night, however, having discovered nothing of interest on any popular music station, I changed my URL to classical opera. Much to my delight, the station played a couple of arias I actually liked.

I sat on the loveseat in the little alcove in my own castle with a cheerful blaze in the marble fireplace and listened to opera as the sun set outside my window. It was an interesting experience. I actually felt as though I were at home, relaxing at the end of a long, difficult day. (Well, I was at home in RL, attempting to relax at the end of a long, difficult day, but my real surroundings were not quite as conducive to the creation of a sublime state of mind in many respects. I definitely do not have a lady's bower in a beautiful little castle and the only window in my little room is obscured by a rather vital but ancient and unwieldy air conditioner. In any case, the only view I would have from here would be the back of a fence...)

On my land in Second Life, I can change not only the radio station but my surroundings. I could return the castle itself to my pocket (or inventory) and replace it with a magnificent pool or hot tub. The worst problem in Second Life is 'prim' limitations. Each parcel of land is allotted a specific number of objects or 'prims'. A small parcel of land usually is allocated 117 prims. The smallest castle takes about half of that. One or two pieces of furniture, depending on the way in which they were made, can take as many prims as the house itself. On 512 land, I either can have my loveseat and a fireplace or a bed in the bedroom upstairs.

I could not decorate both floors of the castle properly with the furniture I own on a 512 lot. Unfortunately, the furniture I have is very prim-extravagant. There are entire sets of furniture that would not consume as much of a 'prim allotment' as the loveseat I chose for myself. Before one ever owns any land, one wonders why ordinary people with little ambition where real estate is concerned ever would need more than a small lot. The answer is simple: prim limits.

Incidentally, that is where an artist like Wolves Bain is to be admired for his concern for the small landowner. His castles are brilliant because he always uses the fewest number of prims in creating them. They therefore are both beautiful and extremely practical. (His castles include doors that can be locked as well.)

Even if one cannot use all one's furniture at once, one can store it in one's inventory indefinitely. Inventory is unrestricted. I could own a thousand castles with lavish furnishings for all of them, even if I did not own even the smallest parcel of land in Second Life. The difficulty there is in FINDING any of them in my inventory... Where free items are available everywhere, inventory soon can become quite unmanageable.

This problem does have a solution: an inventory manager. Perhaps I will explore this topic another day...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Introducing yourself to Second Life

Once you have installed the Second Life programme, you will have an icon resembling a green hand on your desktop. Click on it to open the Second Life programme. You will see a screen with boxes at the bottom of it. Type your first and last name into the box, type your password and click on 'Connect'.

The first time you use Second Life, you will be taken to a place called 'Orientation Island'. Here you will be conducted through a series of simple tutorials that teach you how to move, how to communicate with others, how to interact with objects and finally, how to alter your appearance.

'Editing Appearance' can be one of the more time-consuming and vital tasks for an avatar or it can be ignored almost completely if you do not care what you look like in your Second Life. Apart from choosing whether to be male or female, you can choose to become a winged being, a 'furry' or any other creature the imagination could create.

If you spend a great deal of time altering your original appearance, you may be rather disgusted to discover that the general population of Second Life simply will disregard any of your painstaking efforts in favour of classifying you immediately as a 'newbie', with 'newbie skin', 'newbie hair' and 'newbie clothes'. Yes, racism and bigotry are alive and well in Second Life...

Fortunately, there are many helpful and compassionate residents who will be more than happy to give you free clothes, landmarks to malls that offer free skins, clothes and items, and who will provide tips as well.

Second Life has its own economical and social structure, and advertising and marketing are as important for merchants there as in any other world. As the world of Second Life is absolutely enormous and new islands and continents spring up on a regular basis, a merchant or artist has to find ways to bring himself/herself to the attention of residents. One of the most effective means of advertising is through the offer of 'free' items.

There are malls like the 'Free Dove' that are dedicated to 'free' items. At these malls or shopping precincts, you will find long tables filled with 'boxes' or billboards that contain free items as well as landmarks to the actual 'shop' or gallery of the merchant. Some of the items may be fairly worthless but others can be truly valuable. One can acquire a decent skin, a respectable wig, an enormous free wardrobe of clothing of every description as well as free shoes, accessories and jewelry without every paying a single Linden dollar for any of it.

Appearance can be important to men and women alike. In many cases, individuals who go to Second Life would like to be the most beautiful or handsome examples of their species. Other individuals would like to become creatures known in this world only from myths. The fact of the matter is that every one in Second Life possesses some mythical powers. Flying is an ordinary means of transport, with or without wings, and teleports are the most common method of travel from one point to another.

One need never interact with the economy of SL in any significant manner. An avatar can spend all of his/her time shopping for free items, visiting museums and other public exhibition areas, attending shows, concerts and lectures, frequenting clubs in order to dance or otherwise interact with other residents without ever spending any Lindens at all.

There is real money to be made in Second Life, however, and even if one only dreams of having a home there, one must invest a little in the economy. In order to own land, one must pay for Premium Membership in SL. The cost of this is about $10. per month if paid monthly but becomes less if one is willing to pay quarterly or annually. The smallest piece of land is 512 m. and the price will vary between about $L 5500 and $L 7000, depending on its location. Once the purchase price is paid, one need not commit oneself to any further expenditure, apart from renewing membership in order to retain the property.

If one wishes to own a larger plot of land, one will be charged a monthly fee for any land in excess of 512 m. 512 m. is large enough even for a small castle, but problems arise usually because of the prim limits on any parcel of land. 'Prims' are 'primitive objects' and each plot of land is allocated a specific number of prims. If one tries to exceed that number, objects will not 'rez'. 'Rez' is short for 'resolution'. Everything that you see in Second Life is based on resolution. Whenever you teleport to a new location, it takes time for the objects surrounding you to 'rez'. Until they do, you will see nothing more than geometric forms.

'Rezzing' objects is an act of magic. Objects will appear in your inventory as small golden cubes. You basically need to drag a cube from your inventory to throw it to the ground in order to 'rez' it on the ground. A golden cube can contain anything from a bracelet to an entire castle or spa.

One of the first lessons an individual learns is how to deal with 'boxed objects'. Very often, any item that is acquired or purchased is contained in a box. In order to access the item, you must throw the box to the ground, then 'Open' it. When you choose the option to open the box, the contents will spill out into a window, to be displayed there. You either can choose simply to copy them to your inventory or choose to 'copy and wear'.

Boxes come in many different forms. Some artists actually create elaborate gift boxes, complete with bows. Designer shoes often are contained in tasteful shoeboxes. Gift bags or tote bags are other forms in which designer clothes and accessories are sold. Other artists and merchants present their boxes in the form of small billboards that display a photograph of the items inside the box. In many cases, however, a box is nothing more than a simple cube with pictures on it. When the contents of any box are copied to your inventory, they usually will be found in a folder afterwards.

Newcomers almost invariably fail to comprehend the 'box' aspect when they first acquire items. When a golden cube is labelled as a 'Black formal gown', they naturally choose the 'Wear' option in order to try it on. What occurs then is rather embarrassing. The avatar suddenly will find himself/herself wearing a box or billboard. One then must detach the box and throw it to the ground from the inventory in order to 'Open' it.

Where clothing is concerned, there usually is a 'default' position in which the clothing will be worn if you simply choose the 'Wear' option. As you acquire more possessions, however, you may discover that two different items are vying for the same position on your avatar's body. You then must find a new position for one of them.

This is where the 'Edit' option becomes very useful. For example, if you wish to wear a cloak and a pair of wings but both ordinarily attach to your 'spine', you can choose a new position for one and attach it instead to your 'right shoulder'. Having attached it to the right shoulder, however, it no longer will be centred properly. Choose the 'Edit' option to move it to the correct position. It still will be attached to the 'right shoulder' technically, but will look as though it is attached to the spine.

More about this later. There is one final point that needs to be made where boxes are concerned. Never leave a box on the ground! Many owners allow all residents to 'create objects' on their land, allowing you to open boxes there, but it is extremely rude then to leave an empty box on some one else's property. I have seen countless empty boxes strewn up and down glorious beaches or in secluded magical glades... Unless the owner of the land sets the land to 'autoreturn' all objects that do not belong to him/her, those empty boxes will continue to clutter the landscape indefinitely.

Monday, August 6, 2007

An Introduction to Second Life

'Second Life' is a PC game that really is not like any other game. For a start, it really is a second world in which an individual can create an open-ended, ongoing second life. That second life can be as mundane as the first life, if one simply wishes to create an avatar whose existence mirrors the existence of his/her creator. One could lead a sort of 'shadow life' as it were, using an avatar with the same appearance, lifestyle and goals as yourself. Most players, however, are drawn to Second Life because of the infinite variety of experiences one can have there.

On the mundane level, one can buy and sell real estate or any other commodity in Second Life. One can pursue an ordinary domestic existence, 'awakening' from bed to watch a sunrise, take a bath or shower, eat breakfast, then face whatever the day may bring... Some people go to Second Life for the shopping. It really gives new meaning to the expression: 'shop until you drop'. One could spend a hundred lifetimes in the shopping malls if one wishes.

Other individuals are 'party animals' and spend most of their time attending parties and functions. Every sort of event exists in Second Life, from formal affairs to disco parties and sexual orgies.

There are people who go to Second Life for romance or sex, and those who go for exploration. There are individuals who never learn how to build anything and others who acquire a passion for building, actually creating a second career and real livelihood for themselves in the Second Life universe.

For those who love history, fantasy or science fiction, Second Life offers rare opportunities actually to live in another period or setting as any creature or magical being one could imagine. There are islands and communities dedicated to specific fantasies, time periods and 'themes'.

Whether a person is interested in science or the arts, in joining groups with specific interests and purposes or in 'hanging out', Second Life offers infinite opportunities.

That having been said, the first step towards the portal that leads to Second Life is downloading the programme. The programme is free, as is registration. You can create an avatar and explore Second Life without ever spending any money at all.

To do this, simply go to:

Register, then download the programme.

You can choose any name you like for your first name. Your 'last name' or surname must be chosen from a list. Although you do need to give your real name and a valid email address, you do not have to share any other personal details with Linden Labs unless you wish to become a Premium Member, a paying member with the right to own land and/or conduct a business in Second Life.

You can be male or female, old or young, human or non-human. If you wish, you can create more than one avatar. There is no cost for this in monetary terms. The cost is in terms of time and energy alone.

If you wish to 'upgrade' immediately to a Premium Account in order to be able to buy land and have fewer restrictions on the amount of money you can spend (in either world), YOU CANNOT DO SO AT THIS POINT. You must wait until you receive an email from Second Life activating your account. You then must open the Second Life programme on your computer and log into Second Life using your Avatar and password.
It is only after you have agreed to the stipulations of the pop-up documents that will appear that you can return to the site to upgrade your Account status. Until you have logged into Second Life at least once, you are not 'recognised' by Linden Labs as a member.