Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Commentary: Judging on Apperances

By Bixyl Shuftan

In real-life, Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a US holiday named after the noted civil-rights activist famous for his "I have a dream" speech in which he hoped for a day in which all people could ban together regardless of the color of their skin. This is also the week Barack Husein Obama, America's first President from a racial minority, leaves the White House. When he was elected a little over eight years ago, it was seen by many that the United States was entering a "Post-Racial Age." Unfortunately, the highly partisan atmosphere of the country led many to wonder if his most vocal opponents, or supporters, were motivated mainly by ethnic bias, if not outright racism. Ironically, the final days of the United States first black President, some feel black-white relations are at the lowest since the Civil Rights reforms of the 60s, if not even lower.

In Second Life, as it's residents can take on any appearance they want, one would think what they look like wouldn't matter wherever they went. That's not exactly the case. Various historical and sci-fi/Fantasy roleplay areas, such as "The Berlin 1920s Project," have stated unless you look like what someone in the time and place did/does, you can expect to be thrown out (after being given a warning). While this often means nonhuman avatars, human avatars wearing the wrong clothes will get thrown out as well. So the complaints about the RP sims have been minimal.

But what really irritates residents who prefer nonhuman avatars are the stories, if not personal experiences, about the handful of clubs and residential areas, meant not for roleplay but to just relax in, that have policies requiring visitors to be of human appearance only. Anyone who isn't gets thrown out. Grease Coakes would write about his experience with it at a club. I myself would write about the issue as well in 2009 and 2014. In my ten years I've only been asked to leave a place three times because of my appearance and two of them were probably the same location, the second time after someone invited me over to a venue suggesting it might be a great place to do a club review and afterwards never went there again. There were a few times someone handed me a notecard of the sim's dress code and once when a bot whispered to me that nonhuman avatars weren't welcome, but no further action was taken.

I've heard fans of furred avatars use the term "racism" to describe these experiences. I'm not so sure about that as we're not talking about human avatars of a different race, but a kind of appearance that in real life can only be compared to a circus "werewolf man," or the most extreme forms of body modification. Despite that such incidents seem to be rare, the result has been some residents being reluctant to go out into the wider grid, tending to stick around in places where there are other avatars like them, sometimes venturing out only after invited to by friends or if the location advertises itself as "furry friendly" or a similar term. On the other hand, there's no shortage of furs who don't particularly care if a few people have a problem with their appearance, and freely go about on the Grid. So you can pretty much find anthro avatars all over Second Life.

By all means the problem isn't just one way. I've heard of a few instances of furred avatars harassing human ones because of their appearance. The one of which I heard the most details was of a human DJ at a furry club getting insulted by one of the vulpines, calling her a "hairless ape." But the furred staff would have none of it. The offender was thrown out and banned for several weeks. Aside from a few nude beaches and a couple RP areas several years ago, humans are not going to have a problem going about sims that cater to furs. And as many furs prize individuality, I've seen contests at furry clubs in which the winner is the lone human who entered. Plus I've seen mixed couples on the dance floor, as well as an occasional mixed partnership between a human and fur (for some reason though, I've seldom seen human males in these pairings).

As for the issue of avatars and race, it was touched upon early in Second Life's history by Hamet Au when he was in the employ of Linden Lab, him describing an experiment by one normally blonde and fair-skinned lady when she went about in a black skin. The result was a few instances of racial slurs, and a few friends not contacting her for a while. So a few years ago, I decided to do an experiment of my own as part of a Relay for Life avatar challenge by going about as a black human for a while. The results were quite different from described by the girl in Hamlet's article. Only two people made an issue about it, and one was a real life coworker who follows the newsletter. In fact, there were a few people (all human) who asked me if I was going to keep it as my main appearance.

Over time, these articles have gotten a number of responses, some describing their own or a friend's ill treatment. One remarked it was his experience any avatar that stuck out from the rest of those in a sim, whether it was human, furry, or otherwise, was sooner or later going to run into trouble, often because of the fear of griefers.

It's been a while since I've heard details about someone getting thrown out of a place because of his or her avatar's appearance. Though as the retirement of America's first black President in real life has brought up questions about how widespread ethnic bias is, among both his opponents and supporters, it did make me think about the issue in Second Life again. How widespread the problem is, in both real life and Second Life, it seems to be a matter of opinion.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lauren Weyland. Second Life's Comedian/Comedienne, is Retiring

By Deaflegacy

Lauren Weyland and I met at her club.  Before the interview began, I asked if we could do the interview in text because of my hearing disability.  Lauren said yes, and it was when the interview began.

Lauren's last day is on Tuesday, January 17.  After that, she will be retiring.  She had been working as a comedian for 10 years.  Lauren told me she had done comedy shows that are of First Life and Second Life. Curious, I asked what "First Life" is.  It turns out that "First Life" is another word for "Real Life" among some residents.

"What's your best memories, Lauren?" I asked.

"One of my best memories was actually at a real-life Second Life event nearly 8 years ago in San Francisco.  THE Second Life convention." said Lauren.  "When a woman came up to me and hugged me so tight. She is blind in first life...and she said I made her laugh so much she found so much happiness."

I smiled, knowing that comedy could go a long way.

Lauren said that after doing ten years of comedy, it's time to move on.  She will miss doing the show, which is the longest running show on Second Life.  She told me she missed only twenty shows in the whole time. At one show a week at fifty-two weeks a year, that's five hundred shows she's been in.

One of the things that comes with being a comedian is many great memories. 

Lauren gave me her old biography, which I will share in this article. 

I did learn from her old biography that Lauren was born on October 1, 2006, into a relatively modest family.  Lauren was unable to learn the craft of building or scripting.  Instead, she made watercress sandwiches for people who could build and entertained them with her jokes.  Since then, Lauren moved on and performed at dozens of clubs, corporate events, and numerable benefits.  She had also written and performed in Theater Plays as well as to maintain a regular show night at her club, "Lauren's Place" on Cookie Island.

Lauren has one child, Lula, and is living in the sim Old Wives although she had never been married.  When she is not working on comedy, she can be found landscaping at her home, making a gourmet meal, or just kicking back on her dock, reading a good novel. Lauren is also writing an autobiography, "Beneath The Skin: Second Life Exposed" and "Laughter - The orgasm you don't have to worry about if your partner is finished."

After reading Lauren's old biography and having an interview with her, I'd say that Lauren had accomplished so much in her 10 years of doing comedy.  I wish her all the best in her retirement.


Editor's note: The Newser also interviewed Lauren Weyland in 2011

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Phoenix Squadron

By Bixyl Shuftan

Last month, I was told about a group of pilots performing for a charity event in Second Life, the KT Festival raising funds for This was the Phoenix Squadron. Unfortunetly, I couldn't make the event. But I did meet up with one of the fliers shortly afterward, May Silvercloud. Meeting up at the museum area at Baitoushan International Airport (164, 180, 3001), she showed me three planes of theirs, a WW2 torpedo bomber, a 1940s "Shooting Star" jet, and a Vietnam War-era fighter-bomber, all painted crimson red, "This is our display. We are the group of the month for December."

I asked about the name, and May answered, "Well, some of the team were members of another, called the Moths. And when that team disbanded, we rose like a Phoenix, and formed Team Phoenix." She stated the team has three Americans, two Britishers, and one Brazilian for the pilots, as well as a DJ and announcer, "We train twice a week when we don't have a show, and the week of a show we will train everyday beforehand." There was no association with the Firestorm Development Team, which used to be called the Phoenix Development Team in it's earlier days, though there was a Phoenix airport that they later based at.

Besides the KT Festival, they had taken part in other events. Probably the most memorable, "would have to be one we did for Willow Spring Horse Auction place.They were having an event for Relay for Life. The sim was packed and the lag was really bad. But we stuck to our plan, and it turned out great." But as they had taken part in larger air shows and times with other teams, others might have a different idea. Of Second Life's flight squadron's she called Phoenix, "one of the most varied of all the teams ...  the variety of maneuvers we fly (and) we fly very close, and also keep formation. Other teams spread themselves more, which (in our opinion) distracts the viewer from the team, focuses on individuals rather than the team. And Phoenix is all about the team."

She told me the team would be meeting up on Sunday, and some days later I dropped by where they were at the SecondLife International Airport at the Antilaghi (244/189/24). The four others besides May were Mr. Pilot Sinn (Aviator747), whom was the only male in the group, Destiny Bellarose (Destiny0000), Diana266, and Mila Kowalski. They were seated at the moment, and invited me to sit with them. May described her introduction to Second Life aircraft , "I was introduced to it by a friend, and then trained by Diana and Pilot in a group called NAS (Naval Air Squadron)." Pilot stated, "I am a real-life pilot, so I enjoy anything to do with aviation." Destiny told, "I stumbled upon it all by accident and trained myself by trial and error until joining an aerobatic team about 3 years ago, and then really learning how to fly. My husband is an air show pilot in real life." Diana commented, "Dest is an airshow groupie." Destiny giggled, "Yes, I've been to them all over North America." Mila informed, "I am part from that group called NAS that May talked before." May mentioned the pilot who was absent, "We do have another pilot called Melody. She is away in real life for a while."

Destiny went on, "I have partied with and flown next to the real-life Blue Angels. ... love flying in both worlds. I think it took me about a year of flying everyday to learn how to land and airplane on a runway. It is harder than it looks." Mila added, "Same here Des." May stated of the group's purpose, "We do this to promote flying in Second Life, and because we love doing it. As Pilot says, it's amazing how many people don't know you can fly in Second Life. And when they see it, they are amazed." My response was, "That seems a bit odd to me, considering one of the first things one learns around here is pressing the 'fly' button." May answered me, "Yes, but not in planes. Most people never get to experience it as they are in clubs or on sims without flying." Pilot added, "I have talked to some people in sl that have been here a long time,and they had no idea you could fly a plane in Second Life."

Eventually May suggested, "Ok, shall we take Bix for a flight?" The group went to five jets parked just outside the hangar. May invited me to get into the back seat of her jet, and they started the engines, "hold on to your hat." The planes then went down the runway, picking up speed, then taking off, raising the landing gear. To see around, I had to expand my draw distance, but lower the quality of what could be seen. We were out over ocean, so that helped things rezz faster. Among the things I saw in the water was Ahab's Haunt, an island with a huge creature's skeleton that Gemma Cleanslate had written about years ago. I also saw that we weren't along in the air. Someone else was flying around these skies at the moment. The squadron flew about, doing manuvers and going about in formation. They would loopin formation, fly stright up and seperate and reform, and other manuveres. It was quite a ride.

Eventually, it was time to head back. So the squadron made a return course to the airport, made their approach to the runway, and touched down. Despite all of those sim crosings, no one had crashed. Thr group did feel one thing gave them some trouble, May saying, "That boat caused me a lot of problems with lag spikes." Diana explained, "Many of the older boats have lots of scripts and are high prims." Destiny felt the problem was something else, "I had too much eggnog last night. I thought my left hand was my right hand." I asked about boats and buildings in combat areas that are scripted to fall apart when having taken enough damage. May told me, "They can be bad if they fall apart when we are near them. But not so bad normally."

Commenting about the variety of planes around, I asked if they had any favorite planes in aviation history. May answered, "Mine is definitely the Spitfire." Pilot added, "Mine is the P-51."Destiny spoke, " My favorite is the Spitfire as well. Love their manuverability and the sound of that engine as the plane roars by you." Mila commented, "Mine is (the) Hell Diver I think." Of the planes' mechanics, Destiny commented, "We have a great fly script thanks to our plane's builder, Shana." Mila added, "Yes Shana is the best!" "She builds a great product for what we do."

I asked about occasions in which things went hilariously wrong. May answered, "Well, we did a display, or tried to. But when we entered the sim, all but I crashed." Destiny chuckled, "Sometimes we get crazy and crash into each other and giggle to death. I had to edit out of a creek (on) the day May speaks of......I was soooooooooo embarrassed. The lag was insane that day." May stated, "Although we are serious fliers, we don't take ourselves seriously." Destiny added, "We are here to have fun, but, we have that professional side that requires commitment."

May commented, "There would be a lot more shows if there wasn't so much rivalry amongst creators. ... Certain designers won't go to the same sim as others. A friend of ours tried to organize a huge show, and it got canceled because of (rivalry)." Destiny spoke, "I think that rivalries and egos are everywhere." May went on, "If designers would just accept that customers don't all want the same thing. It would be much easier. Some want realistic flight capabilities, and some don't." "Diversity is so necessary," Destiny commented. The talk returned to Shana again, May saying, "We publicly support her, and she has helped us as a group enormously." Destiny added, "Yes....and she tries to come to our shows and various events."

It was about this time Pilot had to leave, before I had another question to ask, "With him being the only guy, I take it there's been some minor ribbing on occasion?" "No, not minor," May answered, "major." Destiny giggled, "He puts up with lots of girlie talk." May added, "but gives as good as he gets." I asked, "Any stories, or are the readers just asked to use their imaginations?" May stated, "I take the fifth on that." Destiny joked, "Well .... as an example, as we were taxing out today, he made some sound in his mic. And I simply asked him, 'Hey, Pi, get a hair caught in your zipper?' " The group chuckled. Destiny continued, "I harrass him like that all the time. He takes it all in fun." May stated, "We have all been friends for about two years now. So we know each other inside and out." 'We don't take ourselves too seriously," Destiny added, "and, we can be brutily honest when called upon." I did half-seriously ask if with the red coats of paint on the planes, were there any jokes about diving with the sun behind them. That led to a conversation about combat sims, and they reminding of their start in the NAS.

It was about this time we went our seperate ways. May reminded, "We are here to entertain and hopefully raise money for the various charities." Destiny offered to answer any questions readers of the article might have.

So if you're interested in Second Life aviation, this is one group of people who know plenty about it. And if you want an air group to perform at a charity event, they'll be more than happy to help.

Bixyl Shuftan.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Interview With Marianne McCann

By Deaflegacy

Marianne McCann would say that Bay City is a themed Mainland city, created by Linden Lab back in 2008. Since then, it's Residents, with some help from the Lab and their moles, have helped see the city grow into a virtual community.  That was exactly what Marianne said about Bay City.

"Oh yes," Marianne told me, "Well, the way Bay City was described by Linden Lab before it opened was 'the American urban experience, between 1940 and 1965, perhaps best typified by Chicago circa 1950 and marked by a distinct deco influence."'

There is more city feel to Bay City, from skyscrapers to other city environments. Bay City consists of 24 Residential regions, with an additional 24+ owned by Linden Lab. Each of the Residential regions has a bit more than half the land owned by Linden Lab as well, which allows for the residential parcels to have a double prim allowance.

When asked if Bay City has a council, Marianne said, "Informally. There is a community group, called the Bay City Alliance, that meets every Tuesday. I run the meetings, but everyone who attends has a voice."

Marianne joined Second Life back in early 2006 after a couple of her friends recommended it.  For Bay City, back in 2008, Linden Lab was promoting it on their official blog.  She was already interested in "city land" and had been eyeing parcels in the Nova Albion city area, but the mid-century theme of Bay City was right up Marianne's alley.   She was one one of the early land owners in the city, winning her first Bay City parcel in the initial land auction.

I also asked her about what inspired her in her choice of avatar. Marianne said, "I started to play a kid avatar about a month after joining, in part inspired by other friends who were kid avatars. It's a way to let my more childlike self - what one might call their "inner child" or what not - out to play and have fun and be silly."

I asked her about a controversy that happened several years ago involving child avatars.  Marianne said, "Well, that's a complex question. I'd say there were a couple times child avatars have been viewed as a controversy. The biggest of these was back in 2007 after Report Mainz, in Germany, did a piece on the trading of real life child pornography on Second Life's servers, as well as simulated child abuse between an adult and a child avatar. This was, essentially, resolved by Linden Lab putting restrictions on the type of content that child avatars can use, and the actions they can do."

I also asked her about her involvement in Burn2 and Second Life birthday.  Marianne said that she has a "bad habit" of volunteerism.  With Burn2, she ran Inner Child Camp, which led to further involvement with the event.  Nowadays Marianne and her inworld brother have been called on three times to build and script "The Man" and the "Man Burn."  As for the SL birthday, she first displayed back at the 3rd birthday event, and have been a part of many years.  "Back around SL9B, when the Lab had pulled their direct involvement with the event, I and a coalition of other residents worked to put on our own birthday event. We have since kept at it to this day." said Marianne.

When Marianne was asked about Bay City's position, Marianne said, "Well, I think everyone wants the best and the most for their hometown, regardless, and I know I've very proud of Bay City and want to see it continue to flourish. I think we have gotten a fair amount of attention over time, but I'm always willing to see it get more!"

I asked her as well about Luskwood and Bay City, the two communities being a few sims apart.  She said that she think that Luskwood and Bay City get along pretty well.  Some of the folks from Luskwood have came over to Bay City for some of the big events, like the anniversary event.  Bay City is pretty easy going. 

Finally, I asked Marianne about her plans for the future. She answered, "As far as Bay City goes, we're in the midst of finishing up a project we've been working on for a long time, which is Enter Bay City, our Community Gateway for new SL users. Beyond that, I hope to see all of us, including myself, continue to flourish and grow."

After that, I told Marianne goodbye and wished her well. As one of Bay City's most visible residents, Marianne sets a fine example.


Monday, December 26, 2016

A Cry For Help From Venezuela

By Bixyl Shuftan

Computers and the Internet can bring people together in many ways, online virtual worlds even more so as they give the appearance of being together. This can often mean people learn a little more about each other's societies. But it can also mean an up close and personal view of a big problem overseas that one might be only casually aware of through the newspaper or TV news, if it makes it to the newspaper or TV news at all.

I was exploring a virtual landscape in Second Life a couple nights ago when I got a notecard that had been sent by someone on my contact list: Alejandra Jumanya, or Miss W as she is also known. I had interviewed her last year, as both the owner of a virtual goods store selling outfits for Second Life avatars, and as someone inside an increasingly impoverished and oppressed country in which the money she made online was becoming increasingly important in getting by as the economy in her country crumbled. She had hoped she and her family would make it to the United States in the future.

A year later, she has become more concerned with the short-term survival of her and her daughter.

The notecard she had passed to me, and everyone else on her contact list, read, "Hello my dears, xxxx and I are getting some food at Walmart and shipping them over to Venezuela.  If you wanted to help us, you can do so by giving us a gift card to Walmart or Paypal (  I feel embarrassed  to ask for donations, but you know the situation here and how difficult it is to get food, also minimum wages here are like $15 a month, so it gets tough.  If you feel inclined to help us, we will be very very grateful!"

Wanting to know more, I instant-messaged her. She was surprised to hear from me and at first wondered if I had taken offense at her request. I told her no and wanted to talk. We met at a location where she had a few of her goods for sale. She continued with her story, "I started to write another notecard a few weeks ago, but I never had the ... bravery to send it. I will copy some parts of the notecard ... which I never finished or sent because I was embarrassed, and my friend said it would be better to do an event. But she is busy and real-life gets in the way.

"I'm not sure if you know, but things here in Venezuela has gotten harder for us (for xxxx and I), the government is imposing us a food redistribution system, that requires us to acquire food from Socialist Party members, it's a way for the government to use food to coerce citizens into supporting it... not only you don't get in the food list if you are not pro-government, but also, those who get the bag, it's a (paid) bag of 1 kg or rice, milk, sugar and pasta every few weeks or months.

"I don't get a (paid) food bag... my neighborhood doesn't anyways, so we are currently forced to buy food through a rations system that forces us to stand on supermarket lines up to twelve hours long (although it's illegal to do food lines at night, so if the police comes, we have to run to our cars and come back to do the line). Often, after 10 or 12 hours through the lines, you find out that the supermarket in question has run out of basic goods like rice, vegetable oil, and milk.

"Controlling food supplies has become increasingly important to or government as riots become more and more common. Last week, in the heart of Caracas, hungry patrons of a local market rioted after seeing a shipment of rice enter the market and almost immediately being told the food had been redistributed to the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), the troops typically responsible for attacking peaceful anti-government protests. Chanting 'we want food,' a crowd of hundreds began to march towards the presidential palace, halted only by the GNB using tear gas and violent Chavista gangs known as 'colectivos,' attacking both protesters and journalists."

"I've heard some news reports," I told her, "though this is something new." "Not new for us," Alejandra told me, "it's just been shushed by the media. But we have been in a very bad situation with food and medicine. ... Just today, a friend of mine left her home to buy a present for her 12 month old baby. When she came back, someone had broken into her house, stole her stash of diapers, all her baby's clothes, left NOTHING. stole her clothes too, and the food she had in her fridge and pantry, you know, half a kilo of rice, some pasta, 250grms of coffee, things like that. That's how bad things are. ... You see people losing weight, faces gaunt, people who have college degrees, like doctors, engineers, accountants, making $15 a month and not being able to eat twice a day."

She had shared a few real-life pictures of her and her daughter, but after some thought she felt it might not be a good idea for them to be used, "maybe we should use (only) Second Life pictures. ... what if someone who knows me sees it, and they mug me or kidnap me for money? It might not be so safe to put my face there." It was quickly agreed to use only her Second Life identity and pictures.

I asked her where she had first gotten the idea of making her appeal. She answered, "Well, I had my group for about 7 or 8 years now, and I have thousands of loyal customers, people who know who I am, they know my store has 3 brand new group gifts per week, and they KNOW who I am.. I have always been open about my real-life and my daughter, and the situation we are facing.  We are like a big family in my store group, and I thought some of the girls could or would want to help us."

I asked about others getting help outside the country. She answered, "Of course. Maybe about 80% of my friends have left the country, they are doctors or accountants here, and go to America or Europe to clean houses, work construction, do any job they can find, work at hotels cleanings, so they can send money back to their relatives." While it does bring home needed cash, unfortunately, "it tears families apart. I have a friend who left her deaf/mute daughter and granddaughter to go work in America taking care of an elderly person, so she can send money back here. Another friend who left her two kids with her mom and left to Dominican Republic, so her kids get to have food, but no mother."

"The Dominican Republic?" I asked, "Weren't they poor compared to your country a generation or two ago?" Alejandra answered, "People came to Venezuela from all over the world, because we have a great weather, the women are GORGEOUS, people are warm, you have in such a small country a desert, snow, the most amazing beaches, the plains of Venezuela, we are sitting on top of the biggest reserve oil of the world,  there is no other country with more oil.  Venezuela used to be a great place to live in, we often would see Europeans, Latin Americans or Americans vacationing here. Now the sad truth is that we are treated as 'the migrants' now where we go. Lately I have seen protests in Panama, asking the government to deport illegal Venezuelans, same in Dominican Republic and other countries. We are known as 'the migrants,' people are fleeing the country, even by boat."

I then asked, "Is there any kind of sign of this collapse being halted?" She answered, "You live here in a state of anxiety, you live with uneasiness, often people will say 'NOW THIS IS IT, THIS WILL BE IT!' But nothing ever happens,  there will be no revocatory against the President (elections to vote if we want the president or not).  We have lost the sense to be shocked.  For instance, a few weeks ago some malandros (thugs) got into a bus with a mobile credit card machine and they made everyone on the bus empty their bank accounts.  So, people say 'OK THIS IS IT! NOW IT'S REALLY THE LAST STRAW!' But nothing really happens. When things get really bad, the government distributes some food or do a concert and bring a couple of singers and some beers, and people forget about war, and they go back to their jobs the next day."

How secure was her connection to the outside world, Second Life and the Internet? Alejandra answered it was already occasionally sporadic due to the occasional lack of electric power, "we go without Internet sometimes a couple of days. Sometimes we have Internet but no electricity, water and gas fail too, we will be having water only twice a week, on Wednesday and Sunday night. It's all chaotic here."

Although her email was in the notecard, she asked that it not be used in the article as she could get in serious trouble if the Venezuelan government traced them to her. Anyone interested in helping her could contact her inworld for the information. How could others help her out? "Walmart gift cards, or Amazon. When you buy a gift card, it gives you the gift card number and a four number code. With those two details I can add it to my account and use it. It won't work for PayPal,  but it would would work for contacting me."

As many problems as she had, some which she wanted off the record, Alejandra's last message was one of well-wishes, "I want to wish you and all your readers a merry Christmas and may 2017 be a wonderful year for you and all you love."

And so we parted ways. A number of my Second Life and Facebook friends often complain about drama, or about sports. Several weeks after the US Presidential election, there are still no shortage of complaints from some about the results. It all seems so pale when talking to someone concerned about her daughter having enough to eat.

Alejandra recommended  A number of New York Times articles about her country's situation, including one about the currency crisis sparked by the government's strange policies, and of it's people trying to find work outside the country to bring home a little cash.

Alejandra's store is located at Pergola (158/9/22), she has a page on Marketplace, and has her own blog at

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, December 12, 2016

Second Life Republicans Podcast Meeting

By Bixyl Shuftan

Real life is invariably reflected in Second Life, and politics is no exception. Over the course of the year, Trump supporters made themselves known on occasion. But the most visible were the Trump Organization led by JP Laszlo, whom drew attention with their "Trump Wall" prank on Bernie Sanders supporters and were accused of outright griefing. Eventually, Linden Lab would ban JP and several others in the group. Although Linden Lab never gave the reason for the banning, that JP later revealed himself as a member of the infamous Woodbury group was seen as confirmation by some Democrat Party supporters that their opponents were griefers. The remainder of the Trump Organization spent most of the remainder of the election season away from the limelight, sticking around at their Trump Pub.

While the Trump Organization was the most visible of those in Second Life supporting the Republicans, there were others that went quietly about their business. Hearing about another, The Republican Party in Second Life, I was initially told they were mostly inactive. But later on I would hear the group did hold meetings while they listened to a conservative podcast. After finding out the place and time, Sunday December 4 at 6PM SL time, I headed over just before the meeting started.

As it turned out, the one doing the podcast was someone I had ran into before, Hatton Hunghi, the avatar of the man behind East Coast Conservative. I had interviewed and written about him in March 2012. More than four years later, he was still in business. As for the crowd, the men and women numbered a little smaller than the one at the "Safety Pin" support meeting for Democrats that I had covered last month, but the big difference between the two groups in appearance was that here, some of the group were furs.

The podcast covered several topics, such as the euthanasia of a man in the Netherlands not for a terminal disease but for chronic alcoholism, the removal of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Huckleberry Finn" from a school library due to characters using racial slurs, and the doubts of some Trump supporters that he'll succeed in "draining the swamp" of Washington DC corruption. The topic about the books taken out of the library got the most comments, "What? Are they next going to ban 'Transformers 2' because of the two robots in it they were 'African American,' and there were people demanding a boycott of that. .. Hell, my sister, a liberal lawyer, says that the most racist movie of all times is, get this, 'Blazing Saddles,' which utterly destroys racism." "The book issue was simply done for political correctness." "They are trying to remove history." "And those that got offended are ones who chose to ignore American history in which it happened or failed to understand what happened in the past." "The left does not teach in school how racist (President) Wilson was. People have to teach themselves that and the entire eugenics movement of the 1920s is avoided in schools."

Following the podcast and a short break, Hatton congratulated me for the continuing success of the Newser. He told me he had changed the schedule of his podcast as well as the name and website to "Front Porch Political Talk" (, as well as the location in Second Life, "I changed the name and schedule in 2015 but almost everything is the same.  I've had to shift locations a few times as sims have shut down.  It happens in this fluid world."

Bringing up the election, Hatton drew attention to his avatar's appearance, "There's a reason I keep my hair shaved short. So I don't pull it out. ... Me personally, I started off as a Ben Carson fan.  Then I went to Cruz but only lightly. Since I'm not enmeshed with any party group," meaning he wasn't part of any GOP organization, "I had a lot of fun watching Trump twist their ... well, you know." When I asked if he expected Trump to last long after announcing his candidacy in 2015, "Not in the least.  I said on the show that he was creating an oxygen rich environment and expected him to set off his own spark as well. I'm not a member of the "Never Trump" group but I'm watching his actions with a lot of caution. Larry (the older voice you heard on the call) is more supportive than I am and I think many of his generation are. If nothing else, I think his administration is going to give my show a lot to talk about over the course of his Presidency."

I asked him why he thought Trump was able to get the Republican nomination, and then win the Presidential Election. He answered, "Overall part of it is the tone and method of his campaign.  Trump was the non-politician, effectively the third party candidate. Only he ran as a Republican.  He doesn't talk like a politician and he doesn't act like one. And there is a subset of the electorate that craved that attitude. He also didn't speak down to the voter, he spoke down to his competition and pointed out their faults.  Doing that won him favor as well.

"As far as winning the election?  There are a few different answers and it depends on the state. Pennsylvania and Michigan are two states where his message resonated with the working class strongly. All that said, his campaign also did a great job of getting him more exposure and positioning a greater rural return. He played the electoral game just as well as any politician, but spoke like no other candidate.

"The other reason he won was because the Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton, regardless of the fact that she is the epitome of what at least half their base didn't want. Despite the money she spent on ads, Trump just had to cough funny and he'd get free coverage from the Media, then he could use that in the ads that his campaign ran."

I then asked, "Earlier you were saying you were watching him with caution. What you you expect from his administration?" Hatton answered, "I do expect a sea change based on his cabinet picks, but anything that requires Congress is going to be less reliable. The Affordable Care Act is definitely going to be changed drastically or removed altogether. I expect he'll follow through with his trade plans. Foreign affairs will depend on who finally makes it in as Secretary of State."

I then brought up the strong reaction of some Democrats and the "Safety Pin" support group in Second Life. Hatton responded, " recorded a video on the day after the election that covered some of the initial responses I saw on Facebook from both sides.  Most of what I saw from the DNC and the left was, 'why did I even bother?'  My video comment was something to the effect of the fact that they should be proud of what they did, own their efforts and whatever impact it might have had on lower ballot races and proud of the fact that they live in a country where there can be open conversation about differing stances.

"For the most part I stand by that, though the violent riots and some of the other reactions have been over the top. As far as the 'safety clip' wearers, their issue," which he thought was immigration, "still has a lot to be figured out. I know that Trump has modulated on a few issues, and am pretty sure immigration is going to be one that he continues to adjust focus on."

When I asked him if he had anything else to say, "Only that it's important to remember that there are political issues beyond the election, beyond the news items that go above the fold and they need to be discussed just as much as Trump's latest tweet.  In some cases they're more important."

A peek at the group chat revealed some variety of opinions. While some expressed full confidence in Trump, some had some reservations, "(I) don't mind admitting, I am absolutely glad Clinton will not be president, but I'm a bit nervous about the President-Elect, too." While most of the chatter was about politics, some asked about the fire in Oakland California which killed over 30 people.

Like four and eight years ago, the Republican supporters in Second Life have been active as were the Democrats whose beliefs they often clashed with. Originally with a Republican President and then a transition to a Democrat one, for eight years they were the "loyal opposition." Now once again, the Presidency is going over to a Republican. But as the President-Elect will be unlike any leader before, while some are eagerly awaiting his term with anticipation, others of the conservative side of political thought are expressing more cautious optimism, and occasionally caution. No doubt Hatton Hunghi's podcast and the Second Life Republicans will have much to talk about in the next four to eight years, and beyond.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Interview with Selador Cellardoor

By Deaflegacy

Selador Cellardoor is a published writer, who wrote short stories that were published by Macmillian around 1971. Selador's book of short stories was called "The Eye of the Lens," and he suspects that we can still get it if we try.  Selador recently had his 13th rez day.  He is probably the first classical dj on Second Life, But at that time, people rarely came.

Selador was in the Berkshire Recorder Consort, which was an early music group.  He had to give it up when he developed COPD.  Selador loves classical music and plays it all the time.  Selador is a dj in the Classical Circle Ballroom.   But in real life, he doesn't have much to do with music.  Selador had done some MIDItranscriptions of  classical pieces.  He used to be a pianist as well.  Selador was good enough to do local recitals.

Selador does a dj performance in Classical Circle Ballroom every other Friday.  "A fortnightly event is just right for me." said Selador. Selador said back in time, he wasn't properly organized.  He didn't know whether it is possible to be properly organized these days.  But now, he and some friends are.   Seladoor made a mention of a group.  It is called Classical Circle. Selador explained that the events they have are not solemn and reverent.  They all love classical music. The number of people varies, but they love to chat, dance, and make terrible puns.

Selador's favorite place when it comes to playing classical music would be the Classical Circle Ballroom.  He had done events at other places, but it's not something he would wish to do on a regular basis. Selador had done composing as well on an amateur basis and he had works performed locally.

The biggest thing Selador ever attempted was an hour-long setting of a poem of Mervyn Peake, the Rhyme of the Flying Bomb.  It is a musical poem. When asked if Selador plans on playing classical music for a long time, he responded.  "Yes, as long as I can." he said.  Selador will be playing for a very long time.

Selador loves the idea of virtual worlds.  Before it was created, Selador was in two previous worlds; Cybertown and Worlds Away.  When asked if he's glad to be a part of Second Life, he said that he very much is glad to be a part of it.

Classical Music Ballroom's link is