Friday, March 9, 2018
By Bixyl Shuftan
Some months ago, someone sent me an angry message on Facebook. He was furious at me for promoting "a sick and twisted" form of entertainment. I responded that I had no idea he was talking about. He then sent me a link for something on Marketplace. The image was something so obscene, I can't even place a picture of it here with black bars. "Why aren't you writing about this?"
I gave a two-part response. One: I had never heard of this particular kind of product, or anything like it in Marketplace before. Two: It was my experience that very few, if any, of the hundreds of thousands of active residents would have any interest in this kind of depravity. Second Life did have it's adult side, I admitted, but I had never seen this level of obscenity there. I went on to say that while Second Life did have it's adult side, so does real life. And I had no desire to report on strip clubs and brothels any more than my local newspaper and the nightly news.
My attempt at reason didn't seem to have any affect on this man, whom angrily accused me of covering up the "truth." He would post on his Facebook page about this obscene virtual good as a typical example about how Second Life was a place where people went to exercise the most deprived of sexual fantasies. While tempted to respond, I felt the best thing to do was to ignore the angry rant and just let it die.
I thought back to when Second Life was mentioned much more in mainstream and tech media. At first, it was praised as the latest thing. But later on, what would be mentioned were the tales of cyber affairs while the stories about people creating art, the disabled finding ways to express themselves, and people getting together to raise charity were practically ignored. One friend of mine in those days called it an unfortunate fact of human nature, "It is so much easier to sell a story when it is controversial than when it is constructive." So it seems some people find it easier to believe the worst about the new and the different.
I was reminded about this more recently when at a club with a few friends. It had a mixed furred and normal human crowd. In the "after-party," following the official event, I was among those who hung around with a few friends, chatting about goings on. Then we saw someone come in. He was a newcomer, which was not very unusual in itself was the club occasionally gets them, and another had appeared earlier in the evening. But he began making remarks, asking if the human patrons were in danger of being eaten by the furry ones. At first, everyone thought he was joking, and went along with it, chuckling. But he wasn't laughing.
I messaged the guy, asking what was going on. He stated he was on "furry patrol," going to various places in Second Life with them. I asked what was the purpose, and he told me that the first furry place he went to, a wolf had roleplayed trying to eat him. Freaked out, he fired his weapon at him, and left the sim. So he was going from place to place that catered to furs to try to "protect" anyone in human avatars there. Apparently he had come across the "vore" sim which caters to strange fantasy roleplay about creatures swallowing other creatures alive. This sort of thing isn't confined to Second Life. One girl I knew in real life wrote a story about a naga character, a snakelike creature in myth, that would once in a great while attack and devour alive someone who tried to harm her friends. This sort of thing is regarded as weird by most furs and normal humans in Second Life alike, one joking he found the concept "hard to swallow." But he seemed to have gotten the impression all of those who took on a nonhuman look were into that sort of thing.
So I told the newcomer that, saying most in furred avatars considered what he encountered just as strange as he did. I don't recall him giving me much of an answer, so I thought that might have convinced him nonhuman avatars weren't always out to get him. Later on, I did consider the possibility this might have been a troll alt whom was looking for people to offend, and seeing cooler heads decided to move on. But the trolls I've run into are usually more persistent.
Fortunately most people I've run into when it comes to Second Life are fairly open-minded. But it seems there's always a few whom jump to a wrong conclusion over a single incident, and act on it. Sometimes they'll reconsider when given new information. But some seem to be too close-minded to change their opinion.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
By Kimiko Kanagowa (FoxytheJamie Resident)
In my travels, trying to find more about Second Life and Mental Health, I stumbled onto a place called Tranquility Health Care in the Sorens sim. The facility is owned by a Steffi Sugabum (QueenBSwag Resident). I had the opportunity of speaking with her, and this is what she had to say.
Kimiko: How long has this establishment been running?
Steffi: Since the start of January really. We're still quite a new business.
Kimiko: What was the original purpose for the creation of the establishment?
Steffi: Originally it was a roleplay before we set up on this land. It had therapy service still as well, but we also had a roleplay aspect to it as well. So it didn't have to be real-life relations. However, without breaking confidence of course, I found more coming to me wanting help with Therapy services due to their experiences. I had a meeting with staff and spoke about my ideas of helping more towards mental health awareness/general mental health - the therapists have real-life experience. So we just went for it and created a safe place for people to come to learn and seek help with mental health. (smile)
Kimiko: How many people have sought help here?
Steffi: It could range from 10 or something so far. I'll have to check properly later.
Kimiko: Can you describe the process of how people are helped?
Steffi: During their session? It can really vary, we offer talking therapy, in aid of support just being there for the client, seeing what they need from us, any advice we can give in aid towards them feeling better. We also may specialize in certain areas, such as one of our Therapists has a lot of experience towards helping with relationships. We offer a basic CBT as well. They also have experience with this too. This wont include homework or any diagnosis though. Just finding out what someone enjoys, helping them get back into what they enjoy in aid of helping with levels of depression or anxiety.
We do hold a test for Depression and Anxiety as well per client, just to make sure if they need real-life help more and provide advice towards that - say if someones in danger or risk of harm to themselves/anyone else. We'll still continue to support them though as well if they wish. Another thing - sorry if this ends up really long (laughter), we have set up a learning area as well, for free discussions/events in aid of awareness for mental health, self help advice and support. (smile)
Kimiko: What sort of conditions have you seen here?
Steffi: Mainly trauma and anxiety
Kimiko: Anything to add?
Steffi: Nothing really. Thanks, and I hope the best with your news letter too its a really great topic you're talking about. (smile)
This is the just the next chapter in the story about the constant struggle of mental health, everywhere, not just on Second Life. There is more to come, soon.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
By Bixyl Shuftan
"It was a LONG time coming," Nydia told me of the story finally being published, saying it had taken "about eight months or so" to write. Of where the idea came from, "When I was 18 I think, I had a rough idea hit me. I tried to put it down then, (but) got poo-pooed by family, so I gave it up. ... It was too, strange for them. The lead character was a cougar, in a human world. This was WAY before I ever even HEARD the word furry (laughter). This was MANY moons ago."
So what made her decide to give the story another try? She explained, "I was riding with my brother in his truck, spending many an hour just watching the world go by. Then one day I let my mind wander, and I found (the story) again. It was like saying hello to an old friend. I spoke to my brother about it, and he told me to get it out of my system and see where it goes. So he bought me a laptop and I started putting it down."
So what is the story about? The description on Amazon is, "Two souls, viewed by many of their kinds’ as eccentric lunatics, suddenly find themselves switched within their parallel universes. Now in strange new lands, each is having to learn about the other side of the mirror. In the all new Switched Destinies.” The story is a science-fiction/fantasy one in which a human scientist, Kevin Baron, ends up changing places with his counterpart in a universe where the world is populated by anthropomorphic beings, or furries, such as cat people, rabbit people, and many other varieties.
But a population made up of people looking like various animals is just the first surprise, "He finds a new culture and some shocking surprises, but also a few friends along the way." The society is roughly Medieval in technology, "Honor and status it what 90% of what their society is built on. Weapons consist of swords and bows, for the most part. Most can use some form of magic, and some can be really good with it. There are different 'classes' of people as well." From the human visitor's point of view, "the basic laws can be a bit, extreme, and how conflicts are handled."
Nydia didn't want to give away too much of the story and the characters, "I am so proud of how they came together. I want the readers to enjoy the 'First Experience' for themselves. And the more they know in advance reduces that for them. I want them to experience like I did, as it happens whether it is to laugh or cry or wonder. They way they tell their story, you are carried along with them, as they learn about each other and their ways."
When asked about what influences she had when coming up with the story, she answered, "I am not sure what inspired me to start it, but they, the characters, inspired me to keep going, to see what happens next." She's also started a sequel of both the further adventures of the human hero and his furry counterpart, "though my editor, my daughter, is now pushing me to write the story of what happens in the human world more. She is the self proclaimed "Expert" on my books since she has read them so many times. The second book follows the same time line as the first. The third takes place a few years later. So there are three, possibly four, more books coming." Does either hero find a way back to his home universe? Nydia isn't telling.
One thing she was willing to reveal was the woman, a rabbit/raccoon hybrid or "mix," whom the human visitor ends up in a relationship with and marrying. The character is named Nydia, but she didn't name her after her Second Life persona, but the other way around as she had developed her years earlier, "she is TOTALLY different from me, but when I started Second Life it asked me to come up with a name, and her name was the one that came out." She did have an avatar of the character in Second Life, "One of my (close friends), Jian, made an avi of her. I am SO proud of it. I only were it for special occasions, so I don't soil her image (laughter)."
She then changed avatars to the appearance of the "Switched Destinies" character, and spoke to me as if the character, "Good Afternoon Bixyl, I am the Lady of Baron Manor Nydia Tangen." Of the character starting off with a low status in her society but ending up the second in charge of a noble house, "Since you know of what my station in life was, you know how shocked I was to get to where I am today. My spouse, may the Goddess bless him, hasn't a clue, nor care of any such status I may have had in the past. But just tells me 'I am worth it,' and he loves his 'Little bandit' to which I usually roll my eyes and laugh at his other worldly ideals. But I do love him, and will die for him if ever called to do so, we all would."
And what did the character think some of the more odd things about humans and Earth? "Hmm, the shear number there are of you and your just ONE species, which you would think would make it easier to get along, but doesn't for some reason. And if I have to be honest, when I found out what some of you eat, I was a bit more than disturbed." Asking what that was, she answered, "Well, you eat rabbits and raccoons for a start. But what shocked me to the very core was ... well, my spouse told us ... dear Goddess ... we .. they taste like ..... chicken! And since I am a 'Mix' of the two, surely you can see why I would find that disturbing."
And what did her spouse find surprising about this world's food? The character answered that it was that magic was sometimes used in cooking, "He was surprised by self-stirring bowls of all things. We were more shocked he actually knew which side of the pan to cook on. I mean, he IS male, so we were absolutely shocked! His first dish he made, didn't look very appetizing, like worms covered in blood. But it turned out WONDERFULLY! He called it, what was it again, 'spagetty?' My personal favorite was what he called 'cheesecake,' he put strawberries on it, oh dear Goddess, it was so decadent!" Others in the world caught interest in his food as well, "It was so odd, but good. It is now being server in 'Shelly's' in Hightown itself. Most refer to it as exotic. What adds to it is the fact that is was a MALE that created these dishes. ... There are NO male chefs anywhere. Men just can't cook." When asked about examples when they had to such as when lost in the wilderness, she answered, "Lost in the wilderness? A male? Never. They rarely even leave their towns."
Asking the author if there was anything else she wanted to add, Nydia responded, "The meeting between my namesake and her spouse Kevin is an interesting one. She is a very honest an loyal woman. But, don't threaten her spouse or family. She has and will kill for them. ... I hope you enjoy our story."
Shortly after the interview, Nydia announced that Amazon had published her book.
As most of you know I have been trying to publish my book for longer than I have been in SL. Yesterday it happened. I was so all over the board in just giddiness, I may not have explained it well. Anyways, here is the link to the book. It is up and active. If you buy it let me know how you like the story. Feel free to share the link with the readers in your life
"Switched Destinies" is available on Amazon for $5.00.
Monday, January 22, 2018
This interview was done after I gave Klaus the notecard and Klaus sent me by the answers in another notecard. Thanks, Klaus.
Klaus has a reason why he is on Burn2. "I like the 10 Principles of Burning Man and I think they have their place in this virtual world of imagination and experimentation. The themes of 'Radical Inclusion', 'Decommodification' and 'Self Expression' are ones I'd like to see in play more in all worlds." said Klaus. "Basically they mean, "anyone is welcome to participate", "it's not all about money", and "what you have to say is valid". If we played along with that we'd be better avatars and better humans, so I like how Burn2 brings that back into focus every year."
"I think I'll keep championing the creativity and the principles in small ways here, but I'm not planning on getting a parcel and building every year now," said Klaus when asked how long he would be on Burn2. "It was kind of a milestone to do something last year, and this year will have other paths to pursue. But "never say never". If there's one thing I have learned here, it's that the unexpected can happen if you are open to it - so, who knows, I may be involved again in the future."
Klaus went on to say that there is good effort to make the whole thing like a real Burn. "It's not about coming in on the last building day and dumping something prefabricated and leaving it," said Klaus. "We drove trucks onto the Playa and unloaded building materials, we set up a camp and took a couple of weeks putting it together, met other burners and hung out. We savored the process and documented it at each stage. That was the best part of the experience. You can see how it came together in Pearl Grey's machinima here: https://vimeo.com/248213080."
Building Sojourning Outpost from Pearl Grey on Vimeo.
Like Burn2, Klaus doesn't hold a position with LEA, but he likes to support the creativity that gives space to. "My involvement was deeper this time last year because I had the good fortune to be invited by another friend to contribute to their work: Art Oluja's Glass jars on LEA 11." said Klaus. "I worked on the soundscape for the sim, creating sounds with woodwind and percussion, which is nicely captured in another vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/228706022 . It was a great experience, and I guess you'll notice the emerging theme is that I like to collaborate."
When Klaus was asked about how long he had been doing it for LEA, Klaus said, "Well, it was just that one thing. I will always keep in touch with what's happening, and I think writing for the Newser gives a nice opportunity to highlight the stuff that's new and different or that makes me sit up and think."
When I asked Klaus if he is writing in real life about Second Life, he said, "Not exactly. I keep the two worlds quite separate, but I write in both worlds. Of course, there is a lot of creative bleed between the two and SL inspires my writing in RL just as RL inspires what I do inworld, but I enjoy the different aspects that the two environments bring out from me in and of themselves. For instance, Klaus writes more poetry than his physical alt does in RL. This is probably because the shorter form is better suited to the average avatar's attention span, and I try to get along to 'Inksters' Poetry Prompt sessions whenever I can. That's not something I'd do in RL. I blog here, too, writing about design aspects of Mainland parcels and topography at http://virtualtopophilia.blogspot.co.uk/ . This year I'm going to be doing more blog writing about Mainland exploration in another collaboration. Obviously I enjoy writing for the Newser as well. In RL, I write and edit professionally and for pleasure, too. The bottom line is that "writers write" - whatever I'm doing becomes grist to the writing mill."
I asked Klaus about how long he had been working on this project, and he had the answer for that question. "I came back to SL in 2015 after a long hiatus. At that time I had some curiosity about how humans can dream collaboratively, and this related to a book I was working on. There were other reasons I re-engaged, too, and being here quickly took on a life of its own." said Klaus. "In some ways it's all a massive project, a journey in self-experimentation and imagination. When we chat inworld, we are "writing", and this is a very big book that's not only made from words but also prims and mesh. It will never be done and I guess I will keep fighting the lag and the worse aspects of avatar behavior until the grid shuts down - because it's worth it to me, and there's still life in it."
When Klaus was asked about how he is doing with his novel, he said, "I have a lot of projects on the go, and some will go by the wayside. When I was 15 years old in RL, I started writing a novel about a garden that was a world of its own and in many ways similar to this virtual world. Maybe one day I will finish that. In the meantime I'll just be "gardening" here and writing about what inspires me. I have a vineyard, a gallery and a cafe to run; I co-run a shop and a printing press, and ... the list goes on."
Thank you, Klaus, for giving me the answers to the questions I gave you in the notecard. I really appreciate it. I believe that I'm already one of your fans, which is fantastic. As days go by, Klaus and I continue to work together as a part of the SL Newser team. I look forward to good days with Klaus.
Friday, January 19, 2018
“I don't think there's one word that can describe a man's life.”- Citizen Kane
This is probably the hardest post I’ve had to write. I remember when I was in the hospital, Henrietta stayed up almost every night with Sidonie and Cuddly. She always presented this shy demeanor, but beyond that was a woman who was deeply loyal, deeply committed to the causes she believed in.
If there was one thing that I could always count on, it was my troupe of four. I recently went through a bit of depression that I could not explain- it happens to all of us. I must’ve chatted into the group at 3am my time and since we all have the group on our phones we all see the alerts. Henrietta woke up and kept me company through a time that was particularly hard for me.
Sometimes it is easy to forget but Second Life is not one dimensional- we are more than just the avatars we create.
Over time all four of our lives, in world and out of it, became important. Cuddly got a live in boyfriend toy thing, Sidonie had new cats and Henrietta lamented about ferrets. We all know each other so well that if we met in real life, I don’t think we would even notice that we weren’t hiding behind our Second Life skins.
That’s what I love about Henrietta- she is so real, so true to herself that Sid, Cuddly and I had a shoulder to lean on to and rely on. She is always full of movie quotes and tv show quotes that none of us had heard of before but yet she persisted...
Henrietta Demina had many passions. Living life with a smile and laughter was one of them. She was dedicated to her real life family and friends and treated us SL family and friends just as she would in real life. She wrote about her Strange family on her website and was immensely proud of all of our accomplishments. Henrietta had her Demina family too, passionate about role playing as vampires. She was dedicated to the character she made on Second Life, changing only her hair to accommodate Relay season.
For the last five years she was deeply, deeply passionate about Relay for Life. She and her brother Hilshire made RFLSL as real as it could be- they collected monies in real life as much as they could and usually donated it in pieces.
Henrietta was the definition of a true relayer. She attended as many events of other teams as much as possible, slowly draining that chunk of change (which was easily in the thousands dollar wise) at each team event showing her support.
She volunteered to DJ at just about every single event possible. She was passionate about the Fantasy faire, Christmas expo, you name it she was there.
Quiet but steadfast defined Henrietta’s Relay journey- she was happy to let others in the spotlight even if she was more deserving. Most recently she was heavily involved with the Christmas Expo as a host and was happy to spend her entire week only at the Expo.
She became the Team Captain of Team Strange Journeys last year and held the baton with pride. She dedicated part of her sim to the team’s accomplishments and journey.
Above all, she was the Co Coordinator of the Castle Home and Garden contest. She retired a few years ago so she made the CHG her full time job, almost literally. She worked so hard that she worked herself into having a stroke right before the Opening Ceremonies last year. She was respected and loved by all of our contestants and our merchants. It was usually her that people would go to for support, and she was more than happy to give it.
It feels strange- life is a journey and I preach that, always. This week we lost both Henrietta and Hilshire Demina. They were killed in an accident early this week and it just doesn’t make sense.
I can see Henrietta standing in front of me, giggling, saying that sometimes life is funny that way. I can see her saying a quote from a movie she admired 40 years ago, and something about “don’t worry about it”. She would probably kill me if I said anything like “I can’t do the CHG without you”. She would want you all to smile and keep fighting. She would say, “don’t worry about lil ole me!”
Henrietta, you made a profound impact on my life and that will stay with me forever. You have made a difference and we won’t soon forget it.
Henrietta and Hilshire Demina, thank you. You can rest in your coffins now, and bite as many people as you want.
We will hold a memorial service and will send details when we have them.
Monday, January 8, 2018
By Shaza Denver,
Hello my loyal readers,
Well the hectic holidays are behind us for the most part. I know I for one need to find the time to take down all the decorations and pack them away for next year. Its still snowing of course. Winter has not left us, at least not yet. I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season. I hope you made new friends. I hope you had good times with family and a peaceful and happy holiday season.
There were so many hunts going on, and so many group gifts to be had. It was indeed a joyful time for me. My inventory is bursting at the seams. I have no idea when I fill find to time to get this lot of goodies sorted. Its probably going to take me a year!
With the holidays over I am skipping around Second Life looking for things to do and see. Well as it happens I was out on New Years Eve and I met a gentleman at a popular venue. We had a dance or two and he told me about this charity that he sponsors, Feed A Smile.
Feed A Smile has events all over Second Life that help the Live and Learn in Kenya Int'l program. The proceeds help very poor children in Kenya to receive hot meals. A school is being built so that these children may learn. How wonderful is that. There is an art gallery where you may purchase artworks by SL artist. These sales benefit the charity as well.
Jump on over there and check out the artwork for yourself. I know I bought several as the work is quite good and well......it does help this worth while cause. Here is your taxi to the gallery.
Art Aid at Commonwealth Village, Momil (34, 125, 68)
There is an venue that caters to the needs of this charity. This venue is called Lavender Fields. At the venue you will find a replica of the school being built for the children.
I myself visited the replica. It is quite impressive, and to know just what it stands for and the benefits it gives to others is heart warming.
Do get over and check out the venue. You will be impressed as much as I was, of that I am sure. Here is your url to the venue. Get over and check it out. While you're there, Feed A Smile. You won't be sorry. The feeling it will give you is like no other.
The Lavender Field, Feed A Smile (53, 124, 23)
Until next time loyal readers. Please stay tuned for articles about this amazing charity here in SL.
Monday, January 1, 2018
By Alura Denver (Alura Messing)
What they soon found, was that they had more response from people wanting to help and sponsor kids, than they did have kids. "At first pepols was scared to sign up. Sometimes pepols judge kids for being needy. but but the role of RPing a kids is being able to provide for us selves." said Cryssie "Lots of times kids are afraids to ask for help. Thems not wanna seem too needy." But they found a way around this fear by asking the community to refer kids to them as well as sponsor, in a notecard that the sent to their whole customer base.
The outcome of the event was a smashing success. Some of the families fell in love with the kids they sponsored and asked them to join their families and adopted them. Others just got the joy of opening not just the one thing they hoped for, but a whole slew of presents. "Every kids that signed up gotta present whether they asked for it or not! I had 3 stores donate toys and stuff and 5 stores donate clothing but but Sweet Tots donated huge gift cards to all the kids that signed up. So each box has about 25-30 presents" said Cryssie.
With such a successful event and so many wonderful experiences coming out of it I asked Cryssie if she would consider doing it again next year. Her immediate response was, "yes! I hope to do it for many many many many many years to come. I like knowing the lil bit effort helps sooooo many kids." So be sure to look into it next year if you would like to donate or participate and share in some holiday love.