Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Desired Dreams Air Museum

Above the Desired Dreams Sim you can find a sky-platform that resembles a naval aircraft carrier packed with aircraft. But there is no thunder of jets launching into the sky from this deck. This is the location of The Desired Dreams Air Museum.

According to the chief operating officer, SL resident Hughes Howards, the museum’s mission is to show what realistic aircraft are available in Second Life and to showcase the fine work people have done here in recreating them. It is also an educational museum to inform about the aviation history that has been brought into Second Life.

This exhibition is similar in concept to the real life Intrepid sea-air-space museum at the former US Navy ship of that name on the Hudson River in New York.

Hughes also said that the display will be changing every few weeks because there are so many aircraft out there in SL to showcase. Of the current exhibits, the stars of the show for me are the British Airways Concorde supersonic airliner and the WW2 Avro Lancaster bomber. The detail and realism of the latter is astonishing and is worthy of an article on its own - watch this space.

Inside the tower (Island in naval parlance) is a video lounge showing aviation films running 24/7, a flight shop with posters, T-shirts and jackets and there is also a relaxing lounge upstairs. This museum is run on donations so if you visit please donate what you can to support it.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Old Bert and Daisy

Old Bert kept in contact with Daisy, im’ing her and chatting. He found that they had similar tastes and lots to talk about, so feeling encouraged by this he decided to ask her to go dancing, as she had said it was something she particularly enjoyed but didn’t often have the opportunity to do.

Before dancing Old Bert took Daisy on a balloon tour of the Victoriana sims. This helped to serve as an ice breaker; the tour was a leisurely one allowing them to work off the first date jitters watching the scenery pass by and commenting on whatever struck their fancy.

After this they went to the Angel Ballroom sim. They had a lovely time, starting off in the ballroom then exploring the surrounding area where they found a ship anchored nearby, much to Old Bert’s delight, so they ended the evening dancing on the deck. The time passed quickly and they made arrangements to meet up again and to go skating.

A few days later they got together at Winter Angel Woods, lacing on their skates and going round and round the frozen pond. Next they made snow angels, laughing at the sight they made lying out in the snow.

Quite tired by this time they headed over to a little campfire thoughfully provided by the sim owner, where they sat quietly next to each other, relaxing and thinking over the past few days.

Old Bert was remembering how unhappy he had been, without a home, a job or friends. True, his home was very humble, but he now worked in the Pre-Raphaelite Gallery, surrounded by art works he loved, he had friends in the 1920’s Berlin Project, the Nation of Victoriana and Cafe Trivia, and he had met Daisy, who shared his interests and seemed to take pleasure in his company, as he did in hers. Daisy, for her part, reflected upon what a kind and gentle person Old Bert was. Absorbed in their thoughts, the two of them remained seated cosily next to each other, oblivious to the passage of time or the presence of others in the sim.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

New Style of Transport in SL

Second Life is a wonderful place for people to use their imaginations to the full. You can be a superhero if you want to be, riding around in rocket ships, jet fighters, speedboats, flying saucers and supersonic cars. Well in order to do this you need someone who is really gifted at designing and making these fantastic vehicles. You also need that person to be a genius in the scripting department as well, to make the vehicles into working models.

Alphonso Pidgeon is just such a person, inspirational and very talented, he has been a builder in Second Life for some time now. Alph would always turn up at our meeting places with a new awesome spaceship or airplane that he had just created and on one occasion gave us all a set of different coloured motorbikes that we could all dash around the SL landscape on, his work is always amazingly detailed and looks incredible. Of course Alph doesn’t only make vehicles, he is extremely experienced with SL building as a whole, and a natural at it!

Well now Alph has come up with a new design, a new mode of SL transport, it’s compact, looks very stylishly ‘cutting edge’ and is easy to use, with just a little practice. It’s called a ‘Slea-Z-Boy’ and basically it is a jet-propelled chair that moves at speed following where you point your SL camera. If, for instance you saw an object in the distance that you wanted to get close to, you simply hold your alt key down and use your mouse to aim at the object or location and next thing the chair has taken you right there. I’m not very good at driving anything in SL, but I found this very smooth to use, as long as I didn’t try to cam too far into the distance, I moved with ease, and it’s a really classy vehicle to be seen in too. It has colour changing jets and lights under the seat that you can alter to suit your mood.

I tested it in a sandbox at first till I got the hang of it, then I took it to Virtual London to see if I could manoeuvre it through the little streets and it worked a treat. Whilst in the sandbox I tested the built in cannon that fires seven different types of bullets, this was real fun as I aimed at an abandoned prim and sent the bullet spiralling towards it, exploding on impact with flames and clouds of smoke. This again is easy to use and you can get a good aim by using mouselock view. There’s a feature that lets you build a sky platform and it also has a built in bar so that you can offer your friends drinks as well!

I asked Alphonso to tell me about his life in SL as a builder and also about the Slea-Z-Boy invention. He told me “I've been around Second Life since the end of 2006, and spent most of my time in-world building and scripting various items, from space ships to shopping malls, jewellery to whole sims. Quite often while building I'll use a script for something minor, and I just get a feeling that there's a good product somewhere in it, waiting to be built. This was the case with the SLea-Z-Boy chair. I had used camera follower scripts before, and I knew there was something groovy in them.

I began by making a tiny UFO camera follower, which was nice, but not right. There was still something better in there. So, one day, out of boredom, I sat on the UFO, and started to zoom around the sim. Following this epiphany, I started work on the "Magic chair" as it was called to start with. I wanted it to look stylish and comfortable, but mostly I wanted to make it practical. Something people would want to use again and again. And now it's finished, I think I succeeded. The finished chair is easy to use (with a little practice), convenient, thanks to the HUD to rez it, and I have included a few utilities, such as a platform rezzer, a colour changer to allow users to customise it and the ability to rez a round of drinks for your friends.

However the biggest advantage in my experience so far, is the fact that when sitting in "hold" mode, the user is practically griefer proof. You cannot be pushed, bumped, orbitted or any of those other fun things griefers like to do. The only thing left they can do is particle attacks, and if you turn off particles, griefers soon get bored and move on.

I have included an updater script in the HUD for the chair, so I can keep tweaking, and any updates can be automatically sent out to any current users. I already have one or two ideas, but I'd like to see how it's received first. Most of my builds have been a little unconventional, but this one is a genuinely different approach to flying in SL.

It also has the added advantage of making you look like an evil genius, bent on world domination!” (I rather like this idea Alph!). Alph continued “My gift to Second Life. Well, at my prices, it's practically a gift.” It is a great price too, Alph is selling it at just 250 Linden dollars which is within everyone’s reach.

The is a great new concept for getting around the Second Life grid, you need nothing more, and on top of that, I am told that Jason Linden has a Slea-Z-Boy already, and I should imagine that he only chooses the very best of what SL has to offer. You can contact Alphonso Pidgeon in-world or visit his store Genius Inc.

Thank you for talking to me about your unique and wonderful invention Alphonso!

Janey Bracken

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Sistine Chapel Created Virtually

This is an article that speaks for itself through the pictures I have taken, showing you that there is a re-creation of the Sistine Chapel painstakingly copied into SL. The real Sistine Chapel is in Vatican City and was designed by Baccio Pontelli. The wonderful paintings were created by Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Perugino and Cosimo Roselli and their workshops. Perhaps the most famous though, is the ceiling, which was commissioned by Pope Julius II who commissioned Michaelangelo to complete the incredible nine paintings showing God’s Creation of the World, God’s relationship with Mankind and Mankind’s fall from God’s Grace.

Friend Drax Ember and I explored this brilliant SL copy of the chapel, which was built by Steve Taylor of Vassar College (avatar Stan Frangible) and Steve has done an excellent job. Entering the chapel you are instantly silenced by the splendour of the beautiful paintings and almost feel that you have walked into the real building. You can obtain notecards just inside the door for information about the real Sistine chapel as well as the SL version.

This must have been an awesome task for builder Steve Taylor to undertake. Drax and I both agreed that the virtual chapel is a ‘must see’ in Second Life and I should imagine art and history students would find this very useful as well.

Janey Bracken

Friday, 20 November 2009

Old Bert at the Pre-Raphaelite Gallery

Old Bert enjoyed working at the Pre-Raphaelite Gallery. After the initial training period he was soon comfortable enough to work alone in the gallery, answering questions, chatting with visitors and even re-arranging the artworks on occasion. He also became more familiar with Victoriana Square and its residents, so all in all Old Bert was very happy.

After having worked in the Square for a little while Old Bert decided that he should get to know the rest of the sims in the Nation of Victoriana, so one day instead of tp’ing directly into the gallery he decided to take a boat into Victoriana Harbour, a sim adjacent to Victoriana Square, and work his way up to the gallery from there. Old Bert arrived at the harbour and descended from the boat onto the quay. He walked up to some of the fine shops bordering the harbour area, discovering that there was an art gallery in this sim, too. The Tissot Gallery was smaller than the Pre-Raphaelite Gallery and devoted to the work of one artist only, James Tissot, a French artist who spent much of his career in London, around the same time as some of the Pre-Raphaelite artists whose work was on display in Old Bert’s gallery. Old Bert had a quick look around and determined to come back another day when the owner was present.

From there he walked along the promenade, passing more shops until finally reaching the Victoriana Library. Old Bert was pleased to find a library and chose a couple of books to take home with him.

As time was getting on, Old Bert made his way to the Victoriana Harbour Train Station and took the train to Victoriana Square.

He crossed the square to the gallery and began to get ready for the workday, washing the floor and otherwise ensuring that the gallery was sparkling clean and welcoming to visitors.

Old Bert truly enjoyed being surrounded by such beauty and did all he could to make sure that others felt the same pleasure he did.

Later on that day a visitor entered the gallery. She had never been to the Victoriana sims before but like Old Bert was an art lover and had discovered the gallery while doing a tour of the art galleries of Second Life.
Old Bert and the lady began to talk, stopping in front of a beautiful and very romantic painting, “The Black Brunswicker”, in which a young lady is saying good-bye to her handsome beau before he goes off to war. It was an affecting piece, capturing the emotion of the moment, and both the visitor, whose name was Daisy, and Old Bert, were quite taken with it.

Old Bert escorted Daisy around the rest of the gallery, and on reaching the top floor he invited her to have a cup of tea with him. They sat together for quite a while, engrossed in conversation. Finally Daisy rose from her seat, thanking Old Bert for the tea. Old Bert very much hoped that he would see her again and said so as he nervously offered her friendship. Daisy happily accepted.
With thanks to Boye Jervil for photographs of Old Bert

Hibiscus Hastings

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Best Selling Real Life Board Game Joins SL

I had the privilege yesterday to test a new game that will be released in SL in the next few weeks. The incredibly popular board game 'Blag' by Futurus Games, which has sold thousands of copies in real life, is coming to the virtual world. Its rules are simple, it's fun and you can win some Lindens to make it even more exciting!

I met creator Mafiawl Mower (his avatar name), at a secret location yesterday and he introduced me to two of his friends Jonny Fraisse and Clare Loring, both of whom have seen the game emerge after 2 years of in-world development.

Blag is a picture game where you try to guess what the displayed picture actually is, but it is not that simple. Each player is asked to create a made up caption of their own and then all of these are listed along with the ‘true’ answer generated by the game. You all then need to vote for the answer you think is true. Obviously you do not vote for your own Blag but the trick is trying to avoid voting for somebody else’s Blag. If you guess the true answer you get 2 points but if you vote for another player's Blag then they get 1 point. It is very simple to understand, but as people get into it spotting the ‘True’ answer gets harder and harder. First to 20 points wins a large slice of the pot. Every player will automatically join the Blag league which will take 10% from every game played each week and award it to the best player in SL during that week.

Although a board game in real life, Blag is played on a screen in SL giving you a good view of the pictures, you then link to the Blag website to take part. This was easy to do, by reducing both SL and my browser screen to view them together, I found this a comfortable way to play. We only played a few rounds, but I got hooked straight away, it's fun competing with the others and I really enjoyed trying to guess what the pictures were. I will definitely practice my blagging skills and see if I can win lots of money! Jonny won yesterday and kindly shared his winnings with us fellow blaggers! This was a demo version but the real game will last at least 30 minutes so you will certainly get your moneys worth.
For 200 Linden dollars a game, you can meet your friends in-world to play, even if you can't meet up in real life, you still have the virtual option. Mafiawl also showed me the cinema where the Blag game will be installed when it's ready for release, and I think sim owners should consider introducing Blag into their regions to attract traffic. He is also planning a picnic projector version to play outdoors. I can't wait for the game to begin so I can test my blagging skills! I will let you know when Blag is officially released in SL.
Any queries regarding Blag should be sent to Mafiawl Mower on a notecard in-world.

Janey Bracken

Monday, 16 November 2009

Life On Board The Mayflower In SL

In 1620 a group of people called the Pilgrims set sail from Southampton, England, for North America in a ship called The Mayflower captained by Christopher Jones. The perilous journey took 66 days before the ship dropped anchor at Cape Cod. There were 102 passengers and approximately 30 crew members on board. The Pilgrims belonged to a religious sect called the Puritans, and they fled Britain seeking a new life because of their oppression by the Church of England and British Government at the time. The Mayflower became famous in history as part of the colonization of New England by the British. After a harsh winter on board ship at Cape Cod, when sickness took its toll, the surviving passengers disembarked the Mayflower and eventually founded the Plymouth Colony.

Now you can learn a little of the history of The Mayflower yourself in Second Life. There is a very well made SL version you can explore. As you look around the vessel you can appreciate how cramped conditions would have been on board the real ship and it was little wonder that sickness spread quickly on board killing some of the crew and passengers. There are notices explaining about the Pilgrims as well as informing of the workings of the ship. I would think this would be fascinating for anyone who can trace their ancestors back to the first colonies in New England. It’s a very interesting place to visit and very educational as well.

Janey Bracken

Friday, 13 November 2009

Old Bert Applies for a New Job

Old Bert entered the Pre-Raphaelite Gallery with some trepidation. Perhaps he was over-reaching, would he be accepted in such a fine place? The Nation of Victoriana was well designed and maintained, with an air of a quiet prosperity about it. He could not imagine anyone in this sim having the remotest acquaintance with the kind of habitation he called home. However, before he could leave the gallery a woman who appeared to work there approached him saying “Welcome to the Pre-Raphaelite Gallery. I hope you enjoy your visit, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.”

Old Bert, somewhat abashed, mumbled his thanks and, pretending to be a visitor, began to look around. Miss Merriweather, as that was the woman’s name, was the gallery manager. She recognized Old Bert’s keen interest and they began to chat. Old Bert was really quite knowledgeable about the Pre-Raphaelites and the time soon passed as they discussed the artworks and then moved on to other subjects.
Finally Old Bert said “Thank you Miss Merriweather, I cannot express how much I have enjoyed talking with you, but I must be going.” Miss Merriweather replied “Thank you very much, Old Bert, we rarely have anyone come in here with such a knowledge and love of the Pre-Raphaelites. I hope you will come back soon.”
Emboldened by this Old Bert said “Miss Merriweather, I actually came to the gallery today to apply for the position you have advertised. Would it be possible for me to leave a copy of my c.v. with you? I am extremely interested in working here.”
Miss Merriweather responded “Yes Old Bert, I think that is an excellent idea. Please leave that with me as well as some references. I will have to discuss this with the owner as he has the final say, but I am sure you would fit in here very well. I will be in touch in a few days.” With that Old Bert left Victoriana and returned home, anxious but hopeful.
A little while later Old Bert received a notecard from Miss Merriweather saying “Congratulations, Old Bert, your application has been accepted. Please come to the gallery as soon as possible.” Old Bert was overjoyed.
Hibiscus Hastings

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Hair Today and Gone Tomorrow?

When I first joined SL back in March 2007, hair was a very dodgy issue. I used to have long red hair on my avatar then, and like with most avs, hair was a very important feature in respect of my SL appearance! Well I say it was a dodgy issue because I would be going out to a virtual party or dance thinking my av looked like a million dollars with my nicely styled red hair only to have someone at the party give me the bad news that I was, in fact, bald to everyone else! Oh the shame!! everyone else seemed to have their hair, and the fact that I could see mine, but no one else could, only made it worse, oh the insecurity of not knowing if you are bald or not!!

My friend Drax Ember was so cruel, he would simply don a pair of sunglasses and complain about the glare from my scalp and I knew it had happened again, SL leaving me looking a right state with my sticky out ears and shiny egg shaped head! Well over the months things improved, no one seemed to say I was bald anymore and I got really complacent, changing my hairstyles from one day to the next, not a care in the virtual world, the bald days were a thing of the past!

Then it happened again, I went to a meeting at the CNN Island yesterday and sat there quite pleased, once again secure in the fact that I had long black hair with nice red highlights. I joined in the group chat, colleagues Ed Follet and Hibiscus Hastings joined me, Ed even sat next to me and I just carried on, happy as you like, answering CNN Producer Nicole Saidi's questions! Then Drax came over and directly he set eyes on me mentioned that the glare was back and I could see him looking in his pocket for his sunglasses as he spoke! Ed said he had not wanted to tell me in case it put me off the discussion and Hib said she could see my hair from the other side of the arena where she sat, but another ireporter Latok, who sat a little way away also told me I had no hair!

Looks like we, or I, am taking a backwards step and now have to worry about being a baldie again, I might get my head tattooed with a big sign that says 'Well I can see my hair even if you can't' or I might just get some hair tattooed on my scalp, oh well back to the drawing board Linden Labs!!

Janey Bracken

Monday, 9 November 2009

Semana de Muertos at Instituto Espanol

A friend of mine, knowing that I have an interest in art, suggested that I visit the Instituto Espanol sim which had been decorated for the Semana de Muertos. The Instituto Espanol is a sim where avatars can take Spanish language classes. It has been constructed so that visitors can also learn about the culture of Mexico and includes a pyramid, a church, school rooms and market place. Some of the buildings can be used to display art, so during the Semana de Muertos artworks that are related to the Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) were being exhibited. As well, information on the Day of the Dead was provided.

According to the notecards, it is believed that it is easier for the souls of the dead to visit the living on the Day of the Dead. Families visit cemeteries and build private altars at the grave. These altars can include pictures of the deceased, favourite foods, drinks, memorabilia plus blankets and pillows so the deceased can rest after the long journey. Some families may also build altars in their homes
In Mexico the Day of the Dead is observed at the beginning of November. In most regions the Dia de Muertos is observed over two separate days. November 1st is set aside to honour children, and is called “Dia de los Inocentes” –Day of the Innocents or “Dia de los Angelitos” - Day of the Little Angels. November 2nd is the day for remembering adults and is called the “Dia de los Muertos” or “Dia de los Difundos” – Day of the Dead. The Day of the Dead celebrations can be traced back 2500 to 3000 years ago to the indigenous peoples of the region. Originally the festival fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, which corresponds to August in our calendar but now occurs in November and corresponds to the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd).
As well as altars and other decorations related to the Day of the Dead, the works of Jos̩ Guadelupe Posado (February 2, 1852 РJanuary 20, 1913), a Mexican engraver, illustrator and artist were on display. He began his career as a political cartoonist, eventually moving on to commercial work and illustration. His work was often meant to make a satirical or religious point, but after his death it became associated with the Day of the Dead.
The Semana de Muertos has ended now and all the decorations have been taken down. However,this is a lovely , colourful sim and an excellent place to be introduced to Mexican culture and the Spanish language.

Hibiscus Hastings