Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Myth of Persephone: Greek Goddess of the Underworld

The young Persephone and her friends gathered sweet smelling flowers in a sunny meadow,

while the Earth Goddess Demeter watched over her daughter in the way that only a mother can.

Her father, the mighty God Zeus the thunderer, looked down from above with pride on the tranquil scene. He was satisfied that the pact he’d made with his brother, Hades, the God of the underworld was about to be fulfilled.

Suddenly the earth was rent as Hades burst through the surface, snatching the bewildered Persephone and disappearing again back to the dark depths below.

Demeter was distraught at the loss of her child and consumed by depression and despair. Before long the green plants of the earth withered and died while she neglected her duties as Goddess of nature.

Meanwhile down in the underworld Hades wooed the nubile Persephone, declaring his love and his wish for her to stay with him as his wife.

Demeter resolved to have her daughter returned. She went to her husband and made angry demands. Zeus, already concerned at the deterioration of the world quickly relented, sending his messenger Hermes to bring Persephone back to her mother.

On his arrival in the underworld and contrary to expectations, Hermes found a beautiful and radiant young Goddess. Persephone relished her new job at Hades right hand. While she desperately wished to see her mother again, she also wanted to stay with her lord.

Hades spoke to his Queen and said that while he would miss her, she should go back to her mother. Before she left however, Hades gave Persephone some pomegranate seeds to eat. These she dutifully accepted, not knowing that they would seal her fate.

Over-joyed to have Persephone back home, Demeter’s enthusiasm was rekindled and nature fully blossomed once again.

She was proud that her daughter had grown into a beautiful and wise young woman, but troubled by Zeus’s conditions. He stipulated that in order for Persephone to remain on the surface, she must still be as pure as the day she was taken.

Demeter didn’t need to question her daughter about her experiences with Hades. The ruby red stains on her lips were a betrayal that she had tasted the fruits of life. Demeter’s innocent child was lost forever.

However, Zeus loved his daughter too much to separate Persephone and her mother for eternity. He agreed that every spring she could return from the underworld, bringing with her the flowers that signal nature’s rebirth. And in the autumn she must go back to Hades and resume her Queenly duties. That is the time when Demeter is sorrowful, and winter exists until their next joyful reunion.

And Persephone is not unhappy, she looks forward to her role as Goddess of the underworld. Conscientiously greeting the new arrivals and helping them to settle in to their new, second lives.

Adapted by Ed Follet

Pictures by Hibiscus Hastings

With thanks to Boye Jervil

Monday, 28 December 2009

Newbie Wishes!

Sometimes it's very sad being a newbie, they go from girl to girl chatting them up only to be shunned because of their newbie skin, newbie hair, newbie outfit and large newbie shoes, not to mention the lack of height, because they haven't realised that they could be made taller so they could look those 6 foot Amazon ladies in the eye rather than the chest!

I spotted this little guy who decided he might have a bit of luck waiting for the lady to come back, so he slept alongside of her. The trouble was that the lady came back before he did, and taking one look at the newbie teleported out quickly before he woke up. Oh well, I expect he will be ok once he has changed his appearance!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Story for Pixi

This Christmas Second Life story is dedicated to Pixi Piers, one of our Trilogy group team who hasn't been able to join us in SL for a little while. Here's hoping that Pixi will soon be back with us and writing some brilliant articles again. I first published this yesterday on Virtually London (lite).

A Magical Christmas Eve For Adam

The snowflakes fell silently, settling quickly onto the London Streets, the chillingly cold night air stung Adam’s face as he hurried home after staying late at the office. The pavements were already slippery and he was glad when he finally reached his front door and the warmth that met him as he entered his house was comforting. Taking off his coat and hanging it in the hall, he went into the kitchen to make himself a hot cup of tea, it was times like this that he wished he had a girlfriend or wife to come home to, dinner on the table waiting for him and someone to share his day with. Adam had always been a bit of a loner though, there were girls he had fancied at work, but he was more into computers and gadgets than things that women liked to talk about, so he found it hard to chat to them. One girl, Poppy Jones had been very friendly, buying him a coffee and asking him about himself, but he thought that she was just being kind, as she was very pretty, and he imagined that she was out of his league anyway. “Oh well, I can dream”, he thought to himself as he sat down in front of his computer and sipped the hot tea. He could relax for a few days now, it was Christmas Eve and he didn’t have to go back to work until the New Year.

Instead of getting himself something to eat, Adam decided to log into Second Life and see if there was anything going on. He had only joined the previous week so he was very much a newbie. He had first rezzed into Hyde Park in Virtual London and he found things a little confusing, but the people were kind and he soon found a ‘Greeter’ welcoming him and also giving him a make-over with a new skin, hair and clothes. He had called himself Charlie Moongazer in SL, even if he did say so himself, his avatar looked quite handsome. He had stayed by the Dell Café in Hyde Park most of the time as he was still unsure about exploring, but he liked to listen to the chat going on there too, even joining in now and again.

Logging in, he was once again in the park near the café, but the place was deserted, they must have re-started the sim and told everyone to leave, he thought to himself. The park looked different, with a scattering of snow on the ground, and just like real life, snowflakes gently fell, only this time he wasn’t getting cold, he was cosy and warm with his cup of tea as he sat at his keyboard. He decided to hang around and see if anyone came by, so he stood for a while near the water’s edge. He began to feel very lonely, where were the usual crowd? What was going on? Suddenly he heard the soft fall of horse’s hooves on the snowy grass. Peering through the trees he could see a large white horse heading towards him, it was only as it got closer that he could see that it was no ordinary horse, but a mystical unicorn. The unicorn avatar was called Twilight Mist and he stopped a short distance from Charlie gazing at him.

Pawing the snow with his hoof, Twilight said “Charlie, how are you this fine Christmas Eve?” Charlie was pleased that Twilight wanted to talk, the sim was getting tedious with no one there and it was too early for the Underground Club’s special party tonight. “I’m fine” said Charlie “that’s a great avatar you have by the way” he added. “Ah yes, said Twilight, I have mystical powers too with this Unicorn shape, if I told you a little secret you would probably not believe it” he chuckled throwing his head back and whinnying. Charlie laughed too, he thought how funny it was that people really got into role playing, even believing they have magic powers.

SL appeared to be quite deserted tonight, people had probably gone late-night shopping for last minute Christmas presents and some may have gone out for the evening to see their friends and families, or just thought they would watch those seasonal repeats shown on the television each year instead of venturing into SL. Twilight gazed at Charlie through his soft brown eyes and using his very real magical powers he could see into Charlie’s soul, reading Charlie’s shyness. “Do you want to come for a ride with me?” Twilight asked “we can explore some of the Christmas sites and see who we can find.” Well why not, Charlie thought, it sure beats standing here where there is nothing going on, “Yes” said Charlie “I’d really like that!”. “Jump up onto my back” Twilight said, and Charlie climbed on clutching the long white mane on Twilight’s neck. He noticed that the unicorn had the tip of his golden horn missing and wondered why this should be, as whoever made the avatar would surely have completed the horn. But he thought he had better not ask.

Twilight flew up into the air high above the London rooftops and suddenly sped off, dashing like the wind! Charlie hung on as best he could, as they crossed the vast SL ocean until they reached a snow covered landscape with a sparkling crystal castle set high on a hill. The unicorn began to slow down, landing softly into a large open area. “Charlie we will have a little rest here” Twilight said, as Charlie leapt to the ground. A gentle whinny was heard, as another smaller unicorn came to greet them. Twilight and the little unicorn, called Mistletoe Song, nuzzled against each other with their soft velvety noses. The little unicorn looked like crystal and her white coat shone in the moonlight. Mistletoe said hello to Charlie as she stood close to Twilight. Twilight said “Mistletoe and I have to leave you Charlie, have a look around before you go” and before Charlie could answer the two unicorns melted into the frosty grass leaving a trail of silver stars in their wake. It was then that Charlie noticed the newbie girl sitting on a bench, she sat staring at the floor and seemed very sad.

Charlie went over to the lonely figure and said hello. Pansy Moonstone looked up at Charlie and smiled. “Hi Charlie, nice to meet you” she said. She liked the look of Charlie, he wasn’t one of those six foot muscled avatars covered in tattoos, he looked more normal and friendly, more like the sort of person she would like in real life. She had seen Charlie arrive with Twilight and told him that Mistletoe had also found her alone and offered to bring her here for a ride. They laughed together at the thought of matchmaking unicorns in SL, but thought it was nice of Mistletoe and Twilight to try to help people.

Charlie found that he could talk to Pansy without feeling embarrassed, she too found Charlie easy to get on with, as if she had known him before, their conversation just flowed. There was a small ice rink just outside the castle walls and Charlie asked Pansy if she wanted to skate for a little while. Getting the free skates at the edge of the rink, they got onto the ice and Charlie offered his hand to Pansy as they skated around laughing and smiling as they told each other about themselves. Pansy and Charlie soon realised that they both came from London in real life and as they chatted it soon became apparent that their paths had crossed in the real world too. Charlie was stunned as Pansy told him that she worked for the same company that he did and Pansy was equally surprised. Out of this vast SL grid with it’s thousands of people the two of them had been brought together by two strangers, Twilight and Mistletoe. Pansy was Poppy Jones the girl that Adam had fancied in work. They found that talking in SL had been so much easier as both of them had been a little bit shy in real life and this gave them a chance to see that they had so much in common, Adam found that he could chat to Poppy and they really enjoyed being together.

Adam asked Poppy if she had any plans for tonight and she told him that she was just staying in. He suggested that they meet at the giant Christmas tree in the London Square near where they both worked and Poppy readily agreed, she had liked Adam for a long time, but had never managed to get him to talk to her much in work.

Later that evening they met up, the Christmas tree looked beautiful, covered in twinkling white lights and people had gathered around it to sing Carols and meet their friends. Poppy and Adam held hands just like they did in SL, both of them feeling the excitement of new beginnings and happiness that they had finally been brought together. Walking closer to the tree they could see the ornaments, bows and shiny glass orbs between the white lights. Then Adam spotted a couple of ornaments hanging closely together from the spiky Christmas tree branches, two little unicorns, one with the tip of his horn missing the smaller one looking like crystal. Adam held Poppy’s hand tightly as he pointed out the unicorn ornaments. They could not be sure, but they thought they both heard a soft whinnying sound from the tree. “Thank you” mouthed Adam to the tiny figures and Poppy smiled at him with tears in her eyes. They could not find the friendly unicorns in Second Life, the names did not exist, so Twilight did have magical powers after all!

Janey Bracken

Happy Christmas To All Our Readers

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Stonehenge and the Winter Solstice Celebration

This year it was possible to celebrate the Winter Solstice at the world famous 5000 year old stone circle without having to travel real life to Wiltshire in the UK. There is now a fully scaled and accurately oriented representation of the ancient monument of Stonehenge in Second Life as it appears in reality to-day.

The winter solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the tropic of Capricorn, at its furthest point south of the equator, and lowest maximum altitude in the sky. This happens on the shortest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere, which is usually December 21st. In some cultures this is considered to be the first day of winter, in others it is the seasonal mid-point.

The Pagan celebration of the winter Solstice is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world. Ancient people were hunters and gatherers and the weather and seasons played an important part in their lives. Because of this many of them worshipped the sun and the moon. The winter solstice was seen as the reversal of the cycle of shortening days and lengthening nights and the birth or rebirth of their sun gods.

The Solstice was also known as the ‘Yule’ and this is the origin of many customs and traditions surrounding the Christian festival of Christmas. The Yule Log was a fire that was kept burning for the six days each side of the solstice. The celebration was about the truly important things in life: family, children, the home and looking forward to a bountiful year to come.

In real life the winter solstice this year occurred at 5:12pm local time, after the sun had gone down. Hundreds of people arrived at the historic stones early on December 22nd to greet the next sunrise, only to be thwarted by lingering fog and overcast cloud. Perhaps they would have done better to stay at home with their computers and log in to Second Life.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

From Cartoon Trees to Classic Beauty

Looking through showcase in the search menu I found a sim that looked interesting to visit, promising a classical city set in the 1900’s, and by the little picture on the landmark it looked stunning. I’m not going to name the sim here, as perhaps there is something I don’t know, maybe it’s not finished or maybe it is some sort of artwork that I don’t understand, but I landed in a dirt brown area with a bandstand in the middle and the whole place looked like a cartoon. Something for me seems to have been lost in the translation! I don’t get it, I thought SL was suppose to mimic real life, although of course, it doesn’t have to, it depends on what the land owner wants it to be. To make matters worse I was approached by someone who told me he had a thing about feet, he loved ladies feet and asked me if he could be my ‘footslave’. I had to politely decline his offer, but I hoped he would have a happy SL and find some nice feet on his travels, if that’s what he wanted.

I saw my friend Drax Ember come on line, so I called him over to ask his opinion about the trees and landscape of the sim, he agreed it was very cartoon like and he could not make it out either.

From there we went to perhaps one of the best winter sims in the whole of SL, it’s called Winter Village In Old Europe and it is truly beautiful with snowy streets and twinkling Christmas lights. The fact that there are people there all the time shows it has captured the right atmosphere for the season. You can ice skate or just wander around, and if you play the music, it will add to that Christmas feeling.

A stark contrast between two sims, but maybe I missed the point with the first one, I am a bit of a traditionalist I must admit, but the cartoon trees and sidewalks in the first sim are the most unusual I have seen in SL.

Janey Bracken

Friday, 18 December 2009

Update on Linden Homes

Linden Labs announced on 15th December that the location of the 'Linden Home' area, a new continent called Nascera, was opened to residents so that you could go and check it out for yourselves. For more information about how Nascera was created, look at Linden Home Beta is now open.

They emphasised that the continent is a Beta, and that some things will change and hopefully improve as a result of feedback about the houses and the experience itself.

Go to this link for comments on the Second Life blog: What do you think of the Linden Homes and experience preview?

Here are pictures and SLURLs of a few of the regions (sims) you can teleport to..

Title picture above Elderglen (the main fantasy themed infohub)

Fern (to see the fantasy themed houses)

Batry Park (to see meadowbrook, the california modern area)

Buckeye (to see tahoe, the A frame log cabin theme)
Kagero (to see Japanese themed regions)

Going on a Cruise

One day Gloria received a notecard from Mr. Stoneyheart saying “I have found a wonderful sim, let’s cruise away from the rest of the world this weekend. XXX” Gloria was thrilled by this proposal and IM’d him back saying she would love to go. After a little shopping for some cruisewear she was all set, and she spent the rest of her time eagerly awaiting the weekend to come.

Saturday finally dawned, and Gloria received a tp from Mr. Stoneyheart inviting her to the private suite he had taken for the weekend. She rezzed inside the luxurious apartment where she was welcomed by Mr. Stoneyheart.

“Mercy, what a beautiful place this is!”

“Yes, this is a huge ship, the SS Galaxy, covering 3 sims, if you can believe it. We’ll have a great time exploring all there is to do, but first come have a look at the suite and have a drink.”

Mr. Stoneyheart showed Gloria the two floor guest suite he had taken, complete with tv, private dining room and hot tub. They went outside and sat down for a snack on the private veranda, basking in the warm sunshine and catching up with all that had happened over the past little while.

Gloria started off, telling Mr. Stoneyheart about the work she had been doing. “I’ve been really busy lately, all the merchants are putting out their Christmas stock, so I’ve been run off my feet modelling Christmas outfits. I think if I see another Mrs. Santa, Santa Baby or Christmas elf outfit I will scream, lol. “ She continued “Of course it’s great to have so much work, but I really am thinking about getting out of modelling and starting my own line of clothing. What do you think?”

Mr. Stoneyheart replied “I know you’d like to get into that business, but I’d have to see some of your designs and a business plan. Maybe in the New Year we can have a serious look at this.” Gloria was pleased to hear this, knowing that he was not one to leap into things or just tell her he thought it was great because they were seeing each other. She asked how things were going with him.

“Well, I have been keeping an eye on my investments in the Victoriana sims. I recently met with Miss Merriweather, the manager of my gallery there, and so far so good. She told me that another gallery had opened nearby, the Tissot Gallery, so I went to see it and meet the owner. I think I’ll have to keep an eye on that place, could be competition.”

After a little more conversation they decided to go for a swim. As with the rest of the ship the swimming pool area was beautifully done. Gloria and Mr. Stoneyheart took turns on the slide and the diving board, and then afterwards floated in the pool, lazing the day away.

They went to the bar and had a couple of drinks before deciding to change and go dancing before dinner.
Mr. Stoneyheart and Gloria danced for a while at the poolside dancefloor before going to a nearby observation deck to watch the sun set. They stood next to each other, not saying anything, being quiet and comfortable in each other’s company. At one point Mr. Stoneyheart turned towards Gloria as if about to say something, but before he could he received an IM from Miss O’Riley, the Tissot Gallery owner, asking him for some advice. The mood was broken and he moved away from Gloria, excusing himself to answer the IM. Poor Gloria was taken aback, especially when he said to her “I’m sorry, I have to go, urgent business I’m afraid.” Gloria was devastated but didn’t say so, instead answering “Oh, that’s a shame but these things happen. We can have dinner a little later.”

Mr. Stoneyheart responded “I’m not sure how long this will take, you go ahead and order dinner and don’t wait up.” And with that he was off.

Gloria returned to the cabin, disconsolate. Not feeling like eating she sat on the veranda, thinking back to how happy she had been there just a few hours ago.

Meanwhile Mr. Stoneyheart made arrangements to meet Miss O’Riley at the CP Pegasus Zeppelin, where he had booked a suite. He tp’d her over, first showing her around the airship, then sitting down for dinner in his private room. Miss O’Riley was quite overcome by it all as she had never travelled in such circles before. She and Mr. Stoneyheart enjoyed their dinner together, where he gave her advice and listened to her questions and comments with a great deal of attention. Miss O’Riley was dazzled.
While all this was happening, Gloria waited, watching the sun sink down into the ocean and the stars come out in the pitch black sky.

When it seemed likely that Mr. Stoneyheart wasn’t coming back, Gloria tp’d home and went to bed, where she spent a lonely and restless night, wondering what was going on.

Hibiscus Hastings

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Join the Trojan Army!

Role Play in SL takes on many forms, from cowboys to Medieval knights and vampires, people love fantasy and the virtual environment gives them the chance to play out their dreams and interact with like minded people!

One sim that has gone onto the showcase pages of SL is called The Trojan Empire. Using Troy as its theme, there is a giant arena where combat takes place with ancient weapons. You don’t have to be experienced in combat or role-play, the information obtained from the site says that you will be helped with both combat and role-play to make things easy to get started. You will need to wear the proper clothes for the period, but that is part of the fun.

I met a lady called Mor Lannock who kindly showed me around the sim, she told me that they are presently recruiting for the Trojan Army. Mor took me to the library, next to the huge Trojan Horse standing outside the arena, where the history of the Trojan Wars is stored. Mor is a Trojan Officer and looked resplendent in her armoured outfit. They go into battle with other sims and it all looks very exciting.

If you don’t want to go into battle there are some wonderful woodlands nearby to explore, so go on over and see if you fancy becoming a fully fledged Trojan!

Janey Bracken