Friday, December 20, 2013

Reader Submitted: My First Five Years

By Nydia Tungsten

By the time you read this my Rez day will have come and gone. December 12 2008 is when I was “Born” to this virtual world.

Five years .... wow that’s a LONG time.

Five years in anything is a long time I guess. But in a virtual world, like real life, you grow, in attitude as well as skills.

I did a lot of growing up, with such wonderful guides as Treninari, Ranchan, Alleara, and my SL Mother who took me under her wing and started me down the path of clubs and land management for that I say thank you Mother (Skylark). And one of my FIRST best friends Jian, she kept me grounded and tried to keep me out of trouble....didn’t always work, but she did try.

There are just too many to name that have entered my life and helped me grow, some no longer speak to me because each side has changed as we grew, just like real-life friendships change sometimes for the better sometimes for the worse, even those no longer in my life that have touched my heart, I will ALWAYS care about.

In my five years here I have seen people come and go. But unlike real life here we can start over if we make mistakes, as in alts. I know of plenty of alts in use by others, and as long as they are not used for griefing I see no harm in them and will NEVER reveal ANYONES alt. I have even lost a mate over that.

But where ever there are MMO’s there WILL be alts. Best way to deal with them is to take each one for who they are. THAT is one of my biggest lessons learned in five years.

I have had people try and teach me to build ..... (I can now make a decent doughnut) and tried to teach scripting (I can change the name in floating text), neither of which can I say I am accomplished. I run clubs, not to make money for those days are over. They are money pits now. I run them because I enjoy doing it. Same with my DJ’ing. I admin 10 sims and I own 3 of those, both in Second Life and in Inworldz, not getting rich, but I do get to meet some interesting people, I have friends from every continent on the globe.

When I expanded to InWorldz I was asked by many why I was leaving Second Life. My answer I was not. Not only do I have too much invested here in sims and such, but I have a family, many that care about each other. And I have my Angels, those on my friends list that I love and trust most of all. You see in real life it is hard to make anything of yourself without someone there with you to help you. any success I may be credited for, I have to credit them, I love each and every one of them.

My appearance over the years has changed as well. I have a few forms I use: Skunk, Bunny, and a few others. But I will ALWAYS be the little white vixen that enjoys helping out. I was made an official Kitsune by Alleara a while back and given a second tail for all my work in helping others (for those who don't know, they grow more tails as they grow in experience). It took me a while to get used to seeing a second tail on me. But now, if I don’t have it .... I feel as if I am missing something.

As for relationships, I have had a few, I have had my heart broken, as well as broke a couple of hearts. But none of them on either side was intentional, and I try very hard to remain on good terms with them and wish for them everything they wish for themselves. As for right now, I am in a very HAPPY relationship with my wife Brandi. She is the “Mouse that caught the Fox,” and we have been hopelessly in love ever since we slow danced (Thank you my heart : MMWHAA!).

I treat my virtual life as I would my real life one, trying to be the best person I can be. Am I an Angel? NO WAY! Heh, I screw up on a daily basis, but like real life I try and learn from my mistakes, make them right, and move on. Am I paranoid? I have been asked that by a few people. Hell, I have even asked myself that very same question. The answer would have to be yes, to a certain extent. Again, Second Life mirrors real life. There ARE people that are here that will lie, cheat, and steal because it’s easier that real work. So you HAVE to be a bit paranoid to make it anywhere.

So if you are new to Second Life or any other virtual world my advice is this: Remember there is more than sex here. Yes we ALL go through that “phase.” Don’t come looking for your perfect match thinking they will whisk you away to happiness. That road leads to a lot of pain. Instead, find friends have a good time explore everything there is to offer. And IF you find someone you might be interested in, become friends first, remain friends awhile, THEN... who knows they just MIGHT be the one. But if you go out looking for love and a mate because you NEED one right NOW, you are just going to scare them away.

Learn a skill that you like to do, then do it. Whatever it is as long as you like it, have fun with it.


Be who you are, this is Second Life. You can be whoever or whatever you want, either it is a dino serving time on a space ship, a demon loving in hell, or even a little white vixen running businesses across the grid, find your nitch and have fun with it whatever it is. That has got to be the most important thing I have learned in five years, be who and what you feel you are in your heart and I promise, you will be happy with yourself.

Nydia Tungsten

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Interview With Talia Sunsong, Author of "Twilight of the Star Vampires"

A friend in Second Life media recently told me about Talia Sunsong (taliasunsong), whom had written a science-fiction parody: "Twilight of the Star Vampires." She had been at book readings, and giving out links to where one could get the stories.

Today is the last day for free for book 1, then book 2 will be free for 5 days. It's a trilogy. I'm giving a book reading today at 2pm at Open Books at Four Bridges. You don't need a kindle to read it, as Amazon gives free kindle software.

I met up with Talia, Paula Sunsong in real life, at Open Books between readings. She was in a happy mood, as friends of hers had "really whipped up some magic. My book is #1 in my category, parody."

"So how long have you been writing?" I asked her. Talia answered, "I started writing at the age of 10, hoping to become a novelist. I wrote a roleplaying game published by Hero Games. It was a science fiction game ... 'Star Hero.' ... I also founded a free newspaper called 'The Rallyer.' "

I asked her how the paper went. Talia answered, "As a journalist for 'The Rallyer' newspaper, I covered an event where the police started clubbing people. I myself was hit with a metal baton. I had no major injuries, fortunately. Later the police even shot into the crowd with rubber bullets and I was in that crowd." I winced, "Ouch, how many were hit, and how close did those get to you?" "There were within six to eight feet of me. I did not hear of any injuries. The scary part was, I just saw the police shoot. I did not know whether it was rubber or real bullets." "How did the protest get violent?" I asked. She answered, "The police were actually more violent than the protestors. In fact the police beat uptwo2 police review commissioners who were in the crowd observing. The police did not know they were police review commissioners for the city." She paused, "I guess writing satire is a lighthearted contrast to my journalism career."

"Star Vampires is my first satirical work," Talia told me, "I like poking fun at overbearing corporate marketing and governments. It has several love stories intertwined with action. It opens with the Vullcan Spocko being turned into a vampire. He asks 'Is logic all that there is?' Later, he turns Edward Cullet into a vampire by force, and kidnaps Edward for the Vulcanturi Empire. Edward has two children with Queen Paddymay: Luck and Lela." She grinned, "You might recognized the similarity to Luke and Leia Skywalker of 'Star Wars,' Spock of 'Star Trek,' and Edward of 'Twilight.'Spocko meets Lela, Edward's daughter, when she is trapped on the Dearth Star. Both Being telepathic, they feel as if they are 'soulmates' but Lela is wary of the Vulcanturi Spocko for kidnapping her father."

I chuckled a bit, "sounds like a number of people and things from those three stories get parodied." "Yes it was fun to joke about well known images," Talia told me, "On one planet they meet a 'Keepler elf of Nabiscko' who makes magic cookies in a tree. The Queen threatens to cut off the supply of Mint Milano cookies if the Senate does not help her. If only that threat worked in the real world to keep politicians in order. (laughter) Another love story is Obegone, the Jetti knight, who falls for Brun Solow (Hans Solo's replacement). Obegone also dated "Jabya the Hot" (Jabba the Hut's replacement in the story)."

"Guess 'Pizza the Hutt' was already taken," I mused. Talia chuckled,  "Mel Brooks scooped me on Pizza the Hut (giggle)." She continued, "Obegone met her at "Singles Roulette" where the men sit on a large spinning floor that spins, placing each man in front of a woman as a date. Jabya does not like being dumped by Obegone, but she gets revenge, having Brun Solow frozen in carbonite."

"Was the Star Wars parody 'Spaceballs' any influence?" I asked. Talia answered that it was, "I enjoyed 'Spaceballs' and 'Galaxy Quest' as inspiration. The playfulness of those movies frees my mind to write. Humor is freeing of creativity" "Were there any other influences?" I asked. She told me there were, "I think roleplaying games gave me the opportunity to play different characters, act out plots and joke with friends. That fueled me for writing. Roleplaying in Second Life can mean a lot of things from medieval fantasy to sexual fantasy." She then winked and giggled.

After a chuckle, I asked, "Did any of these games have an especially memorable plotline and scenes?" Talia's answer was, "In person, I started with Dungeon and Dragons, I liked Champions (the superhero game), Star Hero (the science fiction game I wrote) and private eye/spy games. Later I actually became a private eye in real life. Psychologists used roleplaying as therapy decades before roleplaying games were sold. I think roleplaying gives you a new perspective."

Talia being a detective caught my attention, "How did it go?" She answered, "I was a San Francisco private investigator for 3 years, like Sam Spade (smile). I had one case where I was following a man suspected of injury fraud. An ambassador's car with national flags got in between us. I was afraid I'd be arrested for tailing an ambassador (laughter). After a mile or two, the ambassador's car turned off and I was hot on the trail of the suspect again. One man I videod playing baseball when he claimed to be too injured to work. He flipped off the camera. My boss thought it was hilarious, and played it in slow motion to our whole office." She chuckled, "So you could say roleplaying and the silliness of life inspires my humor."

I asked Talia what were people saying about "Star Vampires?" She answered "I got a great five star review" on the book's page on Amazon, "People have said it is entertaining and yet has meaning in poking fun at mass marketing. Caglevision gave it a 5 star review. He is an author himself. ... My 'Twilight of the Star Vampires' is a trilogy and each book will be free for 5 days. The last one will by close the Xmas, like a gift."

"So what are your plans after 'Star Vampires?'," I asked Talia. "I have a fantasy short story about a witch with faulty powers," she told me, "I'm planning on putting it on Amazon. I also have been writing a book on how I put my diabetes into remission with diet and exercise." Of the witch, her spells don't quite work, "Her spells go haywire. Anything could happen with a spell misfire." She chuckled, leaving it to my imagination as to what could happen with such misfires.

"Any advice for those trying to write satire and parody?" I requested. Talia's answer was, "I like to say "Everyone is born with their own unique genius. Everyone  has a story to tell. I'd like to hear your story and to share mine. Today we have the tools to reach billions of people and 'sing our song.' "

It was about this time the interview ended. We chatted a little longer, then we soon went about our separate ways.

"Don't go to your grave with your song unsung."

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Roma's New Senator

The Roma area in Second Life is an interesting place. The sims are well done, with buildings giving the feel you're in a Roman city. But it's not just buildings. The place is home to a community of roleplayers. There are at least a couple activities a week, including a public dance, and most likely a number of unofficial roleplays. About the time of Thanksgiving, they held a big party followed by a four ship Roman Era sea battle. More recently, the roleplay community made an event out of the promotion of one member to the status of Senator.

Today, the Emperor will induct a new brother to the Senate at 12:00 pm in the throne room. After this induction, we will make our way to the Curia for our assembly.

As Noon SL time approached, people gathered at the palace. Most were in local dress, though there were a few that weren't. But all were greeted in a friendly manner, "Salve (name)." Among the roleplayers, the majority were in togas, but there were also soldiers with armor, sword, and spear. Julian Augustus, the Emperor of Roma, had his own special armor, plus a cape.

When it was time to start, Julian addressed the crowd, "Friends.... The august body of the Senate originated in the very founding of the city of Rome. As the great historian Livy wrote, 'Having now adequate numbers, Romulus turned his attention to social organization.' He brought together the leading citizens of his settlement and encouraged their powers of deliberation, fellowship, and debate. He called them Senators, from 'Senex' the Latin word for 'Elderly,' since in the harsh eighth century BCE those who were able to survive to old age presumably possessed more wisdom and knowledge than everyone else.

"We have followed this path in the social organization of ROMA. And it is now time to induct a new member. Gaius Tiberius Curio please step forward and stand." Gaius (guillaume.mistwalker), whom stood out from the crowd with a hooded toga, stepped forward. The Emperor continued, "As Senator of ROMA you will be looked upon by the other Citizens as the foremost example of a ROMA Patrician, and your behavior will be scrutinized by friend and foe alike. Today you embark upon a position of ethical responsibility and sibling-hood. Do you pledge to uphold the constitution of the Senate and all of its codes, and conduct yourselves with honor so long as you wear the mantle of a Senator? ... "

"Iuro!" Gaius answered, the Roman phrase meaning "I swear."

"The Princeps will give you items now. May that ring and those robes be a reminder of your position and the oath you take today. May your meetings be lively and your discussions fruitful. And may you enjoy your tenure as a Senator of ROMA!"

The new Senator bowed in respect.

Julian smiled, "Congratulations!" The audience then erupted in applause, and welcomed the new senator, "Welcome to Senate, Gaius." "Congratulations Gaius Tiberius."Congrats!" Gaius smiled, "Ave Caesar! Ave ROMA!"

The Emperor then adjourned the ceremony, "You may now all follow the consuls to the Curia for the Curiate meeting. Go in peace, brothers and sisters!" And so the people began walking from the palace to the public assembly building. The guards had no problems with visitors entering the building, though one asked another about a "metal golem," possibly meaning the Viewer2 starter robot avatar that briefly appeared. Both the senators and the public, residents and visitors sat in the seats. Looking over them was a horse in senatorial robes, presumably a reference to an equine appointed by a less than stable emperor to show his contempt.

"Let's begin!" Senator Maali Beck announced, "Welcome to this auspicious occasion as we welcome our newest Senator Gaius. Welcome also to our honoured returning senators, our group offices and our wonderful citizens of ROMA. We can all feel safely protected by our brave Praetorian guards," there were several people applauding at the words, then Maali gestured towards the horse, "and our four-legged honoured guest."

The senators then discussed community business. There was a problem with the Subura, due to a number of unrented plots. The good news was a few residents dug into their pockets to get one more apiece. One resident built a replica of a Roman station near his home, with plans to build a similar structure soon. It was also announced Melanippe of Themiscyra (melanippe.karas), "has stepped forward to do honor to the goddess Diana and take over curatorship of her grove and temple in the Subura, and will be updating and improving that parcel so Diana will stay in the Subura."

There was also a weather report, "a snowstorm is forecasted to roll through ROMA tonight. So Suburans should be advised to pull their snow shovels out of storage." This got a mixed reaction, some looking sour, "urgh," others smiling, "Snowmen!" "... I can start Saturnalia builds!"

Other news included the library in the forum being updated, "Many thanks to Peter and Nina. ... We have big plans for the improved space." The Theatrum Romanum group met and built a new theater at the edge of the Suburba, "And the Theatrum will be having regular meetings. So if you are interested in roleplay, and also if you are interested in joining one of the roleplay families in ROMA, watch out for those meetings and join the Theatrum." It was announced the Roma newsletter would be publishing sometime that day, "It will go out to the Citizens group, but can also be found in the kiosks around the estate." Last week was the fourth anniversary of the Ludus group, "who organizes our chariot races and gladiator fights here in ROMA! It was a fantastic celebration on Friday and we look forward to many more anniversaries (and races and ludi!)" One lady grinned, "especially liked the sweaty gladiators." The day before was also the seventh anniversary of the founding of the Thirteenth Legion. There would be a lecture on Roman Medicine the following Wednesday (today) at 1PM SL time. There was also a proposal for a new statue in the Julian Plaza, which would be donated by one resident. It was approved unanimously.

Then they got to discussing the upcoming holidays, "The collegia will tell us shortly about the Saturnalia events. And this New Years we will again ring in the new year in our ROMA Basilica with fireworks, one time zone at a time." Their Saturnalia events were scheduled for Dec 28 and 29. The events on the 28th included a Ritual & Tavern Celebration at 10AM, Skating & Snowball Fights at Noon, and Sleigh Races at 1PM. On the 29th would be the Ornament Building Contest, the Grand Feast at Noon, and the Snowball Harpastum at 1PM. The festivities were on these particular dates as to allow people to celebrate Christmas at home and for those overseas Boxing Day at the stores.

The Senate concluded the meeting, save for one activity, "Senators, join us outside, please." There had been a few red pyramids set up on the street. The senators were instructed to get on them, then they all began bobbing up and down, doing what looked like the "Badger Dance" from several years ago. The senators, soldiers, and others all chuckled, "We should make this a myth." "No, it's a fact!" "er... I mean.... Apollo himself decreed it thus!" One lady giggled, "Hey, if we can't be fools for ROMA, what *is* worth being a fool for?"

And thus concluded the new Roma Senator's introduction to his new job. By the looks of things, it will be an interestingly pleasant one.

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Commentary: Gender in Second Life - Take Two

By Bixyl Shuftan

Written in response to "Gender in SL."

Besides Second Life, I also play World of Warcraft. There, I came up with a number of characters. The majority are male, but there are a couple female characters. For the recent "Mists of Pandaria" expansion, I came up with a female monk "Weynli" (Wen-Li). I kept playing the character, and still spent quite a bit of time on the pudgy but still cute fem fighter.

While a character's gender is fixed in WoW (unless you pay a fee to change it), in Second Life one's appearance is quite maleable. One can go into "Appearance" mode at any time and alter it. And not only are there no shortage of female skins and avatars to purchase, some come in both male and female.

So how often does yours truly take advantage of this ability to swap genders? Very seldom. It's not that I never change appearances. I do so quite a bit, on occasion taking on the appearance of a dragon, griffin, black human, an anthro skunk, squirrel, rabbit, and recently for much of the Halloween season a six-foot vampire bat. But while having no problems changing species or color, it's rare that I take on a female appearance.

On occasion I'll see a girl thinking about getting a female version of an avatar I have that comes in both female and male, and if no one else is around I'll switch for a minute. And there has been a time or two I switched over for a moment as part of a joke on a close friend in private. But just up and doing a gender-bender in broad daylight out in public? That's something I've never done.

So why the difference? Well, World of Warcraft is much more of a "game" then Second Life is. If a guy does a female character, or a girl a guy, I don't usually hear many jokes about it. In some ways, I see it as much like an interactive story, with the player taking on the role of the heroine.

Second Life, well, it isn't exactly a "game," although we call it one sometimes for the sake of simplicity. It's a lot more freeform with many more options for what one can do, including building, selling, and even dating and intimacy. And it's been my observation doing a gender-bender isn't always seen so lightly. Sometimes it usually is. If a comedian has on the appearance of a cute blonde in a dress, yet makes wisecracks on stage in an obvious male voice, people laugh and see it as part of the "joke." But if someone known to be male in real life takes the same kind of avatar and poledances on stage, reactions can differ. While some see it as the equivalent of a guy sharing girlie pics, others will take it as strange, even perverse.

Looking at old time cartoons and movies, one sometimes sees things that one doesn't see in those of today, at least not in G-rated fare. There were times a character would disguise himself as a girl, a wig and dress and sometimes make-up, as part as some ruse. While such chuckles were routine for Bugs Bunny fifty years ago, how often to they appear in today's cartoons, or family-friendly TV programs and movies? Not often.

What happened? My guess is fifty years ago, people weren't quite as mindful of jokes and scenes being taken the wrong way, that it was fine for a subtle joke in a cartoon that would go over the heads of kids and get chuckles from the grown-ups. These days, you have talk shows discussing a gay group's claims that a cartoon character is "in the closet" because of a cross-dressing joke in old cartoons. Not exactly publicity an animation company wants.

Since the 60s, people have been a bit more aware of the naughty side of human nature, as well as aware not everyone's idea of intimate companionship involves the opposite sex. If a guy tries cross-dressing as part of a Halloween costume, unless he's a football player or someone else with an ironclad image of masculinity, the result is getting joked and kidded about being gay and weak. And the consequences can be more than just jokes. Some onetime friends will become more distant, and imagine applying for a job and the prospective employer sees such pictures on "Facebook." And if the guy ends up in divorce court, imagine the judge's reaction to pictures of cross dressing, or kissing a guy after having one too many at the bar?

Some people in Second Life don't particularly care what people think or say about them, that the virtual world allows them to be free, and they can look like whatever they want, or do what they want, short of outright hostile action to others. Others don't feel quite as free. Perhaps they make no secret to real life friends and coworkers about being in Second Life, and worry certain things might somehow get found out. Maybe they have problems getting a date for whatever reason, "Gee, you're a nice guy, but ...", and are especially mindful of behavior that could be seen as deviant and ending any chance of a real life date, even in Second Life under a virtual identity.

On the other hand, many here are avid roleplayers. No one has a problem with a guy writing a story about a girl as the hero, or rather heroine as it's spelled. Video games are full of heroines either using their wits, their guns, or both, to take care of situations. And when Massive Multiplayer Online Games came on the scene, they allowed players the option to play either male or female characters.

My real-life roleplaying group, there were a few cases of a guy playing a female character. One guy pulled it off flawlessly. Another however did a scantily-clad "chick" that just didn't work. However the first had a reputation as a "munchkin" whom would take on any advantage he could, while the second was a bit of an awkward player.

I imagine some guys also see a female appearance as a kind of roleplaying, that they are "writing" the story of their heroine. While they may join a roleplaying group and sim and change over to the fem look only there, they don't always. They see the appearance as a character living her life, doing things and interacting with friends.

On the other hand, there are a few whom just "like the view from behind." Even if it's not so much, they turn people's expectations of men being naughty-minded and successfully use it as an excuse, saying, "Hey, if I'm going to be staring at a butt for the next three hours, it might as well be a nice one."

In any event, while I may take on all kinds of looks in the virtual world, I'll be sticking with being a male for all of them.

And here, my backside is covered by a tail.

Middle image from Geo Meek.

Bixyll Shuftan