Thursday, December 27, 2007

Jazz Club’s in Second Life

“Jazz Club”, when I hear or see the words, I envision a darkened smoke filled room, elegantly dressed patrons sitting at tables in pairs or twirling on a dance floor, listening, enraptured, as a seductively dressed, lissome singer is highlighted in a solitary spotlight. Her dark hair and sequined gown sparkle in the light as she sways softly to the music. A drummer, bassist and piano are heard, their individual efforts blending into a harmonious melody, but the accompanists are not seen as all eyes are focused on the vocalist. Her sultry voice fills the air as she grasps the microphone and brings to life the lyrics. She uses her voice and body to evoke the emotions of the song and as the music reaches a crescendo she raises her arms, arches her back and neck slightly holding the last note for an extended period and as she finishes, the crowd applauds in delight. She bows to the crowd, her eyes sparkling and her face beaming as she turns to point to the trio of musicians, each highlighted in the spot light, nodding their heads, acknowledging the audience's appreciation of their efforts. A romantic notion I suppose, but it’s the one my imagination evokes on hearing those couple of words, "Jazz Club". In this edition of Lane’s List, we’ll explore how some of SL’s talented and creative people have built their vision of a jazz club as I explore jazz venues in Second Life.

Born in America but enjoyed by millions across the globe, jazz has become an integral part of Second Life. When I did my initial search, the return was large and provided a diversity of sites. It was apparent to me and, as noted in an edition of the “Jazz Corner”, a portal for hundreds of jazz musicians and organizations, “…Jazz music in all its forms comes out time and time again to be the most popular music played and listened to in Second Life.” I changed the search criteria using “jazz music”, which provided a smaller more manageable list. Using that as a starting point for my exploration, I was off to the highest trafficked site first. As an aide to me in my explorations, I also used word of mouth references from friends who recommended their favorites to embellish the search results. The journey was extraordinary as were the people I met and the places visited. I hope you enjoy this edition of Lane’s List as much as I did in creating it.

I have no intent to open up this article to a discourse on music or jazz as a genre; this edition is about the people and places in SL where one can meet friends, new and old, and simply enjoy a variety of jazz in multiple forms, including live performances, if one is so inclined. Because of the diversity and numbers of sites, I broke my list into two parts, the first encompassing larger venues such as ballroom or dancehalls and a second set of venues being smaller in scale, clubs or cabarets. As I explored, I met many creative and talented people; it is, and continues to be, a most enjoyable experience and one of the reasons why I enjoy Second Life tremendously and why I put my fingers to the keyboard in creating Lane’s List.

Ballrooms and Dancehalls

Sunset Jazz Club

Music: Jazz and hosted events, DJs and live musical concerts. Circe hosts her own streams for performances and music.

Venue: The Sunset is owned and operated by Circe Broom, long time Second Life resident, mentor and supporter to many of SL’s most talented musicians. The club has ample space to host events, both live performances and DJs. The dance floor has more than enough dance and couple’s animations. The Sunset bills itself as “SL's premiere Jazz Club, Birthplace of Jazz in SL. GREAT Jazz in an exquisitely beautiful club.” There are secluded spots for relaxing with friends or for romance or simply for one to sit in a hidden nook and just listen and enjoy the music.

Group: Circes Circle of Friends, open enrollment with nearly 1,500 members. Notices come out frequently from this group for the Sunset and the other venues owned and/or operated by Circe Broom.


Music: Jazz and Big Band. Smooth also hosts many events during the course of the week, with DJs and live musicians.

Venue: Maebh Jewell and her partner opened the doors in June of this year, “It’s been a grand stretch. I had an idea for the design and I came across a great, talented builder who had some structures for sale and with a few modifications, Smooth was realized,” she replied to my question about the opening and the build. “I like to think that ‘Smooth equals Romance’, that is the best description. It was more of just a vision ... maybe someplace I would not be able to access so easily in life. A great Second Life experience!” she responded when I asked her what had provided her inspiration for Smooth. There is a spacious dance floor inside, with an ample supply of dance animations. A stage is tucked away in the corner to the right as one enters and is used by the performers. The patrons are elegantly attired, ladies in gowns or cocktail dresses, gentlemen in tuxes or suits. Hostesses abound, including Maebh herself, to greet guests , creating a friendly, welcoming atmosphere for new and old patrons.

Group: The “Smooth” Group is for those who enjoy listening and dancing to jazz, big band, popular standards and swing in an elegant and romantic atmosphere. Invitation only to join and the group currently boasts over 900 members.

The MoonGlow Ballroom

Music: Its jazz and big band music is provided by an internet radio stream. The MoonGlow does not have hosted events with either DJs or live musicians.

Venue: The MoonGlow bills itself as one of SL’s newest and most romantic dance and date spots. There were several couples on a spacious dance floor when I arrived and the music, jazz, was soft and mellow. The chat was silent, so I assumed the conversation was private between the couples as they spun gracefully around the floor. There seemed to be ample dance and couple animations plus an overhead dance ball for singles. There is limited seating on a pair of balconies just off the dance floor. Just to the left of the entry point, there is a small bridge and a path leading toward a park like setting. The name on the about land is “Isn’t it Romantic? SL’s Best Date Spot”. The owner, Josse Barnard, in an exchange of note cards, told me that the inspiration for design and ambiance for the MoonGlow came mostly from the Blue Note "…which I love, but I wanted a comprehensive date place and I had a double SIM edge, so the views are stellar." she said. "I would describe the MoonGlow as romantic, classy, peaceful and non-commercial." Barnard said, and then continued: "It is my own build, the MoonGlow opened in March last year and it's open 24 x 7."

Group: MoonGlow Ballroom, featuring your favorite Big Band and 50's Music - at Isn’t it Romantic, a classy and romantic date place for couples. - Free to join, membership is currently at 750.

Michelle's Blues Lounge and Supper Club

Music: Mellow Jazz and Smooth R & B. The club hosts live events, DJs and live performers. The owners, who are also DJs, each own their own streams.

Venue: I spoke with the owners of Michelle’s, ChoYce Mostel and Amar Coronet. “We’ve been open for three weeks, so fairly new.” ChoYce told me, and then continued, “I’ve owned a lounge previously. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and people aspects of managing a club. The building is a prefab, but I did the decorating. Decorating is a passion of mine in SL,” she said smiling. “There isn’t really one place that inspired the décor, I worked my way through school as a mixologist and so it is a combination of lot of places.” Mostel said and continued, “Michelle's Lounge is a place of love for mellow music, people and conversation. Our pledge is good customer service with a smile at all times and nonstop good music!” The lower level hosts a large dance floor with ample dance animations. A stage graces one side of the dance floor and seating areas abound for private moments and chat. The upper level hosts an elegant supper club.

Group: “Michelle's Place” is a Drama Free Lounge and Supper Club. Adult atmosphere and setting, good nonstop music being played by some of SL's finest DJs. A beautiful dining area for a romantic dinner for two, just a casual dinner with friend or friends, or a place to come and meet and greet. Invitation only to join, membership currently is at 26.

The Octane Ballroom

Music: Obtained from the search results - Jazz, Salsa, Tango, Twist, Waltz and R&B. The search results also indicated live music and club parties are held here.

Venue: I found this to be one of the most extensive and remarkable builds given the size and number of options visitors may encounter when they arrive. There was however no one around on my initial or on subsequent visits a few days later. Besides the main ballroom, there are two outdoor areas, in front and in back of the building which houses the ballroom. Both outdoor areas included dance and couple animations. On the second level of the building, there is seating, multiple dance animations and mildly romantic couple’s poses throughout a wide open space with balconies on either side. Outside, near the rear of the building, I found a path which led to a tropical beach setting with couple’s poses and dance animations. I was unable to connect with the owner for more information.

Group: None that I could find in search.

My Blue Heaven Jazz & Blues

Music: Jazz and Big Band, hosted events - "Best Of" competitions and occasional live musicians. King Zuhal and Vanessa Larsen, the owners, have their own stream if needed. Mostly the music is provided by internet radio.

Venue: “King purchased the club for us and we’ve been open about seven months now,” Vanessa said. “Originally, Mynx Wildcat did the build and opened the club. When we purchased it, we totally revamped the interior furnishings. My Blue Heaven is open 24 x 7,” Larsen told me and then continued: “We created the ambiance ourselves. We think it is romantic, unique, magical, welcoming, fun, cozy, elegant, uplifting, peaceful...Blue!!” she said, smiling. The main dance floor is on the entry point level and is divided by a waterfall and small stream that can be crossed by a bridge. There are ample dance and couple animations and seating surrounds either side of the split dance floor. Second and third levels host dance and couple animations as well, along with places for privacy and light romance.

Group: For the lovers of romance, fine dining, jazz and blues nestled amongst the clouds and stars! Three levels of the best music, dancing, and romantic places to snuggle with your date or partner - please come and explore the magic of “My Blue Heaven!” The group offers open enrollment and boasts over 1400 members currently.

Blue Fusion Jazz Club

Music: Jazz and Big Band. Venue: Taken from the profile of the owner, Holli Hollywood, owner, designer and dreamer. “The Blue Fusion was a dream I had while enjoying SL and, now, we have a great family of managers, hostesses, musicians, artists, vendors and, OF COURSE, our guests!!! Come and experience the romance and ambiance of love and romance. Dancing the night away, holding the one you love, while you move around the dance floor to the flow of lovers’ music.” The Blue Fusion has an expansive dance floor and an open air ambiance, seating at the entry point, at bar and cabaret tables. There is a great view of the ocean on two sides from areas that are somewhat secluded, with couple’s poses present for cuddling and light romance. “Built with the imagination of a place that is all about sight, sound and emotion,” as quoted from Holli’s profile.

Group: “Blue Fusion” promises to provide Music Lovers and Dancers alike a safe space for romance and appreciation of the finer things in SL. It is open enrollment and boasts over 2,000 members at the present. Further information on the Blue Fusion can be obtained at

The Blue Note Retro Jazz Lounge

Music: Jazz and Big Band, hosted events in which the owner Naydee McGettigan also serves as a DJ.

Venue: I’ve included the Blue Note as a sentimental gesture. When I spoke to Naydee as I started my research, she sadly informed me that the Blue Note will close its doors forever on January 1, 2008. Those of us who frequented the Blue Note will greatly miss it. The dance floor sits raised a few steps above the entry point. There are plentiful dance animations available for couples and seating on both the left and right sides of the floor. The following is from Nay’s profile. “The Blue Note IS Closing. Yes... it is still *my baby*...and, yes, I am taking this to heart... it was not a decision that I came to overnight...if you were a member of the group, I sent out a notecard with a full explanation. If you would like more information about the closing of the Blue Note ~ Please see my Web Page ~ and check the latest Blog Postings on my MySpace.”

Group: Group invite only.

Club Wicked

Music: The music consists of lounge style, wicked jazz and sultry blues

Venue: The name "Wicked" comes from the Broadway hit about the wicked witch of the west from the Wizard of Oz, and the exterior of the build lends credit to the name. The interior is nicely done and reminds one of a ballroom that one may have seen while visiting a European palace. The dance floor is large, with multiple animations and couple’s poses. There is seating with couple’s poses for those special moments. There is a stage with bass, piano, drums and microphone stand for live entertainment.

Group: None that I could find, but more information about the venue and schedule of events can be found at

Honeypot Jazz Lounge

Music: Smooth Jazz and R & B

Venue: I was unable to connect with the owner for a chat about the Honeypot, but did visit twice and found an elegantly styled club. Just outside the club's entrance is a nicely built plaza with fountain and couple’s dance animations in what could be a semi-secluded area for privacy and light romance. Inside, there is a spacious dance floor with more than sufficient dance animations. Tucked into a corner of the dance floor is a raised platform stage with a piano. There is a second floor to the Honeypot, a large open area with not much in it, but which led to a balcony overlooking the plaza. The balcony held a bistro table and chair, the table held a vase with a single red rose.

Group: For people who enjoy good jazz music, romantic environments and meeting new people. Visit the Honeypot Jazz Lounge for dancing, socializing and dating. Explore the grounds for nice and exciting things to do with your special someone (or by yourself ;-)). Enrollment in the group is by invitation only, membership is currently slightly over 530 people.

Clubs and Cabarets

The City Bar

Music: Jazz from mainstream to cool, Chilling Deep House, NeoSoul, R&B, Poetry, Romance. City Bar has hosted live performances and DJ events and uses internet radio as a source for music.

Venue: Simply described, it is a place one would find in the heart of a big city neighborhood, where the drinks are flowing and the conversation fascinating. The City Bar is a small club with seating around the interior of a dance floor that directly faces the visitor as one enters. On the right is a small nook with sofa seating and to the left, a bar area with a drink dispenser. The interior wall hosts pictures of jazz greats, legendary and modern. Out in front, one will find a small patio with dance animations and, across from the patio and down a short ramp, is an area for privacy and romance. Owner CosmoPecan Kawabata replied to my question of what inspired his vision for The City Bar: “There’s not one place that inspired me. I’ve always wanted to own a club. It is like the places I visit and frequent in RL.” He then continued: “I bought it from a lady in January of 2006. This is the third SIM that it has been in. I think it originally opened in September of 2005.” I asked him to describe the club and he responded: “Simply a nice place for grown folks.”

Group: The City Bar, Urbane, Sophisticated. A quiet atmosphere for the sophisticates in SL. A nice, relaxing bar away from the hustle and bustle. The City Bar group has open enrollment, current membership is about 300 people.

Club Fabulous Tokyo - Modern Classic
Music: Jazz only, no DJ events or live concerts.

Venue: A simple, white-textured open space dance floor with a large, raised-platform stage. On the stage were keyboard, drums and bass where a visitor could animate oneself to play one or all three of the instruments. The space was decorated for the holidays with a Christmas tree. I found a few places for seating at the rear of the space opposite the stage. Hiroko Mills, the owner, described Club Fabulous Tokyo as “A mysterious place where Modern Tokyo and Classic Tokyo intersect.” She told me that she and Taka Teatime were responsible for the build and they were inspired by places in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Kabuki. “We have been open for nine months now and we spend the time for SL only on the weekends.” Mills said.

Group: This club is for people who love Tokyo, the metropolis of Japan. Those who want to know more about Tokyo, come join us! The Club Fabulous Tokyo group has open enrollment and its membership is at just over 290 people.

Stardust Cabaret and Jazz Club

Music: Jazz, Big Band, Rock, Blues and C & W. Live musical performances and DJ hosted events.

Venue: “The Stardust is my own build,” Brit told me as she took me around the interior of the build. “I’ve been open now for about a month. We’re open 24 x 7, but I’m not here the whole time,” Britt McMahon explained and laughed when I asked her about the build. “I try and do a live musical event once a week for my members,” she said. I asked if there had been some place in real life that had inspired her build and she replied: “Not any one place, I used to teach ballroom dance in RL and that sort of inspired some parts of the décor and design.” When I asked her to describe the Stardust, she responded with: “Romantic, the best music and dances, a place to unwind.” The dance floor is spacious with overhead dance animations, menu-driven for individual selection and an ample selection of couple’s animations and dances. There is a bar to the left of the dance floor and a stage directly across from it. There is seating around, with couple’s animations, places for light romance and quiet relaxation.

Group: Stardust Cabaret, membership 188, open enrollment. The group’s charter is to have "The Most Fun Club" in SL

The SOUL Lounge & Café

Music: Smooth Jazz and R & B. The Soul Lounge also has hosted events with DJs.

Venue: It is billed as “A Jazzy Cafe and great place to hang out.” I found it to be a nicely built club, simple décor but elegantly done. The dance floor greets the visitor as they enter and there is a bar to the left and, to the far right, a raised stage. In back, a deck hangs over the crashing waves of the ocean which can also be seen from the Piano Bar located on the top floor. There is an outdoor dance area and a romantic Tiki hut with cuddle poses to create those special moments. The SOUL Lounge & Café is the inspiration for SL's Hottest New Sim, Dejavu Isles - dedicated to representing the richness of African and African American culture.

Group: Soul Lounge & Café group has open enrollment and currently boasts 488 members

La Bella Dam

Music: Jazz

Venue: La Bella Dam is a small club and provides an intimate environment for visitors. Also, based on the information presented in the site name, it had apparently changed location recently. The owner hadn’t responded to my attempts to connect and chat. There was a note card giver inside indicating that formal attire was required and visitors could get free formal wear from an object giver. The description from the search was concise, much like the build, “Join us in the Chilbo SIM for dancing, jazz music, and intelligent, refined company. Formal attire required!” The interior of the La Bella holds a dance floor, small but with dance animations, and a stage and some seating for those who wish to sit and listen to the music.

Group: None that I could find

Milestones Jazz Club

Music: Jazz

Venue: A small intimate club with limited seating for visitors' listening pleasure or for those private conversations. There is a rather small dance floor with dance animations available. Across the floor, directly opposite to the entry, there is a stage holding a piano.

Group: Milestones Jazz, invitation only to join this group.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lane's List at Book Island

I'm pleased to announce that Lane's List has taken up an in world residence on Book Island. I hope you'll stop by to check it out and say hello. It's still in the process of being setting up and there will soon be a suggestion box to collect ideas on places to visit and people to meet. Feel free to offer your suggestions and I'll use them to shape the direction for future editions of Lane's List.

*points to the left* follow the link "Lane's List @ Book Island"

Hope to see you all there!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Christmas Holidays in Second Life

Christmas Holidays in Second Life

This will be my first Christmas in SL and, with decorations given to me by a friend, my home at Cherry Tree has taken on a holiday look. A four meter high tree with a silver star atop it, greets visitors in the foyer and a cheery red brick fireplace with stockings hung, awaiting a visit from Santa, graces the living room. Having been just below the prim limit, I had to move a few items back into inventory in order to set out the decorations, much as one would do some rearranging in their RL homes to accommodate the season’s decor. Stepping back and focusing my camera on the decorations, I felt satisfied with what I’d accomplished tonight. I glanced at the computer clock and saw the hours had crept by while I decorated and it was near midnight now.

"With the house done, now’s the time for some relaxation," I thought, "maybe some dancing." Opening my friends list, I scanned it quickly and was surprised that none were on line. "How odd?" I thought and then I thought that, perhaps, SL is acting up once again. Aha! I can check calling cards in my inventory, and was about to, when a TP request appeared in the top right corner of my screen. I glanced up and when I saw the name, I gasped. The sound was loud enough that my cat looked up from her nap to glare at me for waking her. "It’s not possible, there’s no way," I thought, "she’d left SL months ago and had closed her account. How could she possibly send me a TP request?" Leaning back in my chair, I stared at the screen, in shock.

“Hello Nazz *smiles* I had thought you’d have wanted to see me again,” she said in her IM. I leaned forward and was about to reply when the next IM arrived. “I haven’t much time and we need to talk,” she said. “Where are you? How did you get in? And, yes, I do want to see you again...I’ve missed you, Cassie,” I typed in my reply. “Then accept the TP request, silly. I’ll tell you all I can when you get here,” she said, laughing. I still couldn’t believe it was her, oh my God, Cassie is back, and my lips curled into a broad smile as I accepted the TP and arrived shortly after the whoosh.

She appeared on the screen, standing in front of me, her lithe figure clad elegantly in a red dress, sleeveless, with a thin ribbon of a strap across her neck. Her blond hair was pulled back and up, the ends tied off with a ribbon that matched her dress. She wore a gold rectangular locket around her neck, the one she wore all the time while in SL, and her diamond earrings sparkled. “Hello Nazz *smiles softly*,” she said as the site finished rezzing into my view. Still wearing the broad smile, I said, “Cassie, you’re looking every bit as lovely as I remember. I am still in complete shock though. How on earth did you get back into SL? Why did you come back?” Glancing around, I realized we were at her SL home and it was completely decorated for the season. I was baffled by the events and in being at her home, which had been an empty lot when I last saw it. I waited for her reply.

“Why, Nazz, it’s Christmas, it’s the season for miracles, *smiles softly* I see you’ve changed your appearance. I like you in that pony tail and…OMG, is that an earring I see sparkling? Very handsome, Nazz *very hot she thinks, OMG! He’s come a long way*,” Cassie said. “I’ve been reading your Lane’s List. I like it a lot. How did you come up with that idea?” she asked. I told her that, while the idea for the premise was mine, a special someone had given me a suggestion for the name. “Well it does have a certain cachet,” she smiled and continued, “aww...a special someone, how sweet *smiles*...I’m so happy to hear that Nazz.”

I had a strange sensation now, seeing her here and a thought crossed my mind. “Cassie, this isn’t like an SL version of ‘A Christmas Carol’, is it? You’re not going to take me around and show me my past are you?” I asked. Laughing, she replied: “No, sweetie, it’s not. I know you’ve been a good boy, other than that little episode shortly after I left SL. It’s just that I’d been thinking of you a lot lately. This’ll be your first Christmas in SL. The holiday in SL was always very special for me and I wanted to share some time with you, and show you some of my favorite holiday places to visit.” I smiled in relief and replied: “I know it was for you, Cassie, I can remember sitting at your house and listening to the stories of your adventures and the people you’d shared the season’s joy with.” Before she could reply, I continued: “but you still haven’t told me how you got back in. Your account is cancelled and you don’t even show in a "people search" any longer. I think of you often, Cassie, I have a picture on my desk, the last one we took. I look at it often, thinking of my SL Mentor.” It took a few minutes before she replied: “aww...that is so sweet of you, Nazz, *smiles softly*. As for how I got here, let’s just say that there are a few things that the Lindens know nothing about and leave it at that, sweetie.”

“Are you ready to go Nazz?” she asked. I told her I was and that she could TP me when she arrived. Cassie poofed and I leaned back in my chair to wait, happy and eager to share another adventure with her.

Candy Cane Lane - West Bernham 218, 165, 502

Upon arrival at the TP point, the visitor is immediately greeted by the decor as signs of the season. Just behind the arrival point is the Christmas tree lot with quite the selection of already decorated trees. A notice placard indicates that this is the fourth Christmas for Candy Cane Lane. It started out as a store in 2004 and evolved to its current state, now residing in a skybox built above the West Bernham Sim. A short stroll takes you to a central plaza with an ice skating rink. Ice skates are available for purchase and immediate use. The plaza is surrounded by shops, all with holiday themed goods. Candy canes decorate the paths along with snowmen, elves and Santas. This was the most heavily trafficked site visited

Betty`s Shopping Land Christmas Market - Caracoli 120, 58, 0

There is a very nicely done skating rink with a couple’s skating animation near the arrival point at Betty’s. Ice skates are for sale nearby, in the event you arrive without. There is a tree lot with a good selection of trees. Also, one can obtain free trees, wintry themed evergreens, and I take copies for a friend who is doing some decorating at her place. I find an igloo with couple’s poses that add a touch of romance to an evening of skating and shopping. Visitors are welcome to ride a Christmas Carousel and, of course, browse through the stores for gifts and decorations, with a decent selection of seasonal themed goods.

IMAGINE! - Winter Wonderland with Christmas Fair & lots of snow - Bruda Plateau 207, 13, 51

An underlying theme here seems to be romance as there is a delightful couple's “walk stroll” animation that can be used to tour the site. An ice skating rink also has a couple’s skate animation and, nearby, I find mistletoe hung from an arch with kissing poses underneath. The ice rink has skating snowmen and the couple spins through and around them. A short distance from the Gingerbread House, I find a place to visit with Santa. Feeling a bit too old to sit on his lap, I do take a present from his sack, a gingerbread cookie, which happens to be a RL favorite. There are a few commercial storefronts with seasonal themed items for the shopper.

A Touch of Ireland @ Cork Ireland CHRISTMAS SHOP - Cork 142, 167, 29

Nestled into a corner of the Sim, one is required to find the Christmas and holiday decor by following the signs at the arrival point, a minor irritation, but one no less. Once there, I find a tastefully decorated wintry and holiday scene with snowmen, candy canes and ice sculptures. A few decorated trees are for sale, but not nearly the selection as at other sites. The commercial aspect is limited, only one store with a limited number of seasonal themed goods for sale.

Kill Tower Park Winter Christmas Ice Skating Ski Rides and Amusement - Killtower 129, 88, 66

A crèche greets the visitor on arrival, the first I’ve seen in SL. This is an obvious commercial site but, if one is shopping, a worthwhile stop, as there are a few diversions such as a Christmas Carousel, ice skating and a visit into the Gingerbread House.

Bill Havercamp's Christmas Village - Sunset Beach 228, 76, 23

The village is a winter wonderland, the decor amongst the best I’ve seen. There is an ice skating rink, a Santa, snowmen, carolers and a Gingerbread House. I also found an igloo with a sled-riding snowman that is amusing to watch. Visitors can also take a train ride around the skating rink. There are also storefronts with gifts and decorations for the season.

Christmas Village - Japan 183, 225, 22

Another winter wonderland, smaller in scope than the previous site, but done effectively. I found the village with snow-covered houses a nice scene upon arrival. That and the snowmen, candy canes, carolers and a fair number of SL’ers are present when I arrive. There is, however, only a limited selection of seasonal themed items available to shoppers.

Christmas Wonderland - Deck 202, 60, 21

It may be that, because I live in the northern half of the US, I have expectations of snow and winter for the holidays, but I set those expectations aside as I tour this site. What I find certainly is a wonderland with a multitude of amusement rides. I find two carousels, two merry-go-rounds, balloon rides, a mission to Mars ride, something called "the claw", a pirate ship and another called "sunflower" at this site. There are Christmas trees, ice sculptures, a Santa lap-sit and present/gift bag at the site, along with an ice rink for skating. A nicely decorated Christmas cottage is available for romance with couple’s pose balls. The site has some commerce, I find a few storefronts with a selection of holiday items for the shopper.

Christmas Wishes - Drumm 56, 224, 0

Once again, I find myself back at a wintry and holiday themed site. There is ice skating here and it is the only one of a few places where I find free skates. Decorated trees are for sale, along with seasonal textures.

Christmas Market - Publishing Island 220, 149, 54

The Christmas Market is a delight to the eyes with the holiday theme very prevalent throughout. The village has snow-covered houses and candy canes decorate the paths as one wanders through the site. Snowmen abound, as do carolers and other characters from many of our favorite Christmas stories. I also find two carousels that visitors can ride. There are a fair number of commercial fronts for the shopper, with seasonal themed items available.

Christmas Market - Christkindles Markt - Krypto 28, 188, 421

A smaller site, but tastefully decorated for the season. An ice rink with skates for sale near storefronts that offer seasonal gift items.

A.K. "3D" Christmas Store - Trees you can Decorate - Toko 178, 128, 26

An amazing selection of decorations for the Christmas trees on sale here, one can purchase ornaments, lights and tree toppers for the do-it-yourself crowd to decorate for the holidays.

We’d completed our tour and arrived back at Cassie's house. Sitting on the couch, we talked about life, real and second, seemingly for hours. The virtual sun had begun to rise when she stood up. “I only have a few more minutes and I need one of your hugs, Nazz,” she said, smiling. I typed in the command ‘/hug Cassie’ and we were soon in a warm embrace. “*her eyes misting, she whispers softly* "Merry Christmas, Nazz" *gently kisses his cheek*” Cassie said as we embraced. “Merry Christmas, Cassie,” I told her, thankful that I could type it and not speak it as I was feeling a little choked up. “You know I’m never far from you, Nazz. We might not see each other, but I’ll always be with you,” she said as I handed her a tissue. “I know Cassie...I know,” I replied. “*blows him a kiss as she poofs* love you, Nazz,” she said and suddenly disappeared from my screen.

As I leaned back in my office chair, the screen lit up with multiple IMs from that special someone asking where I was and why I wasn’t answering. Looking at my screen, I saw that, somehow, I’d returned back to my SL home. A quick check of my friends list showed that it was working again. When I glanced at the clock on the PC and it read 12:25 AM, I was shocked. "That can’t be right," I thought. All the time I spent with Cassie, the places we visited, it seemingly took hours. I opened the IM window and typed in an apology, explaining that I must have been dozing off. She replied with a smile telling me it was okay and asked if I wanted to pop over. I told her I did and asked for a few minutes before she sent a TP.

In the corner of my screen where my Christmas tree stood, I noticed a sparkle that hadn’t been there before and zoomed in on it. The star on top was different, it was gold. I smiled, realizing that it was the one that had been on Cassie’s tree. It is, indeed, the season for miracles...

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Presidential Campaign Sites in Second Life

In Search of the Truth and Free T-Shirts :-D

Feeling a little restless this morning, my avatar is pacing in his home office, wracking his virtual brain. I’m certain that several of my ex-GFs can attest to the virtualessness nature of my brain. I’m looking for story ideas, my editors at the paper having been pleased with my contributions to date. I am about to sit him down at his desk, when an IM arrives, “pssssssssssssst…Nazz, I need to talk to you.” It is one of my sources, a Washington insider who hasn’t been ingame in quite some time. “Good morning X, it's good see you online again…what’s up?” A few minutes lapse before X replies, I begin to worry. “*X looks around to make sure Nazz is alone*. I have a scoop for you, if you’re interested…but we can’t talk here…meet me in our usual place…15 minutes.” My pulse quickens, X has been my source for several stories that have blown the lid off to reveal scandal and corruption and some of the seediest people I’ve ever met. This could be the story of the year, hell, maybe the decade, and a vision of receiving the SL version of the Pulitzer Prize comes into mind.

The 15 minutes drags on agonizingly, and I do my best to not look at the clock. Unable to control my anxiety, I glance nervously toward it and see it is time for the meeting. Left click on Inventory, Landmarks, Sources, I find the LM and click on it to TP. My virtual self arrives and, as the surroundings appear, I sense that I am not alone. “Ohhhhh my gawd, Nazz…don’t you have anything else to wear in that inventory of yours…you’ve been in that same Rolling Stones T-Shirt since we’d met…and, by the way, didn’t that shirt used to be white?” X asks. I move the camera to glance down, a little self-conscious now, see a fleck of virtual pepperoni, just out of reach of Mick’s tongue. “I thought you were good friends with some designer…does she know how you dress yourself?” X says and laughs. This last comment bothers me. My avatar's face turns red and I tell X sarcastically, “Damning criticism from someone who seems to wear the same outfit every time. I’m guessing you have a few hundred of those blue dresses and black berets in your wardrobe. By the way, how ever did you get that stain lifted?” I ask and then snicker.

She goes silent for a few minutes and I begin to regret my sarcasm; I’m thinking that she is about to TP away taking the SL version of the Pulitzer Prize with her. “Sorry, one of my clients was IMing. I took it to a virtual dry cleaner, my new business in SL.” she says laughing and then continues: “So, are you interested in hearing my story?” I reply: “Of course I am.” My pulse quickens as I open my notepad and, with a virtual pencil poised, I’m ready to take down her story. Before she can begin, however, a stranger wanders into our view. We both clam up as he approaches. Neither of us had seen his arrival. He comes over and we exchange pleasantries, he’s a noob out exploring. X begins to flirt, her coy replies to his questions begin to irritate me, so in an IM I tell her to get rid of him. She does and he wishes us both a good day and vanishes.

I open the mini-map, do a quick check and see that we’re alone before I speak, “There’s no one around. We appear to be alone X”. She begins her story in a hushed tone, “Are you aware that some of the presidential candidates have been thinking of setting up sites in SL and they’ve begun to recruit SLers to host them?” Before I can interject, she continues: “I’ve seen the plans from several of the campaigns to set up shop in SL. I’ve made copies for you, let me pass them over.”

I begin to groan before she has even finished. “Oh for God’s sake Mo****.” I barely catch myself in time from saying her name, “you need to get out from that cubbyhole more often.” I yell. “That story broke in February when the John Edwards Campaign opened its SL doors. It’s been talked to death in the both the SL papers and RL media of how its going to change the face of elections in America.” In my mind’s eye I see the SL version of the Pulitzer Prize rez a pair of big white angel wings and begin flapping as it flies away.

I could sense she was crestfallen, and I begin feeling badly for having yelled at her. “I’m so sorry Nazz, when I saw the plans…all I thought of…all I wanted to do, was get them to you.” she says. Her face is crimson with embarrassment. “Maybe you could do a story about them anyway? I’ve read your Lane’s List on coffeehouses. “Presidential Campaign Sites in Second Life”, how about doing something like that?” she asks. I could see she feels badly about things. “I suppose I could do a piece on it.” I offer. Then jokingly she suggests, “I know that the Hillary site is giving away free t-shirts. You could do a story and increase your wardrobe.” she says laughingly.

“Why don’t you give me your Stones shirt and let me run it through my SL cleaning process?” she asks. “I feel badly and want to make it up to you somehow.” Without thinking about it, I take off the shirt and pass it over to her. “I should go. That noob who was here just IMed me, he found a really great club and wants someone to show him how to use the dance balls. I’ll get the shirt back to you as quickly as I can Nazz. I know how much you like it.” she says. We exchange goodbyes and she TPs away.

Alone, I kick around the idea and, the more I do, the more I like it. There was much hoopla when the story broke, perhaps its time to revisit the topic. I open Search, type in “campaign” and am off to my first stop.

In all attempts to appear non-partisan, there is no implied order to this edition of Lane’s List, I am simply reporting on what I found at each site.

  • Democrat John Edwards -
    This is the first stop on my itinerary, the site is empty when I arrive. Looking at the traffic numbers, it doesn’t look as if many others have visited of late as well. At the arrival point, I find the freebie t-shirt box and click on it, receiving not only two freebie t-shirts but campaign buttons as well. I immediately wear one of the shirts and then wander around. Campaign literature is available through notecard dispensers and links to web sites. A second John Edwards site is said to be located at Inexplicably, this leads to an empty piece of property; the description of the land is "Home of the 2008 presidential campaign of celebri-psychic, John Edward".
  • Democrat Dennis Kucinich -
    Another empty site greets me upon my arrival. It is, however, a better build and the information displays, snapshots of his web site, are informative. I find an office and wander in, a picture of the candidate is nestled between pictures of Lincoln and FDR, I assume the candidate is attempting to look presidential. However the picture is noticeably smaller then the others and adds nothing to an assumed presidential appearance. After a search of this site, the best I could find are lawn signs. I go back to Search and find another Kucinich site I TP over and see t-shirts, long and short sleeved in red, white and blue are available, but not free and I pass on buying one. A visitor could also find candidate coffee mugs for sale.
  • Democrat Hillary Clinton -
    By far, the best build of the campaign sites. Nicely done with information on the candidate and areas for events and gatherings. I click on and receive two free t-shirts and wander around to look at information. The RL front runner with slightly less than a year until the election. Still much ground to cover, I think, and we have 11 more months to find out whether America will elect a woman president.
  • Democrat Barack Obama –
    This is the first and only of the campaign sites that has others there when I arrive. I try to chat up them both, but other than an exchange of greetings, neither is inclined to discuss the site, the candidate or politics. There are, of course, the obligatory campaign materials on display. I also pick up two freebie t-shirts and a baseball cap which, if you've ever seen anyone in SL wear one, looks quite ridiculous on an av.
  • Democrat Mike Gravel -
    A nicely done site, walkways take you through information displays and campaign materials. I pick up a free flight feather, t-shirt and campaign button. I wander into the office and look around for a bit before going over to the information displays. To be truthful, until I did the search, I’d never heard of Mike Gravel nor was aware he is a candidate. But I do get a free flight feather, so I leave happy.
  • Democrat Al Gore – I may have been the only visitor to the site, the traffic count is zero when I TP in. It is a small building and the freebie t-shirt dispenser is out front. Nothing in the building and there is no one around. I try to locate the site a second time to get the SLURL but am unable to find it in Search. I do try a search using “Gore” and have a few hits, but none are related to the campaign, but may be useful for later research so I save them in a note.
  • Other Democrats – I can find no sites for Joe Biden, Chris Dodd or Bill Richardson.
  • Republican Ron Paul –
    Ron’s is the only actual candidate site I find on the Republican side. It is a decent site, nice build, candidate information is available and I am able to pick up a freebie t-shirt. One can also find a Ron Paul Beach Party site So much for the idea that Republicans don’t party!
  • Republican Party HQ -
    It is here I am able to find more information on the rest of the Republican candidates, along with freebie t-shirts for Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Sam Brownbeck, Tom Tancredo, and Alan Keyes.
  • Presidential Candidate Flags, Yard Signs and T-Shirts -
    This is an interesting site, obviously commercial in nature, with Presidential Campaign paraphernalia on sale. Yard signs and flags along with Democrat and Republican Candidate T-Shirts are on sale. The owner has a tally board on display at the entry point, charting the ongoing sales of paraphernalia by candidate as a percentage of sales. A notecard reads “Buy a flag, t-shirt or yard sign to show support for your favorite candidate for US President. At least a couple of times a week (and more often if I get around to it), I'll update the leader board showing what percentage of sales were for each candidate. Come back often to see how your favorite person is doing among the residents of SL.“

    As of November 7th, here’s the tally:

o Biden - .38%

o Clinton - 16.25%

o Dodd - .48%

o Edwards - 14.21%

o Giuliani - 4.42%

o Gravel - 1.41%

o Huckabee - 8.5%

o Hunter - 1.62%

o Kucinich - 4.86%

o McCain - 2.49%

o Obama - 15.9%

o Paul - 21.41%

o Richardson - 2.29%

o Romney - 3.2%

o Tancredo - 0%

o Thompson, F - 1.53%

o Nobody / None of the Above - 1.04%

With my travels complete, I TP over to see my friend, the designer, to look for some fashion advice. When I arrive and rez, I see she is busy but walk over to see that she is setting up her new fall line releases. As she sees me approach, she snickers and says, “What the hell happened to your Stones t-shirt?” I tell her my tale and ask for her advice. "Do I need to tell you about that silly earring you're wearing again?" She asks and then begins telling me how she thinks I should be attired. While she talks, I listen and take a few notes. Halfway through, an inventory offer and IM arrive from X, I click on both.

"I managed to get it cleaned," X explains. I thank her for the cleaning and for the idea. I open my inventory and find the shirt clicking it to wear. Happy to have Mick back where he belongs, I turn my attention to hear the rest of the fashion advice.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Coffeehouses in Second Life

I look down at the screen of my laptop, a blank word document is waiting for me, it’s time to write another Lane’s List, but before my fingers touch the keyboard, I lean back in my chair, lift a steaming cup of coffee and take a sip. I stare at the blank document and sip my coffee, thinking of how best to introduce this edition of Lane’s List. An idea pops into mind and I lean forward my fingers poised to strike the keys. I promptly spell out “Lane’s List of Coffeehouse’s In Second Life”. Feeling much better about not looking at empty document, I lean back and take another sip. My mind is churning now, the words forming and I set down the cup and am about to begin when my phone rings.

By the time my conversation is over, the thoughts I’d had about to note had disappeared and looking at my mug, so had the coffee. I need to get focused, so head downstairs to the kitchen for another cup. Trying to recapture my thoughts, “maybe I should start with what is a coffeehouse”, I say out loud to no one as I head back to the office. I open my browser favorites and click on Wikipedia and do a search on “coffeehouse”. As I read the article, I get a broad perspective of what is a coffeehouse and their history, but it’s not helping me to get started with my own article.

Now I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, maybe I just need to chill for a bit and relax, so I switch to my desktop, find the SL icon and double-click it. While the app loads, I sip slowly from the cup, worried now that I may have taken on a topic I am ill prepared to write about. Having logged and my av now rezzed into the living room of his SL home, I do a search on “coffee” and scan the results. One hundred and fourteen places in SL have coffee as a keyword, hmmmmm, somehow I had thought perhaps there would have been more. I picked one based on high traffic volume and hit the TP button, the screen goes blank and… whoooooosh…. I arrive.

The destination slowly rezzes on the screen in front of me, and my avi takes in the scale of the virtual coffeehouse before moving the short distance the entrance. As he does so, I quickly check the mini-map, it shows the presence of several others, so he saunters past the front patio with its wrought iron bistro tables to either side, and finds a warmly decorated interior awaiting him. On the left are several light wood textured table and chairs in orderly rows with a coffee bar and a scripted coffee server on top of the counter. On his right is a nook where there are two large couches and matching chairs all with poses for a relaxing sit. There is a fireplace on the wall across from the one sofa and virtual fire lends warmth to the ambience. There is a picture above the fireplace of autumn leafs falling, the colors rich and adding to atmosphere of coziness and perhaps as a subject for patrons to discuss while they get acquainted.

“Good morning Nazz”, I’m greeted by a patron, a woman sitting on one of the stuffed chairs a virtual cup of what appears to be coffee in her hand. I choose view last chatter from the view menu and my perspective changes to see her more clearly. She is nicely attired in slacks and sweater, her red hair neatly coiffed, her avi sipping from a steaming cup of coffee. Her name is Lauranne Theas.

“I hope you’re having a great day so far” she asks and I reply in chat, “I am, thank you. I trust your day is going well….. May I join you?” “Please do…*smiles*” she replies. So I click on the other chair and sit. As I do, she offers me a cup of coffee, which I accept and promptly wear.

The chat is active, there are three ladies on the patio in back, I try not to eavesdrop, but is it hard not to do so, they are chatting about a new line of fall dresses at Simone! Design. While they chat away, I turn my attention back towards my new found companion and offer my thanks for the coffee while the animation plays and Nazz appears to be sipping from a steaming cup of coffee. She accepts my thanks, and then says, “I don't think I've seen you here before”, I reply that I had been here once or twice before and ask if she is a regular. “Yes, I meet here almost daily. I was just stopping in to see who was here today.” She asks, “So what brings you here today?” I type out my reply, telling her about Lane’s List and the topic I’d chosen to write my next article. She replies, “Ahhh...sounds interesting.” I told her of how I’d started the morning, and that I felt a little more research may be in order. The crowd in the back grew as two other ladies arrived and joined in the chat, adding their favorite stores and designers to a lively discussion.

“Perhaps I could interview you for the article”, I ask. There is a bit of a delay, beginning to feel awkward I start thinking of how to make a graceful exit when she says, “I’m sorry I was listening to the chat, I may need to do some shopping later. LOL….. Alright, what would you like to know?”

“Lauranne, perhaps we should switch to IM”, she agrees and as I am about to ask my first question. A new arrival interjects with, “Good morning Lauranne and Nazz.” We both exchange greeting with him and afterward he walks toward the back to greet a woman sitting alone. They exchange pleasantries and he invites himself to sit across from her at a table. She seems willing for the company and they go silent in chat so I assume they’re in an IM session.

“Where were we…. Oh yes, I was about to ask you Lauranne…. of all the places in SL where one could socialize, why a coffeehouse?” She replied, “It's a safe and social place to meet new people as well as bond with the others you have gotten to know with time.” I smiled and noted the arrival of a couple, formally attired he in tux and she in a red ball gown, they stroll over to a table and sit. “We have a steady group here of regular people who interact daily. We have created some genuine friendships here. We look after the people we have near us.” I ask, “Are you drinking coffee now in RL?” She replies with a chuckle, “As a matter of fact, I am. Our discussion topics are always amusing. And, we all have jobs in RL... so, we can pause, work and begin chatting again without issues.”

The group of ladies on the patio has increased once again, the topic has changed, it is now about men. I note that there are two new arrivals, both are Vampires and I wonder if they always force the sun to midnight when they arrive at a destination. I mention that to her, and she laughs in reply.

“Do you frequent coffeehouses in RL?” She replies, “I live in, yes! It's a social lifestyle.” She tells me of her favorite beverage when she does and I must admit a Grande Non-fat Latte extra hot sounds intriguing and make a note to try one the next opportunity I have in RL. “Are there events here that attract a crowd?” Lauranne replies, “We create our own events within our group. Pal around. I guess.” She then tells me RL is calling her attention, and she’ll be right back. While I wait, I move my camera around looking at the rest of the build, noting features such as the patio in the back with its bistro tables and wicker sofa and chairs in the corner. There are about ten people in here right now, the group of ladies on the patio has decreased, but the chat discussion is still lively and still about men. I try once again to not eavesdrop, but can’t and read the chat. “I’m back” she announces in the IM. Are there any more questions I can answer for you?” I smile and reply only two more questions.

“First, what do you think of this coffeehouse?” She pauses and then asks me to clarify what I meant. I tell her we talked of the social aspect, and I was curious about the physical attributes, whether or not it contributed to the ambiance. “Ahhh…. Yes, it's very comfortable. Plenty of room for lounging and crowds as they happen, also, some quiet places for private conversations if needed. We love to sit outside as well as in by the fire.”

I note her reply when I become distracted by the ladies chat, they’ve started talking about pick-up lines they’d heard in SL and so I start looking at my history for a nugget I can perhaps use in the future. I must have been away for what she thought to long, “Are you still here?” she asks. “Yes” I reply, sorry RL.” I lied not wanting her to know what I was really doing. “You had another question for me” she said. “I do yes… May I add you to my friends list?” I ask and she replies “Of course *smiles* thank you.” Afterward she stands and announces in chat her RL work is calling and she’s going to log off. We exchange goodbyes, I thank her for helping me with my article and she poofs.

Alone, I begin think of how best to incorporate her comments into my article. Summing up her comments into a short list of what a coffeehouse is may be a good approach I think. Standing up, I select home and in a few seconds my avi returns to his living room. I open up the communications window and scroll through her remarks attempting to summarize them in a few bullets I can use as I explore and evaluate other coffeehouses that will make this edition of Lane’s List.
  • A place to meet new people and bond with those you’ve gotten to know

  • Plenty of room for lounging and chat

  • Quiet places for private conversations or small group chat

  • A place for group events

I open my search window, type in “coffee” and I’m off to the first destination.

Here is Lane’s List of Coffeehouses in Second Life. I hope you enjoy visiting them as much as I did. Perhaps one day, our avi's will meet at one of them and we can have a nice chat and enjoy a virtual cup of coffee.

  1. Open Latte Coffee Shop - Mill Pond 240, 217, 22 Open Latte is at the top of my list for coffeehouses in SL. It is as it bills itself “a relaxing spot to enjoy intelligent conversation and make some great friends. “ There is outdoor seating in front and back as well as inside to accommodate about 30 avatars. The interior is nicely decorated, and there are nooks for either a private or small group chat. I found two coffee servers plus a tea server along with one that dispensed banana muffins. There is a group one may join, Open Latte Addict. It can found in group search. The owner of Open Latte and the group is Micala Lumiere.

  2. COFFEESHOP MOCCALICIOUS - Sterling Heights 193, 104,22 found Moccalicious to be a nice relaxing place. I was greeted by the owner, Yura Gazov upon my arrival as he was busily decorating for a Halloween Party that evening. He took some time to greet me and another guest, answered our questions and sent us both invitations to the party. I found dispensers for coffee and espresso along with servers for cake and pies. Also, one can join the COFFEESHOP MOCCALICIOUS group, both the shop and group are owned by Yura Gazov.

  3. Fiction and Lattes/Kelly Yap Artist Gallery and Studios and the arts, the two are often linked as one thinks of a Parisian Café or New York’s Coffeehouses. You will not be disappointed here. Kelly Yap, the owner was working in her garden when I arrived and was gracious enough to take me on a tour. It originally started out as a library but she decided to make it a coffeehouse. There were racks of books one could actually read, by rezzing and turning the pages as your camera focused in. She has since added a stage for poetry reading, utilizing the voice capabilities in SL, allowing for interaction to occur between poet and audience. Also on display in the gallery is her own and friends art for sale.

  4. Huggy's Coffee House, HUG*MART & Tiny Dance Club - Dammastock 120, 108, 59’s bills itself as a “place for Tiny’s to hang out”. There was no one present on my arrival or prior to my departure. I found the décor to be cheerful and brightly colorful, with seating for about 20 or so Big Av’s. How many Tiny’s could fit in Huggy’s would be in an interesting question, perhaps I’ll ask the owner Roy Blanchard for his guess. One can find Menu's behind the counter, scripted to deliver Tiny Food and Drinks or Big Food and Drinks. Brownies, cookies, cupcakes, slice of pizza, sandwich or apple. Drink selection included coffee, tea, milk shake, glass of milk, soda or fruit punch. There is a group one may join, Huggy's Coffee House, Roy Blanchard is the group owner

  5. dokimos cafe - Truth 122, 64, 0 Christian coffee house fellowship with Bible studies and friendly discussion including spiritual beliefs, religion, and faith. Coffee service is available from an espresso machine. There looked to be seating for about 20 on the lower floor. A second floor has two rooms, I am assuming for bible study. No one present when I arrived or prior to my departure. Found the walls decorate with posters referencing the religious aspects of the coffeehouse, groups’ ads, and flyers for study sessions and locations for services. There is a group, Club dokimos, California Condor is the group owner

  6. Mimosa Island Gay Beach - Lofts & Shop Rentals - Mimosa Island 204, 50, 0 coffeehouse appears to be part of a recreation building, I found seating for about twelve people with servers for coffee and Hot Cocoa Latte. There was no one present on my visit. It is tastefully decorated as a component of a larger recreation room. Wicker couches in white cloth with two small coffee tables, it is tucked away in the one corner of the building. Other amenities were present for socializing. The group, Mimosa Island Gay Coffee Shop, Zephalus Zapedzki owner has a regular event, the Infusion Gay Cafe. Breakfast Club Saturday 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM PST.

  7. BCH :: Beachwood Coffee House - Beachwood 96, 101, 38 A very nice build, modern decor chrome and lots of glass. Outdoor patio with table seating for six and a cozy corner niche with love seat and couches. Hardwood floor interior with three seating areas with couches and chairs. A coffee and tea server is available on a coffee table near the entrance. Potted plants dot the interior space, providing a few places where privacy can be maintained. A few modern art pieces are also on display. There was no one around when I arrived, nor prior to my departure.

  8. !MarillaAnne's Place Coffee Shop & Art Gallery ~Dream Island - Dream Island 155, 25, 28 to MarillaAnne's Place, Nazz Lane, the greeter entered into chat as I arrived, right click the green cone on the door to teleport up to The Upstairs Gallery. There is seating for about 20 or so, with notecard and drink dispensers on each table. There is a stage for live music performances and one may join the group, MarillaAnne's Place, owner MarillaAnne Slade. Art on display included RL photography from Texas, New York, New York City, and Oregon.

  9. The Overflowing Cup Coffee House - Westport 116,194,67 A Christian coffee shop, tastefully decorated with seating for 20 or so on the ground floor. You can get coffee, tea or espresso along with cookies and cakes. I found a rack full of literature (notecards), and chairs arranged in what I presumed to be a prayer circle on the second floor. I also saw small conference table in a nook on the upper level. There was one person there when I arrived, engrossed in an IM session. We exchanged pleasantries before I left to explore other venues.

  10. Bantam Dell Bookshop & Café nicely done build, however the traffic numbers here were very low. I found an espresso server tucked away in one corner on a counter with wine server along with servers for muffins and cookies. There were books on display, assuming them to be from the publisher, with seating on both a lower and upper floor and seating on the patio. By far the largest of the coffeehouses I visited. What one can do with corporate dollars! There is a group, The Bantam Dell Book Café, Beatrice Scintilla is the group owner.

  11. The Killing Moon Cafe - Coffee House and Chill Joint (Retrology) seating on patio in front of the cafe for six along with a small interior with seating for six more in a nook. I found both a coffee server and one for freeze drinks. One could also get cookies, bagels & cream cheese, donuts, and pies from servers.

  12. Nadima's Magic Bean Coffee House and Kulture Gallery - Happy Clam Island 132, 178, 26 trip back to the tie-dyed 60’s at this coffeehouse. There is seating for about twelve of so, with a dance floor and stage. A server offers you a choice of, Latte, Macciato, Mocha, Cappuccino, Espresso or Flat White. There was no one present when I arrived or prior to my departure.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Interviews with Second Life Gardners

In my exploration of Gardens in Second Life, a most enjoyable aspect was in meeting and chatting with the developers of these remarkable places. I thank each for having taken the time to meet and answer my questions as well as for their efforts and commitment to making these enchanting spots available to us all in SL.

Isablan Neva (IN) – SL Botanical Gardens
Zanza Marx (ZM) – Midsomer
Kelian Axon (KA) – Tranquility Garden
Dane Zander (DZ) – Lost Garden of Apollo

Nazz Lane: Do you garden in real life? How much influence did that have on your design here? What drew you to gardening in SL?

IN: Yes, I have been slowly landscaping my RL yard for the past 5 years. Unfortunately, gardening in RL is much more time consuming than gardening in SL :) I've even looked into getting the education required to become a professional landscape designer based on how much I find myself loving and doing it. My RL house is well known in the neighborhood for both being purple and having a beautiful yard. My RL garden didn't have much influence on The Botanical Gardens, but there was considerable influence from my visits to the Huntington Botanical Gardens (Los Angeles, CA), Villa D' Este (outside of Rome, Italy) and the Vizcaya Gardens (Miami, Florida.) At all of those places I found myself fantasizing about what it would be like to have a house surrounded by grounds like those. I was drawn into gardening in SL by early experiences at A Change of Fate (in Dore, still standing last I checked) and Lilones Retreat (no longer in SL). They were two of my early favorite spots. When I bought my first land, I couldn't see any sense in putting down a house and decided I was going to live in a garden in a gazebo. Eventually, 117 prims was just not enough and I needed a bigger garden, so I found a great piece of land in Federal and built the first SL Botanical Gardens, which eventually expanded to cover 1/4 of the sim.

ZM: I have loved gardens my entire life. My father was an avid gardener who also had to have ponds in our yards. When I was young and we would take camping trips, I would find a small area, lay moss as sod, design a meandering pine needle path, and line it with tiny drooping bluebell flowers as lamps along the pathway, believing I had made it for the forest faery folk. Today in rl I live on 3/4 acre in the country in the Rocky Mountains, under a canopy of dozens of stately Cottonwoods, among several varieties of berry bushes, some apple trees, and old fashion bearded and wild irises, wild roses springing up everywhere and a creek running through the back. Sound vaguely familiar? In SL, my 'First Land' I acquired my first week here became a garden. Not large enough, I bought the adjoining plot. Still not large enough, I sold it and bought a bigger plot surrounded by water and carved a river through it. That, of course, led to a sim. I guess I just can't help myself.

KA: I love to garden in my real life, my passion is herbs and I will spend hours sowing seeds, potting on and tending my thriving herb patch. I also very much enjoy ornamental ponds and have great fun in watching birds, insects and occasionally foxes and hedgehogs come to the water’s edge or in the birds cases (evil Heron) try to make off with my rather round goldfish and koi. I have to admit I have bought some of my real garden to my virtual one in the form of picking flowers that I know well from growing them in my real garden from a very young age and of course, the koi.

DZ: Unfortunately, no. I live in the city, but plan to buy a house and garden real soon. I built the Lost Gardens of Apollo because at the time, not many real gardens or parks existed in SL. Especially large places were missing - places to explore and get "lost" in.

Nazz Lane: Pretty much any outdoor space where one TP's into has a garden, why do you think gardens in SL have so much appeal?

IN: I think green space provides warmth and atmosphere. Nature is a beauty all of its own and it adds a sense of life where ever it appears. People tend to find nature calming and regenerative. Even Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs said "I want a window where I can see a tree." If you look at two streets; one with just concrete and glass and one with the same concrete and glass but lined with trees you will tend to be drawn more the street lined with the trees. It will seem a more pleasant place to be. Because this is true in RL, it becomes part of the way we build in SL since we generally tend to imitate RL here; we are most comfortable with that which we know as opposed to the unknown. I actually think there isn't near enough nature in SL. I TP into a lot of places that have been divested of even the Linden Trees as landowners look to maximize prims and space, which is really a shame.

ZM: I think it has to do primarily with the lack of natural open spaces in rl coupled with increasing daily stress. There is a harmony with our deepest, most primitive emotions when surrounded by nature that brings us that much needed ethereal peace and I think that is what people have found in SL year round. There is a place in SL for gardens to refresh that peaceful spirit in the midst of fantasy and beauty.

KA: Second life is just that, a Second life, people build friendships and relationships there and in turn want places to go where they can relax and talk to others without the adult scene which dominates many areas. Gardens offer a place to forget about clubs and shops and just take the time to take in the beautiful areas SL allows us to create… its much like living in a dream, there are enchanted forests, haunted graveyards and sunny beaches, there is something for everyone and if you can dream it, it can be created.

DZ: Because of the endless bombardment of various building styles on most of the land you see. As in real life, people long for a quiet spot, somewhere to relax. SL living is very compressed in time and very hectic. We all need to relax also from time to time, and everyone using SL daily knows what I mean.

Nazz Lane: What design challenges does the SL gardener face? What other design considerations were taken into account?

IN: Well, you mentioned flying and that is a perpetual bane of many a sim designers existence. Some even hide things where they can't be seen from the air in order to try and force people down to the ground where they will see the sim design as it was intended. If it weren't for the Mirage, which can only be reached by flying, I would probably seriously consider turning off the ability to fly at the Gardens. I can't speak for other gardeners, but some of the things that I planned in include at least a 20m distance between 'hang-out' areas so that chat range doesn't overlap. Also, the pathways are the guides to traveling the island. Without paths to follow people get lost and will miss so many things. Lag is a perpetual issue, especially with a garden on this scale. As you noted, I have a welcome notecard at the entry area and it has dual purposes of 1) imparting information about the sim 2) slowing people down so that things will rez before they start moving too far in. Another consideration is that you don't want people to be able to see too far ahead, you want to draw them forward to see what is around the next corner. I also designed the Gardens so that there are spots for someone who is exploring alone can hang out, there are a few romantic areas for couples and areas where groups of 3 - 6 can all hang out. I didn't want anyone to feel odd being alone here, I've read too many reviews of sims where the reviewer laments that they don't have someone with them to share it with. I wanted The Botanical Gardens to be a place where one could be comfortable alone or with others.

ZM: I can't say how others design their SL gardens or what challenges they may face aside from the ever mindful prim limits but Midsomer was more of an organic design. I started with a rough terrain, added the winding river, and worked with the land guided by my own sense of balance and color to fit my own comfort level. The lovely thing about any garden, in my opinion, is that there is no wrong or right way to do it - it is more an expression of a personal sense of these two components and an individual display of mood. My preference on Midsomer is exactly that - a leisurely walk - so I have tried to make it primarily all accessible by foot with pathways for people and those who enjoy it on horseback or on the backs of tigers or any other such creature they fancy to ride. I also wanted to make it interactive with the chess area, the dining pavilion, the swing, hammock and merry-go-round, and of course, the dance and music areas.

KA: Personally, I have seen very few gardens which can be seen to best advantage any other way than at ground level. The way many plants and trees are created it makes it very difficult to design gardens which can be viewed at all angles so I believe it is best to work from one and focus your creative energies there in order to make it the best you can with whatever prim limits you have. I think as a gardener you have to take into account the surrounding land, some builds in second life can be very imposing and in turn make an impact on the overall feel of joining plots. I’ve had to deal with finding ways of blocking ad boards and sky litter but I have also been very lucky in the fact that I have some wonderful neighbors who appreciate how beautiful Second life can be with a bit of landscaping and consideration of others.

DZ: Well, the main challenge for any designer in SL, gardener or not, is to realize and work with the lack of the USUAL challenges IRL. We don't have to work against gravity, we can fly, we can build at any altitude. We can build micro- or macro environments. A lot of designs in SL are very conventional. What many don't realize is.. We don't really need roofs... doors... walls..... as well as fences and I could go on and on. Many of these elements can be added for decorative purposes but that's about it. The Lost Gardens of Apollo was mainly built for exploring on foot - but since it contains hidden and very tall builds as well, flying is a widely used option.

Nazz Lane: Are the gardens a collaborative effort? Do the contributors create new things for you to add?

IN: They are completely a collaborative effort. I'm adding new stuff all the time, in fact I have two new plant creators to add in the next couple of weeks. Since I don't make plants myself, it works out very nicely for me to showcase other creators' work. With the exception of the greenhouse, all of the structures are my handiwork. All of the plants and trees are by others.

ZM: Actually, I built this based on what I wanted to enjoy...a place to call my home. I opened it to the public not knowing if people would like it or not and honestly, it didn't matter to me if they didn't but I soon learned that this was not the case and many have a very protective attitude toward what Midsomer has become. I do have an Estate Manager, Lara Lycia, my oldest and dearest SL friend, who helps with maintenance now and then when I am not available (ie. resetting dance balls, dealing with greifers, etc.) who does it purely as an act of love. But there are not often problems so I feel quite fortunate.

KA: Tranquility garden is a one man show. I often ask for friends and regular visitors to offer opinions on new features or changes in the hopes that I can continue improving and evolving the garden. I have to say when laying out the garden at the beginning back in early 2006 I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into and at times it’s been a struggle to keep the garden going especially after a few accidents involving auto return and a lovely ‘revert’ button on the landscaping tool. I’ve spent hours, probably days getting it to what it is now and I’m sure many more will be spent there keeping things as they should be.

DZ: The Lost Gardens of Apollo were built by me exclusively. I had moral support and a LOT of patience from my Sr. Estate Manager, Sean Hadlee while building them. He overlooks the Gardens, as well as my Estate Manager Assistants samlowry Hawks, and Flix Zabelin. samlowry is my self appointed "Guardian Angel" of the Gardens, and doing a huge job looking after them many hours a day.

Nazz Lane: How is the virtual garden different then the real garden?

IN: *smiles* well, the biggest differences are in maintenance (none in a virtual garden, as opposed to unending in RL gardens) and the ability to work with different climates within a small area. One thing that is unique about The Botanical Gardens is the variety of climates. Buddha's mountain is all pine and snow covered in the upper portion and then over on the other side you have the Rain Forest and the tropical lagoon. The bird sounds are different in those areas as well.

ZM: In my experiences, I have a hard time keeping deer, rabbits, and woodchucks from eating all of my plants in RL, there’s always weeding, and due to my altitude and climate I am quite limited to the types of plants I have to choose from. Then you have those plants requiring shade or sun, more or less water, etc. In SL there are none of these obstacles. You can clump them and nothing dies out. No need to water or weed. You can invent plants that only exist in the mind's eye. Gravity doesn't have to be taken into consideration should you choose. It's a creator's paradise and I think we will see more fantastical things as SL continues to evolve as well.

KA: Hmm, well with a virtual garden you have no fears of severe weather which is great so you don’t have to deal with flower snapping off, pots blowing all over the place or ground frosts killing off new shoots. The maintenance is minimal, no dead heading flowers, no cutting the grass and best of all you don’t have to worry about going away for a few days and coming back to a group of dried up brown plants. One thing I do miss in the virtual world of gardening is actually seeing things grow from seed up into the adult plant or tree, or even watching a bud open up and bloom over a few hours. Maybe one day all the plants in Second life will have that little spark of magic in them.

DZ: No maintenance! And the ability to build and design something not possible IRL. SOME maintenance is required though - but not of the gardens themselves. The main effort is to keep the gardens a safe, calm environment. So a few unruly visitors are the time robbers mainly. They are dealt with by strict rules and a ban, if not in compliance.

Nazz Lane: How many prims are used in your design?

IN: Right now the sim is using about 12,000 prims. I would guess that 3,000 of that is taken up by my retail operations up in the sky and the rest is the Gardens.

ZM: Aside from the residential plots, Midsomer's main body currently uses roughly 9950 prims. This changes as the Isle evolves.. I am very aware of prims and try to keep a decent amount open for events and to lessen lag so I may swap something for a new build here or there...always aware of those areas that appear to be most popular so that I do not take something that will be missed. No complaints yet.

KA: I believe I’m hitting around 2500 prims but have another 500 in each area giving me another 1000 to use, I’m not planning on using this many though as I do like for visitors to be able to set down their own picnic blankets where they please.

DZ: For the Lost Gardens of Apollo, an estimated 13000 prims, builds included

Nazz Lane: Do you have any future plans for the garden you'd like to share?

IN: I'm debating adding another sim. Beyond that I so much need to finish this one first. There are a lot of places where I really rushed through and never fully completed, such as The Mirage, The Embarcadero and the City of Gold. A visitor probably wouldn't notice that those areas aren't fully finished, but I know they aren't and it drives me crazy. I would like hold more events here at some point, poetry readings, music...etc.

ZM: The only real plan is to update this Class 3 server to a 5 soon and begin some concert events. No concrete plans for the actual garden areas... it is always changing a bit here and there as I learn something new, or create something I think people might enjoy or feel needs expanding, or a mood strikes me. I have dreams of an additional sim as well, so we'll see. What that will be, I can't say yet. An extension of Midsomer to an extent but again, it will most likely grow organically as I go.

KA: I’ve only recently bought a plot in Vine which backs onto the older area of the garden so I am still working on that area. I am always looking to tweak things or to add new items which I feel people may enjoy. Hopefully this extension will open up the garden a little more and attract a few more visitors.

DZ: If at all possible, financially, I would love to expand the Lost Gardens of Apollo with 4 OpenSpace sims. Make water for sailing and swimming, more land, and alleviating a bit of the traffic pressure on the main sim of Apollo. I keep access usually at 50 people max - both to keep the server running smoothly, but also to ensure privacy and to keep it from becoming overcrowded. The sim is almost always at max capacity.

Nazz Lane: Tell me about your favorite places in the Garden. Do you get feedback from your visitors telling you about theirs?

IN: Funny you should ask that. Several places in the sim were developed based on watching how visitors used the Gardens. Two great examples are the area at the top of The Lagoon waterfall and the Rain Forest. I never did anything to create a "hang out" spot up at the top of that waterfall, but over time I started noticing people up there on a regular basis. So, I ended up putting in some float pose balls and a bench to develop it into a destination. With the Rain Forest, I had no idea initially what I was going to do with the storm system made by MenuBar Memorial so I stuck it off in an undeveloped corner and forgot about it. Over time I started noticing people hanging out there enjoying the storm, so I developed that area into a destination as well. I learn a lot from just watching where people spend their time and where they don't. If people aren't hanging out in an area that I developed, then something isn't right there yet and I need to work on it more.

ZM: My favorite spots.. lol.. hmmmm. That is a mood question. I often enjoy the Garden of Sorrows as a restful, reflective spot. The swing has always been one of my favorite 'toys' to simply unwind after a long day. If I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed I sometimes retreat to the underwater ruins to just sit and hide, and sometimes when other areas are busier I will sit by the water with my fishing rod and relax (also a RL enjoyment). I receive many compliments on Midsomer. Many write to simply tell me that they have fallen in love with the Isle and that does my heart good. Aside from the ever popular dance areas, I am amazed at how many have told me that they feel the area on the southwest corner is the most romantic! And there always seems to be someone sitting in the Garden of Sorrows, for relaxing peace if nothing else.

KA: I don’t really have any spots which I could call my favourite, I do however get regular visitors telling me where they like to sit but more often than not I have already guessed due to them being there so often that they become a feature of the garden

DZ: I love the Terazza Romantica, in the SW corner of the sim, facing the sunset. It's semi-private, and has a separate romantic stream. It's a calming spot.. good for conversations, and romantic dates. My guests often write me about the sim. I receive IM's and email daily about their enjoyment of it, and that alone is a great reward and incentive to keep the Gardens running. Almost all have their favourite spots.

Nazz Lane: Do you make seasonal changes?

IN: God no. *laughs* I'm having a hard enough time just finishing the sim. Maybe if I get to a place in my second life when I'm done with the build out and I am down to puttering and tinkering.

DM: I have not done this to date. I have thought about it, as I do enjoy a beautiful white snowy landscape in the winter however, I think it is the appeal of the garden's greenery that people find relaxing. As far as changing flowers to fit the season, that is another wonderful thing about SL... You don't have to. If I change flowers it is usually because I have found something so beautiful and fitting I simply have to add it.

KA: I would love to be able to do things like this but to be honest; I really wouldn’t have the time to make all the changes each season. I live in hope that someday soon someone will create and script trees to change with the season’s, it would be wonderful to see second life moving from the greens of spring and summer to the wonderful orange and reds of autumn.

DZ: I don't. I sometimes change or add builds - and use various parts of the sim for special occasions such as weddings, book readings etc.

Nazz Lane: Are there any favorite garden places you like to visit in SL? What about RL?

IN: My favorite spots (well, other than my own garden) are Bliss Gardens, Cave Rua, A Change of Fate, and Fate Gardens. In RL I live close to the Huntington Botanical Gardens.

DM: I have always enjoyed Botanical gardens in RL... probably because they are so similar to SL - no seasonal changes and they mix everything from so many different climates. I just returned from a resort in India that is so amazing it was like stepping into a RL SL garden! I am hoping for a return visit there in a year. As far as SL goes, if I am not shopping, taking a class, or visiting friends, you will find me on Midsomer. It is my favorite... it is my home.

DZ: Unfortunately, I rarely get to explore these days. I design sims for private clients, so my days are full of that. In real life, an all time favourite of mine is The Tivoli Gardens in the centre of Copenhagen. It is one of the world's oldest amusement parks, and is always brimming with magnificent flowerbeds and arrangements any which where you turn. It's a classic, and a must see for visitors to our fair city :)