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Friday, 29 August 2008

Underground Club Goes Orange

The London Underground Club in Knightsbridge kept in with the theme of orange in connection with the Photographic competition run by Orange and Prim Perfect Magazine. They had their very own Orange/1960s night. The clubbers duly appeared either in 1960s clothes or in something orange, either was ok. Some actually found 1960's clothes coloured orange, so they went to a lot of trouble. A great night again at the Club as they danced into the early hours. It wasn't a trendy 1960s dresser who got the most votes though, the winner of the evening was an orange dragon, and what a great avatar, congratulations to him on his win.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Orange competition in SL London

Orange, the giant communications company, came into to SL London on 25 August 2008 with a photograph competition for designers, photographers and models, to enter their pictures of their idea of the swinging sixties. Although it was known that Orange, together with Prim Perfect Magazine were holding the contest, the location for the first day of the contest was a secret until the actual day. Orange are moving to a different sim each day and the same rule applies, the destination is a secret until the day. You can see the great London pictures at the Orange Island Web Page.
Brie Janick, the Knightsbridge sim Manager, will be among the judges who will pick the winner on Sunday.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Interview with Prim Perfect's Saffia Widdershins

People love their homes and gardens in Second Life nearly as much as they do in their real life, in some cases maybe more so, as anything and everything is achievable in the virtual world. So you can create your dream house and grounds to suit your lifestyle. Of course in the real world you have every opportunity to search for those little touches that make your home a much desired residence, there are magazines, television make over shows, as well as many shops to visit, and if you are well heeled, designers to hire.

A little while ago there was hardly anywhere in Second Life that you could go to get advice on how to furnish your London home in style, or how to plant that garden that everybody would admire. That is until one special lady decided to become an avatar and join the SL community. Saffia Widdershins is that lady, and she has given SL a whole new perspective on what can be created in respect of elegant and stylish homes. Saffia came into SL on 19 January 2007, she has an impressive track record, including previously writing for The New Statesman. Saffia is the Owner and Editor of Prim Perfect, SL’s first Magazine for Homes and Gardens. She is also the Producer and presenter of Meta Makeover, SLCN.TV’s home and garden show and Saffia has just launched another Magazine, The Primgraph, which is aimed at historical and Steampunk sims.

I asked Saffia how she had first thought of starting her Prim Perfect project and she told me that it wasn’t long after she had joined SL that she started exploring and ended up renting a beautiful Castle in a medieval sim. She said that she had a 200 prim allowance in the Castle, but had no idea then what a prim was, or where there were furniture stores, let alone medieval furniture stores. Plus she said blogs were no help for furniture, there were dozens for Jewellery, hair and clothes etc. Nothing much on furniture except for a few entries on Linden Lifestyles. She said it had occurred to her that everyone was buying or renting houses in SL and there was no one to advise them. Also there was no outlet where designers could reach these SL homeowners. Saffia said that she began to pull ideas together, saying that the core of the planned magazine should be a nice apartment, decorated by a designer, in a nice sim, so then she could write about the sim, the designer and the apartment and give a month’s free rental in the apartment as a prize.

She told me that, fortunately the first sim owner she met, was Melody Regent, who had just started Venice Island, and Melody was shrewd enough to see that this would be a fantastic marketing opportunity. Saffia said that Melody had backed her all the way. She went on to say that she was lucky that several of the big designers were interested, Baron Grayson, Sue Stonebender, Sky Everitt, Szabo Horn and Troy Vogal. Also quite a few of the really excellent but lesser known designers had come on board too, people like Sofia Standish and Dellybean North, who have advertised in every edition.

Saffia certainly worked very hard to produce the first issue, basically by herself. She told me that she tramped the grid and sold the ads, she wrote most of the articles, did the layout, although she had a little help with the illustrations from an avatar who has since left. She said that Moodyloner Korobase had come in to write a couple of articles and promptly became the chief reporter. Safia told me that she has fantastic support, she has three teams, Alesia Markstein for the Primgraph, Diva Regina, Perry Applemoor, Owis Greenwood and Kittie Munro for Prim Perfect. For Meta Makeover, there are Davon Westland, Matelisse Criss and Darleez de Cuir. She also said that Jeremey Ryan and Dellybean North have done a fantastic job building the office spaces and other builds at a moment’s notice. Saffia said that she had applied to take part in the SL5B (SL fifth birthday) to salute SL Design. She only heard from the Lindens a week before SL5B opened, asking her how she wanted to use the land, she said it was a huge plot! Saffia went on to say Jeremey, assisted by Delly, had just built their HQ, he went on, in a single week, to construct the most amazing pavilion and all the designers rushed in to stock it. They were also asked to build a centre by SLCN (SL Cable Network), in which they only had 24 hours to complete and they achieved this as well.

Saffia is one of those people who would always succeed in whatever she does, not because she is lucky, but because she works really hard and has the drive and the initiative to make things happen. She says she believes that strength lies in drawing things together, blogs, acting to support stores, magazines, tv shows. Communication through subscribe-o-matics, building up rapport between creators and their clients. It was an honour to meet Saffia and I feel her story will encourage a lot more people in Second Life to follow their dreams, she is a true example of someone who has used SL to it’s full potential.

P.S. We met in the SL Greyhound Pub, Saffia had attended the real life meeting in the Greyhound Pub in Kensington W8 with the rest of the SL London team and colleagues and she told me that she had sat in the same booth as the virtual one we sat in for our interview.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Second Life is Just Another Stage

Near the statue of Eros, in the Mayfair part of London, is a large and somewhat mysterious building currently under construction. It is mysterious, not because its function is unknown, but because it is one of the only places in London that is not open to visitors. It is the Mayfair Theatre and I was recently taken on a tour of it by its owner, JonC Weatherwax.

I asked JonC how he came to be involved in this project. In real life JonC Weatherwax is a stage hypnotist. He has spent his life in the theatre and describes it as “a passion ... as well as a real life profession”. When he first arrived in Second Life he looked around the British sites, found London and discovered that there was no West End. London is, of course, world famous for its theatre district and JonC felt that it should be represented in Second Life. By building the Mayfair Theatre he hopes to share his passion as well as his knowledge and experience of the British Theatre with those who visit the London sim. In addition to having live performances, JonC also intends to use multimedia and notecard dispensers, which will allow the visitor to discover the history of British Theatre, especially vaudeville, pantomime and music hall. In this way the Mayfair Theatre will act as a theatre and a museum of the British stage. As well, the theatre will be available for those who wish to hire the space for events or exhibitions.

I was first taken backstage from where I could see the front of the theatre or the “house” which is richly decorated predominantly in shades of wine red. After that we went to see one of the boxes, which, according to JonC “were traditionally ... as much about being seen as seeing”. They certainly provide an appropriate setting for that. They look like little jewel boxes in which theatre goers will be able to present themselves in all their dazzling glory, little theatres in which to be seen.

We then went to the Footlights Bar which has white walls with gold mouldings and a blue ceiling painted to look like the sky, again very lavish, but brighter and more sparkling than the previous area. One can almost hear the animated chattering which will take place there. Nearby the Footlights bar is a statue of the Greek muse of Comedy, Thalia. Her name can be interpreted as “rich festivity” which no doubt she will bring to the theatre.

After this we passed the foyer, which is very grand, and went upstairs to see where the lighting and sound controls are. Also upstairs is the gallery bar/ studio theatre. It is not part of the main stage area but is a more intimate place for performances. We then went on to the balcony, which has a wonderful view of the main stage.

From the balcony JonC took me past the dressing rooms to the rehearsal stage and the fly gantry, all on the upper floor. While walking down a corridor to the rehearsal stage JonC pointed out a series of windows, saying they are “peek” windows, allowing those working in the theatre to look at the house. They are not visible to the house itself and are in a private area of the theatre, so it was really interesting seeing something not normally seen by the public.

We ended our tour at the rehearsal studio, a large area above where we started our tour backstage. I was told this is where the theatre ghost lives, although I didn’t see him or her. I personally think it is Thalia who gets up and walks around when no one else is there.

JonC stressed the great attention to detail and accuracy that has been given to the construction of the theatre. The textures were designed by JaneB Moomintoog and FrankB Zhangsun. FrankB Zhangsun, who in real life is a set designer, has done most of the building. It is a beautiful, opulent space that transports you into another world, one full of excitement and a feeling that magical things are about to happen. The opening is something to look forward to, as JonC says “Stay tuned”!

Hibiscus Hastings

Monday, 25 August 2008

Great Fun at SL London Carnival

Great fun was to be had at the SL London Carnival over the weekend. Many hours of preparation had gone into making the event something to remember. The streets in Knightsbridge and Mayfair had been decorated with bunting and balloons along the parade route and there were brightly coloured floats displaying the different businesses in the area. People where invited to wear their best Carnival outfits and there were prizes for the best costumes, as well as prizes for the best floats. Lucy1981 Landar was among the winners, she won a best costume prize of 1000 Lindens and looked great in her dazzling outfit, complete with wings. Debs Regent drove along the route pulling a wonderful float, which had a scaled down model of Big Ben, advertising that SL Big Ben can be hired out as a great venue for parties.

The theme had been carried on into the Underground Club on Saturday, when many avatars enjoyed dancing into the night dressed in their Carnival gear. The actual street parade had taken place on Sunday at 12pm SLT and visitors poured into the area to watch the events. Once the parade had finished there was a free funfair with lots of rides, including dodgems, a ferris wheel and roundabouts for people to go on. The funfair was left in place for a while afterwards for people to enjoy. The Carnival was a complete success and SL London owes a big thank you to sim managers Brie Janick, who looked stunning in a beautiful red outfit, Seany1235 Blinker, who looked very gallant on his horse, Bella LaSalle and all the business people in the area. They all worked so hard with such fantastic results for a brilliant weekend.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Carnival in SL London

Get your best Carnival costumes on for today's SL London Carnival, and unlike the real world, you don't have to worry about the weather in the virtual world, so dress up and boogie on down there! There will also be four prizes of 1000 Lindens for the best costumes tomorrow. The Carnival starts at 12pm SLT today and the streets are already decorated by the wonderful team of sim managers. The street parade will continue tomorrow with colourful floats following the Carnival route around the sim, so get over there and have a good time! (Parade Starts at 12pm SLT today)

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Interview with Meike Heston, Animator

There are some people I am in awe of in Second Life and one set of such people are animators. ‘Animation overrides’ (Ao’s) are scripted items that you can wear to alter the way your avatar moves and acts. So it was with great pleasure that I met Meike Heston, who agreed to come and have a chat with me. I had been talking to avatar Nala Tenk a few weeks ago in SL London and she told me about Meike, who has a shop in Mayfair. Animation overrides are so important in Second life, because they change the whole perspective of how we think about our avatars, giving us the ability to personalise our avs with individual movements and also allowing us to be interactive with our virtual friends and lovers.

Meike, who is from Holland, has been in Second Life since January 2007. She told me that she started working in animations about a year ago, although she had originally started designing clothes in SL, with the help of her former partner. Meike told me that she soon realised that there was a lot of competition as many people in SL were making clothes, so she decided to try other things, firstly scripting and building and then on to animations, although she still sells some of her clothes in her main store. Meike has 10 shops altogether and has sold animations to over 5000 avatars, so I think you can safely say she is doing very well.

She said at the beginning she started with a single product, which seemed to work pretty well. I asked Meike if it was difficult working with animations, she told me it was easy to start with making static poses, and after a while animations came quickly enough. She did say that she had a lot of help at the beginning though. I asked her what her first poses were and she told me they were exaggerated model poses, which are usually only one static frame, she went on to say that an animation is a group of frames, but you don’t have to create each frame, just the parts where you would like to change the current movement, say swinging your leg up, skipping 10 frames, then starting to move the leg back again.

I asked Meike why she first came into Second Life and she told me she had picked it up from the news and had got curious about what it was all about. She almost didn’t stay in the beginning, she said she walked about aimlessly, but she soon found that it was the people who were great so she decided to stay and SL became all that she expected it to be.

I asked Meike if she had considered building SL weapons with her talents, like so many scripters seem to do, she said no, unless you could count a pillow fight!! I also asked if she made animations for sex, which is a huge business in SL, she laughed and said everyone asks her that!! She said no, (although she had made a couple in the beginning) she likes to make animations that she would use herself or that she would really like to have. I bought some of her 'hug' animations a few weeks ago and they are lovely, you can hug someone, and the one I have includes a hug, a close hug, a kiss, you can leap into your partners arms, as well as pouncing on them with a kiss, but there are many more that Meike has made and they are all very tastefully done.

I wanted to know if Meike employed anyone in SL for her shops, but she told me that friends help her out a lot, which must be fun for them. She also wanted me to give a special mention to Justyna Huldschinsky, who gives her inspiration and helps her with the testing, giving her ideas and she also handles customers for her, giving Meike some free time to do other things in SL.

I asked Meike how she first came to the London sims, and she told me that her good friend Nala had introduced her to London, showing her around. She says she loves it here, it’s nice walking through and seeing some of the events that go on. She either works in SL London or meets her friends and finds a nice spot to sit and chat.

Meike says she has plans for more animations coming up in the near future as well, so I will be very interested to see them, there is no doubt that making animations is an art form. Meike is a very talented person and a very important part of Second Life, without people like her, who use their innovations and great skills, SL would be so boring and ordinary, she brings life to our avatars and allows us to display warmth and affection to each other, which is a beautiful thing in a digital world.

New Sports Bar in SL Knightsbridge

Just a couple of minutes walk from the centre of Knightsbridge there is a new bar opening up and it looks like it is going to be dedicated to all kinds of sports. Although I'm not a sports fan in particular, I was out with a friend today showing her around London, when we spotted the bar and we both agreed to go inside and have a look. Well on the wall there is a big sign saying that football, cricket, rugby and lots of other events would be coming soon. The bar itself is nicely laid out, there are tables and chairs and a lounge area at the end. It's a nice place to take friends to and sit and discuss the latest football results etc, if that's what you follow. They have a couple of snooker tables as well and the whole thing looks like it is set up for live events. We made our way over to the bar and sat and had a couple of virtual drinks. This place is one to keep an eye on and I will find out how all this pans out in the near future, looks like a must for sports fans though.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

New Mayfair Sim Manager Seany

Seany1235Blinker is well known around the London sims, he has been working as a DJ at the Underground Club for quite a few months, but recently Seany has had promotion, big time!! Seany is now Mayfair Manager and started the job last Friday, 15 August, so he is now getting used to his new duties. Seany is just the right person for the job, he is easy going and very friendly, he makes people feel at ease in his company. In fact the manager's job suits him down to the ground, as he is full of new ideas and enjoys meeting people. He helps to organise the events in Mayfair, like the sky-diving contest on the 23 August and many other things that are going on in the sim. Seany came into Second Life about 8 months ago, after reading about it on a web site. He says that Knightsbridge was one of the first places he visited and Brie Janick was the first person he spoke to. It seems that fate played a hand as Brie and Seany are now happily married in SL (Brie is also a manager in SL London, in charge of the Knightsbridge sim). He told me that he came into SL London and never really left, he and Brie knew that they were serious about each other about a month after they met. Seany is much in demand, he has actually been made head DJ at the Underground Club as well this weekend, so he is going to be very busy from now on. I asked Seany what he thought about the London sims generally, and he said he loved it, it’s a great place to be and I agree with him. Seany is in charge of renting out property and shops in the Mayfair sim as well, if you fancy moving into the area or opening a business there, just contact Seany ‘in world’, he will be pleased to assist you!!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Bicycle Riding in SL London

I was recently given the gift, in Second Life, of a tandem bike, so I thought what fun it would be to ride it around SL London. It is such a large sim that walking somewhere, while very pleasant, takes a while. This way you can get around quickly and still have a good look. At first I tried the bike out on my own, the sim was very quiet and Janey was off line, so it was just me on the tandem. Everything went pretty well. I am not the greatest driver, but I managed without crashing into too much. Fortunately in Second Life you can run into anything or fall off of anything with no harm done, but I pretty soon got the hang of it. The next time Janey was online I asked her if she wanted to go for a ride, and she did, so we got together and tried out the bike. Unfortunately it wouldn’t work when she tried to sit on it, so that was that, no tandem riding. I decided to get in touch with the maker of the bike, Kermit Rutkowski, to see if we could discover what the problem was, so I dropped him a note and he very kindly (and promptly) got back to me. I went over to his sim first, and the bike worked with no problem. Then he came over to London so we could try my bike there and it worked in London as well. Probably the problem I had had earlier was because Janey has a walk animation override on. In order for the bike to work in London, though, I had to be the driver, which meant that Kermit had to sit behind me and was at my mercy. We started off pretty well, in fact Kermit even complemented me on my driving, and then, naturally, I crashed into something. He very bravely continued on, so I took him to Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Kensington, where our Daily Mail Office is. He was surprised at how large the area is and said he thought it was a lovely sim. It really is a great place for a bicycle ride. Kermit also gave me a bike for two, not a tandem, but one where someone can sit on my shoulders and ride around, and a bike for five, again with just one seat, but which allows for four other people to perch around the driver. We could only try the bike for two since no one else was around, and it was hilarious watching us zoom around London.This was a great Second Life experience, not just because of the fun gifts I received, but because sometimes people really are so helpful and kind, like Kermit Rutkowski was.

Hibiscus Hastings

Monday, 18 August 2008

Olympic Style TeeShirts Available

Top Second Life designer Ruskin Thor has come up with a great way to show his support to the British Athletes who are doing so well in the Beijing 2008 Olympics. He has designed an Olympic style tee shirt which is available in both black and white. The tee shirts can be purchased in Cher Demonge's London Boutique 'Bonjour' and they are a snip at 150 Lindens. The tee shirts are being modelled above by Ruskin himself and beautiful Treasure Vhargon. I am doing my bit to support our brave athletes as well by wearing Ruskin's tee shirts around the London sims. Hurry and buy one and let the rest of the virtual world know that you are supporting Britain in the Games!!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

The Dorchester Hotel In SL Mayfair

As you walk around SL London you see many familiar sights, the virtual replica is always full of surprises. It's great to go for a stroll through the London sims and see what you can find. I invited my friend Drax Ember to come over to explore. Drax is an American and not that familiar with real life London. At first he thought that virtual London may be just for Londoners, but I explained that people are made welcome here from all over the world, as visitors add vitality and life to the London scene, just as they do in the real capital. That is one extraordinary feature about Second Life, that it enables people to travel anywhere in the world (although virtually) without leaving their homes and it's for free! As we walked around, we came across one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, The Dorchester. We decided to take a look inside and it appears that it may still be under construction to a certain extent, although we could go into the reception area, Drax thought he would be Concierge and stand behind the counter for a while! you can sit in the cosy armchairs in reception and you can see it's a grand place by the beautiful decor. We couldn't enter the lounge area, although we could see that this was nicely furnished, but we were able to travel up in the lift to the other floors. It looks as if the rooms are only waiting for the furniture to be installed. We met up with Seany the sim manager and I asked him if he knew anything about it, he kindly said he would find out for me, so hopefully I will find out what is planned for the famous hotel. The real life Dorchester was opened on 18 April 1931. It was created by Sir Malcolm Alpine and Sir Frances Towle who had bought and demolished the original building, Dorchester House in 1929. They then commissioned Sir Owen Williams to design the new hotel. The Dorchester is situated on Park Lane in Mayfair and overlooks Hyde Park. The Hotel has a history of many famous people staying there over the years, including Winston Churchill, Dwight D Eisonhower and many Cabinet Ministers. A long list of film stars have also graced it's doors, including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Nicole Kidman to mention but a few. The Beatles and Michael Jackson are also entertainers of note on the long list of celebrities. In the SL version you can sit outside by the fountains and it's a nice relaxing place to brings friends and sit and talk. I will be watching the SL Dorchester to see if they are planning on taking bookings, it's probably the only chance I will have of staying in such a luxurious hotel!!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Oasis in heart of SL London

It's a funny old thing, you think you have a fair idea of what's going on in the real life London and suddenly Second Life makes you aware of something fantastic that you never knew existed. My Office in SL Kensington W8 is bang opposite a large building called 'The Kensington' and I had noticed that a roof garden was being built there. I had talked to the builder, avatar TD Reinard, some weeks ago, and he told me he was working on the roof garden project. It had been really pretty when I first saw it, but I decided to go back for a proper look yesterday and I can only say 'wow' what a wonderful job TD has done, it is a little oasis and has a tranquility all of it's own that you wouldn't expect in a big city. At first I thought that this would not be possible in a real life situation, it has fully grown trees and a running stream, separate gardens, a courtyard, plus a restaurant, and I thought it would be far too heavy for any structure to support. Not to mention the amount of people visiting would add to the instability of such a place. I decided to look at the website for the real gardens and it has a really interesting history. The gardens and restaurant/nightclub are presently owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin group, who took them over in 1981, but it had originally been the brainchild of Trevor Bowen, the then Vise President of 'Barkers' the Kensington store, who owned the building at the time. A landscape architect, Ralph Hancock had laid out the gardens between 1936 to 1938. The real gardens cover one and a half acres and are constructed 100 feet above street level. The average depth of the soil is 18 inch drainage made of bricks and clinker, over a waterproof membrane. The three gardens are themed on an English woodland garden, a Spanish garden and a Tudor garden. You will even find exotic birds such as flamingos in both the real version and SL replica of the gardens. I doubt if many real shoppers in Kensington realise such a beautiful place exists way above their heads. Debs Regent's vision of SL London is certainly a useful tool for people like me who have no idea that some of these places exist in the real world. Don't forget Sir Richard, if you want to invite me round for a cup of tea and a look round the real gardens, I'm up for it!!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Newbie Problems and Speaking English

Life can be a bit tricky if you are a new person in Second Life (or newbie as we call them). Not only are you trying to adjust to life as an avatar, learning how to move and find your way around, but avoiding gaffs around people who have been in the virtual world for a while is something that only comes with experience. As Hibiscus told you in a previous article ‘Moving’, we have both moved into high-rise apartments in Chelsea. Hib called me the other day to say someone was hovering outside her window looking into her apartment. It can be quite annoying when you own SL property or rent it, only to have strangers landing in your garden or looking around your house and refusing to leave. Usually though, they are just new avatars who are wandering around and don’t even realise that you own the property and that it is your private residence. That’s why I always greet the trespassing avatars and find out why they are visiting before I decide what action to take. Most of them just want to have a chat and ask a few questions and happily go on their way. Then again, sometimes I have had to eject people who have decided they want to be a nuisance, refusing to leave of their own accord. If you actually own the land you can limit the access to people you want to visit you, keeping the rest out, so it's a good idea if you really don’t want strangers dropping in. It’s a little bit different with a rented apartment though, as in most cases you can’t actually eject anyone, although you can lock the doors. I decided to fly up to Hib’s visitor to find out what he wanted and I hovered next to him and said ‘hi’ It turned out he was a newbie and just looking around, he flew back down to the ground with me and Hibiscus joined us for a chat. His name was Minnillu and he was very friendly, he told us that he was Italian and had come into Second Life to learn English. We explained that the apartments were private residences, and he said he had not realised. He used a translator device to talk to us, and it enabled us to have a nice chat with him. We told him all the best places to visit and he went happily on his way, saying he would try out the Underground Club later on. The translator device worked very well with Minnillu, but I had tried to have a conversation with a Japanese avatar the other day, and we just couldn’t make any sense of what either of us was trying to say to the other even with the automatic translator working, so obviously some languages translate better than others. As I walked around SL Knightsbridge today I noticed that the Tea Clipper Public House had some new posters and leaflets inside. On closer inspection I saw that it was a company called ‘LinguaServe’ who had taken up residence in the pub, and the information they give out states that they are a real life language school and translation service. They state that their main focus is to teach English as a foreign language but they also teach other languages as well. They also specialise in German-English and English-German translations, plus they cater for other major languages. They went on to state in their information pack that, as far as they can tell, they are the first real-life organisation of their kind to have a parallel existence (trading under the same name) in SL and real life, offering the same range of services. What a great idea and what a good place to have the company branch, right in the centre of the London sim! Second Life’s first language is English, and for the many non-English speaking people who join the virtual world, companies such as LinguaServe will offer a valuable service to give new avatars, as well as older ones, the assistance they need to speak English (Contact MauriceClaypole Writer 'in world' regarding LinguaServe)