Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Interview with Azar Shelman (Chev, Tony Dyson OBSS) (Nov 2008)

By Bixyl Shuftan

With much of today's technology having once been in science fiction, Second Life could be described as recent science fiction tales of virtual reality come to life. So when someone connected with one of the best known science-fiction characters does something in Second Life, well, it gets interesting. Of Tony Dyson, most people in the US, Europe, and Japan will almost instantly recognize a character he designed: R2-D2 of "Star Wars." So when he took an interest in Second Life, it was a story worth pursuing. I was introduced to the man at a Halloween party in October 2008 by Delinda Dyrssen, and we agreed to have a real interview later.

* * * * *

Tony Dyson has made a name for himself in special effects, notably motion picture special effects, such as Superman 2, Moonraker, Dragonslayer, and especially his work on R2-D2 in the “Star Wars” movies (his resume can be found here: ). Recently, a friend told me he had come to Second Life under the name Azar Shelman, and offered to arrange an interview. Naturally, I took the chance, and a time and place was set up.

I met up with Azar at his place ‘Discovery Center’ in Germania Prime, far up in the air, which is accessible from ground level. He showed me around, his experience in special effects showing up right away with the teleport effect between floors. One floor will be “Robotwo Urld,” with a number of robot features, notably a Robot Exhibition, R2-D2 Stand and his iBot2000 Transformer robot. Azar told me that when he installs the Discovery Centre in nature themed sims, this floor would be changed to a Art Gallery and his iBot2000 robot would take on the role of a "spirit mentor."

The largest floor was the Main Theatre, (Theatre of Magic) which had enough seating for 74 avatars. Each seat would have a camera, a “Third Eye Camera System,” to assist the audience in getting the best view. Instead of actors, Azar had plans for a show with automations, “this is more of a narrative theatre, totally programmed.” He was also designing it so it could be changed for different shows fairly quickly. Besides “pure entertainment,” he also planned to give some iBot2000 demonstrations. But the place could be run without automation ús, “We can also produce live performances ... guess you can say we have a third use.”

Another floor was what Azar called the “Events Theater,” which was a smaller theatre to help Second life “Mentors” to teach newcomers about the finer points of our virtual world. Azar also told me he would be producing an “Introduction to Italy and Venice” for Venice tourism, “an example of what can be achieved” of how Second Life can help the tourism industry in real life, “If we find either of the theatres in more demand, we’ll build many more dedicated units.”

The next level is a private office, which Azar calls his "Think Tank," for his group members. "I realized very early on," he said, "that a project this complicated would need a very special team." He told me that his Personal Assistant was 786smile Shelman, ZenMondo Wormser was the project director and Delinda Dyrssen was the media consultant, the newest member to his team was Car Skytower, who was also very new to Second life and a creative director for his real world company Turn Page Studios, and a friend of the family for over 15 years. Azar added that I must of noticed that the building itself was something very special too, "I was very lucky he told me, "to have Damanios Thetan design and build this unique building, he’s been a great source of inspiration on this project."

The ground floor at the “Discovery Center,” has three booths set up. Azar explained one of the things that bugged him about Second Life was that information about a sim was not always easy to come by. So his solution was this information center, one booth having information on what land was for sale or rent, a second for what shopping was available in the area, and a third booth for any events. He also planned to put a “holodeck” on each floor to increase the functionality of each project on that floor. The idea for the ‘Discovery Center’ came to Azar while he worked in Second Life and  talking with sim owners.

Of the iBot2000, Azar told me it would be a highly versatile tool for Second-Life users. The robot would be a “transformer,” able to change its shape, such as to an airplane or shuttle or submarine. It would also come with one of a number of modules, depending on the users wants and needs, “when a person buys the robot, they buy what module they want.”

Azar talked about students taking information in on a “learning curve,” and how Second Life was better for a student to learn than on the web, “students can’t meet with each other on a website, but  they can here ... socialize, get friendly, have adventures. ... the technology tools are far more advanced here.” Azar also liked how Second Life buildings didn’t need to be designed like real-life ones, that you didn’t need to put in stairs, but design a place around the ability for one to fly and so on, “I like to ce ‰lebrate the fact we can teleport.” Azar’s motto at his Discovery Centre is ‘Celebrating the difference’. Azar told me he was currently working on ten projects in SL.

“How did you find out about Second Life and decide to log on?” I asked Azar. He answered, “I first heard about it on ‘Beyond Tomorrow... Australian program.” When he first logged on, he only stayed briefly not having found enough to keep his interest. Returning in Summer 2008, he was more impressed by what he found, and stuck around. He also “met a great mentor in StarRose Mirlin from Mystic Academy. She showed me how the place works.” Azar had still been in his newbie avatar, and was quickly told that a new look was expected of players no longer new. She got him looking around and exploring places.

Azar told me he had spent over twelve years working on the Internet before coming here, and found Second Life much more useful when it came to conducting business, “I see the difference here ... We can go out to the client. ... I like the psychology of it. ... The whole point is to think outside the box.” Azar commented, “If you’re finding there’s not that much to do, you’re not trying hard enough to find out what you’re good at.”

Azar told me that he has no plans beyond his current project of installing as many "Centers" across the Grid in 2009, at least for the moment, “Everything I want to do is centered around the Discovery Center. ... I’m very happy working here in Second Life.” He has plans on updating his web-sites to help publicize his work in Second Life.

When I asked him how his experience in special effects affected how he saw Second Life, Azar told me, “Special Effects is about imagination, creative thinking and problem solving. I don’t just work in movies, but also theme parks ... animatronics.” He talked how it related to magic and the medieval period sims. “I’d like to think they built Secon ±d Life just for me, but they won’t tell me so. (laughter)”

“I’ll tell you one thing, I’ve never met so much talent.” Azar described the "Builders of Valimar" a Tolkien theme and the Elf lands with nearly a hundred sims dedicated to nature and friendship or the "incredible" Jedi Star Wars worlds, "you must have noticed my very blue eyes?" he asked, "I must have too much ‘Spice’ in my food (laughter), a present from ‘Splintered Rock’ a great Dune role playing sim. All incredible worlds, living and breathing.” He expressed a desire for more guides to show people around Second Life, and was glad to hear about Sean Voss’ efforts in the past. He felt it was important to “help people get to their imaginary side.”

Of the misconceptions about Second Life, such as people thinking it was dominated by sex areas, Azar thought those were the result of lazy reporting, “a couple reporters who never got off Help Island, not really trying.” Despit Ue “people acting silly,” he felt it offered opportunities for people such as housewife’s with a small child, “people can socialize when they normally can’t. ... It has so many positive things going for it.”

Asking him about the “Chev” and OBSS with his name, he told me, “it stands for Knight or Sir it’s short  for the French word  (Chevalier) because I was knighted in Malta for my charitable works for children world wide. The OBSS letters after my name stand for the order ‘ Ordo Byzantinus Sancti Sepulchri’ in English ‘Byzantine Order of the Holy Sepulchre.’”

Eventually, Azar Shelman/Tony Dyson and I had to part ways, and he wished me, and the readers of the Newspaper, well.

“Be daring, get a few costumes, see what’s available. It’s a living film, become part of it.”

*  *  *  *  *

I would hear about Tony Dyson/Azar Shelman a couple more times in Second Life. He appeared on the "Tonight Live" show by Paisley Bebee in December that year, of which I wrote the following:

* * * * *

Azar had a surprise on the show, a number of the audience were in various “Star Wars” avatars, from Jawas to Jedi, a number of R2D2 and other astromech droids, and a squad of Clonetroopers. Paisley’s interview went smoothly, the contents which can be seen in the SLCN.TV archives (yes, that’s me next to that red astromech). B ut what happened after the show was also worth telling. The Clonetroopers stood at attention, and after an initial salute, began cheering Azar.

The artist must have been taken with the devotion of the Star Wars fans as he stepped off stage and went amongst them. Yours truly stepped forward for a few pictures, getting a reaction from a few of the troopers. “Back off fox, he’s ours now.” one told me, though it was obvious he was acting. Paisley talked about having a lightsaber, but had trouble finding it.

Azar and the squad of Clonetroopers talked a little, and they invited Azar to their Star Wars sim. Azar agreed to go, which got a cheer from them. They then began teleporting out, which soon got Azar realizing something, “Um, when I told you I’d visit your bsim, I didn’t mean right now. I’ll go there tomorrow.” “Oh sure,” another  member of the audience spoke in jest, “go ahead and disappoint your fans.” “Look guys, it’s 4:30 in the morning where I am,” Azar pleaded, “take it easy on an old man. If I head there, the sound on my voice will be snoring, ‘zzzzzz,’ because I’ll have fallen asleep behind the computer.” The remaining Clonetrooper nearest to him was reluctant at first, but eventually agreed to break the news to his friends. Azar then logged out.

“Don’t underestimate the power of the Force,” in this case the force of fan devotion.

* * * * *

Over a year later in May 2010, he would appear again at a benefit for Cypress Rosewood, whose home had been damaged in a flood. That would be the last I would hear about him for some time, until a few days ago when I saw his name on Facebook. We ended up having a short conversation. He hadn't been on Second Life for a couple of years, but was interested in hearing in goings on about here.

Perhaps he'll be back soon. Until then, "May the Force be with him."

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tales From Steelhead: Interview With Tensai Hilra (2011)

Titled Friends in "Fly" Places, this interview was done by Franq Blackheart of the Steampunk Herald in April 2011, shortly after his interview with TotalLunar Eclipse.

* * * * *

When I first had the pleasure of meeting graceful designer in Second Life, Tensai Hilra, she was engaging in a spot of gardening.  That is to say, she was planting strandy bushels of head-high grass in row after row along the elegant streets of fantasy steampunk sim, Steelhead. 

It was the eve of April 1st, and she aimed to surprise her husband TotalLunar Eclipse - possibly into fits of apoplexy, more likely into row after row of exclamation marks.  For Tensai and TotalLunar are the uncrowned King and Queen of Steelhead, its much-loved benevolent rulers and caretakers, and the Elven/feline embodiment of its humorous, strong, steamy spirit. 

After offering to build Tensai a lawn mower of great immensity ("Spring showers," she quipped), we proceeded to have an out-of-character conversation about the Real Life solidarity of Steelhead's Second Life community.

I asked about TotalLunar's role as leader of the community. 

   "He goes by whatever, technically he prefers Owner.  It's all pomp and formality anyhow.  We love the place so much we bought it and expanded it! We focus on the community rather than the profit margin.  I'd rather log in to meet friends than customers.  This community is dear to me.  It literally has saved my life!"

Second Life seems to be very powerful in that regard.  Was it the community that helped you back to health?

  "A lot of good people, if you know where to look," she winks.  "I was a troubling situation... I had just lost my job.. no income unexpectedly, and no employment for 6 months...'''

Tensai ran out of her medication, needed to combat physical pain and other conditions.  Her withdrawal was painful.
   "I was bedridden.  My husband didn't work at the time.  No food in the house; it was grim...
   "Then, all of a sudden.. Nabila, one of our citizens, shows up at my house... food in hand!... and says that, spontaneously, Steelhead City and all the Steamlands got together to help!
  "She brought food, and even Paypal donations that helped keep the power on, buy more food, and pay rent!
  "All of that came from the community!

Tensai was incredibly moved by the compassion and caring shown by the Steelhead and SL Steampunk communities. 
   "I wrote this blog entry shortly thereafter
         ( )
   "I was unable to speak!  I cried for a day in joy... I'm misty eyed, now, just thinking about it.
   "I then knew I had done right sticking by this community.  The steamlands as a whole as well.

An illustration, perhaps, of exactly why people come to Steelhead. And stay.

  "The meds were for chronic pain... something I deal with daily now as I can't, won't, go back on the meds. 
  "In Real Life, I am in and out of a wheelchair as it ebbs and flows.  But as I always say... doesn't matter if I can't walk in Real Life... in here, I can fly!"

And with that, I reluctantly left her to tending her wild garden.  When you next find yourself in Steelhead, make sure you run into Tensai.  She has a story to tell.

Franq Blackheart

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tales From Steelhead: Interview with TotalLunar Eclipse (2011)

Earlier in Steelhead's history, events there an in other Steam Age sims were covered by the Steampunk Herald (No relation to the Second Life Herald), run by Franq Blackheart. In this interview in 2011, Franq interviewed the mayor and owner, Total Lunar Eclipse, usually known simply as Lunar.

1.  What makes Steelhead unique?

You're asking someone who is extremely biased. *laughs*

Steelhead for its relatively small size is a close community. Each unique species is welcome and has a place here from mad scientists to tinies to fantasy oriented persons such as myself. It has always made me feel comfortable to live here even when I wasn't managing.

Also it has such difference in themes from one sim to another that no two places are alike. It is also ever changing, we encourage change and growth. (except St Helens, the city center is going to be downgraded into a smaller rustic town) Port Harbor pier is undergoing changes to add a more pirate theme to it. I learn to build better, I rebuild things, Tensai learns to script and sculpt better and she rebuilds everything.

Also it is stable. Steelhead is over four years old, and before it became Steelhead it was another community altogether. So this city, the concept and idea are over five years. I am also not the only person to run the city, my real life wife of 12 (going on 13) years is my SL partner in crime. We have no intention of stepping down and it is such a strong community that if the grid goes down... Steelhead will simply move to another grid.

2.  How will Shanghai's change of rating to Adult affect the community; sales, roleplaying, overall cohesion?

First and foremost we changed the rating of Shanghai to adult to maintain Shanghai as it was before the TOS changes came about. We did not want to alter Shanghai at all. It is notoriously known as a darker place with opium dens hiding underground and shady back alleys now several factions of gangs have moved into the city.

Before we came to the decision to change Shanghai to adult we consulted every single person who had land and rented in Shanghai for their opinion. Several stores in Shanghai would have to move due to the TOS (they openly advertised the use of drugs in the dens) and several stores outside of Shanghai had to move into Shanghai due to the change as well. We weighed the possibility of revenue for businesses and we were prepared to move folks out of Shanghai into Port Harbor or another sim of their choice if the change of rating was not favorable for them. No one moved out.

It also gave vendors ideas for changes. Such as adding a seedy tattoo parlor and skin store and be a bit more open with what they sell. (Tastefully done of course) We are the first Oriental Steampunk themed city and perhaps the only Adult Steampunk sim in the Steamlands, there has been a build in interest as far as that particular change of rating that is enticing to those that wish to be more liberal with what they sell. When we introduce Shangri-La it too will be adult rated.

As far as roleplay, Shanghai is a dangerous place. Being Adult rated gives it a more darker appeal to encourage personal RP. As far as overall cohesion Shanghai has always been the darker of its sister cities, it was a city overmined, overtaxed and one doesn't walk there alone.

One thing I want to address to everyone is the adult theme does not change our community and city standards. There will be no nudity on the streets, tasteful adult wares are to be behind closed doors. The change was specifically to maintain the city as it was. The rest of the estate is moderate, the community does not allow underage users... not avatars. The scamps that live in Shanghai still remain there, their users are responsible adults, they know which places they can and cannot go and are safe because they are protected by the various mobs and pink mecca.

*gets off soap box*

And the city is lovely... dangerously lovely.

3.  What recent and upcoming events best reflect the Steelhead spirit?

The new years dance was a fun example of who we are. Tensai created one of her artistic sim wide dance floor. The community celebrated together, destroyed giant clocks, it rained fish and Denny was in his skivvies.

As far as the future? We'll be celebrating Chinese New Years, which as in previous years gets very interesting.

With Thanks and Regards,
F. Blackheart Esq.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Reader Submitted: Thank You Virtual Ability

From Alysabelle Resident

When I first entered Second life, I knew nothing about it. I had a friend who wanted me to join for about two yearsm but my life was busy as most people are and too busy for a place called Second Life. But then one day I wasn't as busy as I used to be, and with continuing asking by my friend to join. I did.

Well here I was. I called it "Never land." I didn't understand the concept, my friend ended up going through PTSD in real life so he was barely around. I was confused in Never land. There were a few people that helped out over time, and then one day I was looking for a place to live. I lived on a platform where actually the owner of the sim was making passes at me. It was disturbing to say the least. I know this can happen to anyone and it happened to me.

With the help of a friend in Second Life, I came upon a place called Cape Serenity. As I teleported to the place, I was amazed by the community feel even though no one was around at that very early morning. I was enchanted. I had never seen a place like this before. I really felt this 'home' feeling. Then I contacted Ladyslipper Constantine, who is actually the caretaker of the sim. I wanted to know how much the rent was. After a few hours, I got an IM back from her and that very day. I rented a piece of land. I was so excited, I felt. I stood there for several hours just staring at the entire sim. Smiles. She was extremely welcoming and gentle and kind.

 I believe the following day Ladyslipper Constantine she shared with me her hearing problem and at that point I had not shared my hearing problem with anyone.  I wanted to be treated just like anyone else who didn't have a disability and I figured Second Life would provide this for me. But it was getting difficult to mask my hearing problem. I felt it was weighing me down in some respects. I couldn't hear everything and I couldn't hear everyone. But what I didn't know, after I decided to open up about C.A.P.D. (Central Auditory Processing Disorder), was that my friends that I had made knew something was different about me but they just couldn't put their finger on what it was.  As Ladyslipper shared about her hearing problem, I found myself sharing this information with her about my physical hearing problem even though we both didn't have the same hearing issue.

That was the start of my own journey in sharing with others about Central Auditory Processing Disorder. I knew if I opened up, it would be a challenge. After all its not every day you hear about this particular disorder. What I didn't know that Cape Serenity was part of Virtual Ability. Well I didn't even know what Virtual Ability what it stood for. I eventually was told, so imagine here I was landed on a sim called Cape Serenity part of Virtual Ability and here I was with a physical hearing problem.

The  mentors at Virtual Ability through time helped me with not just opening up about my physical hearing problem, but how to cope with it, how to deal with people who have such disbelief, which by the way I really understood them more than they realized only for the fact that after all its not that well known. C.A.P.D not as well known as other disabilities, but to be honest there were moments I wish I didn't say anything about C.A.P.D.

I learned that even though people have disabilities they have other gifts they are able to share, that there is a purpose a meaning behind everyone, no matter what disabilities you have. Most importantly for me is I met these wonderful women who have different hearing issues, and I found out even though we don't have the same ones we all have certain things in common none of the less. Listening to their stories of how they have been affected in real life or Second Life with a hearing disability, they gave me a gift, the gift of  strength that under any circumstances that you forge on and believe in yourself. And it really doesn't matter what anyone thinks or feels, that you are important in this world and no matter what you have to deal with you are still important. They are strong, those women whom I met in Virtual Ability. They say strength comes from wisdom and they are very wise from Gentle Heron, Ladyslipper Constantine, iSkye Silverwebm Treasure Ballinger, Treacle Darlandes, and Winter Wardhanid and countless others.

I'm so grateful they share with people like me who have a disability and those who have other disabilities. I"m so grateful and continue to be how much they have helped not just in Second Life but in real life. How they give their time to mentor those like me they really care and they don't do it for any other reason then a need to help people. They are selfless they mentor from the heart. They embrace you when you are down they give you hope, encouragement and belief in one self. They give you courage to rise above, they help those who need help and help them to become an even better person then you are, what is the expression that comes to mine I have heard before, they give you wings to fly... I will always be profoundly grateful for those who are part of Virtual Ability, that no matter where I go where I am they are always in my heart, Thank you.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Interview with Tuna Oddfellow

By Bixyl Shuftan

On Saturday August 15, one of Second Life's most unique entertainers celebrated his tenth anniversary, or rezzday, in Second Life: Tuna Oddfellow. A magician in real life, known as "Fish the Magish," he has distinguished himself in the past with winning "America's Got Talent" competition in Second Life, and over the past several years to today with his "Odd Ball" performances. which remain a one of a kind performance that has yet to be duplicated by anyone else. Recently I had a chance to interview him at the Odd Ball's location in the Dragonhenge sim. Tuna was speaking in Voice, so not every single word was written down.

"What's happened in Second Life?" Tuna spoke, "{I'd like to say my life is stranger than fiction, and that my Second Life is stranger than real life." He mentioned his partner Shava Suntzu as active with fundrasing and cross-training. He also expressed sadness for not being able to do his real-life magic performances due to health issues ( ) , "My magic is something that I haven't done in a long time."

Tuna stated in real life, he lived in the town of Salem Massachussets, before that in Sommervile, one of Greater Boston's suburbs. "Salem was the great fort for coming to American when it was colonial times." he stated pirates figured into the town's history, as well as the witch trials.

Tuna also went on to say he had been a Freemason for five years, signing up during his "Second Life tenure." He had been friends with one, who showed him a lodge on the grid. Freemasonry, like so many other organizations, had made it's way here. He had met the person at the Second Life Convention in San Francisco, "It's funny how my Second Life, real life, and Freemasonry combined."

Of his newcomer days, Tuna remarked, "I was trying to figure out my place in Second Life. In real life, I was a magician. I did not see myself as an artist." But like others, he learned. He directed my attention to the set-up around me, "Everything you see here, I created. I've really come a long way in ten years." He had been doing the Odd Ball in some form since 2007, "What can I do to create a magical experience in Second Life."

His early days would sadly experience a tragedy. He had been dating a girl early on, and in October 2005, he was approached by her real life son whom had some bad news. She had complained of a headache, then passed out. It turned out to be an anerysm, and she died. Tuna ended up conducting her memorial service online. One of the people there was so impressed with how he did, Tuna was asked to do the person's wedding. So Tuna did the part of a rabbi, as in real life he was Jewish. He then set up a wedding business, "Magic Touch Wedding Makers." Many people called on him to help with their weddings. Tuna advertised his business as covering the wedding from proposal to the honeymoon. He worked on special Valentines Day experiences, one on one virtual light shows with his client and their love.

Tuna described the Odd Ball as coming from a tribute show, "The Residents." They were a performance art group going around, and they would pass around pens each with a giant eyeball on the top with a top hat. "Google yourself and see." ( Tuna described them as being a band for forty years, "really, really weird." He found them a creative band whom combined their music with visual art displays. When he first began planning what would be the Odd Ball, he had the intention to create their kind of experience.

Talking about Shave SunTzu, he described her as among "one of the most transparent advocates of Internet aynomymity." Of his presence on the Internet, "As much as I'm well known here (as) Tuna Oddfellow," he's also known on a number of Internet pages as his magician name, "Fish the Magish."

Tuna's big break came when the NBC TV network did a show in Second Life. This was when they were running "America's Got Talent," and decided to do a Second Life version. They did a "cattle call" for entertainers, and ended up with different types of Second Life talent showing up (, which they narrowed down to ten residents, including Tuna. The inworld audience of the show was about 300 residents, "as packed as you can get." The celeberty judges watching the show did so from a sim apart from them. Tuna was among the five finalsts whom in addition to the 300 residents inworld was seen by the nationwide TV audience of "America's Got Talent," about 70 million people, who then voted as to who would be the winner. And it was Tuna whom won the title of the Most Talented Avatar in Second Life, with one million Lindens as the prize, or about four thousand US dollars ( Tuna called it "one of the most wild experiences one can hope for virtual worlds."

Tuna then brought up his tenth rezzday shows. There would be two that day, one at 6PM SL time and the other at 12 Noon. The one at Noon would have the music done by Beth Odets, "The crazy violin player. Petlove Petshop would be at the 6PM one. He would be in another a few days later on Tuesday, with Jana Kyomoon as the musician. Tuna stated that his Rezzday Oddballs might go on for a while, "This is my rezzday celebration until I say it's over."

The only problem he forsaw for his rezzday performances was whether or not Shava would be there. She was not feeling very well. He noted she had not logged onto Second Life since leaving the Grid in October 2013 due to the controversy surrounding their change of the terms of service in regards to content creator rights ( ), soon followed by Tuna and the Odd ball, they taking their performance to the InWorldz grid.

Despite the Lab under Ebbe Linden changing the lines of the ToS in question, Tuna felt the issue still was not completely resolved. Tuna commented that he saw himself more as an enterpenur than an activist when he started the Odd Ball. But he felt Linden Lab's changing of the Terms of Service at the expense of the rights of content creators was a violation of what he called the "Oddball Principle."

Tuna stated information about the Odd ball could be found by all at . He mentioned science jounrals he came across seemed to be lacking about what they've found about how his kind of performances affect the human mind, Shava being especially keen in pointing things out. People had been telling him that the Odd Ball left them feeling relaxed. Tuna felt the special effects of his performance had an effect on human brain waves. He also felt there was a "Cathedral effect" of the huge space the Odd Ball was in, "For a moment, the brain just goes Woosh!" People seeing it for the first time would say things like "This is incredible, this is amazing." It made him happy to hear that those with Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder issues were getting some relief at his shows.

Of his accomplishments in real life, the one he was the most proud of was being the father of a 23 year old girl. He also considered himself an activist of a few causes. He had campained for gay rights despite getting ill in the middle of it, "part of who I am." He expressed pride at living in Massachusettes where the people were more inclined to side with such causes, "We fought City Hall, and we won." He told me he was transparent about who he was, seeing no need to hide his Second Life from his real life, and vice versa. He talked about what he saw as the "Theory of obscurity ... look at the art, look at the person ... Madonna, Michael Jackson ... part of the understanding is who that person was. .... When you understand the artist, you live the art more, or dislike ..."

"When people experience my art, The Tunaverse," he told, "When you first come and you see it ... " he described it as the "loss of the Odd ball virginity, 'Oh my God, this is unlike anything I've ever seen before.'" Tuna told he had yet to see or hear of anything like it in Second Life, InWorldz, or Opensim." He described himself as having "diversified" his virtual experience, having avatars in different places, as well as having his show outside Second Life. One of his more unique performances was at the Second Life Convention in 2010, when he did the show in both Second Life and in real life at the con, "I guess I could go on and on."

In creating the Odd Ball, Tuna says one of the challenges was that he saw himself as a performer and not a visual artist, "There were a lot of challenges." When he came to Second Life in August 2003, the virtual world had only been around for two years and had a total signup of about 30,000 people. It was a time when it was experiencing "exponential growth." By November three months later, the total number of accounts had doubled to 60,000. He was learning through tutorials, "I wouldn't call myself a programer, but I learned how to tweak the code." Pointing to the center of the Odd Ball set, "we call this device the 'hypercube.' " Tuna compared it to the holodeck in Star Trek, "being able to take a group of objects age get them in one prom." He credited its creation to another builder, getting permission to do his performances on it in Second Life and other places.

Another challenge was less about design than endurance. Tuna described himself as having, "fought from the begining for this art to be permanent." He wanted for the Odd Ball to "be able to be used in grids that don't exist yet." Also, he felt it should always be a live performance, "Perhaps it would be scripted, but that's not the direction I wanted ... it should be organic, live theater." One challenge was imposed by Linden Lab, the prohibition of megaprims, "can't create prims larger than 64 meters." The megaprims that can occasionally be seen on the very oldest structure were done through an exploit.

"Virtual worlds are a fantastic place," Tuna spoke, "being able to go beyond the limits. If you had told me ten years ago when I was a street magician that I would carry the same tricks to virtual reality ... How do you create an experience of wonder in a place where one of the first things you do is learn how to fly?" When he started, he didn't do all the scripts himself, and eventually had to learn how to do those. Another thing he had to do was learn how to promote himself. He had found it easier to promote the works of others instead of his own. But eventually he did, promoting the Odd ball

"I love what I do," Tuna told, "I love doing magic. It kills me that I can't do the magic I used to in real life. But I can so the virtual experiences.

When I had a chance, I asked Tuna about his white-skinned avatar. He explained when he first came to Second Life, a friend of his from New Orleans had opened up a vampire club. It had a reputation for being an avant-garde place for strange things. Tuna thought it had a "Dark Shadows" influence. It was in Collinwood, which Tuna called a great estate with a castle. The avatar itself, while inspired by it, really came from his imagination. For the face, he wrote to a content creator for help, purchasing the original rights to it. It's design was original, down to the testure. Eventually, Tuna replaced parts of it. Of the shape, pointy ears, and the white skin, "it just felt right."

Tuna really didn't like the idea of looking like anyone else, "not a cookie-cutter." He remarked that some Second Life anthro fans considered him an "honorary furry" with his desire to be unique. Of the top hat, that was from him being a musician in real life, "became one of my symbols here." His tip jar was also a top hat, designed by Alessia Stella, whom had created a line of tip jars, "she deliberately created this tip jar so it could be changed and personalized.

It was about this time Tuna had to take care of other matters. And we went our seperate ways.

A few days later, Tuna's tenth anniversary event took place. To his relief, Shava was able to attend the second one. It was quite an event, the two Odd Balls, attended by some dozens of avatars.

The Odd Balls continue in Second Life, IM Tuna or Shave SunTzu about being notified when they take place.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, August 7, 2015

SLife and Times: A Thursday in Second Life

By Grease Coakes
In the real world I work for Royal Farms stocking the soda cooler among various other grunt jobs. I can’t complain if my job gives me paid vacation. My boss named Mary to protect her real life identity was nice enough to give me a week of paid vacation during the summer. Now that I have been at Royal Farms two years I have two weeks of paid vacation. So today I wanted to write what I was doing in Second Life. 
I started in Shadowquine Maltz’s Ark which is one of Second Life oldest clubs for furries about 4:30am SLT which is 7:30am for me. When I first discovered there was clubs for furries in Second life when I was a month old or so The ark (Like Noah and the ark saving animals from the great flood.) It happened to be the ark and at the time I was amazed of seeing a club of only furries when before I was hanging in human clubs not knowing about clubs like the ark. Keep in mind I was a newbie so I had no idea what second life was so I was still exploring around. 
The theme of the Ark is anything goes so don’t be surprised if you see adult goings on there. For example I was talking with a vixen in skimpy clothing just being friendly about tattoos and something in her profile on one of the dance poles.
I happened to run into Stimpy Tripp an old bear of Second Life that I see around now and again. I remember seeing him at Second Life’s 12th birthday when I djed. He’s also one of Rita Mariner’s Sunweavers. Another friend I ran into was Zebrathingy Heyse AKA Zee. When Anthroxtacy or AX was alive and well we’d go see the same DJ Aurora Avila a few times a week.
The DJ Raven Twang had a cool outfit at first I thought we was the dragoon character from Final Fantasy 8. But he corrected me and said, "If any influence for this character is attributed, it would be Mat Cauthon from Wheel of Time. The outfit I’m wearing is not so much the dragoon but based on Mat’s medieval fantasy attire."
I myself have read the Wheel of time written by the late Robert Jordan and it’s beyond words describing how epic the fourteen book series is. Mat Cauthon is one of the main characters as one of three childhood friends who are destined to fight what they call the Dark One. Mat is a trickster and always has a smile to charm women. I won’t say more than that except to start the series read Eye Of The World.
Shortly afterwards I went to a 500 word dash at Milk Wood (71/59/22), where’s it twice a day 6am SLT and 6pm SLT Monday through Friday. It’s a writing exercise to write 500 words in fifteen minutes based upon a word.
Deva (Deva Westland), a faerie, teased me and said as I lag walked and ended up walking on a table, "You know, you can walk around the table, Grease.... hehe."

Deva wrote a scene of a faerie mother having children making sure her small son didn’t wander into danger by entangling his ankle in a vine. Doyle, who writes stories of war, wrote a fantasy theme about a general asking for merchants for supplies despite the high risk.

Raindrops (Gwen Enchanted): wrote about a famous man Tam Lin who is a ballad and here’s what she said, "Tam Lin is a very famous magical ballad. He's a man captured by the Queen of the Faeries, who's saved by an ingenue named either Fair Janet or Lady Margaret, depending on which version of the ballad you know." Arte or Artemis wrote a poem about snugging Doyle cookies and kittens and puppies.
I wrote about one my characters doing something terrible, so she is forever banned from someone’s restaurant. Shannon hit Narcosis several times giving her a bloody nose and a black eye. Narcosis offered no resistance as Shannon cursed and yelled at her for endangering herself and her diner and friends.
I took a break in real life to eat some cereal and apples and then I come back to Second Life, and seeing nothing of note in my notices I go to the  IYC which is short for International Yiff Center at IYC Addictions (221/62/3001) . I also see Tantari Kim is online so I im her saying hi. She tells me she is applying to the Ark as a dj. She has a library of sets preplanned with different themes like MLP and "Still Alive" which centers around a single song called Still Alive by Lisa Miskovsky. I showed Tantari Kim the famous blue vixen this song from electric mudkip.
Tantari was nice enough to warp me to Citrus Cove (164/153/2487). an adult sim called Fox Haven Furry City East. Tantari commented it was a nice sim with nice people I mentioned it made me think of Metropolis, Superman’s home, or any other major city. Tantari and I chitchatted about this and that.
A little later I took another break in real life, did some laundry and bought a beer and came back logging into the“I Love the 80’s club” at Gecko Isles (215/81/22). I hung out and chilled to Zack Coberts DJing. Everyone was joking that lag was ruining their day and that lag doesn’t exist in SL. I asked the pretty lady Lunavae Longfall to slow dance with me she said sure and I just relaxed and had a good time. There were a couple furries there, not just me. Furries aren’t just staying in furry clubs anymore they come to human clubs now and again watch out humans!
I took another break for an hour and played Guild Wars 2, but before I find a LM from Xavier’s A List about some LM that showcases live music. I go to Lionheart Ahadi (121/214/3201). and hear a Zen Arado play ambient music that’s unique and very mellow. In the same sim Tip Corbett came after Zen Arado play live piano music. His live playing was amazing to listen to soothe my soul.
Later on 1:30pm SLT I see a notice about a spiritual discussion at New Paris (33/42/22). I warp over to a place called Nirvana Island.RobertDuke Drascol led the spiritual discussion over voice chat with a few other avatars. He was saying to forget ideas of the material world and ignore your ego and listen to your higher self instead. I had tried to leave to see my friend Skunk Mantra Fox Techno (Fox Fraxture) at his DJ set however Robert Duke asked me to stay and make comments about what he was talking about.
I stayed until Robertduke said it was time to go. Then I visited Fox Fraxture at Furnication (189/199/27)  and heard his mix of house and techno. I mentioned that he gave me one of his songs that you can hear in my soundcloud mix SL12B called Thouse Paws Up. It has lots of organ sounds and bass booms.
A few days ago Amehana Arashi (Amehana Ishtari) and I agreed to meet on Thursday at 4pm SLT for a tarot reading you might recognize the name as she read at Nisa sometimes (the ponydale sim.) She charges a fair price of 300L. I ponied up the cash and asked her where should I look for a publisher for my stories? Amehana suggested look at the local library and perhaps a librarian will help me and suggested to play fair with the editor.
At the end Amehana had this to say
Elemental Balance:
2 major arcana
1 pentacle
1 wand
1 sword
The forces at work here are more spiritual/karmic than material. Physical work is necessary as always, but a good deal of what will be of benefit will only be gained through relationships, the give and take.
Last but not least of about eight months or so of working every thrusday night I go to see Aurora Avila at club midi at Bikini Bay (59/174/1006).
One of the club owners,Sky Gunawan, has this to say about Aurora, "Heya everyone~ busy night again. Aurora, you're always bringing in a crowd." Aurora Avila answered, "I can't say I have any complaints about that! ❤"
I asked Aurora a silly question, "Hey if samus aran fought a dragon or two who do you think would win?" She answered, "Samus fights a dang dragon all the time. Ridley just keeps happening. (laughter), so she fights dragons anyway."
As per usual everyone has a great time listening to Aurora’s songs based upon video games and dancing the night away. Aurora even called me a Tippyfox for sending tips her way to her "?" block with the mushroom on top. A little later Keesar Cushing one of the dj managers from Anthroxtacy came to say hi Aurora as well as Zee a long time fan of Aurora’s music.
It was an excellent Thursday in Second Life and I did a lot. It was fun to share this day with you readers of the Second Life Newser.

Grease Coakes

Friday, July 17, 2015

Jaycatt Nico and Frogg Marlowe

By Bixyl Shuftan

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the first performance of a well-known musical duo in Second Life: Jaycatt Nico and Frogg Marlowe. Also known as Jaycatt and Frogg, or "Effnjay," they have played at a number of venues across the grid, including the Live stage at the Second Life Birthday. I recently had a chance to talk to them at their home venue in Aphibicatt Gardens in Lingmell. We greeted each other, then got to the interview

Bixyl Shuftan: "To begin with, did you both meet before or after you came to Second Life?"

Jaycatt Nico: "Before, probably when we were 6 years old?"

Frogg Marlowe: "Heh, we met in first grade, grew up down the street from each other."

Jaycatt Nico: "Was that about 6?"

Frogg Marlowe: "Yeah- kindergarten's at 5, so probably when we were 6. (We) went to the same school as well!"

Jaycatt Nico: "Elementary, that is."

Bixyl Shuftan: "Interesting. So you're known each other most of your lives."

Frogg Marlowe: "Yup- he's more my brother than my brother. (big grin)"

Jaycatt Nico: "Oh yes, there was a brief stretch when Frogg lived up farther north about an hour, but otherwise we've pretty much been nearby since we met."

Frogg Marlowe: "I was also travelling for about 6 months in '99."

Bixyl Shuftan: "When did you first become interested in music?"

Frogg Marlowe: "Mrs. Williams taught us both in elementary school, and we were both in a children's choir together, called 'The Leprechauns.' "

Jaycatt Nico: "My folks had my sister and I learn an instrument, and I picked piano. But yes, it was a while before our musical paths crossed more regularly like they do now.  Frogg and I haven't been playing music together until Second Life."

Frogg Marlowe: "Heh, yeah, we didn't actually play music *together* until SL. And I didn't pick up (a) guitar 'til after I was 30."

Bixyl Shuftan: "And how did you both find out about Second Life?"

Jaycatt Nico: "I learned about it from Slashdot."

Frogg Marlowe: "And I learned about it from over Jay's shoulder, while he watched MST3K at the 'Elbow Room' in SL."

Jaycatt Nico: "Such a great shared experience... Never knew that sort of thing was possible... I was hooked on SL."
Bixyl Shuftan: "So your first days here went very well?"

Jaycatt Nico: "Oh yes, at that time, it was just a three day trial, and on the second day I signed up."

Frogg Marlowe: :(laughter) Your weekend was a three day weekend - the trial was a week long."

Jaycatt Nico: "Ah okay (big grin)."

Frogg Marlowe: "It was 10 bucks to join, back then, but if you cancelled before the week was up, you got it refunded."

Bixyl Shuftan: "So the MST3K Theater was your most memorable expereince in your early days?"

Jaycatt Nico: "That, and just being able to be in a visual chat room. At the time that's about all I did online; chat and visit with folks."

Frogg Marlowe: "It was actually a tiny club called 'The Elbow Room.' They showed the show on the roof - not sure when the MST3K Theater opened up."

Jaycatt Nico: "Yeah, and below, people would just hang out and listen to the radio, talking or dancing. The small space made for a nice atmosphere."

Frogg Marlowe: "And kept everybody in chat range. (laughter)"

Jaycatt Nico: "It was the sort of experience I'd been looking for all my life, really."

Bixyl Shuftan: "At what point did you think of playing music of your own?"

Jaycatt Nico: "In Second Life you mean?  Or in general?"

Bixyl Shuftan: "In Second Life."

Jaycatt Nico: "For me it was all I knew how to play."

Frogg Marlowe: "I met a guy, and later showed him a video of me playing a song. He helped us get set up to play shows in SL, as before that, there were only about four people who'd ever played live music in SL (other than in the beta days, but that's a different story). He and his business partner built the 'lillypad lounge' for our first shows."

Jaycatt Nico: "They even got us our first mixer."

Bixyl Shuftan: "Those were the two people who helped you get started?"

Jaycatt Nico: "They really are, yeah, I can't think of any more instrumental in it."

Frogg Marlowe: "Yeah - though cua swore me to never mention his name again, (laughter) - (he just didn't want anybody else asking him for help - he likes his lazy-time)."

Jaycatt Nico: "Frogg started playing, and I played his breaks (so he wouldn't have to put on the radio for background music while he was away)."

Frogg Marlowe: "(and it was only because Jay noodled around a bit on his piano for a sound check that they even knew he played - the orginal plan was for radio in set-breaks) It wasn't until months later that we actually started playing a few songs together, which grew into more songs, which grew into what we do today (smile)."

Bixyl Shuftan: "Perhaps I should ask about how your names and appearances came about?"

Jaycatt Nico: "My first name is Jon, and my father gave me the name Jon Cat at a very young age.  Not sure why, but I think it was because of the Johnny Cat cat litter brand, and it was a sort of joke.  It was shortened to J Cat, and I wrote it out Jaycatt.  As for the siamese, my cat back in 2005 was a tortoiseshell, and I wanted to match that color scheme, but this was the closest I could get. I grew into it, and now I don't look right without it after all this time."

"Oh, and I picked 'Nico' because I thought it sounded like 'Neko.' (grin)"

Bixyl Shuftan: "Sounds appropriate."

Frogg Marlowe: "I'd had the nickname 'Frogg' from around the time I first started writing songs - (my first song came from a voice I got after coughing for 6 months and had the chorus 'listen to my voice, I'm a man named Frogg') - The avatar was something I pieced together after a month of looking for a frog avatar in SL, and not finding anything that wasn't extremely cartoonish (took the head from one of Extrovirtual's tiny frog avatars, and the feet from an old free Linden 'frog prince' avatar) - and I picked the last name cuz I thought it was one of the names that's brought up when people talk about who *really* wrote Shakespeare's plays."

Bixyl Shuftan: "Interesting inspirations."

Jaycatt Nico: "It really is coincidence that both our names end in two letter pairs (big grin)."

Frogg Marlowe: "Heh- I started over-pronouncing the 'g' at the end, cuz people were mis-

hearing me when I introduced myself as frog... That's when I added the extra 'g.' "

Bixyl Shuftan: "Sounds interesting."

Frogg Marlowe: "(laughter), purely trivial."

Bixyl Shuftan: "How long before you were preforming at another venue?"

Frogg Marlowe: "I think I played my first 'away' gig within a couple weeks - we'd started with playing every Friday at 7pm at the Lillypad lounge, and have kept the timeslot going

for nearly the full decade. I think it was a place called 'Breathe,' but like most places from those days, it's long gone."

Bixyl Shuftan: "I take it the crowd enjoyed your music?"

Jaycatt Nico: "Quite a few wonderful comments, and we'd usually fill the sim, lots of times, hence why this venue is split across two of them."

Frogg Marlowe: "We were consistently filling sims to capacity for a good while, but there wasn't much competition at all in those days."

Jaycatt Nico: "Lately, it doesn't get that full, but I like to chalk it up to there always being a good 10 shows running at any given time, sometimes more. Simply amazing how live music here has exploded since '05."

Frogg Marlowe: "Also, we don't do any promotion, other than group announcements. It was a slow trickle of the musicians from paltalk, after the first group of them came over - Mel Cheeky, Russel Eponym, Cylindrian Rutabaga, and 4 or 5 others that didn't stick around very long."

Bixyl Shuftan: "What have been some of your most memorable performances over time?"

Jaycatt Nico: We've played a few official shows that I liked.  One was a mock tree-lighting ceremony, I think it was for CBS..? And another for a promotional sim made for Evan Almighty."

Frogg Marlowe: "Opening for Jonathan Coulton was a big thrill - and yeah, the tree lighting ceremony for the major network - NBC or CBS - that was when I managed to add Philip Linden as a friend (big grin). Also, the Relay stream show we did with the harmonica player in Japan was pretty cool."

Bixyl Shuftan: "Nice. Did he see any other performances of yours?"

Jaycatt Nico: "Philip?  We would occasionally see him at shows.  Not Coulton though, I don't know if I heard of him again in Second Life."

"We went to a couple of SLCCs, as well, for music,"

Frogg Marlowe: "There was a 'log-a-thon' in our first month or two, where LL tried to get as many users to log in at the same time as possible, and that was one of the first times we saw Philip. They only managed to get a little less than 5000 logged in that time."

Jaycatt Nico: "Playing at the Second Life convention was fun, and great to meet the other musicians."

Frogg Marlowe: "Heh, I remember Philip said hi to my mom, who we'd managed to teach how to log into SL. (her pc hasn't kept up with SL, though)."

Bixyl Shuftan: "Sounds like fun, Frogg."

Frogg Marlowe: "And yeah, the two SLCC's we went to were pretty cool, though I slept through most of the one in 2007. Which was why I missed the group photo (big grin)."

Frogg Marlowe: "They were still trying to figure out how to incorporate live music, though, so some of the aspects of the shows there were kinda... odd."

Bixyl Shuftan: "So your mother was in Second Life (Frogg)? What have your families thought of your singing in Second Life?"

Jaycatt Nico: "My sister thought it was pretty cool, but it's not her style of music."

Frogg Marlowe: "Heh, yeah- that too - our style of music doesn't really interest most of the people we know outside of SL, (laughter). My mom really enjoyed it, when she could (smile)."

Jaycatt Nico: "Although it's true we rarely play in real-life."

Bixyl Shuftan: "You mentioned seeing more musicians after 2005. Were there any other trends in music in Second Life that you've noticed?"

Jaycatt Nico: "It's always been pretty simple to do a show: Set up a microphone and feed it into a computer.  But people experimented with relay streaming, where they can put two musicians together.  That happens more frequently.  I think there's even a group of four or more. It's a difficult thing to do, however, because who ever starts the relay doesn't hear any of the other people."

"There has been some video streaming as well, but it's never a pretty sight to see a musician all decked out in headphones and wires (grin)."

Frogg Marlowe: "I see more ebb and flow than trends. Every so often, I hear people bemoan that the scene is dying, but from my perspective, it just grows, cools, then grows again. The quality has definitely been improving. I was really impressed with what I heard when we had a bunch of us all together to play one song each, for the auditions for the offical Linden Labs 12th birthday show."

Jaycatt Nico: "It's incredible what there is out there.  All kinds of music, all kinds of instruments."

Frogg Marlowe: "styles... genres... the scene's definitely been maturing (smile)."

It was at this point near the end of our interview that we were interrupted by events in real life. When I contacted Jaycatt and Frogg, asking them if they had anything else to add, Jaycatt responded, " We plan to try and play more shows, and learn more material, but music and songs are an ever-changing thing, so we evolve along with it.  No two shows are the same, and practice is the best teacher!  Frogg hopes to learn more of the technical side of audio engineering, which should help our quality and diversity as well."

"As for other things to mention:  We are having our tenth anniversary 'party' on July 18th, Saturday, featuring a few musicians we have known over the years, playing before us.  At the event we will also be releasing a few new songs as well as some t-shirts and other merchandise featuring a new logo designed by Eo Fenstalker, a very talented artist from Second Life."

Frogg's response was short, "his answers were as good as any I could come up with (grin)."

This week, Jaycatt and Frogg have four shows over four days from Wednesday to Saturday, with Saturday being their tenth anniversary show.

Bixyl Shuftan