Friday, November 13, 2015

The Furry Wrestling Federation

By Becky Shamen

At my home, on Sunweaver Bay, I often have house guests and teach them to build things and become good members of the community. Two of these guests were involved in Second Life wrestling. Back in high school, I was very good in that sport, but don't have much interest now. In thinking of new adventure to experience and write about, I thought wrestling might be interesting, so looked for places to see it. There are many listed, but the one that caught my eye was FWF, the Furry Wrestling Federation.

I TPed to the sim to have a look around. The first thing I see there is a sign, announcing that matches are held every Friday, at 1pm SLT. I scheduled myself to go see it, in action, the very next Friday. The night before, I went to the sim, to see if I could figure out how they worked things at the arena.  While nosing about, back stage, I noticed an av was approaching, on my radar, so I went to introduce myself and see if he knew anything about FWF. It turns out, his name is Tim Vanes and he is the usual announcer, at the wrestling matches. Learning that I was a Newser Reporter, he was happy to explain it and answer any of my questions.

Tim explained, FWF has been around about three years. The owner and one of the wrestling stars is Rocco Racclown. He also pointed out that the wrestlers each developed as characters, good guys and bad guys, like in TV professional wrestling. The westling moves are done by each having a HUD which has all the animations required. Wrestlers go through a training period, to learn to co-ordinate moves and develop their own characters. Naturally, for any given match, the combatants must work with a script, to make coordinated animations, but I promised Tim I would not reveal if the winner was known in advance.

In addition to furry wrestling, they were also connected to GCW, Global Championship West, which features European style human wrestlers, from different countries. The head of GCW is Josh Poffo-Yoshie55 and we'll get back to him in a bit. GCW will begin a regular schedule of Wednesdays at 3pm SLT, beginning November 25th. Both GCW and FWF are always hiring and looking for both men and women wrestlers. They both want more sponsors to get on board.

You can watch FWF matches at the arena and they also can be seen on SL TV. They also do roadshows at other sims. Matches are typically one to one and a half hours and have 3 matches, sometimes as many as 5, with the last match being for the title. I asked Tim if there was special seating for the press and he indicated a place near the TV camera. I thanked him for all his help and promised to see him at the next match.

On Friday, I took my seat, before the show began and looked around to see how many were in the audience. There were only a handfull, so I knew there wouldn't be any lag to deal with. To my delight, I noticed the tag, on the guy sitting behind me, was non other than Josh Poffo, the head of GCW. Learning that I was preparing an article about wrestling, for the Newser and that GCW would also be mentioned, he was happy to answer my questions, between matches.

One of the things I questioned is, if one wanted to hire on, what expense was involved, regarding clothing and HUDs. The cost is very low and for employees, practically nil. Naturally, the next question was, "Do they get paid for each match and how much". turns out, unless they get into "lucky" positions, they aren't paid, though some promoters do pay one or two hundred in "kick-backs". Probably based on how many sponsors the venue has. Josh said, they are not in it for the money, it's a love of being in the show.

At 1pm, the show begins with fireworks on stage and video playing on big screen TVs, around the arena (make sure you have Media and Voice turned on). A man, wearing a referee shirt, gets up from the announcers table and enters the ring, Using Voice, he tells us that the regular announcer was called away on business in real life, so he would be today's announcer and Ref.

The first match was Vidiot vs/ Alleycat. To my surprise, Alleycat was played by Brad, who had been my house guest and he was wearing the trunks that I had custom made for his character. My very first match and I already had somebody to cheer for. The arena gives free gesture collections, so I was able to cheer, when Alleycat won.

The second match was Cam vs/ Fritz. Since I didn't know either of them, my attention turned to their technique. Because they each use a HUD and those are not synchronized and the players are likely a great distance apart in real life, the action had some uncomfortable pauses. Understanding this, the show was still very entertaining.

Last, we have the title match, Rocco Racclown vs/ Crowley the Bat. This is better coordinated, but I notice the Ref stops announcing and his tag says he's AFK. While the Ref is out of action, Rocco leaves Crowley laying on the floor and walks to the ropes. A mangy looking character, called Sandy Bytch, sneaks in, from backstage and throws a pie in Rocco's face. Blinded by pie in the eye, Rocco stumbles around the ring, Crowley gets up and knocks him down, just as the Ref comes back on and does a 3 count. Crowley wins the match.

I found this all very entertaining. It matters little if you are into this kind of show. It is always a pleasure to watch a team work together to produce any show in real life and all the better, given the nature of technical limitations, in a virtual world, to see them pull it off in Second Life. I recommend this adventure to my readers and feel it is also a good place for sponsors to get more recognition of their products and services.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Tantari Kim's "Journey of Sound"

By Grease Coakes

A short while ago Tantari Kim the blue vixen well known for being in Second Life over a decade has decided to give DJing a try. DJs have been around for a long time in Linden land being entertainment in clubs for earning linden, sharing their music or perhaps DJing for charity. Lots of pixelated avatars DJ for various reasons. I caught up with the blue vixen herself at her favorite hotspot Shadowquine Maltz's "The Ark" which is a popular hang out for furries. It's certainly well known for being far from G-rated.

I asked her was there an event or person who inspired her to DJ. She had this to say.

Tantari Kim: "Well, I listened to a lot of My Little Pony fanmixes, and I made a mix for myself.  I really wanted to show it off, so I did a one-time show at Cutlass."

Tantari Kim: "The Sunweavers did like the MLP set, but that was it (with what I had).  I had to fight to get airtime and I wasn't invited back.  So... I didn't become a DJ then.  It was Bix that made me a DJ."

Bixyl Shuftan (our editor), who helps manage the Happy Vixen, a club on the Sunweaver/Angel Estates, asked Tantari to DJ yet again. Tantari had a "Vixens of Science set," but she had to scramble to it put together. Tantari said Bixyl's club was low pressure, so she could make mistakes as she was starting out. When I was starting out as a DJ I had a simlar start.

By the sound of it, in a way, Bixyl Shuftan inspried and kept pushing Tantari to become a DJ. I asked Tantari what kind of music she plays. One of her themes was the Vixens of Science set for herself. But she's not a one trick fox. She's capable of playing other musical themes for herself.

Tantari Kim: "I flipping love science!  I love robots and sci-fi and technology and computers and all that stuff.  So SCIENCE was a natural set for me. I get my themes from all sorts of things, but they have to be something I care about, something that inspires me."

You can see a list of her DJ themes here at

Tantari said she likes playing music which pleases her furry ears. She had to this to say about her music selection, and about sharing her music with her friends and dancers.

Tantari Kim: "All of my sets have a very strong theme. It's a DJ's job to play the music you never knew you always loved. (smile)"

Tantari Kim: "My sets start with: 'This is a Journey into Sound with DJ Tantari.'  That's my goal: to take you somewhere.  Make you feel something.  Sometimes even tell a story. It's not enough to be a good song.  It has to fit the feel and message of the set.  Otherwise I don't play it."

I agreed with Tantari that DJ sets have to stay within a certain theme or else they will sound horrible. Making a DJ set is hard work. She was saying she spent between 6 to 9 hours making a DJ set making sure all the songs fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Tantari Kim: "Please come check out my sets.  Come with me on a Journey Into Sound."

Tantari wishes to share her music so much that she now DJs for three diffrent clubs around Second Life. She DJs for Rita Mariner and Jenni Greenfield's Club Cutlass, the Happy Vixen and of course the Ark where I interviewed her at. Also, Tantari has her own DJ group to join. If you want in on her DJ fan group go on her profile and join for free DJ Tantari Kim's Sound Journeys. You might expect this if you came to her sound journeys. And here's a good idea of what she plays from the fox's muzzle herself.

Tantari Kim: "I mostly play electronic dance music and rock, but I'll play anything as long as it's good and it fits my set.  Some rap.  A tiny bit of country.  Some classical.  A lot of movie and TV themes.  Whatever it takes."

As Bixyl pushed her into djing, the Second Life Newser had it's five year anniversary. So she made up some "facts" about Bixyl Shuftan such as.

Tantari Kim: "TRUE FACT: 'What Does the Fox Say' was written about Bixyl Shuftan."

Tantari Kim: "TRUE FACT: Bixyl Shuftan once interviewed a Magic 8 Ball... and got it to confess to a murder."

Grease Coakes: (Laughing out loud)

Tantari Kim: "Tell them 'Please come check out my sets.  Come with me on a Journey Into Sound.' "

She has to update her website for her DJ times, but she told me Saturday night at 6pm SLT and 9am SLT Sundays at The Ark here

What to hear a fresh and new talent here in Second Life? Look no further than one of it's oldest and bluest's avatars. Ms. Tantari Kim.

Grease Coakes

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Commentary: Griefers and Their Damage

By Bixyl Shuftan

It was last week when the community I made my home in Second Life had to deal with a griefer. This wasn't the run of the mill "rezz annoying particles and run" griefer who've I used to see hit sandboxes and social spots. Apparently in the past he stalked one of my neighbors until he was finally banned and laid low for a time. Then through a female alt, he contacted me about a club "she" was part of the staff of that might deserve a write-up. Then  some days later through another alt asked about possibly DJing at a club I help manage for a friend, saying "she" could help the club have events on two more days during European hours. We accepted. She also talked to the two people who ran the community's largest club, saying she could do Sundays. She was also accepted.

I'd been talking to this person over Second Life, Skype, and Steam for a few weeks. Then things unravled in a matter of hours. Apparently he spooked the one he'd been originally stalking. He then complained about her and a friend of hers breaking the rules to get at her, and told me not to interfere. As this involved the club, I was obligated to at least tell the owner. The person then told me I was being reported to Linden Lab, "Enjoy being banned from Second Life." Having been around a while, I had a good idea what the Lab could potentially ban someone for, and what people were free to do completely. My response to him, "You know, that was almost amusing. Almost." That didn't make him too happy.

He continued to make trouble, cursing and insulting anyone in the community's groups who inquired what was going on. In the end, he was banned from every sim and group. As word spread, this particular account was banned in at least two other communities as well. One possible account over his Skype contacted me later, claiming he'd been hacked. And another account in Second Life IMed me the next day asking to be on each other's lists in Steam, though the name the person gave was suspiciously like the griefer's. Nothing the next day finally.

While many griefers grow out of their path of misdeeds, this one refuses to change his ways. This person has caused enough trouble for others to write pages on the web just for him, including one that hinted he was evidence that science-fiction/fantasy fans are sexually depraved freaks. I won't honor this chronic troublemaker by mentioning his name, though many reading this will figure out who he is.

So what could we have done to avoid all this? In retrospect, if we wanted to remain a friendly and open community, not much. Yes, groups and their sims can put up walls, not allowing anyone they don't know in. But that's a good way to ensure that a place eventually fades away as real life causes people to eventually drop out of Second Life, and eventually there are too few people to sustain the land. Fortunetly, most communities are open. Most people want to be friendly. Most want to give others, including the newbies, a chance. But unfortunetly that means the occasional jerk will see this openess as an invitation to stir up trouble.

There's no doubt the people who created Second Life were brilliant at what they knew. And what they knew was how to create a virtual world. But when it comes to predicting human behavior, they seem to be again and again taken by surprise. The early Linden Lab predicted Second Life would become a land of adult learning, filled with places like the Sci-Lands and language institutes. That people would come in to use virtual reality to indulge in baser desires such as gambling and sexual fantasies took them completely by surprise. While they did include on the terms of service no harassment of others, it seems they didn't quite prepare for things like particle attacks. One live broadcast from Second Life was interrupted when one griefer caused a bunch of flying male organs to fly across the screen.

The infamous "flying penises" interview hurt Second Life as this bad publicity stained it's image to those outside. It's also part of the reason the twitch streaming service doesn't allow users to broadcast from Second Life. But that's just part of the damage griefers can do, especially when unchecked. While many are content to merely harass, there has been at least one occasion in which griefers launched a continuing barage of attacks on a club as part of an extortion scheme. Linden Lab was no help, even allowing the sale of the "sim crashers" on Marketplace. The only thing the club could do was "hunker down" and limit traffic to those not in their group to a tiny area on their land, handing out invitations once people wanting in were cleared. This would go on for weeks until the extortionists finally gave up and moved on, but not without much revenue being lost by the shops on the land due to disrupted traffic.

More commonly, griefers can disrupt the Second Life experience of people by causing people to be on the watch for them. Some sensitive friends of mine have become afraid of being harassed and stalked, and are reluctant to venture outside a few familiar areas they feel safe in. With griefers making use of newcomer alts most of the time, the response has been suspicion by some of anyone new. I've heard of places that won't allow anyone with an account under thirty days in at all. With all the talk about how to attract people to Second Life, it isn't hard to imagine a newcomer getting frustrated from being eyed with suspicion, "The heck with this, I'll just head on to World of Warcraft!"

Linden Lab could make it a requirement for one to provide real-life information when making an account. But with hackers in the news time to time, such as when some published a list of those using a website for affairs, if you're someone worried about an identity thief cleaning out your account or a woman scarred to death about the thought of a stalker, this option is not one that lets you rest well at night.

A few days before the griefer was thrown out, someone new to Second Life dropped in our community. After the mess, At least one wondered if this was a coincidence. But I had talked for some time with the newcomer, and didn't get the "feel" I had with the troublemaker. So she was left alone, and as time went on, there was no trouble from her. If she was suddenly blocked, that would have meant the loss of a new friend.

Sadly it seems, just like jerks are a part of real life, griefers are a lasting part of Second Life. The best thing one can do is not panic, keep a clear head, and keep from one's heart from being hardened. The infamous zFire Xue of Redzone turned out to have a history of misdeeds in real life as well as Second Life, and ended up paying the price in real life as well. Hopefully this character, and other incurable griefers, will end up sharing his fate.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, October 12, 2015

Interview with Alejandra Jumanya of Wetherby's

By Bixyl Shuftan

I recently interviewed Alejandra Jumanya. She is known on Second Life as the owner and clothes designer for the Wetherby's store, with the display name of Mrs. W. But what makes her time on the Grid even more notable is that she is able to come inworld and operate a business despite her real-life troubles in her home country of Venezuela.

"This has been my baby for 7 years," Alejandra told me of her store, "All this time, I wanted to bring some class to SL and to design, because it's a passion of mine."

She went on to say things have been rough lately, "About 10 days ago I made the resolution to close my store.  ... the past few months have been specially rough for me in real-life. Things have changed drastically, 2 years ago you could exchange $1 for Bs.4,30. Today you exchange $1 for Bs.800."

"That's quite a value drop," I commented.

"So my priorities have shifted," Alejandra stated, "Before I went on to close the store and open a new (one) ... more refined... with less objects, with higher prices.. and paying clientele... I thought maybe I should give it another shot at getting a bit more sales and trying not to close my shop. I was accepted in the SLF&O group, which has like 65,000 customers. And I made a plan to give (the store) a real second chance. If by December things don't change, then I will close and open a new shop."

"It is, I think, one day in Second Life, is like the equivalent to one week in real-life." She laughed a little,"One week in Second Life equal to one month in real-life, one year in SL is like ten in real-life ... regarding work and friendships."

"How did you find out about Second Life?" I asked. Alejandra answered, "On TV, there was an article on Anshe Chung, the virtual land baroness. I thought it would be fun.  This is actually my third avatar.  The first one I got, I tried a fox costume and I couldn't find a way to take it off.  The second time I couldn't get out of the newbie zone." "And the third time was the charm?" I asked. "Exactly," she answered. "I met some friends and together we were able to get rid of our newbie looks and into our trashy ones!"

"Why do you say they were 'trashy?' " I asked her. She answered, "Most clothes were trashy 7 years ago.  It was hard to find nice everyday clothes that made you look nice, elegant, simple and yet, beautiful. That's why I started the store and the 'freebie of the day.' I created a four story building with 8 mega prims, I would send a notice to a fashion group, rez my building in a sandbox and let it there for 4 hours until it was sent back.   That's how I got money to pay for my first week of rent.  I seriously didn't think I would last a month."

"Did you learn to make clothes," I asked, "or did you have a friend making them?" Alejandra answered, "Oh I made them!!! I made them with mismatching seems, necks larger one one side than the other and colors that faded on the wrong places.  Luckily I have improved since then.  But that's the beauty of Second Life. You are always learning something new. It's a great exercise for the mind.  Making mesh is as hard as it was learning to make clothes in SL back then."

"So you found mesh clothes a challenge?" I questioned. Her answer, "It is, I have no formal background as a designer, so to suddenly start working with Marvelous Designer, Zbrush, Maya, Mudbox, Rhino Gold and photoshop amongst other programs it's hard.  You will always be learning something new or a new way to do things faster and nicer."

"So what have been some of your more noted designs?" I asked next. Alejandra replied, "I made over 3000 designs so far, it would be almost impossible to choose.  But I do have some personal favorites.  It has been a wonderful journey."

Alejandra then began to describe some of her real-life difficulties, "The most difficult thing I find, when it comes to designing is to separate yourself from real-life and what is going on. I remember vividly almost two years ago, I was designing a beautiful red gown, with lace.  So feminine and exquisite.  While outside my window I could hear people screaming profanities at the National Guard Police, gunshots, tear gas coming into my home.  My daughter in her crib, sleeping quietly.  I sat there for a few seconds, not knowing if i should cry, keep designing or do something.  I finally snapped awake, took my daughter and sat in a mattress we had set in the hallway floor between the bedrooms we had set up for emergencies.  It is not safe to be near windows.  Sat there with the baby sleeping in my arms.  Once the gunshots were over, I put her back in her crib and I sat back in my computer.  After all that, how could I go back in the zone and create something beautiful? That's the hardest part of designing."
It took me some moments to respond, "That's quite an experience." "It is, indeed," she answered, "I normally take about six to eight hours waiting in the street every Saturday to buy food at the supermarket, and not what I want, but what I am so lucky to find.  So, when I get home, I am tired, both physically and emotionally to come to Second Life and finish that cute little black dress with large logo embossed dress i was working on the previous night.  But after a few hours, some warm tea and music, I am ready to start working."

"That sounds pretty tiring," I commented, then asked, "Have you met many others from  your country in Second Life?" "I belong to some Venezuelan groups," Alejandra answered, "and met a friend named Nazirah Avro, she is an amazing singer!!! But I think life is so hard here, we (Venezuelans) try to blend with people from other nationalities to be able feel and act like any other person here in SL."

"Interesting about the singer," I then switched to a topic related to her real-life, "You mentioned the inflation rate of your country earlier. Was that making it more difficult to do business in Second Life?

"It certainly changes things" she told me, "You should never negotiate in a position of weakness, the political and economical turns Venezuela is having in real-life, make you stand in a position of weakness.  Making SL money was a game for me a few years back, today (it) is the difference between my daughter having a Christmas present or not.  So I work harder, but also, I do it for the money, when before I did it just because I liked it.   That is stressful.  Basically what I do, is gather all my sales, and buy in America things that are very hard to get here, for instance baby shampoo, Tylenol, deodorant, sometimes toilet paper, clothes and toys for my daughter and ship them over to myself here, and do it again next year.   That is quite stressful."

My next question was, "Do you ever mention Second Life to your friends in real life?" Alejandra's answer was, "My husband knows, so does my best friend and my mother.  But it's not safe to tell people you make money in US currency, because others might get the wrong impression and you end up in a express kidnapping or even worst, one of your relatives."

My response was to wince, "Ouch, that's something we in North America don't usually think about, except worrying about our kids."

"Things are insane here," she told me, "For instance, Jails are handled by the prisoners.  They move the drugs, kidnappings, from jail.  They also have complete power inside the facility, only letting guards come into certain areas.  Some prisoners are 'fritos' which means they are weak and they must pay their PRAN (jail leader) a royalty every week if they want to stay alive.  Some jails are so big they have three or four prans.   One of this prans got an early release recently for 'good behaviour,' He slaughtered the other two prans days before he got out and left his brother in charge of the prison.  Now his brother gets married and throws an spectacular party inside prison. Prisons have nightclubs, booze, even pools."

"That's hard to imagine here in North America," I told her.

"Oh yes, things are crazy here," Alejandra went on, "My friend's neighbor goes out to the bakery for fresh bread, two blocks from his house.  He finds a friend and they stay to talk.  Two kids in a motorcycle tried to rob his friend and he tells the kids they need to listen to the Lord, because the Lord died for them! and they shot my friend's neighbor right in the neck, he tried running away from them and died in the middle of the street.  They made it very clear they don't like to be lectured."

"Two brothers, 22 and 28 years old, are in a McDonalds with their kids and wives. They came from the christening of one of their kids, the youngest was talking to his dad who lived in another city.  Two guys came into McDonalds to rob them. They brothers got nervous because their dad was listening on the other end, the thugs saw that and they shot them both, one was killed the other one on the way to the hospital.  Their dad was devastated."

"Things like that happen everyday.   A lady left her home at 2 AM to make a line to buy food, she carried with her Bs.2000 (roughly US$2,5) to buy government priced food for her three kids who she left alone at home.  On the way out a kid tries to rob her but she recognizes the kid and says 'Oscar, I know your mom, I knew you since you were a kid.' In the struggle, the kid shoots her in the arm (aiming to the heart) and then on her jaw (aiming to her brain), she played dead and he left.  She crawls back home, wakes up her kids, they call an ambulance that doesn't come, so they put the agonizing woman in a motorcycle and take her to the near medical center, with her jaw in several pieces.  I truly hope she was able to recover."

I was a bit of a loss for words, "Sounds like quite a mess. Any sign of improvement at all?

Alejandra simply answered, "I hope so."

After some moments of quiet, I broke the silence, "Well, I certainly hope that improves for you ...  assuming all goes well, what are your future plans for the store?"

"I'm not sure," she answered, "Things are changing drastically fast here.  What I would like to do is move to America with my family and start my own organic makeup line, which I already do in real-life here.  I make makeup from scratch using only organic fruits, veggies and minerals I extract from the soil myself and process at home.  I have been working on this for years now, and hopefully when we live in America I will be able to open my own makeup line. I guess I will always play Second Life, because I have so many friends here and I truly love designing, so I am not going anywhere, no matter where in the world I live."

"Well, hope those go as planned," I then asked one last question, "Was there anything else that you wanted to add?"

Alejandra answered, "I would like to thank you for this opportunity, and all my customers, thank you for your support and love.  You can join our group and get the freebie of the day here, or come visit us at our mainstore"

It was about this time the interview came to a close, "Thank you again Bixyl."

Alejandra's store is still running at Pergola (158/9/22), has a page on Marketplace, and has it's own blog at .

Bixyl Shuftan

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.