Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pinewood Derby at Camp Kawabata

What great fun! Christian Welles, sent me a notice that there would be a Pinewood Derby at Camp Kawabata, the Scout Camp. It was held in what looked like an old warehouse near the camp grounds on Saturday the 18th of February. The scouts each built their own cars before the race began, choosing their shapes and paint. The sound of hammering was evident as they all worked.

Then the first round: the girl scouts’ cars raced down the ramp. Little Angala resident was the 1st winner, with a time of 16.70. Then the boys went down the ramps, and the first winner there was Ragged Resident and his time was 17.70. The races went on for several rounds with the winners changing places more than once as they did the rounds.

For those who do not know the Pinewood Derby has a long time place in scouting in real-life. Cub master Don Murphy created it in 1953 as a tool for bonding between dads and sons to build a miniature racing car together and is an official function of the Boy Scouts of America. It has been adopted by other scouting groups and so into Second Life. To read more about the history visit

Christian Welles, Webelos Den Leader, and Billybob Farshore, Patrol Leader, both oversaw the event in Second Life. At the end Angala resident was the top winner with her 16.70 time and received a trophy along with Clymene ( 17.50) and Hunter -Lynn (17.90) who took second and third place respectively. It was fun to watch and listen to. This was the first time the event was held, but not the last I am sure. There should be another one perhaps in the spring.

Gemma Cleanslate

Monday, February 13, 2012

Return to Bronytown

So a while back I reported on Bronyville falling apart as breaking news. Twinkie got banned as a "ban evasion alt", although with the fact that it is -waaaaaaaaaay- too easy to just make another alt and come back on. I wouldn't be surprised if he came back and was around but kept his former life completely secret. I did a little bit of searching and found that not only was Bronyville back (as BronyTown), but that it is THRIVING, with about six sims. I do not know if the sims are all owned by the same person, but the fact that the place is about three times larger than it was as Bronyville shows how interested people are in the fandom of My Little Pony.

There's an underground cave with a bunch of small shops, several areas where one can go and watch the episodes, a sandbox for building, and many many freebie pony-related things, such as cutie marks and basic avatars. The two avatars most often used seem to be a freebie (which is well done) and one you pay for (about 450 $L, which is slightly smaller but more fluid moving than the freebie one).

I saw that there was a small little roleplaying area, decked out as Ponyville. Complete with places like Rarity's Boutique and Sugarcube Corner, it was enough to get me to set up a separate alt ("harmonylongbow resident", AKA Ampersand the Pony) and I took part in one or two RPs myself for a couple of days. After having a bit of fun as Ampersand, I decided it would be nice to track down some of the "official Mane 6" roleplayers for a bit of an interview for the Newser. I tracked down Annabelle Baar (AKA Rarity) and Okami Brokken (Applejack) in Rarity's Boutique.

Ampersand: Ok, let's start with the basics... the first question on my list is how long have you been RPing in Bronytown? What made you decide to take on the role of Rarity and Applejack?

Rarity: Hmm. Perhaps a month in BronyTown and a month as Rarity. I didn't really start RPing here until I had Rarity.

Applejack: Well I've been roleplaying MLP in SL for about 9 months now. The original roleplay started in Bronyville and was organized by myself. I was drawn towards Applejack, because I was born and raised in the country and could just relate to the character closely. She has a lot of wisdom to her that I don't think alot of people give her credit for and its very appealing to me.

Rarity: Rarity is my favorite of the Mane Six, I started looking on the sims to specifically play her. When I saw the canon list here and Rarity was the only Mane not taken, it seemed perfect.

Ampersand: Bah! Derpy and Applejack are best ponies. (chuckle) What do you think is the toughest thing for RPs these days? Have you run into a lot of "god moders" or other "difficulties"?

Rarity: The toughest thing is probably people who don't speak English very well. And I don't run into godmodders as much as I run into people who use one liners when posting. The problem with that is it doesn't give the other RPers much to go off of, and makes the whole session lacking.

Applejack: Well thats a difficult question to answer. Honestly recently it has been about getting people involved. Often times people come to the sim for roleplay, but want to be dragged into a RP in progress by standing in the background and hoping someone takes notice of them even if they say nothing in IC and the characters involved are heavily distracted by events taking place. We have run into our fair share of god modders and difficulties. We are often considered uptight for an RP group because we have a set of rules that tries to keep characters and events feasible in the Equestrian universe.

We want players to have the ability to create their own unique character, but not everyone can be an Alicorn. We have turned a lot of applications down due to character wanting to play crossover characters that don't mesh well with the Equestrian universe in our opinion ( Green lantern, Dragon ball Z, Sonic, Animes, ect. ) but also because everyone wishes to be special but goes about it in unusual, canon breaking ways. Such as many many alicorns, Celestia's personal assassin, etc. Things we can't rule as being -impossible- in a canon sense, but it just makes things difficult from an RP standpoint.

Ampersand: That's what we get for having such a famous fandom, as it were, but it could be worse, everyone could be Pinkie Pie. Are there mini-RPs if not enough people show up to a featured "event," or does the group have backup players of the Mane 6 if say, you can't make it?

Rarity: There are mini RPs all the time! If there are ponies on, there are RPs happening. The events are just RPs that incorperate everyone on, and sometimes use NPC ponies, like Princess Luna in the latest event.

Applejack: Well, we encourage more player created interaction then anything else. We do host the events in an effort to provide RP to those who are timid or would just like to RP larger scale things. Though due to our resources those large events can only happen maybe 2 times a week, so we really depend on players to make their own story. That is what role-playing is all about after all. We do have alternates of our main cast, but have almost never needed to use them. Our mane 6 is carefully selected on their RP ability, avatar appearance, and attendance. Many players come just wanting to interact with the canon characters, so it is very important to us to maintain these players be available AND accurate to the role.

Ampersand: Have the storylines gone in totally weird directions that no one was expecting (both event and regular RP)?

Rarity: Yes! The great thing about the event is that only certain points are planned, and the ponies participating will determine how it ends. There were five possible endings for the last event.

Applejack: Of course storylines have taken weird turns! Completely scripting events can be dramatic, but often is a less fun experience for everyone but the scripter. We prefer that the characters direct the roleplays based on what their character; and their own imaginations can come up with.We have a staff of coordinators to referee a lot of RPs so that god modding and completely RP breaking events do not take place.

Ampersand: Do you know if anyone is planning on Discord making an appearance?

Rarity: I do not know. As far as I know there is no new story planned right now. Though I'm technically not a Mod, despite me being a Mane character, so they don't need to tell me. Haha.

Applejack: Well I can't rule it out, but we did have a Discord RP back when the second season started. All of our mane 6 recolored their avies to be corrupted and everything. We may bring Discord back to Ponyville one day, but for now we our creating our own villains so that the players can write a whole new chapter to the MLP storyline here in SL.

Ampersand: If someone's got an idea for a storyline, who do they contact?

Rarity: Nessia Fizzle or Niles Cournoyer.

Ampersand: And finally, what do you expect for Bronytown's RP in the future? Besides hopefully more ponies :)

Rarity: More ponies would be wonderful. I'd also like to see ponies participating in the events, they're there so ponies can have fun! It's also a great way to meet the Mane cast, and spark future RPs with them that aren't events.

Applejack: Well we would like to expand the parcel to include at least an entire sim containing all of the shows key areas. The real benefit of role playing in SL over a forum or through standard text is the eye candy. Whole RP is based almost entirely off of a players imagination it is nice to be able to see the town of Ponyville and its surrounding areas AND being able to interact with them. Honestly I feel the actual RP here is pretty firm. We get a good amount of casual character interaction as well as the more intense and emotional events. Both allow characters to grow. Getting new ponies interested and keeping them here is the our primary goal right now.

Ampersand: The more the merrier. As long as they're not Pinkie Pie clones. One of her is *enough.* (grin)

Rarity: Agreed.

Xymbers Slade

Friday, February 10, 2012

Depression Support Group in Second Life

Every Sunday at Noon SL time, a depression support group meets inworld to help visitors with any problems. Titled “Survivors of Suicide,” the group in fact takes care of a variety of mental health issues depending on the needs of those at the group.

Dropping over one Sunday, the group's building had a few games around, in addition to a campire area where all were gathered. Fidelius "Fid" Dollinger was the group member leading the chat that day. There were a few others there, at least one other whom had also just found the group. Fidelius had this to say about the meeting, "a short explain of this group here, we are here for talking out what bothers us or also to share nice moments. All what you want to talk (about), you may. You aren´t forced to say something. The important (thing) is that nobody needs to have the feeling ' I am alone.' That is why we are here."

Of the subject of depression, "We are a handful of staff here, and we try always our best to help. And we, the staff, know also very well what is going on by depressive moods, because we are dealing with it too, or have dealt with it a long time." Fidelius admitted that he had a history of depression since he was a teenager, "but I have started a journey for myself and it still continues, and I work all out my feelings and fears … since then I feel much better."

Others there had comments and questions, "What happens when you aren't strong enough? When you are sick of fighting every day?" "This is why there are places like this, so you can meet people that can help you along." "I have to fight evey day in real life, a fight where I never will win. BUT, shall I let this stop me from letting me feel good? No." "Some days you just want to curl up in a little ball and never wake up. Somedays you say 'why am I even here,' yet somehow I still am here, but I grow weary of the fight ..."

People discussed how to best deal with problems, "Very important to let the past in the past …" "That's easy to say, but not so easy to do." "Well, SL can be helpful to find a way out of the blues." "Learn lessons and try not to repeat the same mistakes." "I'm sick of people telling me to simply forgive and let go when you don't know what's in my head …" "I know to find the right moment … isn't often. … you have to catch the right time." "I'm guessing when people say 'just get over it,' it makes you feel as if there almost dismissing how you feel?"

Fidelius offered suggestions time to time, including a reference to a kids' cartoon from years ago, "Do you know of 'Puff the Magic Dragon?' He is my absolute favorite, and I think we all have a 'Puff' inside us. … He is a dragon, a cation from I think the '70s. He was shown a small boy, Jacky Paper, who hadn't a self-assurance, that he was thinking he too hadn't self-assurance deep inside him. … He showed the boy that he had a self-assurance deep inside."

Later I met Krissy Sinclair, the founder of the group. She called Fidelius, "my angle for running the support groups." She was happy to see me, "I get so excited when new people find us." Besides the support meetings, "We also post daily healthy living articles to the group, and host a candlelight memorial in a skybox above us."

Krissy explained in real life, she has a Masters Degree in social work, "that is what made me start this project in Second Life. … Three years ago, we have been around a long time by SL terms." I asked her if there was a particular event that sparked its founding. She answered, "I am an artist in real life, and I brought my art into SL. Then I sis an exhibit called 'Life/Death.' I found people were drawn to the Life portion of the exhibit and they liked to hang out there. People told me their story and many had depression. I also used to run a depression support group in real life. So those combined made me think of doing it here."

"At first, my friends said 'don't do it.' I did it anyway, and we are now almost 300 members strong. … I was thinking if I got 25 members, that would be good (laughter). … It is very rewarding, and the grow helps me as much as I help them. The group members all learn to help each other. We use the chat feature as 24/7 support as well."

"We do not charge any fees. We also don't do counseling as I feel that needs to be done in real life. We offer support. … I often get thank you notes from people who say this group has helped them."

The group is more than happy to accept help. Recently, Nydia Tungsten offered the SoS group a backup meeting place on her land. The group's regular meeting location is at the San Jose East sim at (98, 140, 23)

Before parting ways, I took a look at Fidelius' profile. Among the information were a few words of wisdom.

"Learn from the past, live in the present, and have trust in the future."

Bixyl Shuftan

*note* the red areas in the pictures are from my viewer, which was getting buggy at the time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Herman Bergson : Artist

Most of you know of Herman Bergson as the philosophy professor about whom I have written many times. He has taught a weekly two-session class in Second Life at his classroom in Wainscot for over four years. Philosophy is his first love and and life long hobby.

In real life, Herman was a graphics arts teacher for years, and has taken that art to new realms in SL. If you read the article about Mistyowl’s Petit Galerie and went there, you saw some of his art. After the love of Philosophy, Herman’s love is for the Women of Second Life, especially the beautiful ones. There is proof of this at his own museum in Nederlands.

Of his art he says, “Somewhere in this sim I ran into a sign with a question, the Thotica Question it said: What is it we can do or know with SL that we can not do or know without it? My pictures may be a way to show an answer to that question. They are the visualizations of the tension I feel between Real Life and Second Life. You will see me often in a doorway or window or just watching from a distance. This 'Me' is the representative of Real Life. The remainder of the picture tells the Second Life story.”

You will find a notecard that will tell you more about his work. In both museums you can experience how he has incorporated his thoughts and yearnings into each photograph that he has taken. You can study his thoughts and try to interpret what is going on in his mind as he incorporates himself into the story of the view. Sometimes he is watching himself watching, and sometimes he is perhaps dreaming of the past, present, or future of the story depicted. It is hard to tell but fun to contemplate. He has met and known many SL women, as you will see.

When you visit the Nederlands Museum, and after you have perused the many photographs, be sure to take a walk over to his build that is an exquisite replica of a real-life church. Spend sometime inside looking at the hundreds of textures which are all pictures that he took himself and then placed carefully into his build. This church is part of an extensive group of buildings that used to stand in SL. He is multi talented as you can see as a creative master builder and photographer and knows how to use his photography to create art that all can enjoy.

Don’t miss it.

Gemma Cleanslate