Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Nine Years Later

Bixyl Shuftan

Normally, I pay more attention to when my virtual career as an online journalist began, though yours truly was so occupied with delivering the news, it slipped my mind this year. But I did remember one other milestone: the anniversary of when I came into Second Life, or "Rezzday." It was nine years ago when I first stepped into Second Life.

I had gotten my start into going online with America Online, and stuck with them for a long time, partially because of the easy to remember email address I had. This meant that I was stuck with dial-up. Some online friends were starting to talk about online gaming, notably "World of Warcraft." But one mentioned a place known as Second Life, a virtual world that allowed one to build all kinds of places there. And also to design one's own avatar. My friend would show me the screenshots of their avatar: an anthro lioness whom was dressed up in everything from a Victorian dress to a harem girl outfit.

Finally I signed up with a fast speed service that allowed me to keep my existing email address. I could finally check out the two places my friends were talking about so much. In World of Warcraft, I joined two friends there with Horde accounts, setting up a Tauren druid. But I also decided to give Second Life a try. So on December 17, 2006, I went to, downloaded the client software for the computer I had, then set up an account.

Two decisions I had were the name and the starting appearance. Thinking a bit, I remembered a favorite character from the roleplaying games I did with real-life friends: Bixyl. "Shuftan" was close to the old character's last name, so that's what I used. As for appearance, there were several styles of clothes and hair style and color among several human avatars, and one non-human avatar: the "Furry." As a science-fiction nut, I close the latter.

And with that, I turned the viewer on, pressed the button to log in, and what I saw was a sea of gray and shapes. As the seconds ticked on, the shapes gradually took form and slowly went from grey to color. My avatar took shape before me, and I saw I was on a piece of land with grass, trees, and signs and walkways. The sign near me had blurry words for a while, but after some moments they became clear, "Welcome to Orientation Island," with an arrow showing which way to proceed. Taking a look at the controls, I found those for movement, then for sound and music. The music button when pressed, I began hearing smooth gentle background music, as if in an elevator, with the occasional line, "If you open up your mind, you can build a whole new wor-ld."

Progress through the beginners course was slow. I didn't know the term "lag" at the time, though I was thinking molasses. I came across directions on avatar appearance, chatting, and others, but walking from point to point was slow, taking some minutes, and the viewer was prone to crashing. There were others on the course. Some stuck around long enough to rezz, others remained gray as they walked on ahead of me. At one point, events in real life needed my attention, and I had to turn off the viewer for a while. But I would later return to finish things. Eventually I would finish the course, but it took me a while, probably over two hours to cover the amount of territory the same place would take just five minutes to cover when I did a few days ago to take the pictures for this article. There was a teleport to Help Island at the end. But I didn't linger there for additional directions. I went out to explore a few random locations.

A couple days later, my friend and I chatted briefly in an AOL chatroom and we decided to meet up inworld. After I logged in, she Instant-messaged me there, and explaining what a teleport request was, sent me one. Meeting up, she explained a few things and showed me more pictures of scenes acrosss Second Life, the most memorable was of a prank a busty girl played on a guy whom was slouched forward from being away-from-keyboard. She also gave me a thousand Linden dollars to get another avatar later on, "It's no big deal getting a buddy a four dollar cheeseburger in real life." Among the things she herself was proud of was finding a niche in the Second Life clothing market, Victorian dresses, and being able to take full advantage of it. She was making the equivalent of several hundred real dollars a year, after virtual land rental and other expenses. Not enough to quit her day job, but a nice little bonus.

Soon after, my friend would tell me she'd gotten a position of leadership in her home community. So that meant less time for us to chat. I didn't know anyone else here, and my friends in World of Warcraft had no such distractions. So for a few months I didn't get on Second Life much, having fun with my friends in the Massive Multiplayer Online Game. The objectives there were more easily defined, and my friends there were often around to chat with and often meet up with for questing together.

So what would have better kept my attention here in these early days? More friends for one. But I wasn't sure what to do as random exploring was just showing garishly-decorated residential areas. If I had done an Internet search for Second Life websites, it hadn't resulted in anything at the time. There was no Destination Guide of interesting places. Hamlet Au would later invite readers to give their own newcomer experiences (here).

Several months later, my Second Life friend would get my attention again. The Relay for Life was having their "Relay Walk" with lots of things to see. So I went over, and was impressed with the exhibits I was seeing. I think I saw some of the enthusiasm for the event as well.

My interest once again piqued, I began to look up more about the virtual world after the Relay Weekend was over. I found out about Luskwood, and headed there. The place being a bustling area of people after many sims of little but quiet, it took me a little time to get the gist of how people interacted. But it became my first real hangout in the virtual world, hearing about other places to explore.

Although I had gotten a bushier tail, I was still wearing the starter avatar. Not having a steady income in Second Life, and not wanting to put money in yet, I felt I had to be careful, feeling what I chose would be my appearance for a long time. After a great deal of thought, I settled on the Luskwood Red Fox as my appearance, buying the avatar at Luskwood.

After having had the starter furry for months, it felt like I had finally shed my "baby fur."  It is still my everyday look, despite suggestions over the years that I get a more recently made one. I've sometimes commented, "several weeks of thought, several years of use." In October, I caught a lucky break, winning several thousand Linden dollars at a Luskwood anniversary party. With this windfall, I got a second avatar for Halloween: vampire bat. It was fun flying around, but after a while it was back to foxy.

Meeting up with people at Luskwood, I made friends as Lomgren Smalls, Caelia Bailey, Hervy, and Kara Nakamori.  Lomgren and Caelia, the latter under another name, I would stay friends with to this day.  Kara and I would become close friends for the next several months. She would introduce me to another group of friends, notably Blarion and Keli, whom hung around at a less populated, and less laggy place: the Student Travel Association sims, or STA. My adventures with Kara can be read about in their own article written in March 2011.

Looking up websites about Second Life, I eventually came across the Second Life Newspaper. They asked for Reader Submissions, and giving them a few, I was offered a job there. I was thrilled and happy. I now had a steady income doing something I liked, writing, and an office as well.

So one year later, December 2007, I was doing pretty good. I had a circle of friends, a steady income, and a couple places to hang out. Life, or in this case virtual life, was good.

Since then, quite a bit has happened. Much of it has been documented in my stories for the Second Life. Some however has been given little or no attention in my writings. My friends and family in real life did not usually share my enthusiasm for the virtual world. Some were impressed with only that I was making a little money writing about it. A few simply told me the virtual world wasn't for them, with it's lag and no set goals at the start. Others felt a grown man would there for one reason, joking I was there just for the "cyber-noogie." On the Internet, there were some who spoke against the freedom the virtual world, saying it just meant undesirables came over. And they weren't talking about griefers, but "perverts, aspies, and cripples."

It's my experience the "perverts" here, minus the few whom take it to a form of griefing, aren't a problem to those not interested in their kind of fun, no worse than my real-life  coworkers. Mental handicaps, well, to paraphrase a friend, "having asperger's does not mean being a jerk." Almost all I've met are well-meaning individuals, sometimes creative and industrious ones. And for those whom think  physical handicaps make one less of a person, well, I have nothing to say to you.

People come here for different reasons, to see the creations others have made, to roleplay in a way simple tabletop gaming doesn't allow, for music and art, to interact with other creative souls like themselves, and more. The result has been a virtual world unlike any other place online. While some individuals have had their time here and departed, others have been coming here to take their place. Perhaps the day-old newcomer you come across today will a year later be a highly successful fashionista, live musician, Relay for Life team leader, or maybe online journalist.

It's your, any my, Second Life. Let's make the most of each of ours.

"If you open up your mind, you can build a whole new wor-ld."

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Nydia Tungsten on the "Anti-Christmas Party"

By Bixyl Shuftan

Nydia Tungsten is a vixen of many talents, video producer, sim manager, estate owner, and club owner. But before all those, she made a name for herself as DJ "Naughty Nydia," with a list of tunes from mild to wild. This Thursday, Nydia Tungsten will be DJing for her "Anti-Christmas" Party. Earlier this week, she asked to have a few words with the Newser to address some concerns she was hearing about the event. So I met up with her at her home at Mouse Hold Manor.

 "Some accusations have come up that I feel need to be put to rest," Nydia explained. I asked what was wrong, and she continued, "Some say my Anti-Christmas DJ set that I do every year is because I hate Christmas and what it stands for, (that) I hate God and everything to do with Him and/or her or whatever they believe. That simply is NOT true. I respect what everyone believes as long as they don't try and force it on others. And as for Christmas, I LOVE IT, it is the one time of the year most people around the world think of others more than themselves. I have no problem with what any one believes."

"What my set does is simply lighten the mood, since corporations have been slamming us with ads since before Halloween. I love Christmas but HATE the commercialization event it has become. Let's face it is BAD. Most of the world celebrates Christmas, and they sit back and laugh at the U.S. because of the riots shopping has become, 'Black Friday is when all the idiots go out and knock little kids over for a ferkin rice cooker. People like myself just want to scream in frustration over the stupid few. My 'naughty' songs are just a way to release that, not take anything away from anyones beliefs.

"If your beliefs are easily offended by others poking fun at it all in good humor, please don't come. But don't say I hate Christmas or what people believe. There is a statement in my profile that I really believe, 'Religion is like a penis. It's fine if you have one; it's fine if you're proud of it, but don't go waving it about in public. And for God's sake, don't try to shove it down children's throats.' I was religious at one time, and I loved the jokes those brave enough to tell me would share with me."

I asked, "How do you think this misunderstanding got started?" Nydia answered, "The name I gave it I think. I call it my 'Anti-Christmas Special.' Bad idea on my part I guess. But it isn't anti-Christmas, just anti-sickening sweet ads on the TV and radio that start in October. It is all in good fun and I don't bash on anyones beliefs. The songs on the other hand... well thats another story. You know I love filk, all kinds, and I pull out all the stops for this time of the year. You know most of them yourself (Bixyl). would you say any of them bash on religion?" To her question, I answered "No" as I had never known her to do so. "They are downright raunchy," she went on, "but all in good fun."

She continued, "When I started this, there were no other shows like it in Second Life. I was kinda proud of that, the idea I was the first, for at least four years now I have been doing this. A few days ago I found out there is a club hosting it's own version of it. I am thrilled. So please, before you judge, come see for yourself. That is my invitation from me to you."

I told her, "A few of them I've heard on public radio during working hours, 'Twelve Pains of Christmas,' 'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.' and one or two others. I recall one of the parodies was done by a Second Life resident, our own Shockwave Yareach." Nydia responded, "Yes, my favorite to be honest, 'Grandma got knocked up by a reindeer.' some are just... well... one of the mid-range songs I play is 'Frosty the Pervert.' And some just... well... you will have to hear to believe." "Sounds like a few would make even a sailor blush," I commented. "I even found a few more for this years event," Nydia informed.

She went on, "To be honest, my first year doing this, I just called it 'A Filky Christmas.' Well, a few who like my DJ style showed up not knowing that filk equals parodies, and left soon after. This set isn't for everyone, and I try and make sure everyone KNOWS this isn't a 'touching, heart warming Christmas special.' these songs get down right NASTY! But they're funny and I like them. And if at anytime you don't feel this event for you, please leave, I am not saying that to be a bitch. I am saying it because I won't be offended if my friends pull out because it is too much for them or they don't agree with it, I understand, truly I do, and it will not hurt my feelings at all. I want those attending, to enjoy themselves."

"BUT.... If you come and start to spot religious views that you feel we need to observe because your 'Offended' or it isn't 'PC,' prepare to be mocked. We all have our own beliefs, I won't force mine on you and ask that I am treated the same. We are all here to enjoy ourselves. If we want to be told how we are all going to burn in hell, we can go to church. I personally believe religious views should only be shared if asked."

I asked where and when the event would be. Nydia told me, "I will be doing it this Thursday at "The Primal Passion Club" from 4 to 6PM. Sadly, this will be one of it's last events. I have learned this from my SL daughter Rayven. She really did a great job setting it up. I was hoping this club would do better. I love the build and style of it."

"So please come and enjoy a twisted Christmas with us. ... I think I may go back to (calling it) that, just to keep misunderstandings like this from happening."

Nydia and I would chat a little longer, and eventually head our separate ways for the day.

So for Thursday December 17, be sure to head to Castle Primal Passions at 4PM SL time to enjoy the "Anti-Christmas" Xmas parodies event by DJ "Naughty Nydia" Tungsten.

Sunweaver Bay (170, 215, 25)

Bixyl Shuftan