Monday, December 21, 2020

Looking Back at Dax Loon and Woodlin

By Bixyl Shuftan

I recently found out from a friend the other day that Second Life resident Dax Loon had passed away. And looking at her profile, it stated that she had. For me, it was a reminder of earlier times in Second Life, several months of happy occasions followed by a sad parting.

Early in my time in Second Life, I didn't really have a home. It wasn't until Summer 2007 I began coming on regularly, and while there were places I hung around, notably the Student Travel Association and Heaven's Sky Garden Village. At the latter, I was given a room to stay for several weeks without being asked to pay for it. Sadly both places would close, and my home area would be the private office I was given at Second Life Newspaper.

Sometime in Summer 2008, a human friend I'd met through another human friend I made at Luskwood told me about an interesting club called 6th Circle. Dropping it, the place was a hell club with flames and lava all around, and in the middle of the place was a red-eyed skunkgirl named Dax Loon, with red streaks in her hair and sporting heavy leather boots, whooping and cheering. She was the owner of the club, and cheering everyone on to have a good time.

The second time I went there, I came across a few more friends of hers, and ended up going to ground level of the community: Woodlin. The place was made up of two sims, Dreamers Cove being the main one and Hopefull Shores being the smaller one in terms of content and capacity. The first thing I noticed was the trees. There were a large number of them of various sizes. There were one or two that were especially high, a few hundred meters I think, with plenty of apartments. Most were smaller, such as medium-sized trees with two or three, and small trees with just one. The sim also had a number of hills, caves, and streams, looking much like a forest when looked at from some angles.

And this wasn't all. There was a shopping mall where people could get new clothes, accessories, avatars, and more. The sim also have a movie theater, and for a time people could see movies in their own homes as well. They didn't clash with the natural landscape as the way they were build and looked from the outside blended in. The largest of the caves had a temple for anyone to meditate at.

6th Circle would close soon after my arrival. But Dax soon opened up a space club: Star Tails. She would later start building a space station next to it, and had plans for a space combat game at one point. Later on was the Margaritaville beach club. One of my regrets is not taking more pictures of the place, though I did take a few.

And there were the people. Dax had a close friend named Staticminded Waco whom went about in a husky avatar. Others I knew there were Mistressbubbles Bondar the pandagirl, Marai the snow leopardess, Jessicabelle the skunkgirl, Isegrim the wolf, Miki the demoness, Megathearon the neko, Ekedo the young fox, Rory Langdon the blue skunk, Galvenized Hammerer whom went about in a freebie purple feline, and a number of others. We'd party at Star Tails, "Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode being played almost every night there, and when the space station started going up play a few games of "Una" and spend half the time laughing in Voice mixed with chat. We'd watch a few movies together, once watching "The Hulk" and I changing to a green Wingless fox in the middle of it and at the end we all had a good chuckle. There were also gatherings in the social area of the larger treehouse that turned into improvised parties. I had some of my best times in my early Second Life days there.

And of Dax Loon herself, she was Japanese-American in real life, a small woman whom was a survivor. She had overcome a difficult childhood, made a living for a while as a waitress in Hooters, and eventually came here to Second Life, becoming one of the personalities at a club called DV8. Then came trouble. She developed cancer, and the treatments to save her life ended up costing her voice. She would tell me only one person in Second Life ever heard her speak. And the medications she was still on could cause trouble. She once told me a heavy television ended up breaking her arm when it fell on her, the bones a bit weakened by her prescriptions. Still, she refused to let that get her down, and was determined to make a happy place for herself and her friends. She once commented she imagined Woodlin as the place she would like to be after she passed away.

The happy times continued for months. Then Dax went on a trip to Japan. She had been adopted, and the only blood relative she knew was a brother she'd gotten in contact with a few years earlier. The brother finally talked her into going over to meet her biological parents. But, it did not go well. And it showed in her reactions with others. The once happy skunkgirl was often withdrawn and depressed. There were times I found her at the temple area, sitting there, alone. And not sure what to say, I could only sit with her as a show of unspoken support.

Plenty happened in these few months, some that's probably best left unspoken and unwritten about. During this time, one close friend of mine did a prank on someone. But he reacted badly, and as he was now the manager of the place ordered her to leave. This was followed by others leaving. But the big incident was when Dax's account was supposedly hacked and whomever it was was shouting a string of profanities while deleting or returning everything. We wouldn't hear from her for hours, eventually the sim manager calling the Lab and getting the place rolled back. Dax would eventually contact us, saying she had logged in through an alt, and seeing everything happening fell off her chair and knocked herself out. But talking to one friend of hers, the person wasn't so sure she was hacked as Dax had up and lost it in the past.

I'd hoped Dax and those friends of mine who left would patch up their differences and all would be well again. I didn't want to pressure Dax as her high hopes for a happy family in real life had been dashed. She would soon return to America. But the problems continued. After one more incident, the details which are best left unwritten, more friends of mine left. And I myself came to the sad conclusion it was time to leave. I gathered everything of mine that was non-copyable in my apartment, and left, never to live there again. I would make one more trip to the sim a few weeks later. Much of the place was a mess, many of the trees gone, and various items scattered about like some sandboxes. The smaller sim was offline and gone. Perhaps it was a reflection on Dax's state at the time. Soon after in late March 2009, the sim closed down. The community that had been my happy home for months was gone.

With Woodlin gone, Galvenized I never would see again, him having left Second Life. Bubbles went to a fantasy sim. I would join several others including Jessicabelle and Marai whom made a new community, Foxworth. It might not have been as exciting as Woodlin was, but it was home. The owner left the clubbing to Rory Langdon, whom had the Bahama Beach Club in another sim and invited us over a few times a week for events. But about a year later, the sim owner couldn't keep things going due to one big renter moving out and the Lab discontinuing another big source of his Second Life income due to a technicality. So in March 2010, the Foxworth community closed. Rory would have to take a break from Second Life due to real life not long after he retired the beach club after several months. A few of us moved to one small corner in another place, but there wasn't enough room for me.

By this time, I had been going regularly to Club Cutlass for a while, and when I mentioned I was looking for a new place to stay, Rita Mariner invited me to rent a spot in the Sunweaver community. As it turned out, it was cheaper than either Woodlin or Foxworth. Still, I missed my former home. And when someone told me that there was a treehouse in the style that was around Woodlin, I got it and used it. This would be my home for years, until I finally got a mesh treehouse with a ladder, and no need to fly up or fall down.

I would come across Dax only once more. Someone told me about another sim, and to my surprise I saw Dax DJing to the crowd, dancing with Static. We had a few words, and we parted once again. That was the last time I ever saw either one of them, and would hear nothing more until being told she had passed away. Supposedly she had gone on a trip on foot through Europe. While the cause of her death was unlisted, as she was a cancer survivor it's probable she had a relapse she couldn't recover from.

If there's a lesson in what happened at Woodlin, perhaps it's that happy times don't always last forever, and sometimes neither do friendships. Second Life being a virtual world, places come and go and I've heard of many nice places soon having faded away after being around just a short time. The real-life circumstances of the people who make them can change, and without help they can easily fade away. Friendships can last for years, even decades sometimes. But sometimes when people change, end up having disagreements, or both, friendships can be tested. And when two friends of someone end up fighting, it can be quite a mess for the person caught in the middle and a dilemma. And sometimes too much has happened for a friendship to keep going.

But while I was sad at the place closing, there were also many happy memories. So it's best to remember Dax as the high-energy enthusiastic skunk girl whom for a short time held together a community of friends in a fun place. Of her wondering if Woodlin was the kind of place where she'd end up after she passed away, perhaps she has.

Rest in peace, Dax.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, December 4, 2020

Moonlit Night Shores

By Bixyl Shuftan

One of my friends recently told me about a new pony-themed community: Moonlit Night Shores in the Coral Outlet sim. Among the first things I saw there was a huge pony statue in the public circle in the middle of the grounds. Different areas of the place have different functions. The shops are in one area. The local houses are in another. There's also a dance area, a beach area, a sandbox area, a theme park, and a manor for the owner and the community staff. The area looked a bit winterized at the time with snow in places, and the housing area had a Christmas tree in the middle.

While going about the area, I came across RosieDrop Honeydew (RosieStarfield Resident). "Sorry if I seem busy," she told me, "I'm just trying to edit the windows so people cant see into others' homes." She asked to change to voice, as she was more used to chatting that way, "This is a pony related sim, but it allows all species, humans, furries, ponies, nekos ... we do have some rules that we are in the process of making. ... certain things allowed, certain things not allowed." 

When I asked where did the idea of the place come from, she told me she'd been working on the idea for over a year, "I just haven't been able to accomplish it." She tried with a friend, but failed. So she was trying things again, this time with a staff to help her out. She introduced me to Barcode, the "co-owner," whom helped out with rules in addition to his theme park and other things in the area. There was also Evra Nolan (VioletBogues Resident), the superviser. Six String (RolePlayismylife Resident), whom was there was one of the staff, one of the music performers. Not there but mentioned by Rosie was Janus, whom along with Barcode "are putting in the major help of funding the sim," and another officer named Whale94 aka Captain Whale, whom Rosie had known since the first sim.

Of the Sandbox, "Or as the kitties call it, the Moonlit Litterbox," Six mused, it was built by Evra. "Don't get messy," she laughed. It was set up so people in the community group could rezz and build things there, though a few items were there for good such as the posing platforms and seats, "I set up seating with the plush tigers too to chill if anyone wants." Barcodeland was the name of the theme park, which had walls and a floor with white and balck lines resembling the maker's namesake: barcodes. It had a ferris wheel, merry-go-round, "Duck Hunt" shooting game, a funhouse, and more attractions.

Next to the homes was the tallest structure of the community, the watertower. "... straight out of Animaniacs, but with a Moonlit twist" Six commented, it having the logo of the community. Of the houses, Six commented, "There are homes for rent here for a more than reasonable amount. rent costs so low, it's practically criminal." Of the shops, none of the buildings were occupied yet, though they had high hopes they would soon be filled. The beach area was a strip of sand, a few beach towels, a lifeguard stand, and shallow water. Next to that was the stage and dance area, where a DJ or live performer could entertain a crowd.

I was invited to take a tour of the staff residence, the manor. It was usually off-limits to others, but this time they made an exception. It was the place for monthly meetings, in the staff meeting room. Each of the people also had their own rooms. Barcode's place was a "drug trip of a room." Of Evra's room, "I honestly just wanted to go a little ham on decor, thank barcode for some of the ideas ... the room is basically very horror themed." Of Rosie's "We went kinda crazy and made it Picasso."

Once the tour was over, Rosie talked a little more about the backstory, "I just wanted a nice calm relaxing place ... where people could relax with their friends, add to the pony community, make the pony community better." She had been at other places with drama issues, so she thought about how it could be handled better, wanting "A place where people can be themselves so as long as they're no drama. We act like ourselves .. sometimes there's some ...  tease each other, but we do it to be funny, not being actual trolls. ... we don't want to p*ss people off." Evra commented, "We know when to be serious and mature but we like to be good and fun." The staff were serious about their rules. But when it was just them around, they felt free to horse around.

Rosie made the snow textures, as well as the textures on the water. "I consider myself an artistic person ... drawings, cutie marks. Of her pony avatar, blue with honey-colored swirly stripes, she told me it was inspired by her original pony, and took pride on it being unique. In pony roleplay, she had a magical ability that could be chaotic. She considered the character not unlike a fallen angel, comparable to Discord, that liked to cause chaos and make everything look silly. Once she got to know someone, she might get a bit flirty. She was easily angered, but her stunts were mostly limited to pranks like covering things or the one angering her in honey, or games.

Of the sim, they planned something for Christmas, possibly a secret Santa. There also were plans for kareoke events, as well as something for the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Ox. Rosie hoped that the place would be around for many years.

Dropping by some time later, the look of the place had changed some. There were plenty of houses around, but instead of the manor was a castle, and instead of shops there were stalls. There was plenty of empty space around this area, though I did see the beach area further away, along with an ocean liner and a couple other places. Messaging Rosie, she told me they had gotten some more of the sim's land and were in the middle of expanding. So it seems my tour was done just before a rebuilding that would result in a bigger and better Moonlit Night Shores. So what will it look like when it's done? We'll have to wait some time to find out. In any event, feel free to drop by and relax, just pardon the dust.

Bixyl Shuftan.