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Friday, July 2, 2021

Lab Gab Interview With Oberwolf Linden (Bradford Oberwager)

 
By Bixyl Shuftan

On Monday June 21 at 2PM SL time, there was a special episode of "Lab Gab." For the first half of the show, Linden Lab's Executive Chairman Bradford Oberwager was interviewed as Oberwolf Linden, his first public appearance inworld. The interview was done by Strawberry Linden.

Oberwolf stated he was happy to be interviewed, "This is quite an honor. ... Although it's one direction, it's a wonderful thing to be able to communicate with the residents, and I'm very excited." He had gotten to know Second Life through "a very very good friend of mine," Philip Rosedale, the founder of Linden Lab. "Philip and I have been friends for a decade," and Rosedale's wife one of his best friends. He goes with Rosedale to the Burning Man festival, "in his RV." He gave one amusing story of trying to catch up to the RV once through an Uber car. "I see him once a week because he lives three blocks away from me," usually meeting Friday afternoons. "He and I are very close. ... He probably has a larger impact now, since I tell him what's going on. ... He's an advisor to me."

Before, he and Rosedale had spent hours and hours talking about Second Life, "and what it means to the world." He had heard from various folks of Linden Lab looking for a buyer. Called it "a tough company to buy. So we spend a lot of time talking about it, and then it turned out ..."

Of Ebbe's passing, Oberwolf would say, "Losing Ebbe created a void in so many people's hearts," among both those who knew him personally as well as in Second Life, "This was not an easy thing ... more than just part of the company. ... Anyone who touched him in any way know he was kind and smart, dedicated, fiercely loyal, independent," and Second Life was near and dear to him. "It's rare that you get an opportunity to meet someone that you respect in a business sense that you want to emulate ... and also just like. He was just so personable." Altberg also had a "sense of inclusion" that was sincere and "not a business tool." "What makes this so hard is because his presence was felt by everyone." Oberwolf felt because of Second Life's uniqueness, Ebbe Altberg would live on inworld, and his impact will not go away, "that ethos doesn't go away when the person goes away ... hopefully we can continue that legacy."

Strawberry then asked what led him to acquire Linden Lab. He responded, "When you buy a company, you look at it different ways." There's obviously a financial aspect, but there can be other reasons besides that, "What's interesting is who the purchasers are, and what their desires are. There's a big difference between being owned by a venture capitalist, by a PE firm, by another company, or by individuals." He described venture capitalists as pumping their acquisitions with more money with the goal of large returns, "and are willing to fail nine times out of ten." A private equity firm will cut expenses and make other changes with the purpose of selling it for a profit. A company that buys another will invest in the new holding, "but probably changes the culture. And then when you have two indivudals like Randy (Waterfield) and I." They had a number of reasons. Oberwolf stated he once didn't believe businessmen who told them they had so much fun they didn't think of their job as work. But of Second Life, "while I still think it's work, I will tell you that there hasn't been a day yet where something hasn't made me laugh ... this is a passion, not an investment."

On who technically owns Linden Lab and who makes the decisions, Oberwolf answered that technically, the Lab is owned by an LLC (Limited Liability Company), formed by him (Brad Oberwager) and Randy Waterfield. Waterfield has a good deal of financial experience, while he has the entrepreneurial background. Both sets of skills he feels will help both Second Life and Tilia. Of product decisions about Second Life, this was the leadership team of Patch, Grumpity, and Brett Linden. He commented, "When things go well, everyone had a part in it. When things go poorly, that will fall on my shoulders." He is consulted on "really big things" on the direction of Second Life, "I'm part of the brainstorming team." He's involved with both the finance and the business decisions. But he felt, "The ultimate decision-makers are the residents. ... Nothing that we do works if the residents don't accept it." He was also interested in feedback, "There are some very good ideas. We just want more of them." 

Strawberry's next question was about Oberwolf's experienced inworld, bringing up his appearance in a business suit and a trimmed beard, black mixed with gray, "I like your avatar." He responded, "This is my avatar for anyone who knows me, professional avatar." Going on as that, people recognize him as a Linden right away, and eventually some figure out who he is. He did have others for going about Second Life anonymously, which was obviously very different, "I don't think it's a secret that Second Life is hard to get going." Interested to see how it was, he refused help from any other Linden. He did find it curious that when he downloaded it onto a Mac, he got a warning, and wondered if new users would think they were buying malware, "That was my first experience." Once inworld, he went to London City, and found the people there helpful. As he was still learning the "etiquette," he offered Linden dollars, and people were walking away, "That was a learning experience." Among the help he got was when someone told him, "Did you know you're wearing thirteen jackets?" He then talked about on his own getting a wolf tattoo for his chest, as well as a jacket that could show it, "And when that happened, I was hooked." He still goes "underground" as he put it, "I will never break character."

Of the future of Second Life, Oberwolf's plans, and what the residents can expect, he answered that the community can expect them to be a part of it, "What I want is for the community to be part of our success." He was interested in hearing about their goals as a community, "How do we work together to bring Second Life forward." Ignoring the past he felt would be silly, but he didn't want "it's always been done this way," which he commented was a dangerous thing in both business and life, "If you don't embrace change, you will like irrelevance a lot less. We don't want to end up irrelevant. That would be the worst outcome." On the other hand, "We're not going to change for change's sake. ... We're going to look at this, and we're going to see how do we evolve." Obwewolf compared it to a party that had been going on since around six in the afternoon, it was currently 10 at night, and there was the potential for it to keep going as long as people kept arriving to replace those heading out, "I don't want this party to end." He hoped that more people would find out about Second Life, come in and experience it, "and have it be a part of their life."

To those residents whom didn't want change, Oberwolf stated change of some kind was inevitable as some people leave, some arrive, and the technology of the computers used changed. He brought up the move to Amazon Cloud servers, saying it was done for the residents, that it actually costs more to run things on them than standard hardware, "that decision was not made for financial reasons. That decision was made to have a better experience for the residents. Of how the residents could best help, he stated, was to continue to give the Lab ideas, to bring in more people, "and make them stay." Oberwolf talked about "four pillars" of decision making, 1 - What's going to bring in more people? 2 - What's going to make current residents happier? 3 - What leads to more engagement? 4 - What makes the Lindens happy? "I want happy people working on things, because then it's going to be a more better experience."

And how did Oberwolf envision Second Life in five years? He made a comparison of Second Life to a country, with islands, infrastructure, which allows people to interact, a rule of law in society in order to protect people and allow them to better expand. Part of what made Second Life attractive he felt was that it was a very libertarian and very open community. While people could more or less do what they wanted, there were some specific rules about it. But a financial system was needed, important in both in real life and Second Life.

Of Tilia, Oberwolf called the idea of "Tilia versus Second Life, that's a misguided framework." He went on to say by understanding more of Second Life's history, then Tilia makes sense. Since the start, he stated, user-generated content has been a part of the virtual world, "creators are the backbone," and this with the trading of land makes an economy as one of the reasons creators build is because they can make money. And with Second Life, sellers can trade directly with other residents without the involvement of the Lab, which is one way it's different from other virtual worlds, "Second Life is the only game in which the creator actually sells directly to the buyer ... In Roblox ... the money goes to Roblox." He compared Second Life commerce to eBay, which didn't touch the money, but it needed Paypal in order to be as successful as it had been. "We created a Paypal experience so that this money could go back and forth." The movement of money needed to be regulated, "Tilia is the company that actually owns the money transmitter licenses." And through it, content creators and other people doing business in Second Life can convert Linden dollars into US dollars and other real-world currencies. "Tilia was born out of Second Life. ... Originally they were the same thing, but because of regulations, we separated them out." So now the two were separate entities under Linden Lab. And now being separate from Second Life, it was now open to others who wanted to use the service for financial transactions.

When asked if he had any last minute comments, Oberwolf acknowledged that he realized an ownership change could lead to fear and worry among some, and possibly anger. Anger he called a proverbial canary in a coal mine, "You don't want to see anger." Anxiety, as a fear of the unknown, can be more easily reasoned with as with knowledge about the subject anxiety goes down. What emotion he hoped to see from the residents was joy, but felt it wasn't going to come directly from him, only by better enabling residents to make one another happy, "If you bring in other people, that's a sign you're having joy ... you want to share." His last comments were about the Coronavirus crisis, "In a time when we should all be coming together, ... the only thing that's saving us from Covid is by staying apart. ... But where can people come together? Second Life. It is the best place for people to come together. To find joy in this awlful Pandemic ... Second Life is the answer."

It was then Strawberry thanked Oberwolf for his time, and there was a break featuring the Second Life commercial that got attention. And later on Strawberry would interview the leadership team of Patch, Grumpity, and Brett Linden.

The video of the interview can be seen (here). To skip ahead to where Strawberry Linden interviews the Leadership team, (click here). 

To see the "Meet the Lindens" interviews by Saffia Widdershins, for Patch Linden's interview, (Click here). For Grumpity Linden's interview, (Click here). For Brett Linden's interview, (Click here). For the "Meet the Moles," (Click here).

Bixyl Shuftan
 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Last Sunbeamer Moon Dance For 2021

 By Bixyl Shuftan

Team Sunbeamers has had a number of events this Relay season. But one was a weekly event, the Sunbeamer Moon Dance that took place every Thursday at 6PM over Farshore Field in Sunlight Bay. People would head over to the Moon Cannon, and get blasted off to the Moon platform where music and fun awaited (along with a few 'bot aliens dancing away). But eventually, there would come a time for a final performance. And on Thursday June 10 came the final Moon Dance for the Sunbeamers, at least for this year.

Most of the weekly dances had various themes, such as Memorial Day and sci-fi. But this last one was "Come As You Are." A number of Sunbeamers showed up, as well as some from other Relay teams. This included several of "Roos With A Dream," noted by their Australian outdoor outfits.  The maximum number of avatars the sim could hold was thirty, and there was a time or two someone couldn't get in. 

As usual, Cynthia Farshore was DJing, though adding tunes as she went along instead of playing a prepared list. Someone cheered when "Golden Years" was played, "David Bowie, yay!" Sunbeamer team captain reminded, "We have a memorial to Bowie in out camp, died of liver cancer." Of the camp having the theme of a British comedy, she commented, "I told my sister our camp was Monty Python themed.  she said 'Who?'" 

Other conversation topics were a small debate if music past the 1980s was any good: one didn't think so and a few others felt at least some of it was, "there are lots of good tunes every year, we just don't hear lots of them." There was also talk about the "Last Dragon," movie, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," and the Star Trek "The Trouble With Tribbles" episode. Cynthia responded by playing Shockwave Yareach's music parody, "I Snuck In A Tribble With You." That got some people chuckling. There was also some talk of the Animated Star Trek episode.

With the Relay weekend so close, there was much conversation about it. "I always get emotional when the actual Relay starts. even though I have been doing it since 2008." "The Luminaria ceremony gets to me the most." "I completely forgot I had submitted a dedication to be read the first time I did it. Caught me completely off guard when they read it off and I broke down hard." 

There was also some fun talk about partying people did in the past, "Threw an unexpected party at my house once while my parents were away. Was my friend's birthday and he was hanging out with a bunch of younger kids so me and another friend told him we were headed to my house after picking up some beer. About an hour later, a million people show up. Only trouble I got in from my parents was that I didn't recycle the cans. Was still underage at the time, think it was either the summer before going to college or the summer after my first year of college. No idea how I didn't get in trouble." "I went to a party at a farm once, real BBQ pit, roasting half a pig and various beef, also beer kegs and we mixed up something interesting in a clean plastic trash can. Whatever we mixed up was good, I had it to my van to pass out and woke up with one hell of a hangover." "The wildest parties are always while you're underage."

At one point, there was a small square area in which light inside had it's colors reversed. Inside it, at least when looking from outside, white would look dark, reddish tones would look bluish, etc. Panning inside, from within things looked the opposite, including the blackness of space looking white.

A good time was had by all, one lady saying, "Its been a lot of fun hanging out with 'beamers, gems and Purple Tears all season long." Rita responded, "Well we 'beamers specialize in fun. If it's not fun, it's not worth doing." She would say joint events with the Roos had always gone well, and fun, and congratulated them on their success. They'd made Diamond rank some time earlier, and had raised a total of 1,783,000 Linden dollars.

Before long, the party was over, and people headed out. Shockwave and Cynthia would go back to the Sunbeamer campsite to check things over. All were looking forward to the Relay weekend in two days.

As of the writing of this article, the Sunbeamers have raised a total of 834,500 Linden dollars, and are the highest rank of the Sapphire-ranked teams.

Go Sunbeamers! Go Relay!

Bixyl Shuftan
  

Friday, May 21, 2021

JAPA's Class of 2021

 
By Dancerina Starlight

Congratulations to the Class of 2021!

Graduation isn’t just the end of a season. It’s also a new season for students, families, staff, and the entire Second Life (SL) community.  It is public acknowledgement that each graduate has fulfilled all requirements as set forth by the institution.  Thus, Journey Academy of Performing Arts (JAPA) held its commencement exercise on Sunday, May 9, 2021. It's the season when JAPA recognizes its dance students who have worked hard to make it to this point in their dance and arts career in Second Life (SL).  

This special day was very intimate among the honorees, families, friends, faculty, and staff.  The graduating class of fifteen proud students stood proudly in their caps and gowns as they waited for the ceremony to commence. As each graduate walked into the room, each one stood on prescribed name plates, waiting to march in with pride and the feelings of accomplishment.

As I scouted the room, I observed graduates exchanging proudful sentiments such as, "We did it!" "These caps and gowns are great!" "I have never worn a cap and gown in real!" These sentiments made the moment that much more inspiring and momentous for graduates.  After all, these students met all the JAPA demands and requirements, or they would not have been able to stand proudly as they waited to hear their names, respectively, to receive their diplomas. 

The first honoree to arrive was Sagia.  Sagia described her experience as "magical." With JAPA pride, Sagia shared that her teachers were the best Spot On teachers in SL and if they can teach [        ] me, you KNOW THEY ARE great! With a smile, Sagia explained that one of the requirements was the graduation showcase in which she performed. She said the theme was "Magic," and she was required to build the set and use Smooth Dancer. She said this was basically a culmination of what they taught her. Spot On and Smooth Dancer are systems which allow you choreograph dances to employ mover to mover. As a dancer, I understood Sagia's language. The mover allows for ease of transition from one set of counts to the  next so it makes the dexterity of each avatar appear real and seamless.  It was a pleasure to speak with Sagia as she expressly "Teehee" when I asked if I could snap a photo of her. Being mindful not to step off her name stand, she asked, "Do I have to move?" I assured her she was fine where she was standing; recognizing the need for her to minimize movement as she waited for the ceremony to begin.

A few moments later, I ran into Morganna, the student resources coordinator for JAPA, who has taken classes there and dances with Virtuoso, JAPA's associated dance company.  Morganna shares the same sentiments as Sagia. She reverberated that based on her own experience, Klark and Delaney are excellent teachers.  She stated all the students really worked hard and had gone to every class, completing assignments and performing their own dances.  She stated it took a lot of perseverance on their part, but they stuck it out week after week.  Morganna explained that it is all about the students to help them have the best possible experience and the knowledge to help them when they get out into the SL dance world.  Morganna exclaimed she enjoys working at JAPA and it is wonderful to be able to help others find  their dreams.

Dave Juiceman, a DJ, chose to study dance at JAPA and stated he enjoys dancing. He thought the classes were informative and the best performance was his final dance.  The excitement among the graduates continued. Janjii was not shy about sharing how great,  happy, and proud she felt about graduating from JAPA.  Janjii had been working on a project since 2013, and now the foundation she has gained at JAPA will help her to improve on her project.  Graduate, Faith Heartsong stated, "I feel very excited and accomplished what I learned as Klark and Delaney are awesome teachers and I am honored that I could learn at JAPA." She looks forward to her dance journey, as she is new to the dance world.  Her favorite aspect of her dance studies is Smooth Dancer Hud class and the finale performance. She highly recommends JAPA for anyone who wants to learn from the ground up in dance.  Each student's experience was unique. Emma Enchantment drank "lots" of coffee, endured many late nights, invested in four pairs of ballet shoes while Gloriana Maertens thought the class opportunity was the right timing.  She enjoyed all the performances. She stated, "This is -hard-.  I don't think audiences really know how much goes into creating acts.  The bravery and effort that goes into getting each one onstage is my favorite part."

Every graduate will agree that the journey through the coursework was rigorous and arduous, but the end results was a day filled with acknowledgements and handshakes. Yet, after my conversations with several graduates, there was one graduate who stole the day. Nikki Naire was the youngest among all the honorees. At eight years old, Nikki managed to travel through the JAPA journey to earn her degree alongside her fellow senior graduates. Her favorite class was the set building class.  Her mom, Jolie is on staff and was very proud of her daughter's accomplishments.  Nikki felt comfortable hugging me and assured me that it was not COVID restricted area. She was curious about the name of the newspaper. When she realized I worked for the SL Newser, to my surprise she knew of Mr. Bixyl Shuftan and his long-time association with Relay for Life.

Overall, the graduation ceremony was a success. It was small and quaint. Both teachers, Ms. DelaneyJeson, Mr. KlarkHarvy, and staff planned a very successful graduation for fifteen graduates.  Ms Delaney express how proud she was of everyone. She said "they have worked so hard and been so very successful with their learning and did a wonderful showcase, and all the time effort [some tears :) ]." "Klark and I make it all worth it to see them moving into the dance world with their new knowledge and confidence." The two JAPA instructors stood with pride and dignity in the auditorium as they called each graduate by name to receive their hard earned diplomas. Second Life has gained fifteen additional choreographers and arts professionals to add to the canvas of SL entertainment world. A future article with JAPA personnel will follow in the near future.

SURL to JAPA: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/VIRTUOSO/177/172/23

Dancerina Starlight
 

Friday, April 30, 2021

Robin Sojourner's Memorial Service

     *
By Bixyl Shuftan

It was Monday April 19 in which it was announced that Robin Sojourner, Robin Wood in real life, had passed away. She was 67 years old. She had been suffering from cancer, and in the last entry on her blog about a week earlier made by her brother, it was stated she was realizing the end was near.

Robin had been in Second Life for sixteen years, and had accomplished much. She was noted as a content creator and an instructor. Her Texture Tutorial became part of the Ivory Tower of Prims, and she was an instructor at the Builder's Brewery. She also helped set up the Wiccan Learning Center, and a Relay group. She was once listed among "Ten Women Who Made A Difference" in Second Life.

On Sunday April 25, people gathered at the Livingtree sim to pay their respects, more than fifty avatars showing up. People gathered at the amphitheater near the middle of the land, one lady commenting, "I remember when y'all were building this place, and I was told this would be an amphitheater.  I think this is the first time I've seen it used.  Wish it was for a better reason." There were a numer of noted personalities there from Marianne McCann, Pygar Bu, Tuna Oddfellow, Saffia Widdershins, DrFran Babcock, GoSpeed Racer, Holocluck Henly, Avi Arrow, and others. A few had not logged onto Second Life for months, even years. Wendi Linden was also among those who attended.

"I will have few comments I'll want to start off with," Marianne spoke, "then I will welcome you ll to speak if you wish. I'm not gonna make all y'll wade up here if you don't want to, especially with this many people on the region. I assume we're all within the range of my text?" She waited some moments, then someone asked about Voice. Marianne answered, "You may use voice if you wish. I will be typing. It's, uh, going to be easier to get through tonight."

"It is very nice to see all of you. I know for some of you, you've not been on (Second Life) for a while. Thank you for being here. Thank you all for coming tonight to honor Robin (Sojourner) Wood. McCann: For some time, Robin had been struggling with cancer, in particular phyllodes tumors. McCann: She had successfully dealt with them initially, only to see them recur. She left us on the 19th of April, 2021, just past 3 in the morning. When she passed, she was asleep, and smiling. It was as she had hoped she might go.

"We remember her for her artwork, ranging from work done for TSR, the creators of Dungeons and Dragons, her People of Pern artwork, the Robin Wood Tarot, and many other pieces completed over the years. After fibromyalgia interfered with her ability to manipulate traditional art tools, she focused on her digital work, having a long history with Adobe Photoshop and other programs. It was this depth of talent that she brought of Second Life. Here, she ran several stores, as well as creating the Wiccan Learning Center and the Texture Tutorial and Library. A generation of Second Life users started their own building careers through her tutorials, her UV maps, and her T-Shirt template. Not content with just this, she was an accomplished quilter and knitter. She also wrote and published three books.

"Today, I would like to encourage those who can to come up and share their experiences with Robin, in either life. You may type or use voice, whichever you prefer. Robin may have transcended us, but will live on in all of our collective memories. I first heard of Robin in 1985, with her first cover for Dragon magazine. The piece of art is one of her best known, titled 'Music Lover.' It features a dragon watching a harpist play a tune. You can view it at... https://www.robinwood.com/Catalog/Prints/PrintPages/MusicLover.html  As much as I have long loved that piece, I would often rib Robin over the editor’s note from that issue, where the editor noted Robin apologizing for being late with the art, saying 'but, you see, there were all these scales.' (several chuckles from the crowd) The piece is, of course, incredibly detailed, featuring reflections up and down the body of the dragon — even reflections of Robin, at the easel, painting the scene. This was who Robin was. She was never content with the merely good, but wanted to feature every detail she could. If you look at her work here in Second Life, you will note that that a candle can light multiple ways. And that every nut and bolt is presented in the most efficient fashion.

"After seeing that Dragon cover, I would see her works come up from time to time. I remember seeing her show up on the covers of School Cunningham’s books on Wicca, for example, then later on the beautiful Robin Wood Tarot. In the early years of the Internet, I came across RobinWood.com, where she would sometimes share icons for the Macintosh. She also shared essays of her own there, one of which I finally got up the gumption to reach out, just to thank her. This was when we discovered that we had mutual friends between us, and we first got to know each other. In 2006, I joined Second Life. In my earliest days inworld, I found a store called Practical Magic. While there, I found someone selling Robin Wood’s artwork. Incensed, I wrote to Robin Wood, to let her know someone was profiting off her art. This was how I discovered that Robin Sojourner and Robin Wood was one in the same.

"Some months later, she introduced a line of skins. I had been looking for something to replace my old system skin and reached out as I, as a child avatar, needed a skinthat lacked adult features. She agreed to take on the task, developing the first line of kid-specific skins in Second Life. More than this, she decided that an alt of hers, Robin Howe, should become a child themselves. Within a short time, that avatar became the inworld sister of both me and my inworld brother, Pygar Bu.

"Second Life mirrored reality. Our friendship grew deep after hours upon hours of phone calls, chats in Second Life, and even a week-long visit out our way. She was a very big part of my chosen family beyond Second Life. In May of 2007, she opened Livingtree as both a store an educational space., inviting Pygar and I to be a part of it. McCann: Before she passed, she asked that Pygar and I continue the island, which we shall. Please feel free to continue to enjoy this space going forward, and to remember  Robin when you visit."

Marianne got applause for her words, Saffia Widdershins saying, "Beautiful, Mari. And a living memorial you create." Shirley Márquez Dúlcey (Shirley Marquez) would say of Robin's art, "I had some of that artwork. Somehow I lost my pieces during a house rebuild, and alas she had stopped selling them by then so I couldn't replace them (frown)."

Shirley would speak next, "My first significant memory of Robin was from the Arisia science fiction convention in 1992. That was the third year the convention was held. She was the artist guest of honor. I had been tapped a few weeks before con to step in and deal with selling the convention merchandise. That included a T-shirt that Robin designed. I managed to find a place that could get them done just in time -- the shirts were actually still warm from the curing oven when they arrived at the con! I saw Robin at the convention regularly for years. She was there to sell her art and to do panels about art. She was always generous with her time and knowledge. The 1992 convention book had one of her works on the cover that you can see here: https://corp.arisia.org/sites/corp.arisia.org/files/covers/A92-25.html "

Minerva Breda was next, saying, "Apologies for the Letters that may wobble out of place. When I was thirteen years old at my first Philcon, overwhelmed with all people who like me loved reading and art I was lost me. robin Wood helped me get whelmed. Teaching me things along the way over the years.  She always teaches. It’s like breathing to her. Second Life is a place you can be anything.  In a place she could have been a werewolf playing cards against humanity, she choose to teach. SL offered her the ability to create when fibromyalgia made painting too much. I wanted to visit her in first life and tell her how much she influenced me over the years. It’s not possible for a few reasons. I mentioned as much to Daimon. So we teleported to her place. I sat here feeling lost and overwhelmed again.  Daimon listened to me prattle. But as I looked around here I began to feel better. The Teaching was all around me. It feels good to refocus on what is important to her, rather then the lost.

"Robin, I wish you gentle sleep and thank you for being a mentor. As for us who were honored to know her.  The best we can do live justly, be kind, teaching others. Like she does. Even now. Thank yuo Mari for the opportunity to speka and you all for listening."

Madi Perth (Madi Melodious) had her turn to speak, "I didn't know Robin like so many of you here did.  I wish, I wish I had.  She made a huge impact on my real life and Second Life. When I first encountered her art work in a place called Lion and Uncorn. I saw that very Dragon issue and from the moment I was hooked on her art.  Latter I found out she had made a Tarrot deck.  I found it in the store and it called to me.  I carried that deck every where I went.  it was apart of me. I found out she was active in SL and came to Livingtree a number of items.  I never worked up the courage to say hi to her.   I will regret that forever. Shade and sweet water to you Robin."

Kat Medici was next, "The very first time I met Robin was at her first Second Life event.  As I understand it, a real-life friend who was already in world brought her in.  I was fangirling.  Seriously walking around the event and whispering to a Second Life friend that Robin was RIGHT THERE! Of course Robin 'heard' me and said, 'You can come up and say 'Hello'.  I don't bite.'  I was shy because I am in real-life but ended up speaking with her, still mentally 'SQUEEING' the entire time because it was ROBIN WOOD.

"Over the course of years, through numerous avatars (me, not really her), she became a dear friend, someone whom brought laughter, wisdom, kindness, and sometimes a much needed honesty in Second Life and real life.  She helped me (as yet another alt) create and open Practical Magic along side with CrystalShard Foo, and others.  She was my teacher in copyright laws, my mentor in so many ways, a friend and part of my heart, then, now, and always.

"Last night my real-life sister, whom also knew Robin from Second Life, said that Robin brought the essence of home to Second Life, through her items, through her sim, through her presence.  This is a True Thing. Our worlds, all of them, are changed and better because of her. Blessed Be Robin."

Carrie Talaj then spoke, "Thanks for being here, everyone. While I initially had heard of Robin, it was from a tarot reading I got in the early 2000s from a friend.  I remember the cards being super vibrant and 'spoke' to me.  That was a good sign that I should get that set myself. However, I'm not really into the world of fantasy art/literature/gaming, so I really first met Robin through Mari and Pygar.  Mari had given me access to Livingtree early, but I had yet to meet Robin.  That happened when I snuck in late one night without Mari.  I saw Robin, kinda thought 'Oh, I shouldn't be here.' She merrily said 'Hi,' and went about her business.  She had just kind of accepted me here since I was here, and I loved her for that.

"Over time and more interloping, we became friends, and was often on the receiving end of a lot of kindness. If I bought something, I'd often find my inventory stuffed with every variation of what I'd just bought, and every variation of 'Oh, and this will go great with that.' Eventually I got to watch her create.  I'd complimented her on the level of detail on some china she'd made and I mentioned 'I'm always amazed at the level of detail in other's art. I don't really get that detailed when drawing' and mentioned some of the tarot cards I'd drawn based on her tarot book. She immediately turned it around on me, telling me 'I admire the art you do, Carrie.' She'd seen the cards I made, and never told me. 'When you draw, you know exactly what level of detail you need to make your point. When I paint, I'm not always sure what all needs to go into a piece. I paint everything. I'm not sure what I should leave out. I love that you can leave detail out but still make your point.' She didn't have to turn it around, but she did.  She always did.  And it was always kind.  And I loved her for that.

"As an aside, she also taught me why Chef's clothes were white, and how to get a good credit score (which I do!).  She wasn't just an artist and a creator, but a heckuva lotta fun to talk to. Talking with her was like talking to sunshine. I cannot say this enough: She was a very kind soul.  After my troubles in Second Life, I didn't see her (or my other friends) for a very very very long time. But when we were both on at the same time, it was like no time had passed. Thankfully, we talked for a good while and caught up a few months ago, one of the last times she was on Second Life."

"I'm going to miss her. I can't just log on anymore, and hope she's still there. But my other friends are.  And her passing has made my time with them feel more special.  Please tell your friends you love them.  You may never know when the last time you speak to to them will be. I love you, Robin.  Just as I love everyone here."

Next to speak was ᴀᴅᴅɪsᴏɴ ··ᴄᴀᴋᴇ·· ᴍᴏɴʀᴏᴇ (October Blackwood), "Before I start crying any harder, I just want to say, while I did not know Robin personallym in many ways she was monumental in my growth in Second Life. I joined when I was 17, almost 13 years ago. Within a year, I wanted to try my hand at skins and clothing and was linked to her free resources. Fast forward I came across her store, with metaphysical supplies, this took me back as I had never thought to bring my spirituality to the metaverse. A year ago when I decided to open a pagan hangout, I knew I needed to use some of the detailed beautiful work of Robin.

"A couple months ago I had finally got some down time, and wanted to reach out to Robin to ask her to be apart of our community as we have affiliates and such we work with. However unfortunately I got busy in real life, and other things came up. I finally had some downtime, and that when I saw the article that shattered my heart on facebook. It was then I realized the impact that Robin had on myself and my community, and to be here with you all and to hear more of how this amazing woman touched our lives, it's just really beautiful. We have a memorial altar in our landing area, and a memorial bench that will be a permanent feature at Nox. My community, the community that Robin helped pioneer in the metaverse, will never forget her. Robin, though I never was able to meet you, through your videos, and work in Second Life, you still feel like an old friend. May we always remember you, and your contributions to this little virtual world. You inspired so many of us."

Then spoke Shanna (Sushanna Rosenfeld), who stated she was, "from Gianfar, a roleplay sim here in Second Life, set in Anne McCaffrey’s ‘Dragonriders of Pern’ universe. Several fine artists have depicted our friendly dragons, but Robin chose to be different – she painted portraits of the People of Pern. The result was a book of that name, produced with Anne’s approval and text. Her people were and will remain our images of the characters we love. Along with Karen Fonstad’s Atlas and Tania and Mike’s albums of Anne’s harper songs, she brought another dimension to Pern.

Next, one man, Tompta Olfson, spoke not in text, but Voice. He talked about having met Robin at a con, not knowing who she was, and noticed she had a sword. He went up to her, and told her the rules required that it be sheathed at all times, and eventually something was worked out. He met up with her later, they started going out, and eventually married. "Thank you all for being here," he told the crowd, "Thank you all so very much."

CrystalShard Foo then told the crowd, "So, I'm not very good at speeches. I met Robin when a friend introduced us, very soon after she came to Second Life. Unlike many people here I've never heard of her before or knew her in any way - she was just another newbie to me. So I helped her with some questions and when I realized her artistic leaning, gave her some L$ to fund her uploads. I quickly moved on and forgot about it. We did keep in touch though. And over time we became casual friends, not really talking that often, but I did enjoy talking with her when I did. At one point she heard that I was interested in learning Tarot, so she mentioned that she makes Tarot decks. I was surprised since I didn't know anything about her real life artwork. When she offered to send me a deck, I said sure.  When the deck arrived and I opened it one of the cards had a dedication for me - thanking me for helping her when she was new. I was pleasantly surprised - and kind of confused, this wasn't something I was used to. I didn't even remember helping her. She had to remind me. That deck is still with me and it's very special to me. That's all I have to say I guess. My head is kind of fuzzy."

Calla Cela spoke next, "I met Robin right after she came to Livingtree. I was so in awe, my fingers could only type gibberish. She was very kind to me. I was here to read her books. This inspired me, when I started teaching, to put out my books at my place and I still do so. When I started teaching how to make mesh clothing in GIMP, students would ask why that had to be 1024x1024's. I just said, 'Robin says it. I believe it. And that settles it. I am grateful for all she has done to make Second Life a better place.

Then came John Sheppard-Mckay (Jon Nielsen), "I first knew of Robin through her People of Pern illustrations for Anne McCaffrey. I read my first Anne McCaffrey DragonRiders of Pern book in junior high and I was hooked. And Like Shanna, I'm a member of Gianfar Peaks of Pern here. The next time I encountered Robin's art was Scott Cunningham's books on Wicca. The next time I encountered Robin was her clothing templates which i use to this day and treasure. I've been coming to Livingtree occasionally. I have to admit when I found out she was sick, I came and got a lot of her items that for whatever reason I hadn't gotten before. The last time I talked to Robin, I was dealing with my mother-in-law's effects and I had one of Scott's books that was autographed... well signed. We exchanged emails about it. Now, every time I log in, we have her pentacle rug on the floor in our home along with her very colorful quilt stool. Enjoy the Summerland, Robin and say hello to Scott!"

Next was Pygar Bu, "Robin was one of my sisters. She even made a kid avie for it. Little Robin was an important part of our family, being the practical one. She was never satisfied with partway. From her projects here, to building and maintaining the Texture Tutorial and Library, to creating quilts in first life, and then recreating them for Second Life, everything had to be complete. She also made sure that those around her had all the tools and instruction for doing whatever they wanted to do. I was struggling with mesh in Blender, and she encouraged and coached me through shapes and textures. She was everyone’s number one fan and teacher.

"She could be completely silly as well. I was going through early pics of Livingtree, trying to find the opening day image over there, and came across one by her called 'Skating Break.' She had managed to balance herself, on roller skates, on top of one of the displays in the Tutorial building! (some chuckles in the crowd) This island is definitively Robin. It is open for all, has areas dedicated to learning, exploring, fun, relaxation, and is beautiful as well. If you haven’t already, please do look around. Her touch is everywhere here. Thank you."

Tuna Oddfellow commented, "I had Robin's Tarot Card deck long before we had a Second Life, My ex wife was telling me about the year Robin was the artist guest of honor at Arisia Science Fiction convention the shirt had a drawing painted by Robin with a cute girl on it, my ex wife wanted a cute guy. So Robin painted over the shirt design for her." Marianne responded, "That sounds like Robin, Tuna." He answered, "She told me she wished she still had the shirt."

Star Finesmith (MorningStar Finesmith) then added, "Robin came indirectly into my life some years ago. A friend of hers and of mine instroduced me to her tarot cards in Second Life and her. I'm not sure you'd say website, but some information to learn outside SL. Last fall, I reaced out to Robin herself and she happened to be on SL. We chatted. She was so warm and caring! She mae me feel completely at ease. I invited her to be part of our budding art community.. She said that she wished she could, but then she shared with me the battle she was having with cancer. I'm touched and amazed at how much she touched my soul in one conversation. She was an amazing woman, a full soul. Blessings to you Robin."

Zidders Roofurry (Zidaya Zenovka) then asked everyone, "Would it be OK if I shared the poem I wrote for her? It's not long." He was told he could, "'d like to preface this by saying that while I didn't know Robin well or for all that long she was one of the first people I met when I first came to SL. I was struggling with both the learning curve and with a lot of personal issues at the time. She was very kind to me and helped give me a reason to smile at a time when I didn't feel I had a lot to smile about. I'll always appreciate her compassion."

Sojourner
by Zid

Ink and paint by dragons soul.
Tall elves behind both tree and knoll.
Forest paths and storming thunder-
her work a spell we all are under.

Mystic Pagan blessings be.
Bright faeiries floating fast and free.
All not just imagination.
From Robin's hand became creation.

Heart's hearth bright-a warming glow.
Her kindness to all she did know.
With grateful spirit we honor her.
Our dear Robin, Sojourner.

Phrynne had this to say, "I met Robin at Darkovercon in the mid-90s, where she was Art Guest of Honor.  She was friendly and fun.  Someone was asking her about the Music Lover, and she said, "Don't you know, I paint from life?  It  took a while for the dragon to hold still."  And all of us around the Guest of Honor table laughed.

"But I also learned something else about her work -- she created drawings and paintings at the size they were to be printed.  All the artwork on the Robin Wood Tarot was painted and drawn at that size, not done larger and reduced.  I have her deck, well worn and well loved.

"I am glad to have had to chance to meet her then, and to find her kind teaching and the beauty she created here, in Second Life, as well as in offline life.  Robin, may you walk in beauty."

Maggie Hawksby had another poem.

When Earth's last picture is painted
And the tubes are twisted and dried
When the oldest colors have faded
And the youngest critic has died
We shall rest, and faith, we shall need it
Lie down for an aeon or two
'Till the Master of all good workmen
Shall put us to work anew
And those that were good shall be happy
They'll sit in a golden chair
They'll splash at a ten league canvas
With brushes of comet's hair
They'll find real saints to draw from
Magdalene, Peter, and Paul
They'll work for an age at a sitting
And never be tired at all.
And only the Master shall praise us.
And only the Master shall blame.
And no one will work for the money.
No one will work for the fame.
But each for the joy of the working,
And each, in his separate star,
Will draw the thing as he sees it.
For the God of things as they are!

Ilianexsi Sojourner had a third

Gone From My Sight
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone."

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.

And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone,"
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

And that is dying...

Wendi Linden would say, "If not for Robin, I don't think I wuld have the honor of doing my work here. She was a good friend."

It was about this point the event was ending. Addison added, "We will be honoring her at our full moon gathering tomorrow, I've already bought large packs of her vigil candles and will be handing those out and Mari, or Tompta can you guys advise me on any songs she liked that we can play at the gathering?" Crystalshard stated, "I mentioned how the deck is important for me so I made a little tribute and cloned it here in SL for myself. But hearing how many of you have her deck in real life and how its important to you - apparently it's available in her store, or should be." Marianne invited everyone, "please feel free to explore the island."

And most everyone went their seperate ways, some remaining to chat for a while.

And so, those who knew Robin had given her their goodbyes. But what she did, both here in Second Life and real life, will continue.

Bixyl Shuftan
   

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

More Sunbeamer "Bid Me" Results: Over 60,000L Raised

 By Bixyl Shuftan

One of the events the Relay in Second Life is known for are the "Bid Me Bald" events, started by the Relay Rockers and caught on with others. But a Relay team with a lot of furry avatars, well, something different is called for. In the early days of the Newser, the Passionate Redheads would hold a number of "Bid Me Human" events, such as the one that left Rita Mariner "in the skin" for over two months. As time went on, the Redheads transitioning to the Sunbeamers, the "Bid Me" events began to show some creativity and variety when it came to what to be bid on, from other types of avatar besides human, to a different color, and more.

Thursday April 8 was the final day for DJ Matt/Matt Carlton's "Bid Me Pink" fundraiser. For Matt, she felt a little pressure to bring in plenty of Lindens as she wanted to match this season the amount she made last year, which included 60,000 L raised at one event on Fantasy Faire's last weekend. This was also the first "Bid Me" in which the kiosks were located at the Bouncing Bunny Beach Club, the newest venue in the Sunweaver community where most (but not all) of the Sunbeamers make their home. This was partially to help draw attention to the new venue, and partially because Matt has a DJ event there, and her fans would be inclined to donate then. By the last day, Matt was already at two weeks with over 5,000 L raised.

As this was a special Relay fundraising event, Matt didn't take any tips, instead asking that money be donated to the Relay kiosks, and the cheeky pictures at the bunny-themed venue were covered up. The contest theme was "Best in Purple," so several people came in purple outfits, purple fur, or both. A number of people were there, including club manager Snowbuns (Skylark Lefavre) and owner Nydia Tungsten (Rita Mariner owns the land). Other people showed up such as Rosie (RougeRedHead01 Resident), the newest reporter for the Newser, and Gem Sunkiller. Several people would also send remote donations.

Matt would play songs such as "It's a Great Day to be Alive," "Live Like You Were Dying," and "Angels Among Us." Among the last he would play for his set was "Clouds" by Zach Sobiech, a young musician whom was diagnosed with terminal cancer when composing the song. (https://youtu.be/sDC97j6lfyc)

We could go up, up, up
And take that little ride
We'll sit there holding hands
And everything would be just right
And maybe someday I'll see you again
We'll float up in the clouds and we'll never see the end

We'll go up, up, up
But I'll fly a little higher
Go up in the clouds because the view's a little nicer
Up here my dear
It won't be long now, it won't be long now


By the end of the first hour, Matt was already at 7,500L in the "pink" kiosk. Thanks to more donations coming in, by the close of Matt's performance, the total had risen to 15,000 Lindens. With 500L in the "stay orange" kiosk, this made for a total of 15,500L raised, and a comittment of six weeks in pink. Matt thanked everyone over the radio stream, which got someone musing, "First time I heard someone say thank you for being forced to be pink." Matt responded, "I like pink, but I Chose pink this time as my Aunt just fought Breast Cancer and won. So fitting, I thought."

Matt had offered a little bonus if 10,000 Lindens or more was raised. If that goal was reached, she stated she would spend at least half the time in the "Bid Me" period in Relay clothes. This could be either her Team Sunbeamer outfit or some other Relay wear.

The contest was won by LiskaBystrouska Resident.

Saturday April 10 was the last day of three "Bid Me Foxy" fundraisers. The volunteers for these were Shockwave Yareach, Cynthia Farshore, and team captain Rita Mariner. The kiosks were at Club Cutlass, and the fundraisers were totaled at the end of the party that night, at 8PM SL time. Shockwave and Cynthia got identical results: 250 Lindens each in the "Stay" kiosk and 7600 Lindens each to go vulpine. They'll be in their new looks for three weeks. For Rita, her default kiosk got 50 Lindens while donators chipped in 5050 Lindens for her to go vixen. So she has to deal with jokes about raiding coops for two weeks. With three people made foxy all at once on top of the existing number of foxes, there were jokes about a "foxolypse," as well as wondering if there'd be a run at the KFC.

Cynthia was DJing for the Relay USO event that night, and Shockwave was with her. So they didn't have to change until that event was over. The three fundraisers brought in 20,800 Lindens.

Finally came the end of Nydia Tungsten's "Bid Me Mouse or Bunny" fundraiser. This would be on Sunday April 10. Like Matt's Bid Me, the kiosks were at the BBBC, and the fundraiser was timed to end just as a party at the club was ending. Compared to the other Bid Me events, the default kiosk was making a strong showing. In the two hours, several thousand more Lindens were added to the kiosks. There were a few people coming by whom hadn't been to the club before.

Finally at 5PM SL time, the totals were finalized. 4,000 Lindens had been donated into the "Go Bunny" kiosk. The "Stay Vixen" kiosk had 6,010 Lindens. The "Go Mouse" kiosk made more than both combined, making 14,000 Linden dollars. As Nydia had pledged a week for every 2000 raised, normally this would have been seven weeks. But she had a surprise. She decided not to count just the amount in the winning kiosk, but the total of all three combined, 24,010 Linden dollars. So this meant 12 weeks, or three months. At the close of the party, Nydia changed to a mouse form, and her partner Brandi Streusel, whom was already a mouse, gave her a hug. There were more than a few comments about cheese recipes.

All five of these Bid Me events raised a total of 60,310 Linden dollars. Counting offline donations, this has brought the total raised by Team Sunbeamers past 450,000 and a half million, or Jade Level, within sight. This isn't the end of the Sunbeamer Bid Me events as DJ Snowbuns volunteered for one (more on that one later), and no doubt there will be more. With this combined with DJ Cynthia and DJ Matt helping out other teams, the Sunbeamers are continuing to be a top-ranking team in the Relay for Life in Second Life.

Go Sunbeamers! Go Relay!

Bixyl Shuftan
 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Interview With Kyoko Furse-Barzane (Samara Barzane) About The Arts

 
By Kayly Iali

Kyoko Furse-Barzane is a real life/second life artist as well as a curator for the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). She actively participates in Second Life once working in the business and now in the art arena. Kyoko is also the Chancellor for CDS (Confederation of Democratic Sims) for the 34th Term.


I first met “Samara,” as she was called then, back in 2010. She was then the gallery owner of Park Galleries and her gallery was my very first exhibit in Second Life. As an artist, I had always been intrigued with her digital photomontages. They are full of complexity like memories with so many different layers. Kyoko herself, is full of complexity. She had many roles in real life as well as in Second Life. She is also known as Kyoko Furse-Barzane for her interest in Japanese culture.


Kayly: How would you describe your art?

Kyoko: I have been an artist in real life and my medium was serigraph. But in Second Life I showed some of my travel photographs. Then, hmmm, it's hard to remember when I started creating "Memory Layers” to exhibit in Second Life. They were what I called digital photomontages. I manipulated a photo or usually parts of several photos to create a composition that seemed to work. Just like with our memory, each layer affected the next one. Sort of a metaphor for how memory works. Memory on memory which each memory changing those before in some way. I probably started this method about 7-8 years ago.

I then had a drought. I seemed to have gone as far as that could go for me. I did a few works in 2016, and then really tailed off. But during the pandemic and sheltering in place, my art changed. I still used my travel photos as the base layer but just only outlines, either dark or light. I eventually "got" why I was doing it. And since I haven't traveled in a year and a half, what I have left are the outlines. Pandemic does do strange things to one's mind for sure.


Kayly: Did you have any training in art?

Kyoko: I did take a drawing class my senior year in college. I actually ended up with a master's in dance education. Movement has always been my first love. I ended up with a bad knee injury when I landed from a jump and my knee kept going. But the creative spirit needs an outlet. So, I started taking painting, printmaking and design classes at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, but printmaking and design were the most influential for me. They both related to movement for me. I also took classes in the evening at The Pennsylvania Academy of Art for three years. I did exhibit my prints and won few minor prizes at various art center shows. But dance was always my first love. When I went back to dance to get the degree; I was a better choreographer for my work in design and serigraph.

Kayly: What did you do in Second Life?

Kyoko: When I retired in real life, I also retired in Second Life from the various jobs I had held with various fashion creators. I was a Customer Service Representative then the head representative and also, a shopping sim manager. Then probably 2012 or so the memory layers happened.


Kayly: What is your reason to exhibit in Second Life? and what is your experience had been?

Kyoko: This is my real life art. I just happen to show it in Second Life. In real life, I'd had enough as an artist and as a choreographer doing the politics and arranging and applying for shows and grants. In Second Life, I am more in control of what happens to my work, I guess.


Kayly: Do you have your own galleries?

Kyoko: I have owned and run many galleries, not just for myself, but to share the work of others. I took over Park Galleries after Artistic Fimicoloud, the gallery owner, passed in 2008. At CDS, I had managed the Art Café. It had a long run. I started that in 2015. Then I became curator of our Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). So, I closed down the Art Café. The reason I closed the Art Café was that it just didn't feel right to promote artists at my art café as well as curating at the MoCA shows. As a professor, one course I taught Intro to Ethics. I always checking my moral compass.

Kayly: What advice would you give to artists who is interested in exhibiting in SL?

Kyoko: Look around. See where the important galleries are. Notice the sims they are in. Second Life for me and what makes me happy, other than doing my own work, is showing and promoting the work of others. While I owned and operated Park Galleries, I gave a number of artists their first exposure. I enjoyed supporting good art and really like helping people make connections.

Some of Kyoto Furse-Barzane landmarks to visit

MoCA, Museum of Contemporary Art in Neufreistadt, Curator
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Neufreistadt/188/135/181

Second Life Galleries:
The Grove Gallery, http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Arcata/149/183/57
Current Digital Photomontage
New England Estate, Marblehead, http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Marblehead/116/95/22
Digital Photomontage
Star Journey
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Star%20Journey/76/222/445
Digital Photomontage

Kayly Iali
 


Monday, April 5, 2021

Return to Grace Baptist Church

 
By Bixyl Shuftan

It was seven years ago that the Newser reported about the Grace Baptist Church. This Easter weekend, when I was looking for a church to write about, they just happened to be having an afternoon service when I took a look at the place. So I went in. As before, the church was in a brick building with a chapel and two smaller rooms. In the smaller building was what looked like a 50s dinner. This time the pastor was Pastor Michael Boyd (michael Baily). He was giving his sermon on voice, and when I stepped inside, some of the parishioners greeted me as I took my seat. At the end of the service, he turned on the screen and invited people to sing along in real life to the woman singing.

After the service, I spoke to Pastor Michael, whom answered in voice. He was happy to hear I had been there before, explaining I probably interviewed Pastor Bryan Sarjeant (leroy.zoon) shortly before he stepped down. "Brian and I were co-pastors for a while," he explained, saying the man had to stop for health reasons. Brian had been an Army ranger, ended up on disability, and "struggles with a lot of things." He had been ministering on a regular basis until it proved too much and overwhelming for him.

Brian was with Pastor Michael for his first year. He did say if he had a problem, Brian was always available, "He hardly comes on Second Life any more." He does continue to maintain the church's website ans "the behind the scenes stuff." One of the more interesting things Brian does, Michael described, was when he assumes control of the church's bot account, which really does look like a robot. The robot will walk out of it's usual place in one of the smaller rooms and step outside to pay the tier.

Pastor Michael told me he had 22 years of experience in the ministry in real like church. Doing so in a virtual church can be quite different. But on the other hand, it fits into his skills in both ministry and computers. Plus he told me he's not as quite as mobile as he used to be, saying he once had a health problem that led him to almost dying in the hospital. "This is where God led me, and I'll stay here until He leads me somewhere else," he explained.

Of what experiences stood out, Pastor Mike thought for a moment, then recalled "this gentleman who came in" whom was in his 70s to 80s. He ended up passing away, "we had a memorial service in church for him." There was also one lady, Amy, whom offered to decorate the church. But "the all time best, I came one morning, the building was gone!" Fortunately Brian came by to fix the problem. So Pastor Mike could chuckle about it, "Only in Second Life can a building just walk away."

I then brought up the Pandemic, and asked if over the past year many more people have been coming. Pastor Mike answered, "Yes, but not as many as you would think." He told me a few more came, but he didn't get as big an influx as expected. It seems more people are opting instead to see live video over Youtube and livestream, "not so much Second Life."

Boni, one of the parishioners, had a few things of her own to say (also in voice), "The one good thing about this church, they pray for you. They will stop right there and pray for you. ... Prayer is a big thing, it's really important. ... We here, the Bible says pray without ceasing. That's our communication with Him. ... That's the one great thing about this church, outreach ... prayer time after Bible study ...people can submit their prayers.

"I do know one thing, people who can't get out because they're disabled ... for me, it's been great to come to a church that preaches God's word, outreach to people ... at the end of every message, 'You are the church, go be the church.' ... It's helped me in my real life, share on my FB page.

"It's been a great experience here. From the right side of my heart,my own experience. I enjoy coming here. ... There are times I can't come, can listen to a mixer. Three different ways, SL, mixer, and Youtube. On Youtube, a chance to listen to it later. With the busy schedule everyone has, sometimes you have to listen later.

"It's not how full the pews are, but reaching people where they're at. People walk in and out all the time, you never know. ... The mustard seed you plant may get watered by someone else."

Of nonhuman avatars, Boni commented, "I went to this thing one time, Virginia and I went to a place that was all furries," and mentioned they were from a group called Faith-filled Furries, "Some churches will say no furries or ask you to leave for some reason, but not here." She would say the only people asked to leave were ones being disruptive, such as trolls. She went back to the furs, commenting at one prayer one fur asked that someone's mike be turned off, that the group didn't want to use voice.

Virginia, whom was there, had this to say, "I'm so happy I found this church in Second Life.  We're blessed to have this church here.  I was just talking to someone that was here tonight he was so happy he was here.  He's been to a few other churches in SL."

Someone got out a pink hammer that made cute "boink" noise, and they were joking about it being the ban hammer for a couple minutes. Then the people left needed to head out. 

The Grace Baptist Church meets on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 5PM SL time, and on Sundays at both 5AM and 5 PM. They also have a Thursday Zoom Study at 4:30 PM, and a Friday Bible Study at 5 PM SL time. For more information, one can check out their website at http://gracechurch-sl.org , or email them at pastor@gracechurch-sl.us .

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Lionheart%20Pumbaa/40/71/29
 
Bixyl Shuftan
 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

2021 VWBPE Thinkerer Award Goes to Wisdomseeker (Lissena Resident)

 
By Bixyl Shuftan

Last weeked was the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference. There were a number of talks and other events, including a few discussions by the Lindens. Near the end they gave out their Thinkerer Award. This was at the closing ceremony in which a number of people such as Pooky Amsterdam, Lorraine Mockford, Elli Pinion, iSkye Silverweb, Olivetree Lighthouse, Beth Ghostraven, Heike Philp, Serena Offcourse, and others were given thanks (and the Newser was also thanked as well for it's coverage). 

Then came the award, which is given to "for outstanding contribution in the promotion of learning, community, and educational practices, and who exemplifies the spirit of cooperative development within immersive environments." And this year, it went to Wisdomseeker aka Lissena Resident (Lynne Berrett in real life). 

Elli Pinion described the reasons, "Lynne began her educational career with an MA in English and doctoral fellowships in the Humanities. She was an English instructor at universities in New York and Michigan. She joined Manhattanville College in the New York City area as Director of the H.E.O.P. College Skills Center for at-risk students and held many other positions there for almost 30 years. Concurrently, she established a private psychotherapy practice for adults and couples after getting an MSW in Clinical Social Work at New York University.

"In semi-retirement Lynne trained as a coach with MentorCoach, a program based in positive psychology. She was on the leadership  team of the Alliance for Positive Psychology there for almost 10 years. 

"She says that her experiences as a caregiver, with her husband, first for her mother and again for her brother in law and his wife, led her to search out new ways to help others.  Because both women had developed dementia, she began to study brain health in depth to learn how to delay and even prevent the onset of dementia.

"Lynne first encountered Second Life at a Positive Aging Conference and was immediately attracted to the imaginative power of Virtual Worlds.  She recognized the potential for learning through virtual experiences (turning theory into action) -- learning that could transfer to a person’s life beyond SL.

"In 2013 she founded the Whole Brain Health Group in Second Life.  She established Inspiration Island, which now has 4 full levels of activities, as official home of Whole Brain Health. It is a 'public' region where over 40 volunteers, members of the island Collective, are given free parcels to create self-guided activities and offer hosted programs. Everything is designed to help visitors learn by doing.

"Over the years she has presented her work in Second Life at many conferences around the country. When she presented at the National Center for Creative Aging Conference in Washington D.C., Joyce Bettencourt (Rhiannon Chatnoir in SL) came along to stream Second Life into the event so they could be joined live by Thinkerer Selby and members of the Collective.

"Lynne is active in many virtual worlds educational and nonprofit groups such as Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable, VWBPE, AvaCon, OSCC conferences, and she was a founding board member of Nonprofit Commons. She also developed a course for SL entitled ‘New Frontiers in Brain Training,’ which uses activities on Inspiration Island to guide students to design personalized action plans for well-being.

"Her latest accomplishment is building Virtual Learning Village, a grid in OpenSim specifically made for lifelong learning and professional development. She and her group of volunteers have created a beautiful environment with many innovative tools for teaching and learning.

"To find out more about Lynne’s work, she has multiple websites:
https://agelessmindproject.org
https://virtualinspirationisland.org
https://virtual-learning-village.org
https://www.facebook.com/VirtualInspirationIsland

"It is for all these reasons, and more, that the VWBPE Organizational Committee proudly confirms Lynne Berrett, our Wisdomseeker, as the VWBPE 2021 Thinkerer Award recipient."

After much applause, Wisdomseeker went forward from her place on the stage to speak, "I want you all to know you have saved my marriage. My husband is watching this and has promised never to ask me again what I am doing in Second Life." She paused as a few chuckled, then resumed, "I am so honored to accept the 2021 Thinkerer Award -- not just for myself but also on behalf of the Whole Brain Health Team and the Inspiration Island Collective. I could not have done any of this work without their dedication and expertise and imagination over many years. There are so many people to thank! 

"First of all, the award winners who came before me. Every one of you has contributed to the success of our learning projects in Second Life and OpenSim through your example, advice, encouragement, and concrete help. I plan to thank people privately, so I won’t subject you all to a long list of names tonight. But of course the members of the Inspiration Island Collective are at the top of the list. Every year since 2014 we have taken a group photo of the Collective. Most of the original members are still with us—which is a source of great joy to me. Each year we have added new members to the photo. You can see the latest one in the Lotus – which is a miniature Inspiration Island – at our Exhibit here at VWBPE. It was made with loving care by Katsii Tennen (Catseye), Fran, and Tooyaa.

"If you attended our presentation this morning, you can guess whom I DO want to thank publicly. From the very beginning, Thuja Hynes (Tooyaa) and Francisco Koolhoven (Fran) have been essential partners in producing the rich experiences Whole Brain Health offers. Our long, fruitful collaboration has been absolutely central to WBH’s development and my own growth as a virtual worlds educator -- and as a leader. Their creativity, technical skill, and willingness to try anything I come up with have repeatedly made the impossible possible for us. 

 "I also want to shout out to Maximillian Merlin, my chief creative and technical partner in a newer venture, Virtual Learning Village. After creating our drone security system and a lot for Inspiration Island, Max brought his Buildwerk team of volunteers to OpenSim, where we have built a beautiful grid for adult learning of all kinds. 

"Our Whole Brain Health logo is a manifesto for all this work: it’s a simple circle with the three words INTERACT  INSPIRE  INNOVATE embracing the central word, CHANGE.  The more we can INTERACT and INSPIRE each other through our collaborations, the more we can truly INNOVATE – creating new forms of learning in virtual worlds and beyond, for people of all ages... because well-being is directly related to flexibility – the ability to CHANGE. 

"As one of my role models, Seth Godin, just wrote on his blog: “The world is going to change and resilience is our best response. 'Resilience is a commitment to design, an attitude and a system that works even when things don’t turn out the way we planned. Especially then.   … Flexibility, community, and a sense of possibility can go a long way. That doesn’t make it easier, but it’s our best path forward.”

"So my last thank you tonight goes to the VISION of Best Practices in Education that is illustrated year after year in this conference. And most of all, thank you VWBPE, this year, for illuminating the value of lifelong learning for adults in virtual worlds with this award. "

The award itself, which resembled the classic statue "The Thinker," when presented was very large, almost twice her height. Someone joked "The real test is if Liss can carry the trophy 20 meters." Another commented, "That award is going to take a heck of an anti-grav trolley to be taken away."

Following Wisdomseeker's speech, people started to head out to the last official event, the farewell party. She and several others would engage in a group hug, then depart.

Past recipients include Renne Brock / Zinnia Zauber, Barbara Truman / Delightful Doowangle, Valerie Hill / Valibrarian, Cynthia Calogne / Lyr Lobo, Andrew Wheelock / Spiff Whitfield, Alice Kreuger / Gentle Heron, and Selby Evans.

Bixyl Shuftan