Monday, November 28, 2022

Interview With Melly Callidora (MelainaGodness)

y Bixyl Shuftan

In August 2014, Wesley Regenbogen interviewed Hope Dreamscape (hope4ever43), one of two co-owners of a club that had recently held a cancer fundraiser. A few months later, he did a followup, of her owning a horse ranch. We last heard from her as Hope Driftwood teaching the reporter who interviewed her how to ride a horse.

Recently, the Newser was contacted by her once more, asking for a followup on what's been happening to her. The most obvious change was she had started anew with a new account: MelainaGodness, known as Melly Callidora. She requested to do her part of the interview in voice as typing a lot had gotten uncomfortable: her physical health had taken a turn for the worse in the past few years. At 51 years old, she had carpal tunnel, two herniated disks, metal screws in her neck that made it hard to turn her head, migraines, diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, and worst of all: Cancer. She explained it was uterine/cervical cancer, occurring where the two body parts meet, and also had lymphoma. She described herself as being in constant pain, and needed a cane to get around, or a wheelchair if it was for a long distance.

In Second Life, things were better. She had met up with a Benji Darkfury, and eventually the two were married inworld. Sadly, Benji would fall ill and pass away. Melly told me she had been building lighthouses wherever she lived in the virtual world since, so his spirit could "find his way home." She talked more about him, saying they met up in real life, him being from Connecticut and "I'm from New York." She told me one of his real-life family had gone inworld, and together they were able to help him have virtually what he couldn't in reality. "I took it very hard when he died," she told me, "I stopped playing Second Life for a time." It took her some time to return, but eventually she did. She had been transferred ownership of Benji's avatar.

"I have a forever son." Melly told me, "People say he's my favorite, but I have a lot of children." One, Oakan Callidora Corvinus (oakan.corvinus) or "Oakie" went to see her in real life, "It was the best experience I ever had." She also mentioned having an SL daughter, "I have a twin brother ... I have an older brother, Ren. But Niyethan  is the twin. ... I have another brother, Joey." She also mentioned, "I have a real-life friend, Paul, who plays Second Life." She would later say he lived about 45 minutes away. I have a lot of brother's and sisters.

Melly called herself the leading lady of a Bloodlines clan, Clan Darkness Family , "I am the Matriarch, the Queen of the clan." Oakan was the head of it. She described her family's land as having a number of animals, notably horses. She showed me the castle, where family dinners were held sometimes. She showed me Darkfurry Hall, where there was a plaque in honor of Benji, "Benji is honored in every way we can." She would show me her manor. When not held at the castle, dinners were held here every Saturday night, either inside in the dining room or outside in the patio area.

She would show me the Callidora Ranch, where she raised horses. These were Amaretto horses, the oldest brand of breedable horses in Second Life. She would breed them, and sell some of the colts to raise some money, "just had two born." She would put those to be sold in a barrel, then taken to her daughter-in-law's store. She also raised something called Chimeras, and breedable cats known as Kitticats. She would also show me a group of breedable fairies. Melly would show me the family logo, an image of a vampire woman smelling (or perhaps about to taste) a rose.

She told me her real life had become a struggle, but her SL family had made all the difference. She had created the Callidora family in 2016, and she talked about how "amazing" it was that her inworld family has "been there for me." Due to her worsening health, she had to give up her real-life job of 20 years, being a teacher of handicaped students. Her inworld family provided plenty of support, "I don't like to have them take care of me. ... I had to learn to step aside and let Oakie take over." She stated she had a lot of SL children, "but I don't put up with drama."

Of her health, doctors were finding themselves with less and less options for what could be done long-term, "There is nothing more they can do for me." She had been told she has about a year left, maybe a little more, "Some days I don't get out of bed," saying there were times she was just in too much pain, "But I always try to do Saturday, and holidays." Her eyesight has become not that good. She had used to DJ in the past, but had to give it up. With her carpal tunnel getting worse, it was just becoming too difficult. She also told me she was starting to have memory troubles, in part due to her medications, and had to rely on her Alexa at times to remember things. She takes a total of 21 pills a day, plus uses an inhaler.

Despite the short time the doctors gave her, she wasn't truly going by what they were saying. All things considered, she felt, "I've been doing pretty good. ... If it's my time to go, it's my time to go." She mentioned she had a high white-cell blood count for years. She would go on to say her father had been a Vietnam veteran, who during his tour was exposed to Agent Orange, both by inhaling it and cutting his hands on barbed wire covered by it. She felt she was likely exposed to it was well through him, affecting her period and affecting her chances of having kids. She had been married three times in real life. She had one other family member who was having health problems, a niece who came down with polio, and stated she was just now was showing signs of cerebral palsy. Of her immediate family, a sister and four brothers, one of her brothers has passed on.

She once again described her SL family as being very supportive, more than her real-life one. She described a moment at one of her real-life brothers being surprised at how much medication she had to take, "Who does this?"

Melly had a Flickr account, and I asked about it. She told me most of the pictures had been taken by Joey (Chronisz). While there where other photographers in the family, she tries to promote Joey as much as she can.

Near the end of the interview, Paul would appear, in a furry anthro fox avatar. We chatted for a while. At one point, he amusingly spoke of Melly, "She used to have an infatuation with black olives." "Shut up Paul!" she responded, then chuckled.

Above everything else, despite her real-life difficulties, Melly was grateful for the support her SL family had given her, and was allowing her to live a life with happy moments, "I live my live and enjoy it the best I can."

Addition: Melly would later tell me I missed one detail, "My alt Riley Darkfury is Benji's wife."

Bixyl Shuftan


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Waya Snowpaw's Second Memorial Service

By Bixyl Shuftan

On September 27, Waya Snowpaw had passed away. He had been the DJ who did the opening hour for Veterans Isle's monthly benefit concerts for over a decade. He appeared as an anthro canine in an Army uniform, usually (though not always) the one furry in the otherwise all human avatar group of volunteers who raised money for the Homes For Our Troops charity organization. In real life, he was a disabled American veteran, an American Indian, and a longtime DJ in real life for about 40 years. He passed away in his 60s.
News of Waya's passing was not announced until October 15. On Saturday October 22, he was given an inworld military memorial service. But not all of his friends could attend. It was decided to give him a second, less formal one later on. It would happen two weeks later. On Saturday November 5, people would gather once more to remember him. The event would take place high above the Water Edge Estates sim. This included friends, SL family, and at least one of his real-life family having come to Second Life.

I was a bit late for the event. Thankfully Lady Mom (Backupmom) had taken notes. Near the start, she hat this to say, "We honor Waya's Cherokee heritage. The American flag and the soldiers cross represent Waya's Military Service which Waya was quite proud of. He was a wounded warrior.

"I speak today to honor Waya Snowpaw. Second life has way of creating family. Waya was my SL brother. My little big brother. Taller than me but younger. We became family in real-life too. Two hour phone calls were  the norm between us. Waya even got to know my real-life spouse. The three of us would talk often. We talked about our lives, we talked about our families. We had similar views and shared concerns. We had a deeply spiritual connection. And we had powerful conversations regarding our spiritual paths. We talked about indigenous medicines. The would want to insert their opinions into our conversations.  Waya loved his dogs, they were good service dogs and very devoted to Waya.
"Waya was a curmudgeon sometimes, but he had a big heart. Homes For Our Troops was an important cause for him. Waya was also a badass. He had an entanglement with a four-foot Water Moccasin that had invited itself into Waya's chambers. Waya wasn't having it. Needless to say the snake lost. Waya and I were very protective of one another. Waya loved banana pudding in real-life as well as SL.
"Waya was a great DJ with quite a following. He did very impressive bead work in real-life. Waya was in ill health, he was in pain and tired. The people of the Light took mercy on this sweet soul and called him home.. The people of the Light didn't consult me, because I would have asked them to wait. May The Great Spirit bestow eternal joy to Waya and comfort to his real-life family, SL family and all  assembled here.

"Please know that Mom loves you all so dearly. We are here to lift one another up in times of grief and hardships. We are here to celebrate the gifts we have in each day.

"I will miss that loveable wolf that loved ear scratches.  I miss my SL  brother, most importantly I miss my real-life friend."

Lady would text three tributes from others, "Tribute from Fyre:'Waya, Waya, must say first,  I Love You, so many hours talking about sooo many things. But our dogs were always talked about. Those talks will be forever missed. I hope and pray you have Niko and Kala beside you again. How you love them. None of you are in pain now. Thank You for being in my life. Thank You for being the amazing Waya. Hugs and Love You always. Rest easy, soar high. Never will you be forgotten.'
"Waya was Fyre's SL Uncle.
"Words from Riley: 'Waya was one of my first friends here on SL, and, no doubts, the first who was welcoming me with a warm and honest embrace.

"It's funny, because I'm sure that we have met on another virtual server before, but back then I haven't realize, nor notice him - except for that mysterious guy playing some awesome music - until I came to SL. We just have talked about it once, and I'm sure, that's where I've met him years ago already.
But, there's been so much we had in common... and I miss those conversations we had - some times for hours long. I remember the day we went to an event and they had this huge carousel there. I can't even say how long we were sitting there, just looking at it and listening to him talking about his childhood. It was such a magical moment, seeing him all excited about these wonderful memories. I miss that.

"The music has brought us together and we both were sharing that passion. So I'd like to share a text from a German band we used to love - translated into English:

Tell me what to mourn
Was my life so gray and dreary?
If I think about it, one thing is certain
You shouldn't mourn
What are days of farewell anyway
Against years we get
Cut the tears, enough of that
You shouldn't mourn about me
You should dance, dance, forever
You should dance, dance, to the end of your time
You should dance as if I were among you
As if I were among you...

"Knowing Waya for such a long time, I'm just about sure, that this is something he would tell us:
Don't mourn, even if it's hard, but dance and laugh as we used to do, as if he was among us...

"I won't call this a 'farewell,' but a 'goodbye for now,' because one day we will meet again - and then we will dance together.

"I love you Waya. Thank you for everything. And I'll never forget you ~ you'll always be in my heart.'"

Then May O. Mingzi (mayomingzi) spoke up, "I don't do voice, but I can type a few things. 

"I don't really remember how Waya and I met; I think it was at the Smooth Jazz Club where he used to DJ. But I know that one of the first things I asked him to do for us as a DJ was a memorial service for another friend, more than 10 years ago. That's how long I knew Waya. 

"He said that, unfortunately he had a lot of experience doing such things, and would be honored. We stayed in touch throughout the years. He disappeared for a long time, after he had a stroke, and I feared he had died. But as you know, he didn't. It was like a second chance. And when he recovered, he would joke about how he would sneak out to the nurse's station to get on the computer and stay in touch.

"He got a new machine when he got home, and resumed DJing again. I never knew what type of music he'd play, and he often didn't either. He often would wake up in the morning and ask Alexa what special occasion was going on that day, and build a set from that. It could be something normal, like Mardi Gras - that was his favorite holiday, I think. Or it could be something like, 'Peanut Butter Day,' and we'd end up with a set about food. He loved Weird Al. He had a set of props he'd hand around that referred to things from Weird Al songs, like a duck for 'I Want a New Duck,' and a Velvet Elvis for that song. I have a copy of that folder, if anyone wants. It includes a 'Mennonite hat' Waya made." Several people would ask for it.

"In later years, we exchanged phone numbers, so we could text each other. He would let me know sometimes if he were going into the hospital. Eventually I also managed to persuade him to give me his address so I could set him care packages. He hated asking for help from anyone. He was always the one giving help to others. Whether it was sitting with a soldier in need in real-life, or chatting with someone having a love crisis, or filling in for a DJ, he was always the one giving to others. He also taught me a lot about being a DJ. He shared his amazing knowledge of and love for music. I watched how he interacted with the audience and put songs together. He was a great teacher and a great friend. I will always remember him."

May would then pass around Waya's set of "Weird Al Survival Kit" props. There was then a dance in Waya's honor, with DJ Snowbuns (Skylark Lefavre) as the DJ. People continued to talk some more, such as how Waya would have loved the service and the music. 

Sadly, this wolf DJ was gone. But he wouldn't be forgotten.

Rest in peace,

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Fiftteen Years of Writing Second Life News

By Bixyl Shuftan 

Where to begin ...

By late summer 2007, I was just starting to find my way in Second Life. Although my journey here started in December 2006, shortly after I got high-speed Internet, for months I didn't log on much as the lady who invited me over was suddenly given more responsibility. Then in July 2007 she told me about the Relay Weekend and suggested I check out the area. So I did, and my interest in the virtual world was rekindled. I began dropping by more often, eventually finding Luskwood and making some friends there, and getting my first paid-for avatar, the red Luskwood fox. I girl I met at Luskwood told me about another place, the STA, and there I met more friends and found another hangout. 

I wanted to find out still more about Second Life, what events were going on and what interesting places were around. So I started checking out blogs and newsletters about this virtual world. Among them was the "Herald," which stared off as a Sims Online newsletter, which while occasionally informative was basically a tabloid. There was "New World Notes," a newsblog by Hamlet Au. Informative, but as Linden Lab's "embedded reporter," he was obviously limited in his ability to criticize them. And then there was the Second Life Newspaper, owned by JamesT Juno with Dana Vanmoer as the editor. It had a number of reporters and several sections, reporting on various people, places, and events around the virtual world, plus the latest on what the Lab was up to. Something else that got my attention, they occasionally called for submitted articles and pictures from the readers. So I decided to send in a few pictures plus a couple personal stories of mine at the time. I guess I impressed them, as James and Dana invited me in for a job interview. After some talk, they told me I had the job, and offered me the use of one of the office spaces.

In real life, I had been keeping up with the news on a daily basis since I was a teenager after hearing about a mob taking over our embassy in a foreign country and the government there siding with the hostage takers. And now, I had the chance to be a news reporter myself. I would use the payment for my first official article to get a fedora and leather overcoat, the classic reporter's look. Along with my fox avatar, it became my trademark appearance, one that continued as my main look with only minor alterations for over a decade. And of course there was the "Fox News" pun.

I did feel a bit of uncertainly in the first few weeks. I was the "new guy" and finding my footing. But I soon got the hang of things and was writing about various people, places, and events in this virtual world. With my sense of humor, I also ended up becoming the main source of the SL Newspaper's cartoons. Sometimes I would write about larger events, such as the Second Life Birthday and the Relay for Life and more noteable sims. Other times, I would describe more out of the way places and smaller events, such as of the STA, Woodlin Community, and Bahama Beach Club that I was a part of. After some prodding by James, I would also do one article about one of the more adult places and it's manager: ZZ Studios and it's owner Cindy "Zig-Zag" Babi. 
Sadly, not all of the articles were happy ones. I would end up writing about the closing of the STA just a few months after I joined the paper, and later on the sunset of Woodlin and the BBC. And the paper itself would soon run into some trouble in fall 2009 with the high-profile bankruptcy of our sponsor BNT, and James having to step away due to real life. I was made the office manager of SL Newspaper, which meant updating things when Dana couldn't. And in 2010, this was happening more and more. Finally in April 2010, Dana told the staff due to real-life she would have to step away from running the paper, and as she didn't have the authority to turn over the paper to anyone made the decision to close. So I talked to Gemma Cleanslate and two others, and as the Second Life Newspaper closed in June 2010, a new newsletter began, the Second Life Newser. And my role changed from just another reporter to the head of a team. We hit the ground running as our first big story was a week after our start, Linden Lab laying off a third of it's staff. It was a very interesting year newswise, and we were there to cover it.

So week after week, month after month, year after year, I've been continuing to write about this virtual world and what it has to offer. There have been numerous stories about how this world helps people, such as fundraisers like the Relay for Life and Veterans Isle concerts, and help groups such as the Survivors of Suicide. I have written about controversy on occasion, but it's never been for it's own sake. Occasionally I've written about Linden Lab's goofing up, which was more common early in our history. Perhaps I've gotten a softer edge over time, but there's been less spectacular goof-ups over time such as the closing of the SS Galaxy due to a Linden telling a longtime owner of the sims he wouldn't get any more rollbacks due to damage by griefers. An incident like that hasn't happened in a long time. More recently are the stories of Linden Lab getting new owners and it's place in the Waterfield Network. And as always the occasional story of my home area: the Sunweaver community.

Sometimes real life gets reflected into Second Life. One example is politics. In 2008, there were numerous political groups and locations for the candidates and discussion. But as time went on, the groups and locations became less common as political discussion in real life got more and more toxic and confrontational. One talk show held here would be canceled as the host felt no desire to keep repeating what had become an "echo chamber." Another would be the Coronovirus Pandemic that hit in 2020 and with people in quarantine were spending more time online, and here. 

Sadly among the things I've had to report on are the closings of some well done sims. Even sadder, I've had to report on the passing of a number of residents. Last year, this would include two friends of mine who were noteable members of the community I became part of. They would join the ranks of those who made great content for others, and then there would be no more. While it was an honor to write about them, these were some of the saddest articles I've had to write.

So what does the future hold? Over time there's been no shortage of "the end is near" comments about Second Life. With the virtual world currently in healthy shape, unless there's some kind of global calamity, it's a safe bet it will be around for several more years at least. For yours truly, I've also been doing some writing other than news stories. I have been doing a novel on the side, "The Corsean Encounter." It's mostly finished, just needing some editing, then I need to figure out how to publish it on Amazon. 

While there may be occasional disruptions, as long as there's a team to back me up, I'll be writing about the people, places, and events of Second Life for some time to come.

"And that's the way it is." Good day from Second Life Newser.

Bixyl Shuftan