Monday, December 26, 2022

Here's To You Jessicabelle Dayafter

 By Bixyl Shuftan

When I began hanging out at the Woodlin community in Summer 2008, among those I ran into was Jessicabelle Dayafter. A number of the people there stood out in their own way. Jessicabelle as a skunkgirl naturally did so with her distinctive black and white pattern, though for the first few years I knew her, her coat was the reverse of what one would usually see on a skunk. 
Jessicabelle was normally quieter than the other skunk in Woodlin: community leader, Dax Loon who could be manic-happy (and sadly, depressed at times) and was one of the DJs there. But she had a love for military history and firepower, and occasionally a "boom" could be heard as she fired off the cannon at her place. Once she and her friend Megatheron went around blasting their bazookas. They were harmless as this wasn't a combat sim, but they made for a lot of fireworks. I called them the "boom-boom girls" for a while after that. At the time, she was partnered with Salem De White (Selene Spellhunter), who was part of the Giant Snail Races.

Sadly these good times did not last forever, and Woodlin fell apart in late Winter/early Spring 2010. At the time Jessicabelle was taking a break, following paying for her spot six months in advance, and was shocked to return to a random area and finding her LM home no longer worked, "What the hell happened?" I think she got a place at the Foxworth community where many of us went, but also spent much time away from the quiet community, either flying or somewhere at a place she could fire her guns. Jessica's happy times with her partner would also end, the two parting ways.

In Fall 2010, she would show me the New Bastogne WW2 Combat Roleplay area, and invite me to take part. Some of the groups didn't allow furry avatars, or would restrict them to lower-level positions. But the German Air Group, led by Vickster Kuhn, didn't mind if you had a tail or not as long as you could fit into the cockpit. So for a little while I was her wingman in the Luftwaffe. 
To those who might raise an eyebrow at this, I recalled pilots in "Top Gun" playing the part of Soviet planes as the OpFor (opposition force) in training exercises. Plus in my Star Wars roleplaying campaigns, one of my friends would occasionally play the part of an Imperial, the extraordinary circumstances in which the players met giving her reason to play nice with "Rebel scum." As one video game character in Wreck-It-Ralph" would put it, "Just because you're the bad guy doesn't mean you're a, bad guy,"
Jessicabelle wasn't always wearing a gray uniform, though. She would sometimes be in other uniforms, such as the 100th Anniversary of Anzac Day in which she was in a British pilot's outfit.

Eventually I would leave the combat RP as a regular, but would occasionally drop by to support Jessicabelle, sometimes as the gunner in her dive bomber. I would also cover events such as the tank race and the "World of Tanks" tribute. But these were not all happy times. The Waffen SS group had given me bad vibes, and eventually these feelings were confirmed when one tried to arrest one of the furs in the Luftwaffe for being "out of uniform" - her having on a necklace from a close friend. Jessicabelle, who was there, angrily told him to leave. Eventually Vickster would get involved, and the guy trying to make the arrest was disciplined by being knocked down a rank, vindicating Jessicabelle. 
Eventually Vickster would step down as head of the Germain air team, and appoint Jessicabelle as the new commander. She would lead it for two years. She would also go on to develop her own line of combat aircraft, such as a Stuka made to fight tanks, which were lighter in prims and scripts then some others. They were criticized by some in the combat RP as unrealistic, "UFOs" they were called. But I found them easy to fly and less prone to lag. There would also be a "Dayfter Areonautics" plane rezzer at Farshore field for a while.

Through me she met up with Nydia, and they quickly became friends, Jessica becoming one of Nydia's Angels. She would help Nydia by appearing in calendars and videos. Although a lesbian, she didn't mind showing off for guys, and would post some pictures and art of herself on her Furaffinity page, both well-dressed and revealing. Probably the video she was best known for was Nydia's tribute to Jessica Rabbit's "Why Don't You Do Right." We would also have numerous fun times such as one rezzday party we threw for her.

I saw her somewhat less as time when on, but we never did lose touch. There were times she was feeling down, but she would always bounce back. I would last hear from her in August 2021 when she posted in Nydia's channel that she had tested positive for Covid. I and others were optimistic for her recovery. Sadly that was not to be. Nydia was contacted by someone who told us she knew Jessicabelle in real-life, and she had passed away, and the funeral had already taken place. She had joined the hundreds of thousands who died in the Pandemic.

No more airplane flights, no more builds, no more posing for pictures and video shoots. Jessicabelle Dayafter was gone.

Not long after, Jessicabelle would have a memorial service in her honor at New Bastogne. Vickster called her a team player who was always respectful for others. Nydia described her as a passionate model and actress, "In a world where so many try to blend in, it's people like Jessica that choses to stand out, and by that action alone she will be remembered in all she did, Fair skies my high flying Angel, until we meet again."

Jessicabelle would get a lasting memorial at the Sunweaver Memorial Garden, a flame burining constantly in her memory. It will be there for as long as the community lands are.

Jessicabelle was many things in the time I knew her, model, video actress, combat RP pilot, builder, and most of all, friend. She was anything but boring, and perhaps others will see her as an example one can be more than just a pretty face in this virtual world. You can be pretty and skillful, and make friends along the way who will remember you always.

Here's to you, Jessicabelle Dayafter.

Image source: Jessicabelle's Furaffinity page
Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, December 9, 2022

Interview With Talia Sunsong

By Bixyl Shuftan
Recently the Newser wrote about an art exhibit by Talia Sunsong. Not long after, I had a chance to interview her.

Dropping by, I noted the gallery, and Talia smiled, "Netty (Netera Landar) did a great job creating this gallery. We had a grand opening with Helena singing live. Sandy made a stage out of one of my paintings. Sandy liked the colorful stream painting and picked that for the stage. I titled the exhibit "Fire and Water" because it's about that sea of brilliant color at sunset or sunrise, or the flash of lightning in the sky. I wanted to make paintings that you can almost hear the sizzle as the sun descends into the water." I asked if sunrises and sunsets are a frequent theme with her, and she told me, "Yes,  I love to play with color. Color is like a vitamin. It gives you a burst of energy."

She went on, "Years ago, I lost everything in a firestorm, including a hundred of my paintings. I didn't paint for years after that.  Then I decided to paint at least one painting a day. I did that for over a year. I take photographs to help me with my painting, and I keep hundreds of ideas on a spreadsheet." I asked how long she had been painting and taking photographs. Talia answered, "I won a drawing contest as a teenager, and tried my hand at painting then. I could control drawing more easily than painting, and it was years later before I felt more satisfied with my painting, enough to show to the public.  I did photography later on, and did some serious reporter photography, including ending up in court testifying in a police brutality case." Asking what happened there, she answered, "The man who was injured did not win in court."

I asked Talia what where her favorite subjects to draw and paint. She told me, "I like to paint nature, including animals, like birds, whales and dolphins. I also like to do landscapes and seascapes. Sometimes I play around with painting mermaids. I am passionate about creating a mood or telling a story in my creations, including painting, drawing, writing, 3D computer models or immersive virtual worlds. I have also worked in filmmaking and was a crew member for two Sundance Film Festival picks. I hope my artwork uplifts and brings smiles to people's faces."

I noted she had created her account in 2011 and asked Talia how she found out about Second Life. She answered, "I had heard on and off about Second Life on the web for about 2 years. I wanted to visit. When I came, I found out about all the classes offered. I loved taking classes in Second life. I also was welcomed into a fun roleplaying group, when I played an Elf that could shapeshift into a dragon. In those classes I learned about free resources, like GiMP (2D graphics program) and Blender (3D graphics program). I still use those programs today. I'm also learning about creating vector art in Inkscape, which is good for digital art. I have looked into some AI (Artificial intelligence) art programs.

"These paintings here in the exhibit are hand-painted in real life. I put my artwork onto RedBubble, a print on demand site for physical, real life paintings, t-shirts, mugs, bags, stickers, cell phone covers, and more. I named my store Aryxaba: ." I asked where the name came from. Talia answered, " I wanted a name that no one else had, so I made the name "Aryxaba" up, starting with the word "Oryx" which is a big antelope.

"I have a mug from my RedBubble store with the 'Ship in a Storm' painting. That is probably my most popular painting." She walked over to one, "This one." I asked what inspired that particular painting. Talia answered, "There's something about the energy, the lightning, the wind in the sails, the choppy water, yet I know that ship will safely weather the storm. I like energy, a mood, or a story in a painting. Each thing is almost a character in itself, the lightning is a character, the ship is a character, even the water is a character. They interact to create a plot." 

I asked Talia about her more memorable exhibits in the past. She told me, "Myself, along with others, did a 3D exhibit for the University of Australia. It was picked to be photographed and put into a real life book. The exhibit was of a woman with wings, escaping a confining home, by going into virtual worlds like Second Life. I think people really understand that feeling, after the quarantines." I asked if she meant about virtual worlds being a way to figuratively get out of the house during those time. "Yes, exactly," she answered, "Free to fly around in virtual space, meet friends, dance, take a class, explore, play golf and more."

I noted the location of the exhibit, next to Netera's Coffee Lounge, and asked how this came about.  Talia answered, "Netera and I both work with a live singer, Austin Moores for about 5 years now. We go onstage with him during his shows. It's a lot of fun and I really enjoy hearing him sing. Netera and I like to write also. She set up the coffeehouse for a peaceful place to write and to exhibit art."

I asked Talia what stories she wrote about. She answered, "I wrote a time travel fantasy novel, about ancient Egypt and Crete called 'The Missing Princes of Egypt.'  I also wrote a comedic fantasy novel of magic gone wrong, 'Risky Magic.' ... Writing humor does lighten my day. Sometimes if I'm tired, I write humor. It makes me smile. I've been writing humorous slogans for t-shirts that I will eventually put into my RedBubble store." I asked for an example, and she told me, "I made up one yesterday for the holidays 'On the Naughty List, And Had Fun Doing It.'"

I asked about the exhibit opening's singer. Talia answered, "We had this wonderful live singer, Helena Navarita. Austin Moores had to cancel at the last moment and Helena stepped in to sing. I was so lucky that Netera could get her at short notice." I pointed out to Talia that with her on stage, some might have have mistaken her for the singer. She laughed, "I would not be able to sing as well as Helena."

So what does Talia have planned for her next exhibition? Her answer was, "Good question, I might go with an animal theme, either birds, or sea creatures, perhaps swimming in beautiful blue waters. Maybe a mermaid will join them." Pointing out the shoulder pet dragon on her shoulder, I asked if any pictures to be done soon will include dragons. She told me, "I want to refine my dragon drawings more before going public with them. I took a short class with a woman who was known for her dragon illustrations at Renaissance Fair. I liked the fluidity of her dragons, and have experimented with that in my work.

The artist's last words in the interview were, "I wanted to thank the people that helped me on my way in this art exhibit, Netera Landar for the exhibit space, Helena Navarita for the singing at the opening, Sandy Hauster for the stage, all the people that come to see the exhibit and you Bixyl for this interview."

Talia's "Fire and Water" exhibit is at Snug Harbor (115/94/25) and will run until December 23.
Bixyl Shuftan