What is Second Life?

Scene from "What is Second Life?"
Scene from What is Second Life?

This is a machinima that everyone can enjoy, whether you’ve never been inside Second Life or you’re deeply involved.

"What is Second Life?" compares being active in Second Life with taking part in an urban community garden. It’s a comparison I hadn’t thought of, but there’s a lot of validity to it. If you’re wondering what people see in Second Life, this machinima will give you some idea. If you’re an old hand in Second Life, you’ll probably still enjoy watching it.

Lounge on a virtual Puerto Vallarta beach

Virtual Puerto Vallarta beachfront

Rent an adobe bungalow on a Puerto Vallarta beach, pray in a Jalisco cathedral, buy Mexican arts and crafts, or ride on a donkey-drawn wagon – it’s all available in Second Life‘s Opera Joven sim, which reproduces some key parts of Jalisco, Mexico.

Opera Joven is a Jalisco cultural non-government organization (NGO) that was founded in 1999 in Guadalajara and has been staging cultural events in Jalisco. Two years ago Opera Joven made a major commitment to Second Life, where it has created this sim and where it stages cultural events such as operatic performances. You can learn more about Opera Joven’s activities at its website, www.operajoven.com.

You can tour this recreation of Jalisco either by a train (the only train I’ve ridden that goes underwater without a tunnel!) or by donkey-drawn wagon. If you want to ride the train and you’re a Second Life member, click slurl.com/secondlife/Opera%20Joven/146/46/21.

Catedral de Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico The picture to the left is the interior of Catedral de Guadalajara, the cathedral in Jalisco.

The sim has many well marked maps with teleport links situated around the sim, but there’s a disappointing lack of notecards about historical and cultural features. In most cases, the best source of information about a spot is to right-click on the land, which in some cases, such as the Cathedral, will provide additional information in the land description. Second Life members can teleport to the Cathedral by clicking slurl.com/secondlife/Opera%20Joven/155/169/21

In the background of the picture to the right, you see los Arcos de Guadalajara (Guadalajara Arcs), built in 1942 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city.
os Arcos de Guadalajara (The Arcs of Guadalajara)
Tlaquepaque, Mercado de Artesanias - Mexican Handcraft Market The picture to the left is Tlaquepaque, Mercado de Artesanias (Mexican Handcraft Market) where you can buy assorted Mexican arts and crafts. There is a new restaurant next door, and a small museum (Museo del Estado de Jalisco) upstairs. Second Life members can teleport to the market by clicking slurl.com/secondlife/Opera%20Joven/77/178/22

Islamic holy site in Second Life

Al Haram Al Makki interior

Recently I wrote about the Dubai Womens College‘s Second Life campus. Today I’m writing about another Islamic presence in Second Life, Al Haram Al Makki, a reproduction of Masjid al-Haram (the Grand Mosque), the desination of the legendary Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. From all accounts Masjid al-Haram is a magnificent structure. You can see a photograph of it here. Apart from its spiritual power, it’s statistics alone are impressive. It occupies seven acres and can accommodate one million worshippers at a time. Its elevators alone can carry a hundred thousand people an hour.

Non-Muslims can never see Masjid al-Haram in person – it is in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, which is closed to non-Muslims – but we can get a sense of it in Second Life. The picture to the right shows the interior of Second Life’s Al Haram Al Makki, on the upper floor, near the front entrance. No picture does it justice, however. The builders have done a remarkable job. It’s one of the most impressive builds I’ve seen in Second Life.


Al Haram Al Makki exterior

This is Al Haram Al Makki seen from the rear, on the course of a Hajj that can be performed in Second Life.

There are notecards along the way, explaining it in a variety of languages, but the English language notecards are not always written clearly. I need to speak with more Muslims to gain a better understanding before writing more about it.

The picture to the right is the interior of Al Haram Al Makkim, where you can hear Islamic prayers in both English and Arabic, and notecards explain the significance of some of what you will see there

This may be a virtual construct, but it nonetheless is a sacred place. My real life spiritual home is a Native American ceremonial roundhouse where I expect visitors to be suitably respectful. When I’m in the spiritual home of others, such as this, I show at least the respect I expect from others in my spiritual home. If you visit Al Haram Al Makkim , please be respectful and behave appropriately.

I hope to write more about this sim and its Hajj in the near future, after I understand it better.

Al Haram Al Makki interior

The darkly post-cyberpunk city of Hangars Liquides

Floating on my Flight Feather in the Hangars Lilquides sim

The Hangars Liquides sim, home of the French music label Hangars Liquides, also known as HL, isn’t yet complete, but it’s already amazing. Djehan Kidd, creator of the sim, describes it as "Post Cyberpunk deconstructions… a huge and tangled cyberpunk city, home of RL avant garde music label Hangars Liquides."

When you first teleport there, you will be in a pitch black room. Before doing anything, look for the floating text "HL readme + free flight assistant". It will give you a notecard with some information about the sim, and most importantly, it will give you a flight assistant. The sim is around 1600 meters above sea level, far above the elevation at which avatars can fly. Immediately look in your inventory and select "Flight Feather" and attach it to some part of your body. It serves two purposes: keeping you from falling when you step over an edge in the darkness, and it illuminates your avatar, a huge help in the darkness that permeates this sim.

One other thing you should do is set your Draw Distance to 512 meters. You’ll find this in Edit/Preferences/Graphics with a checkmark in Custom. Don’t leave it there after you leave the sim, however. It will probably substantially slow down your computer.

Inside Hangars Lilquides darkly mysterious city

If you wander along the dark hallway, you will eventually find yourself in HL’s mysterious city, a place teeming with electric energy yet no life, a haunting place where you can never quite get your bearings.

Make sure you have your audio on. HL describes its music as "flashcore"; Wikipedia describes it as hardcore techno experimental music. Their music is an essential component of the experience.

If you don’t wear your Flight Feather, at some point you will walk off an edge or fall through a hole and fall 1500 meters or more to the bottom of the sea, where you’ll find a conveniently located teleporter for easy transport back to the start.

This sim is already impressive. I can’t wait to see what it offers after it’s been completed. If you’re a Second Life member, you can teleport there by clicking here.

Hangars Liquides teleporter at the bottom of the sea

A taste of old Africa – Nigeria in Second Life

A replica village in Second Life's Nigeria

I discovered Nigeria in Second Life‘s Saminaka sim when CNN‘s iReporter group in Second Life paid it a visit this week. It’s an interesting place that attempts to recreate the feel of parts of traditional Nigeria, the Nigeria that existed before oil, internet scams, and other modern day problems changed how so many view the real Nigeria.

Second Life’s Nigeria is a place of sandy beaches and a baked, cracked mud interior. One of the features is a walled village of round structures, with washing drying and a steamng laundry scrubbing bucket, picture to the right.

Impala and kingfisher in Second Life's Nigeria Just up from that little village, nestled in a secluded pond at the foot of a waterfall, you’ll find this pier. In the bamboo growing around the pond there is an impala drinking and this kingfisher with a fish squirming in its beak.
As you walk up from the pond towards the commercial area, you’ll pass through some examples of Nigerian wild life: an ant hill with what might be thousands of ants streaming in and out, and two peacocks, including this one who struts in circles, occasionally spreading its tail as its doing in the picture to the right. Peacock in Second Life's Nigeria
African arts & crafts shop in Second Life's Nigeria The sim also contains a number of shops where you can buy African-themed items that include furniture, avatar skins, jewelry, clothing, and arts and crafts including what’s in the picture to the left, a shop that contains both traditional and contemporary African art.

Second Life members can go there by clicking slurl.com/secondlife/Saminaka/123/142/31

Second Life’s Mighty Atomic Mine Buster roller coaster

Second Life's "Might Atomic Mine Buster" roller coaster

An old fashioned, rickety wooden roller coaster in Second Life? Yes. It’s the "Mighty Atomic Mine Buster" in the Venusian sim. I’ll confess upfront that I’m not a roller coaster fan, either in my first or second lives, but I do appreciate the attention to detail that’s been taken in constructing this 800 meter, rather elaborate roller coaster. The wood is well aged, giving the thing a feeling of danger, as though it could collapse if the coaster cars ever went too fast. Part of it is shown in the picture to the right.

Of course, they don’t go too fast, and in fact if lag is too bad they don’t go at all, as happened in one of my visits, but it’s nonetheless impressive. The creator, Atom Burma, has modeled it on Coney Island’s 1950s Cyclone rollercoaster, and has not only included a roller coaster soundtrack – before riding it, be certain that your speakers are turned on – but also provided animations for the riders.

Second Life's "Might Atomic Mine Buster" roller coaster

This picture shows the avatar animation as you’re riding the Mine Buster.

It’s part of a much larger amusement park, the Carnivale Amusement Park, which has over a dozen rides, including two water rides, a spider, a ferris wheel, bumper cars (which I couldn’t get to work on any of my visits), and a tram that gives an aerial tour of the park.

An unusual feature of the park that you certainly won’t find in real life is that all the rides are for sale or rent. Want to give a party on your land? Rent some rides!

A new feature that won’t fully open until August 2009 is "Emerald City", a game based on the "Wizard of Oz". Before you enter, you are given the opportunity to watch a video, pictured here, of a highly condensed version of the story.

There’s much more there. A lot of attention has gone into constructing it. On my last visit there, I even saw what appeared to be a hooker (not affiliated with the Park). In my experience, mornings are the best time to visit. The one time I visited in the evening, the lag was so intense that the rides were unusable.

Second Life members can go there by clicking slurl.com/secondlife/Venusian/88/32/40.

Scene from Emerald City's Wizard of Oz video

World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg saved thousands of Jews

Raoul Wallenberg's Office

Not all war heroes carry weapons and wear a uniform. A few work quietly, behind the scenes, in nondescript offices, where they work to save lives knowing that every day that today could be the day they pay for it with their own life. This is how it was for Swedish diploment Raoul Wallenberg. Stationed in Budapest, Hungary during the Nazi occupation there, he worked tirelessly to save the lives of thousands of Jews at the risk of his own life.

Sweden’s Virtual Embassy in Second Life has recreated Raoul Wallenberg’s office, seen on this picture, as he left it the day he was captured by the Soviets in January 1945 The office is furnished sparsely, with the only decorations a photograph of Wallenberg at three with his mother, Swedish King Gustav V, a map of Budapest on the opposite wall, and a Budapest tourism poster, the only item of color in the office and also the only item hung crookedly..

Raoul Wallenberg's Office

The entrance to Raoul Wallenberg’s office is suitably somber. You enter from the brightly lit, modern Swedish Virtual Embassy but walk through a room that is totally black, taking you back in time to the siege of Budapest. Be sure to play the streaming media in the office. You will hear the sounds of Soviet and German forces battling over the city. It was a long and bloody battle, 102 days long, and left 38,000 civilians dead. The picture on the left shows the view out the window over Wallenberg’s typing table, showing shattered and burned buildings.

Wallenberg saved thousands of Jews from German concentration camps, but when the end came, it was the Soviets, not the Germans, who captured him. After capturing Budapest from the Germans, the Soviets seized Wallenberg and placed him in Lubyanka Prison. He was never freed, and disappeared into the Soviet penal system. The Soviets announced that he was executed in 1947, but there were claims by Soviet prisoners of seeing him alive as recently as 1991.

View out Raulol Wallenberg's window

Second Life’s Great Wall of China

Second Life's Great Wall of China

You can walk on the Great Wall of China, or at least your avatar can, in Second Life‘s Mao Island, "Home of the Great Wall of China". You can even buy the complete wall, or parts of it, to erect on your Second Life land!

Mao Island, despite having a name that evokes ghosts of China‘s Communist Cultural Revolution, is a decidely non-Communist place that would make old Mao turn in his grave. It’s part of the Hosoi-Ichiba cluster of thoughtfully designed and constructed Asian-themed islands. The other islands are Japanese. I’ll be reporting on them in the future.

My first visit to Second Life’s Great Wall was unsettling. It’s surrounded on all sides by water, not at all like the remote desert and mountain regions of the original Great Wall of China, and a voice within me kept saying, "this isn’t right". That voice soon faded. After all, creating a wall that’s the SL equivalent.of a wall thousands of miles long and guarded by over a million men isn’t reasonable. The Great Wall on Mao Island is an excellent fascimile. Built of 3592 primitives and encircling most of an entire sim, it’s an impressive structure in its own right.

The picture on the right is of the moon rising over part of the Great Wall, seen from the bridge leading from the landing point. The entire wall, including its guard houses, was built in only about two weeks by creator Amiryu Hosoi working alone. She did it as a commission from an RL friend. Before undertaking the project, she searched 3,000 photos of China’s Great Wall to assure the greatest possible accuracy in design and textures.
Great Wall by moonlight

When you first land on Mao Island, you are in a guard building that houses nearly all the commercialism you’ll find. There are vendors for traditional Asian clothing, buildings, and the Great Wall itself. You can buy the entire thing for 59,500 Lindens, or individual components.

The picture on the left is of a traditional sampan for sale outside the building. You’ll have to jump off the bridge onto the beach to see it close-up.

Any Second Life member wishing to visit the Great Wall can teleport there by clicking slurl.com/secondlife/Mao/150/142/31.

Make a video screen and watch videos on your Second Life land – part two

"About Land" Media box before setting media

Last week in part one I told you how to build a simple screen for watching videos on your land.  Today I’m going to show you how to get video actually playing on it.

 Second Life only plays Quick Time movies, so this is what you’ll need to look for.  If you don’t have your own streaming video server (most of us don’t!), you’ll need to find one.  If you’re not certain whether a movie is in Quick Time format, look at the extension on the file name.  If it’s “.mov”, it’s Quick Time.  You’ll also have to have Quick Time installed on your computer. Before you can watch video in Second Life.  Quick Time is free.  You can download it at www.apple.com/quicktime.

The next step is to find videos you can play on your land.  One source of Quick Time videos that you can play on your land is NASA, which has downloadable videos at www.nasa.gov/multimedia/index.html.  We’ll use NASA’s podcast about the Kepler Mission for finding habitable planets as an example.  The URL is http://kepler.nasa.gov/media/mpeg_files/ARC-KeplerOverview-480p.mov

 Now that we have a video URL, we’ll set our land to play it.  To do this, we right -click anywhere on our land and then click “About Land” in the popup pie chart. The About Land window, will popup; click the Media tab in it.  With the Media tab selected, you’ll see “Media Type”, “Media URL”, and “Replace Texture”. The picture at the left shows the Media box for Second Life land before you’ve changed anything..

"About Land"  Media box: entering the media URL
The box on the right is where you enter the media URL
"About Land" Media box before setting media

The Media box after making your changes

On the right side you’ll see “Set”.  Click “Set”.  This will open up a new window to the right.  Copy and paste “http://kepler.nasa.gov/media/mpeg_files/ARC-KeplerOverview-480p.mov” into it and then click OK.  If you’ve done it correctly, the URL automatically appeared in Media URL and “Movie” appeared in “Media Type”, as you’ll see in the picture on the left.

 The final step is to set the media texture.  We do this similarly to how we did for the screen.  First, left-click the texture box (to the right of “Replace Texture”.  This opens up the Pick Texture window.   Type “default media texture” in the white search box and when it appears in the list of textures, click Select.

 Before playing the movie, make certain that you’ve enabled media in your Preferences.  Click Edit, then click “Preferences” and click the Audio&Video tab.  Make sure there’s a check in the checkbox next to “Play Streaming Media When Available

 You are now ready to play your movie!  If you’ve done everything right, in the lower right of your Second Life window you’ll see a small icon of an old-fashioned two reel projector with an arrow to its right.  Click the arrow.  The screen you made should turn black and then in a few moments, the Kepler movie should begin playing on it.

 You’ve now created a simple, crude screen.  You’ll eventually want one that’s scripted for additional features, and seating that automatically sets your view to the screen, but the screen you’ve just made is a start and will allow you to watch or to test media on your land.


Babel Project machinima (video)

Fernando Pessoa exhibit in Babel Project II
Fernando Pessoa exhibit in Babel Project II

The European Babel Project in Second Life is producing some impressive machinimas. One of them is the absolutely amazing 12 minute machiniema PESSOA, which you can view at rezlibris.com.   The picture on the left is in Babel Project’s Fernando Pessoa exhibit.  If you’re a Second Life member, you can teleport to it by clicking slurl.com/secondlife/Babel%20Project%20II/228/62/21.

Machinima is essentially a video made in a virtual world such as Second Life. Another of their videos, the 2-1/2 minute Ideagoras, is on YouTube and can be viewed by clicking the play button below. Enjoy!