One Christmas Night: the Calas Christmas sim 2013

December is almost upon us, bringing with it thoughts of Christmas, winterfest and other seasonal celebrations, and the end of the western calendar year. Many regions in SL are already reflecting the time of year and bringing with them scenes of snow and frosted trees as is traditionally the case – at least in the northern hemisphere.

However, no winter in Second Life is complete without two things: the winter landscapes of Calas Galadhon (which I’d be visiting soon) and the special Calas Galadhon Christmas theme at SilverMyst, so recently the home of Truck and Ty’s Halloween-themed Veil of Darkness.

One Christmas Night
One Christmas Night – click to enlarge any image

While SilverMyst had then been to home to ghouls, ghosts, the undead and monsters, all amidst deserted towns dark and mist-filled bayous, tall castles and more, with One Christmas Night it has been transformed into a gorgeous rural winter scene, where reindeer, brown bears, weasels, penguins, polar bears and more roam beneath a wintery sky from which big, soft flakes of snow fall to cover the ground in a thick blanket.

Ty and Truck kindly invited me over to One Christmas Night to take a look around ahead of the opening, and for anyone with a romantic inclination and / or a love of winter scenes, it is very much going to be the place to visit. It’s also likely to be very much photographed – I felt I wanted to travel around with an easel, canvas and paints, a feeling I’ve tried to capture in the images here.

One Christmas Night
One Christmas Night

From the arrival point, you are free to wander on foot or, if you prefer, hop into a magic sleigh which will take you around the region before delivering you to the Christmas Pavilion. There are actually two sleighs available: the first seats up to four people, while the second offers more intimate cuddles for couples. Just jump in and touch to start.

Both provide a gentle ride along snow-covered tracks, passing winter scenes, several of which encompass Ty and Truck’s eye for humour – such as mother brown bear, obviously worn-out by the kids, is slumped across a log as her energetic cubs continue play in the snow. Keep an eye out, as well, for the flying reindeer ride, which offers another unique vantage-point from which to see the region.

One Christmas Night
One Christmas Night

When you arrive at the pavilion, there’s more to do. Step inside and avail yourself of a glass of Cognac or goblet mulled wine, admire the Christmas tree or sit by the warmth of the fire. For those who like a challenge, a harpsichord invites people to sit and play it for a while. For the very active, and a short walk away outside, is a frozen lake where you can dance and skate, or sit by a small log fire and simply watch others on the ice and wait for the huge kettle of hot chocolate to come to the boil while toasting marshmallows and hotdogs.

As with all of Ty and Truck’s celebratory builds, there are a few things worth pointing out in order to fully enjoy a visit. The first is that if your system can handle it, make sure Advanced Lighting Model (Preferences > Graphics) is active. You don’t have to have Shadows enabled, but if you can, it’s also worth giving it a go, depending upon how busy the region is. On that latter point, do please make sure you travel light to the region, script-wise, particularly if you’re attending one of the special events planned for the region (check the Calas Galadhon website or join the Calas announcement group for details).

One Christmas Night
One Christmas Night

Most importantly of all, do make sure you accept the region windlight on arrival or, if you’re feeling particularly romantic, sent an evening / night windlight in your viewer and do accept the region’s media streaming. Once again, Truck has hand-picked the music for the stream, and it greatly adds to the mood :).

One Christmas Night opens to Calas Galadhon group members at 14:00 on Thursday December 28th, and will open to the public over the course of the weekend. Enjoy!

One Christmas Night
One Christmas Night

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LL give further clarification on tax requirements via e-mail

secondlifeOn November 21st, I posted an article about LL requesting tax information from some customers. Specifically, people had started receiving e-mails from the Lab asking them to complete IRS form W9, Request for Taxpayer Information, which caused some concern and confusion.

As a result, on Tuesday 19th November, Linden Lab moved to try to clarify matters, issuing a blog post entitled Required Tax Documentation. This indicated that the Lab is required by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to collect and retain either Form W-9 (for US citizens) or Form W-8BEN (for non-US citizens) “at certain transaction volumes”. The blog post also noted that  those falling under the criteria who fail to submit a completed W-9 or W-8BEN  risk having 28% of their gross amounts received withheld. Finally, the post indicated that the Lab is required to file Form 1099-K with the IRS for US residents “with 200 or more transactions with a total amount in excess of $20,000” in a calendar year.

While this went some way towards clarifying the situation, it still left a number of questions and concerns unanswered; one of these being what exactly constitutes a “transaction”, as I noted at the time:

Is it related solely to cashing-out from Second Life, or is it based on the number of user-to-user transaction through the LindeX (i.e. the number of L$ sales a person makes per amount of L$ they offer on the LindeX? Or is it somewhere in between?

Long-term SL user and LL customer Desmond Shang decided to try to seek further information and answers from the Lab. As a result, he’s posted a couple of useful pieces on the SL Universe thread where some of the discussion on the matter has been taking place.

In the first, he recommends that anyone with specific questions / concerns should contact Linden Billing, noting that they have been reasonably responsive. He also points-out that while circumstances will vary from individual to individual, depending upon a range of factors, those who might be regarded as a “hobbyist” in SL might be able to claim some relief on revenue they receive through the platform. In particular he suggests IRS Publication 529 Miscellaneous Deductions might be worth a read, together with Can You Deduct Your Expenses From a Hobby? from Nolo.com.

More specifically, Desmond posts the Lab’s definition of a “transaction”:

Transactions are currently defined as sell orders placed on the LindeX and applies per person not per avatar. How that order is filled does not currently impact the transaction count. For example, if you place a sell order for L$5,000 and that order is matched with three different residents while being filled, it counts as one transaction.

The Lab also note that IRS criteria on withholding taxes is only on the transaction count itself and is only required if they do not have a valid W-9 or W-8BEN on file.

The key points here remain that firstly, these requirements will not impact everyone in Second Life. Secondly, if you have received a request for tax information from the Lab, it is important you do not ignore it, as you risk 28% of your gross amounts received withheld if you do. This applies whether or not you are a US citizen.

Additionally, those who have received a request from the Lab and who have questions / concerns should consider: a) contacting Linden Lab Billing for further information / with specific questions; b) seeking the advice of a tax professional.

Great ready to step back into The Blackened Mirror

Blackened MirrorBack in August, I wrote a piece previewing the upcoming return of The Blackened Mirror, a Chandleresque TV series with a fine twist of Steampunk stirred into a mix of film noir and H.P. Lovecraft. Written by David Abbott, the 6-part show was filmed in Second Life and formed the centrepiece of a multimedia event which featured  a game that could be enjoyed within Second Life, together with explorations and puzzles which encompassed the Internet and social media streams, and more.

At the time I wrote that piece, filming for Season 2 was about to start, and there had been a call for people willing to participate to contact the producers.

Well, now the filming is done, as is most of the editing, and Season 2 of The Blackened Mirror will make its debut at 14:00 SLT on Sunday December 1st, 2013, reuniting us with hard-boiled and enigmatic PI Harland Quinn, voiced by the simply fabulous Zander Greene (and yes I still could sit and listen to him read a telephone directory; his voice is that captivating), Ms Alais Alleyn (Aisling Sinclair) and Mr. Biggins (Mavromichali Szondi).

The new story picks-up exactly where Season One left off; Quinn and his companions seemingly trapped in a bar, when a stranger with a very familiar voice and face shows up…

Alais and Harland Quin from Season 2 of The Blackened Mirror (image courtesy of PrimPerfect / Saffia Widdershins)
Alais Alleyn and Harland Quin in a scene from the first season of The Blackened Mirror (image courtesy of PrimPerfect / Saffia Widdershins)

In October, I was graciously extended the opportunity to watch an initial cut of the first episode of the new season by the series’ director, Saffia Widdershins. Having done so, I can honestly say that fans of the show are in for one hack of a ride; the story offers twists, turns and not a few surprises that more than keep one engaged and wanting more.

Alongside the regular cast, a very special guest star will be appearing in the new season, someone once known for seeing others as good, dear friends while in another universe – but I’ll say no more at this point! You’ll have to tune-in to the Blackened Mirror’s Treet TV channel to find out more.

For those new to the world of The Blackened Mirror, now is an ideal time to catch-up with the first season via the Treet TV channel mentioned above or via the show’s  YouTube channel. Those wishing to stay abreast of the latest news on the show should check-out the official website and the show’s Facebook page.

Keep up-to-date on the show via the official website
Keep up-to-date on the show via the official website and Facebook page

If you are up-to-date with Harland Quinn’s television exploits, why not tune-in to the Death in Velvet, a 4-part radio show broadcast in 2012 and featuring another of Quinn’s cases. You can find it on Zander Greene’s YouTube channel, and it features special guests stars of its own. Why not listen to the first part of the show here?

I’ll have a little more on The Blackened Mirror in due course. In the meantime don’t forget: the new season premieres at 14:00 on Sunday December 1st.

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