Sina Souza at Influence Art

Sina Sousa, Influence
Sina Sousa, Influence Photography Studio

Sina Souza’s newest exhibition, simply entitled Sina Souza opened at the Influence Photography Studio, on Sunday January 25th.

Occupying both floors of the brick-built studio, a part of the Influence Art Gallery Community run by MacKena Soothsayer and Yvan Slade, the exhibition features works by Sina which may well have been seen at other exhibitions of her work – but this doesn’t make them any the less powerful or reduce their emotional impact in any way.

Sina Sousa, "Remember Me" Influence Photography Studio
Sina Sousa, “Remember Me” Influence Photography Studio

Involved in Second Life since 2012, Sina has had her pieces exhibited widely since then, and has worked in collaboration with other artists such as Bryn Oh and Sabbian Paine. Her work is largely focused on life studies, and sometimes touches on matters of identity. All of her work is shot in Second Life, with PhotoShop used to created the finished pieces.

As noted above, there is an emotional depth to Sina’s work which can be challenging – or at least thought provoking in sentiment, something which tends to draw me all the more to it. I’ve included two particular examples of the power of her work to evoking feelings: Remember Me speaks powerfully of a lost love or kinship; the loneliness felt on the departure of one held dear, and the longing that they may still remember; and In the Crosshair of a Nation, which may not make entirely comfortable viewing, but also carries with it a powerful message of perception.

Sina Sousa, "In the Crosshair of a Nation" Influence Photography Studio
Sina Sousa, “In the Crosshair of a Nation” Influence Photography Studio

While not deliberately intended to be a retrospective, the exhibition at Influence does come somewhat close to being so, even if only very informally. Certainly, if you haven’t encountered her work before it serves and an excellent introduction, with the studio space serving as the ideal environment in which to gain an better acquaintance.


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All change, getting virtual on Mars and watching the asteroid go by

CuriosityThe start of the year has brought – and is bringing – some changes to the Mars Science Laboratory mission. The first change has occurred here on Earth. On January 5th, 2015, John Grotzinger from the California Institute of Technology stepped down as the mission’s principal Project Scientist in overall charge of a team of some 500 people from across the globe who are operating the rover and its suite of scientific instruments.

Recently promoted to chair Caltech’s Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, Grotzinger will still be involved in the mission, but his new responsibilities mean he cannot reasonably continue in such a lead role within the project. Stepping into his shoes, therefore, is Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He has been serving in the role of Deputy Project Scientist since the mission’s inception 2004, and has been intimately involved in both the development of the mission’s science packages and the rover itself. As such, he is ideally placed to take over from Grotzinger.

“John Grotzinger put his heart and soul into Curiosity for seven years, leaving a legacy of success and scientific achievement,” he said on taking over the role. “Now I look forward to continuing our expedition to Mars’ ancient past, with a healthy rover and a dedicated and passionate international team. And yes, this is all just incredibly cool.”

Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, took over has the MSL’s Project Scientist from John Grotzinger at the start of January, 2015

Meanwhile, on Mars, Curiosity is engaged in further studies of rocks within the “Pahrump Hills” area on the lower slopes of “Mount Sharp”. These studies will involve drilling for rock samples from at least one more target of interest,  prior to the rover continuing its climb up the flank of the mountain.

The initial target for sample gathering has been dubbed “Mojave”, which appears to be rich in crystalline minerals. Slightly smaller than grains of rice, the structures first appeared on early images of the rock captured by the rover, and have caused intense – no pun intended – curiosity among mission scientists.

“We don’t know what they represent,” Vasavada said of the mineral forms and the decision to target “Mojave” for drilling. “We’re hoping that mineral identifications we get from the rover’s laboratory will shed more light than we got from just the images and bulk chemistry.”

Prior to drilling for actual samples, Curiosity was first ordered to carry out a “mini drilling” operation. This is a routine test to ascertain a number of things prior to committing to a full-on sample gathering exercise. These include making sure the rock is stable enough for a full drilling operation, gathering data of the reaction of the drill to penetrating the rock surface, ensuring any drilling operation will not cause undue vibration within the rover’s mechanisms, and so on.

A unique view of the "mini drilling" operation on "Mojave". Captured by Curiosity's Hazcam navigation cameras, the image shows the rover's "hand" oriented such that the dril (visible with its two steadying arms) is placed against the rock
A unique view of the “mini drilling” operation on “Mojave”. Captured by Curiosity’s Hazcam navigation cameras, the image shows the rover’s “hand” oriented such that the drill (visible with its two steadying arms) is placed against the rock, with the peak of “Mount Sharp” forming a backdrop.

The initial mini-drilling operation took place on January 13th 2015, during the 867th Martian day, or Sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars. It marks the third phase of science operations in the “Pahrump Hills” area, having been preceded by a “walkabout” of the area in which potential target sites for detail investigation were noted prior to follow-up examinations of several of them using some of the rover’s on-board systems, such as the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), both of which are also mounted on the “hand” or turret at the end of the rover’s robot arm.

Once samples from “Mojave” have been collected, they’ll be passed through the CHIMRA system inside the turret, which will prepare them for delivery to the rover’s main on-board science suits, SAM and ChemMin. The latter (standing for Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument), will hopefully reveal a lot more about the chemical composition of the crystals. Additionally the drilling operation itself should reveal whether the crystals are only at the surface, like a salty crust, or are also deeper in the rock, which itself might lead to clues about their origins

“There could be a fairly involved story here,” Vasavada said. “Are they salt crystals left from a drying lake? Or are they more pervasive through the rock, formed by fluids moving through the rock? In either case, a later fluid may have removed or replaced the original minerals with something else.”

Two other potential targets for drilling operations are also under consideration before the rover moves out of the “Pahrump Hills” area.

The view is a mosaic of four focus-merge images created by Curiosity from 40 images acquired using MAHLI on Sol 809 (November 15th, 2014 PDT). It shows an area of the “Mojave” rock which has been cleaned by the rover’s dust removal tool in order to reveal the tiny rice-like crystalline deposits. The penny in the lower left is to scale with the mosaic

Continue reading “All change, getting virtual on Mars and watching the asteroid go by”

From 19th century scandals to 26th century living

It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in voice, brought to Second Life and Kitely by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library.

As always, all times SLT / PDT, and unless otherwise stated, events will be held on the Seanchai Library’s home on Imagination Island, or at their Kitely Homeworld.

Sunday, January 25th

13:30: Tea-time at Baker Street

Back from a well earned break, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson return to their rooms at 221B Baker Street to be joined by Caledonia Skytower, Corwyn Allen and Kayden Oconnell, as Seanchai Library’s popular Sunday feature resumes.

“This photograph” by Sidney Paget, July 1891 (wikimedia)

This week comes one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most well-liked mysteries to have engaged his Great Detective, and which first appeared in The Strand Magazine in 1891, before going on to be the first story in the 1982 collection, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It was also the first of Doyle’s detective series to be illustrated by Sidney Paget. I’m of course talking about A Scandal in Bohemia.

In March 1888, Dr. John Watson, married and with his own medical practice is returning home when, on a whim, he drops in at 221B Baker Street to see Holmes. No sooner has Watson arrived, than Holmes demonstrates some of his incredible deductive powers – which are shortly given greater exercise when, after receiving his expected guest, who arrives during the reunion, Holmes pronounces  him to be not “Count Von Kramm” as he purports, but rather Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein and the hereditary King of Bohemia.

Admitting Holmes has correctly identified him, the king reveals he is seeking Holmes’ assistance in a matter of some delicacy. It revolves around a liaison he had five years’ previously with an American opera singer, Irene Adler, and which could now threaten his upcoming marriage to a Scandinavian princess. Thus Sherlock Holmes comes to pit his wits against an adversary he will forever only refer to as “the Woman” …

18:00: Magicland Storytime: In Search of the Castaways

(Piccadilly Books)

Teenager Mary Grant, sets out with her younger brother, Robert, and chaperoned by Captain Jacques Paganel and led by the comically intrepid Lord Glenarvan (and his crushingly handsome son!), to secure the rescue of her shipwrecked father. Adventure, intrigue, romance and betrayal are all to be encountered before Captain Grant’s children succeed in their task.

In Search of the Castaways was a 1962 film by Walt Diney studios starring Hayley Mills, Wilfred Hyde-White, George Sanders and Maurice Chevalier as Captain Jaques Paganel. It was based on Jules Verne’s 1868 novel, Captain Grant’s Children, which was in turn re-issued following the film, but itself retitled In Search of the Castaways.

Join Caledonia Skytower in Magicland Park, she she continues reading from this engaging tale.

Monday January 26th, 19:00 The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be

Gyro Muggins launches a new series of readings from sci-fi greats which cast a curious light on the shape of things to come, starting with Fredrick Pohl’s The Age of the Pussyfoot.

(Trident 1971 hardcover)
(Trident 1971 hardcover)

First published in serial form in1966, they republished as a novel in its own right in 1969, The Age of the Pussyfoot sees us transported to the 26th century along with one Charles Forrester, who has been in a state of cryogenic sleep for some 500 years, after being killed in a fire. His time in suspended animation, together with his revival – now that technology has developed to a point where revival is possible – has been paid for through his insurance, which (presumably through the act of compound interest down the centuries, his on-going medical expenses notwithstanding) has also left him comparatively well-off.

Forrester find the 26th century a place of delight; his spectre-like computer terminal, the Joymaker, puts almost everything – including drugs – at his fingertips. He’s able to take an apartment, still enjoy the delights of 20th century food and enter into a lifestyle of parties and fun, the money from his insurance making him rather wealthy.

Then things start to go a little sideways. First, there is Adne, who appears to be out to trap him into providing for her children; there’s also the mysterious Club, who also seem to be more interested in Forrester’s wealth than him. Add to the list the man from Mars who has taken out a hunting licence allowing him and his friends to track down and even kill Forrester – so long as his revival is paid for – and the future suddenly isn’t so bright a playground. And when his money starts running out, and he’s forced to take a job, he’s also forced to reassess who he can trust and who he can’t, and just what role he is actually to play in humanity’s future…

Tuesday January 27th, 19:00: A Walk in the Woods

walk-in-woodsBy his own admission, Bill Bryson isn’t the world’s greatest adventurer. This being the case, you’d think he’d have serious misgivings about undertaking this particular “walk in the woods”, as he disarmingly calls it: taking the 3,500 kilometre (2,200 mile) Appalachian Trail – a journey which would take five months to complete.

Travelling with his good friend “Stephen Katz”, the book is both a humorous guide to the trail and a set of serious and insightful comments / discussion on the trail’s history as it winds its way from Georgia (where Bryson was living at the time the book was written in 1998), to Maine. These discussions cover a broad range of subject including the sociology, ecology, trees, plants, animals and people of the states through which the trail passes (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine).

Join Kayden Oconnell as he continues in Bryson’s footsteps through the pages of this classic.

Wednesday January 28th,19:00: Beggars Day Book Two: The Caged King

Beggars Day 2Caledonia Skytower continues reading MJ McGalliard’s second novel, and the sequel to Beggar’s Day Book One: The Beggar Prince.

The Kingdom of Galaway has a law that every ruler must work a year and a day as a commoner; thus were readers introduced, through the first volume, to the kingdom and some of its notable inhabitants, including King Willy, Prince Larry, the scheming Percy, desperate to see himself on the throne, and the chicken-stealing crone Cruith.

Now, in the second volume, Vikings, hidden illnesses, ancient family squabbles and unplanned pregnancy are but a few of the changes in Galaway. Cruith is part of a conspiracy, Willy invents a new wagon, apples seem to be in the mix, while everything seems to revolve around a baby horse. And I haven’t even mentioned King Monaghan.

Intrigued? Then why not hop over to Seanchai library to hear this entertaining tale which, incidentally, is illustrated by one Judith Cullen – aka Caledonia Skytower!

Thursday January 29th, 19:00: Conan the Barbarian

Shandon Loring delves into the legend of Robert E. Howard’s hero from the fictional “Hyborian Age“of the Earth.

Saturday January 31st, Seanchai Kitely

09:00: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes

Join Shandon Loring who brings us tales of love to be found within the theme of Gods and Heroes.

15:00: The Great Gatsby, Part 4

Great GatsbyShandon Loring continues a reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnificent 1925 novel at Explore The Great Gatsby in Kitely.

In 1922, Nick Carraway arrives in New York to learn about the bond business. He rents a small cottage in West Egg, home of the newly-rich, only to discover the owner of the huge Gothic mansion next door, the deeply mysterious Jay Gatsby, is prone to throwing lavish parties every weekend, to which in seems everyone comes. Everyone it seems, except Nick’s cousin Daisy, who is married to Tom Buchanan. Together they live across the bay in the more fashion East Egg, where the “old money” resides.

Following a visit with them, Nick is slowly drawn into their world, both discovering Tom Buchanan has a mistress who lives in the Valley of Ashes, an industrial area lying between the Eggs and New York city, and finding himself increasingly attracted to the Buchanan’s friend, the beautiful, if cynically minded, Jordan Baker.

Then, one Saturday, Nick finds himself invited to one of Jay Gatsby’s great parties, and is thus drawn into an increasingly deep well of infatuation, lust, and tragedy, witnessing first hand a darker side of the so-called American Dream.

Follow the teleport portal to Explore The Great Gatsby for this unfolding tale.


Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule. The featured charity for January / February is Project Children, teaching and building peace in Northern Ireland, one child at a time.

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