Previewing The Dickens Project 2019 in Second Life

The Dickens Project 2019: the Museum of Dickens Projects Past, the Dickens Library and the Listening Room

The 2019 edition of The Dickens Project formally opens its doors on Sunday, December 1st, 2019, ready to offer a month long celebration of the Christmas / holiday season and the life and works of Charles Dickens in Victorian England. Centred upon a series of reading of what is perhaps his most popular novel – and one which still resonates with meaning today – A Christmas Carol, the Dickens Project present a full region of events and immersive activities for visitors to enjoy.

To summarise the Project, one could bullet-point it as including:

  • Over 60 hours of live music, spoken word, dance events and performances.
  • Self-selectable interactive elements, including:
    • The “Urchins in Dickens’ London” role-play/game/experience, and opportunities for both RP and Non-RP guests.
    • The Story Path: an audio-assisted walk through the Project and A Christmas Carol.
    • Tours of the region by carriage and balloon.
    • Free period costumes, so you can explore the region “in character”.
  • Dozens of performers, presenters, and special guests including Patch Linden himself.
  • Educational and interpretive content to encourage questions like “What was Tiny Tim suffering from anyway?”

As is traditional with the Project, the region is broadly set out as a set of interconnected area reflecting the various parts of A Christmas Carol: Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmas Yet to Come and The End of It All. Each area offers various points of interest and activities, some of which I’ve highlighted below. To help you find your way around, this year’s event includes a map of locations, which I’ve reproduced here.

The Dickens Project Map – click for full size, if required

The Dickens Project Highlights

Region Tours: Take a 20-25 minutes tour of the region via horse and carriage or hot air balloon.

Bay Rum Royal of Canterwell, the stylish horse and carriage tour supplied by Elite Equestrian returns to The Dickens Project for its 3rd year. Offering a 25-minute double loop tour of the region for up to four people at a time, regular stopping points on the route allowing riders to hop on or off as she waits. She may even also offer the occasional gift or give and advice and information about the locations as you pass them.

Tour the region by carriage with Bay Rum Royal of Canterwell

The Hot Air Balloon allows you to explore the region for the air, and includes a special ascent to The Opera House, the region’s skybox events area.

Of course, you can also walk through the streets and alleys of region, or if you prefer you can enjoy a self-guided pony-ride, courtesy of Merrylegs the Shetland Pony. Provided by Elite Equestrian, he can generally be found in their stables in the region, unless someone is riding him. Just sit on him, turn off your avatar’s AO, and use the normal movement keys as if walking. Please return him to the stables at the end of your ride!

The Story Path Voices Audio Tour: collect your free HUD from the kiosk at the landing point and ADD it (it will wear invisibly and operate automatically), then follow the Story Path markers through the region (including into and out of some of the buildings) at normal walking pace to hear over 40 selected voice clips from A Christmas Carol, as well as music and sound effects as you step over the markers.

The Story Path kiosk and one of the route markers (l); a story plinth note card giver (r)

Hearing and Reading A Christmas Carol: drop in at the Dickens Reading Room, sink into a comfortable armchair, turn on the audio stream and hear A Christmas Carol read by the storytellers of Seanchai Library and their friends any time you like. Or if you prefer, look out for the plinths set out within the various parts of the region and touch them to collect parts of the story on note card.

Role-play with the Urchins’ In Dickens London or free-form: Created by Aoife Lorefield, a Dickens Project co-creator Urchins In Dickens’ London will be available throughout The Dickens Project 2019 run. Residents of all ages are welcome to participate. Look for the Urchin Information kiosk and click on the poster offering the game HUD. Inside the package, you’ll find instructions on how to get started. Also check the Urchins in Dickens’ London web page.

Charles Dickens was ever a champion of children, writing stories about those who were poor and unprotected,” says Lorefield, “His child characters are often triumphant, finding ways to build lives of purpose and sometimes even happiness in a difficult time.

– Aoife Lorefield on Urchins In Dickens’ London

The Dickens Project 2019

For those who fancy free-form role-play as a character from Victorian London (you don’t have to be a specific character from A Christmas Carol or any other Dickens novel), then check-out The Dickens Project role-play page and jump over to the region and grab a free period outfit (or just use one of your own!).

The Dickens Resource Centre and Dickens Library, presented by the Community Virtual Library (CVL): the Dickens Resource Centre features research exhibits on Charles Dickens and elements of his historical era created by CVL volunteers, many of whom are professional librarians or information technology specialists. It will also be the site of the San Jose State University VCARA School’s Dickens Read Along, and numerous tours by educational interest groups from across Second life.

The Dickens Library focuses on the canon of Charles Dickens, and connecting guests with the scope of his work: including all 15 novels, five novellas, and connections to sources for the hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles. The Dickens Library makes the connection to an entire world of literature for guests.

Find out more about both on the Seanchai Library web site.

Events and entertainment: throughout the month, The Dickens Project will feature dance, music, and theatre, both on the ground and up in the Opera House overhead. Once again, Idle Rogue Productions and Misfit Dance & Performance Art will be presenting performances, and the Project will again feature contributions from Ce Soir Arts, Radio Riel, and Innsmouth SL. Fantasy Faire Radio also joins in the events for the first time this year, broadcasting music from Dickens Square on December 18th, and presenting an encore performance of its radio drama The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (see Jekyll and Hyde in Second Life for more on this production).

The Dickens Project 2019: Inside the Opera House

And, of course, there will be the readings of A Christmas Carol, including the popular “Carol Week”, with a section of Dickens’ novella presented live each day in a tour of the sites on the region inspired by the story. Also, Saturday, December 21st will feature Fezziwig’s Ball, and the Christmas Week culminates in The Big Read on Sunday, December 22nd. starting at noon SLT, this will feature a relay-style reading of A Christmas Carol involving 9-12 voices.

Full details of all events can be found in The Dickens Project calendar, below. All times SLT.

So, get set for another Dickens of a Christmas in Second Life!

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Homage to Surrealism on Second Life

Itakos Project: Homage to Surealism – PatrickofIreland

Officially opening on Saturday November 30th, 2019 at the Itakos Project, is A Homage to Surrealism, a dual exhibition by the gallery’s owner and curator, Akim Alonzo and PatrickofIreland.

Hosted in the gallery’s Blue Pavilion, the exhibition is split across two levels, with Patrick’s work on the lower level, and Akim’s on the upper, linked by reproductions of classic surrealist works by the great Salvador Dalí and Renè Magritte.

As a cultural movement, Surrealism encompassed multiple aspects of the arts: literature, music, film, theatre, sculpture, and – perhaps most famously – art itself – whilst also touching on politics. It has its roots in the early 20th century, rising to become a major form of expression in the 1930s – the period when the likes of Dalí and Magritte joined it.

Itakos Project: Homage to Surealism – Akim Alonzo

The movement carried within it its own manifesto, and was created with the aim of resolving “the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality”. Surrealist work is most often marked by the use of juxtaposition and non-sequitur elements and ideas. Within the visual medium, this can result in the most startling, attractive and thought-provoking pieces of art, and this is very much the case with the pieces presented by PatrickofIreland and Akim.

The eleven pieces PatrickofIreland offers embrace originality, with some almost touching on hints of post-modernism. Each is richly expressive, strong in narrative and engaging to the eye. So much so, that picking out individual pieces would be unfair; all need to be seen and savoured for their depth and appearance.

Itakos Project: Homage to Surealism – PatrickofIreland

With his exhibition, Akim builds on his Matrix series, a selection of his art I’ve covered previously in these pages (see: Water and a Matrix: reflections on life by Akim Alonzo, April 2019). It is a series rich in story and interpretation within it lie questions of reality and identity, and the riddle of worlds within worlds, that allows them to stand as a collection in their own right.

Here, Akim’s work offers a unique perspective of both surrealism mixed with a strong sense of post-modernism and futurism – take the title of the series, for example, drawn as it is from the film series of the same name. This might appear to be a step away from the ideal of surrealism – until you consider that the Matrix franchise both presents a surreal world view and carries a manifesto (and warning) of its own concerning automaton and the superior reality offered by technology – just as surrealism carries its own manifesto drawing on the same themes – albeit one aimed at broadening horizons and opportunities. Thus, Akim’s works present both a visual representation of surrealism and an underlying thesis.

Itakos Project: Homage to Surealism – Akim Alonzo – note the Dalí reference

This is an engaging and provocative exhibition. It is already open to visitors, but those wishing to celebrate it with the artists might like to attend the official opening at 13:30 SLT on Saturday, November 30th, 2019, when the music will be provided by D.J. Ramel Markova.

Akim as also produced a video to introduce the exhibition, which I’ve taken the liberty of embedding below.

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A Calas Christmas for 2019 in Second Life

Calas Christmas 2019, November 2019 – click any image for full size

Currently open for group members to enjoy, and shortly to open to the general public, are the 2019 Calas Christmas regions. Once again, Ty Tenk and Truck Meredith and the Calas team bring a Christmas winter delight for all Second Life residents to enjoy, spend across two regions of snow-bound fun.

The regions once again feature all that we’ve come to love about a Calas Christmas: the Christmas Pavilion, entertainment, sleigh rides, skating, and balloon and reindeer tours. However, this year introduces some new twists to things.

Rather than being at the ground level, the landing point is located high over the regions., on an icy, snowbound plain where polar bear play with their young and a snowman dances in greeting. Follow the candy striped arrows to where the mouth of a tunnel beckons (be sure to pick up a note card of landmarks from the candy cane at the cave entrance – you can use them to return directly to points of interest in the regions). The tunnel leads the way down to what might seem to be a shallow cavern – but be careful as you step forward into it; the floor is not what it seems!

Calas Christmas 2019, November 2019

The cavern is in fact the entrance to a series of tunnel s that lead you through (and past) other caverns (including Santa’s grotto) and, in reflection to past Calas holiday builds, to a portal that will deliver you to the ground level of the regions. This sits with a snowy tunnel of rock, the traditional automated sleigh rides to one side. These offer a choice of rides for couples or for up to four people to share, and we thoroughly recommend them, as they provide an easy way to discover the sights of the regions, which can then be visited on foot or via horseback.

If you prefer not to take the sleigh rides, you can either opt to follow the path they take  northwards out of the tunnel, and thus around the northernmost of the two regions, or they can take the southern exit from the tunnel, and a more direct path to the Christmas Pavilion and the ice skating.

Those who have wearable horses might want to wear them when exploring the northern region – although there are horse rezzers to be found that will provide you with a marvellous Shire horse to ride, and with kit in keeping with the season; just click the sign, accept the attachments, and you’ll be ready to go – use your usual movement keys to direct the horse (turn off your own AO!), and use double taps on your forward key to cycle through the walk, trot, canter and gallop option (your “backwards” key will step down through them).

Calas Christmas 2019, November 2019

As well as the sleigh rides, there are also flying reindeer tours (located along the trail of the sleigh tours) and a balloon ride (located to one side of the Christmas pavilion, just above the ice skating lake). All of the tours drop people off at the Calas Polar Express, where a meal and drinks can be had within the carriages – but don’t expect a ride home – not until “sometime after Christmas”, at least!.

A brisk walk down the slopes from the station will bring you to the lake and the pavilion. The latter is perhaps the most noticeable change from previous years, being of a new design for the regions.  The main hall offers a stage and dance floor (look for the golden deer on two of the pillars for dances), while the two wings offer the traditional lounges and Christmas tree, but in a brighter finish than past years. I believe the Pavilion will be home to this year’s entertainment within the regions. Nor is this the only place to enjoy a dance – a smaller pavilion sits on the far side of the lake, also waiting for visitors.

As is always the way with the Calas holiday regions, there are a lot of little details to be discovered: a nativity scene here, penguins sliding and skating on the ice, reindeer awaiting riders  – look far enough, and you might even spot a yeti / abominable snowman and a nod towards the Calas Halloween region designs! Group members should also keep an eye out for the group gifts (one per avatar).

Calas Christmas 2019, November 2019

The Calas team always bring us visual treats to enjoy through December to the New Year, and have done so again for 2019. However, when visiting, there are some rules and notes to keep in mind:

  • To help lighten the load on resources, it is requested that active scripts are kept below 100Kb. So please, do remove unnecessary HUDs and accessories.
  • The regions can get very popular – and avatars can place the heaviest load on the viewer – so your own experience may be affected in terms of performance, by the number of other visitors in the regions (there is also a lot within the regions to render, so other than for photos, you may want to reduce your Draw Distance and turn off render-heavy options like shadows.
  • Given there can be a lot of people wanting to visit, be aware that if you go afk for more than a few minutes while visiting the regions and one is particularly busy, you may be asked to make your way to the other, or sent home if there is no response.
Calas Christmas 2019, November 2019

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The Culprit Console Piano in Second Life

Culprit Console Piano

Pianos have been – if you’ll pardon the pun – something of a theme for me over the last couple of years; particularly those made by Eku Zhong and Yure4u Sosa for their Culprit brand. In September 2018, I wrote about the Culprit upright piano, and then in March of 2019 year, I reviewed the Culprit baby grand (links below).

As I noted in writing about the latter, I have a Yamaha N1 piano in the physical world, a hybrid piano that allows me to have the richness of playing a grand piano in the compact form of an upright piano. And with their latest release, Yure4u and Eku have given me the opportunity to have a similar style of hybrid in Second Life, with the Culprit Sonata Console Piano.

Like the Culprit upright and baby grand before it, this is  Bento-configured piano, meaning it utilises the Bento skeleton and suitable animations to give a more realistic look to an avatar’s fingers when playing. However, unlike its predecessors, the console piano has some nips and tucks to the Bento system.

The Culprit Console Piano’s keyboard

Style-wise, the Culprit model resembles the Yamaha N2, offering a deeper body than my N1 – said to help provide a richer tone – with an upright-like keyboard. It’s provided with a range of finishes, with a default of wood for a freshly rezzed model. Texture options can be used to change both piano and stool together, or mixed between piano and stool to offer a custom look between the two.

As with the upright and the baby grand, the texture options are accessed via the piano’s menu. This also provides access to the piano’s playing options. These are divided up as follows:

  • Songs: 34 solo pieces to play, all public domain, representing a good cross-reference of music.
  • Christmas: 16 seasonal songs, all again public domain.
  • Muted: a total of 16 different playing styles without any associated music so you can set a style in keeping with the music you’re listening to out-world, or on your parcel stream.

The menu also includes options to adjust the seated position on the stool.

The Culprit Console Piano (centre) with the baby grand (l) and upright (r) for comparison

Play-wise the Culprit composite starts in a similar manner as the other two pianos in the Culprit Sonata range: sit on the stool and your avatar will be placed in an “idle” pose, performing a number of arms and finger loosening exercises. Selecting a piece of music from the menu will cue up the loop – and introduces the difference between this and the other Culprit pianos.

Like the Sonata baby grand and upright pianos, the Culprit Sonata Console piano uses Bento hand animations for a more realistic playing style with Bento avatars (footage taken from tests with the Culprit Sonata Upright)

Not only will the system adopt a playing style in keeping with the tempo of the selected piece and with individual finger movements for Bento avatars, the animations will actually adjust to the tempo within the piece – so that in sections where there is an increase in tempo, or if stronger emphasis in playing is required, the animation will attempt to replicate it; this presents something of a more fluid playing “style” for an avatar.

Those who have not swapped to using Bento-enabled mesh avatars can still use the Culprit Console Piano, just as they can the others in the Sonata range – the only difference is the finger movement will not be present in the animations.

In keeping with the Culprit upright and baby grand, there is no autoplay with this model. But as I note in my reviews of both of those models, the point about the Culprit Sonata range is the Bento capability – so having autoplay (allowing the piano to play tunes while not seated) misses that a bit.

One small point of note is that the piano is supplied both physical when rezzed and has a root prim base. The former means you can be catapulted ceiling-wards when standing from it, so setting it to phantom might be required. The latter means a little vertical adjustment when placing it in-world might be required to avoid the appearance of having it hovering above the floor. Neither of these points detract in any way from the piano’s attractiveness or playability.

If you have limited space in which an grand piano can be a little over-powering (inset), and an upright a little too “traditional”; the Culprit Console Piano might offer a stylish alternative to the one offer a more modest footprint than the other

Those who have a grand piano – and room for it – might not be tempted by the Culprit Console Piano. However, if you are pressed for space and miss having a grand in the house / aren’t too enamoured with a “traditional” upright, then this model could be right for you. Small and attractive, it fits into confined spaces admirably, and at 7 LI, isn’t a capacity hog. I’ve already added it to my Evening Star Linden Houseboat rezzer, where it sits nicely within the small lounge space I’ve created with that particular houseboat design, without overpowering the room and making things feel cramped.

The Culprit Console Piano is currently exclusively available at the Tannenbaum shopping event through until December 23rd, after which it will be available directly from the Culprit main store.. The price is L$995.

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Art in reflection of self and poetry in Second Life

Nitroglobus: Maloe Vansant, “The moon lives in the lining of your skin”

Available at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, is an exhibition of art by Maloe Vansant that takes as its inspiration, words offered by Chilean Nobel Laureate Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto – better known as poet Pablo Neruda.

In Ode to a Beautiful Nude, Neruda offers a song of love and appreciation for the flawless beauty of a model appearing before him. The poem offers a lyrical examination of the woman, initially acknowledging his desire to appreciate her in a chaste manner rather than giving into more carnal desires – although the praise he goes on to offer towards her beauty carries with it an undertone of that desire throughout, before culminating in the line:

The moon lives in the lining of your skin.

– Pablo Neruda, Ode to a Beautiful Nude.

Nitroglobus: Maloe Vansant, “The moon lives in the lining of your skin”

It is this line that Maloe takes as the title of her exhibition at Nitroglobus. Within it, she offers an exploration of self and beauty as reflected in the moods and words found throughout the poem, whilst at the same time offering insight into the relationship between artist and avatar.

After creating little Maloe, my barbie doll, my pixel soul, I discovered the possibility of making snapshots and I started to make a graphic diary of Maloe’s journey in Second Life, showing the emotions she experienced in this pixel world … I am not a woman of many words, I try to express myself, my feelings, my passion and probably my dark side through my pictures.

Maloe Vansant, describing her relationship with her avatar.

The use of Neruda’s words might suggest that Maloe is offering a visual homage to his poem  – something that has been done before in Second Life (see: Poems and art in Second Life, April 2016). However, this would not be a fair assessment. The art and poem stand apart from one another in the extent of their explorations, but at the same time they are entwined by common themes of giving for and depth to the the nature of natural beauty. Therefore, one is neither a homage to the other.

Nitroglobus: Maloe Vansant, “The moon lives in the lining of your skin”

One of the interesting contrasts been poem and art is in their examination of beauty. Whereas the poem perceives the beauty and reflection of the soul from without; Maloe’s art does so from looking out from within. One of the interesting links between the two is in their use of metaphor.

Take eyes, for example. In his Ode, Neruda acknowledges The two deep countries of your eyes, so often seen a a window into a person’s soul. Within The Face is a Picture of the Mind, focused as it is one the eye of her avatar, presents a similar examination of the eye and soul.

Elsewhere, each uses metaphor from somewhat different perspectives. With his poem, Neruda uses metaphor to encapsulate that push-pull between wanting to appreciate feminine beauty both from a celibate objectivity and that of a more carnal desire:

Flowering fire
Open chandelier
A swelling fruit
Over the pact of sea and earth.

– Pablo Neruda, Ode to a Beautiful Nude.

By contrast, Maloe uses metaphor more broadly. Take Leaving the Light, Gold Makes Monsters of Men, and The Apple that Changed the World. In three both in words and image, might be seen as metaphors for the way in which west religion has cast the female as being complicit in the Fall of Man (The Apple… and Leaving…) and the subjugation of women as a whole (Gold Makes Monsters…).

Nitroglobus: Maloe Vansant, “The moon lives in the lining of your skin”

Thought-provoking, rich in substance and meaning, The moon lives in the lining of your skin is another outstanding exhibition at Nitroglobus, and will run through until the end of the year. Also still on display at the gallery (at least at the time of my visit) is Kaiju Kohime’s CRISP, an examination of CRISPR gene editing, and which I wrote about in Art, science, and the future, October 2019.

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Souls of Dreams in Second Life

Souls of Dreams, November 2019 – click and image for full size

Souls of Dreams is a Homestead region we were pointed towards by Shawn Shakespeare. Largely designed by Loly Hallison, with the main house and other structures placed and furnished by region holder Xana Newall, the region is a peaceful setting, caught between offering signs of summer and winter snows.

Split into a series of four islands of varying sizes, Souls of Dreams has a little something for almost every Second Life explorer and photographer. The landing point resides on the southern end of one of the two large islands in the group, close by a low-place bridge linking it to one of the smaller islands. A sign – And So The Adventure Begins – greets new arrivals, who have the choice crossing the low bridge to the smaller island or wandering over a more humpbacked bridge to explore the rest of the larger island.

Souls of Dreams, November 2019

The smaller island, dominated by the huge bulk of an old brick-and-stone lighthouse, has something of the promise of the holiday season about it. A giant toy soldier of the kind that gets associated with the season stands guard at the door, while firs trees and lights sprout from the rocky table to the side of the lighthouse and a Citroen van is parked on the sand has its roof rack piled with presents. Inside, a blazing fire in the stove casts a warm glow and a decorated tree and a table set for dinner offer the promise of celebrations to come.

This wintry / seasonal theme continues on the main island where, over the humpbacked bridge that spans a bubbling, tumbling brook, the hills are topped with snow. The brook tumbles down from the hills and past frozen pines and oaks and trees denuded of their leaves while a rutted track follows the brook’s curve to reach the large house standing in the lea of the hills.

Souls of Dreams, November 2019

Divided into two by an intervening conservatory, the house has the comforting warmth of a lived-in look. Bric-a-brac lies scattered throughout, what looks like the making (or remnants?) of a breakfast clutter the kitchen, an unmade bed commands the bedroom – and a cat, presumably satisfied it has been fed, is curled asleep on the floor. It is, in a word, a homely place, rich in the suggestion of welcoming visitors.

A hop and a skip across the stream sits a zip line connecting house and isle to the long east-to-west curve of the second of the large islands. This has a far more summery look and feel to it: the trees are heavy with green leaves, the grass long and the rough beach on the island’s outward sweep offers parasoled places to sit along its length. A little more inland, a picnic basket and blanket under the boughs offers a more shaded place to rest, as does the inner curve of a cinder beach.

Souls of Dreams, November 2019

Follow the island’s beaches far enough, and they’ll bring you fist the signs of more celebrations – in this case what appears to be a birthday party setting with cakes galore and set within a glass-sided pavilion, and out to a rocky headland where a path of stepping stones snakes southwards to the final island.

A rough, flat-topped brick of an island, this is home to an old fortified house. Getting up to it is a little bit of a scramble – and not all of the rocks are physical – but it is well worth the effort. With inner doors taking the form of framed mirrors, the house offers a network of rooms and a treasure trove of furnishings that await discovery.  At the same time, the rest of the island offer s series of vignettes that are ideal for photography.

Souls of Dreams, November 2019

Nor are the stepping stones are the only way to get between this island and the others in the chain. Depending on where it is located at the time of a visit, a swan boat can be used to travel over the waters of the region and between the four islands. It also makes for a pleasant way to take in the region from different angles.

With multiples places to sit, plenty of detail large and small, Souls of Dreams is an elegant setting, and a fee of L$250 will provide group rights for rezzing props. However, as auto-return is off, please do make sure you pick up afterwards. Now, if you’ll excuse me, a little plate of doughnuts and hot chocolate is waiting by a pallet sofa overlooking the brook, and I’m sure they could use some company!

Souls of Dreams, November 2019

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