Detectives, poems and Celtic writings, in Second Life

Seanchai Library

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home unless otherwise indicated. Note that the schedule below may be subject to change during the week, please refer to the Seanchai Library website for the latest information through the week.

Sunday, February 16th 13:30: Tea-Time Special: Death on the Nile

First published in 1937, Death on he Nile is one of Agatha Christie’s most famous and enduring Hercule Poirot murder mysteries. The book has been the subject of multiple theatrical, film and television adaptations, most of which had by necessity condensed elements of this tale of love, jealously, and betrayal to more readily fit the requirements of their format.

Now, Seanchai Library continues to present the opportunity to enjoy the story in full – and within a setting inspired by the novel, as Corwyn Allen, Da5id Abbot, Kayden Oconnell, Gloriana Maertens, and Caledonia Skytower bring Christie’s characters once more to life for us to enjoy.

The Karnak – Death on the Nile

So, why not join Poirot as he cruises aboard the river steamer Karnak in a trip along the Nile – although a tour of the sights is unlikely to be high on his priorities given the state of affairs between socialite Linnet Doyle, her new husband Simon Doyle and his embittered former fiancée (and Linnet’s long-time friend) Jacqueline de Bellefort, together with a host of other interesting travelling companions; particularly when they start to turn up dead.

Monday, February 17th 19:00: Out of the Silent Planet

The first novel in C.S. Lewis’s classic sci-fi trilogy which tells the adventure of Dr Ransom who is kidnapped and transported to Mars.

In the first novel of C.S. Lewis’s classic science fiction trilogy, Dr Ransom, a Cambridge academic, is abducted and taken on a spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra, which he knows as Mars. His captors are plotting to plunder the planet’s treasures and plan to offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the creatures who live there, and his discovers that he is special as he comes from the ‘silent planet’ – Earth – a world whose tragic story is known throughout the universe…

Join Gyro Muggins for more.

Tuesday, February 18th 19:00 At the Gates of Dawn, the Writings of Ella Young

Ella Young, photographed in 1931 by Ansell Adams

Born in Ireland in 1867, Ella Young was educated in Dublin, obtaining a master’s degree in Celtic mythology. She published her first book of poems in 1906, and her first work of Irish folklore, The Coming of Lugh, in 1909, and followed in 1910 by Celtic Wonder-Tales.

She first travelled to the United States in the early 1920s, and in 1924 she was hired by the University of California, Berkeley to replace William Whittingham Lyman Jr., who had vacated his post as “Instructor in Celtic”. Re-entering the United States in 1925, she was allegedly briefly detained at Ellis Island as a probable mental case on the grounds of her apparent belief in the existence of “fairies, elves, and pixies”.

While based in California, held the post of the James D. Phelan Lecturer in Irish Myth and Lore at the University of California, Berkeley for approximately a decade, and spent a portion of her time speaking at various universities around the country.

As a lecturer, Young was known for her colourful and lively persona, often addressing her audiences whilst wearing the purple robes of a Druid and expounding on legendary creatures such as fairies and elves, and praising the benefits of talking to trees.

Her sheer enthusiasm for, and depth of knowledge of, Celtic mythology attracted and influenced many of her friends and won her a wide audience among writers and artists in California, including poet Robinson Jeffers, philosopher Alan Watts, photographer Ansel Adams, and composer Harry Partch, who set several of her poems to music.

Two of her books, The Wonder-Smith and His Son (1928) and The Tangle-Coated Horse and Other Tales (1930) were both nominated for Newbery prizes. She published her autobiography in 1945, prior to succumbing to cancer in 1946.

The Gates of Dawn is an anthology of Young’s work, featuring her poems, prose and mythical storytelling, and will be read by Willow Moonfire.

Wednesday, February 19th, 19:00: Poetry This Year

Caledonia reads from the poems selected for recitation by the students in the program she coordinates in her home state, live on stream.

Thursday, February 20th 19:00 A Pocketful of Crows

The bonny brown girl, lives in the forest, unnamed, untamed. Her people, the “travelling folk”, have no need of towns, or houses, or linens. Nor of each other, save at occasional seasonal gatherings. The Brown Girl lives in the wild, inhabits the wild creatures when she wants to hunt in the forest, or soar through the sky.

Then one spring day, the day before May Day, she meets William, a young royal, and quickly falls in love. Though she denies being in love, and swears to remain wild, William insists on giving her a name, Malmuira, the Dark Lady of the Mountains.

“Thus are you named, my brown girl. Thus do you belong to me.”

Join Shandon Loring as he continues this tale of love, loss and revenge. Following the seasons, A Pocketful of Crows balances youth and age, wisdom and passion and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless wild girl. Also in Kitely –

Space Sunday: A pale blue dot, and more on Betelgeuse

A pale blue dot: Earth – the bright dot just right-of-centre – as seen from a distance of 6 billion km (40.5 AU). Credit: NASA / Kevin Gill et al

Thirty years ago, in February 1990, the Voyager 1 space craft had completed its primary mission and was about to shut down its imaging system. However, before it did so, and in response to lobbying from the late Carl Sagan, celebrated astronomer, teacher, broadcaster, writer, futurist and member of the Voyager programme’s imaging team, mission managers order the spacecraft to turn its imaging system back towards Earth to take a final photograph of its former home.

Captured on February 14th, 1990, the image revealed Earth as little more than a tiny blue pixel caught in a  streak of sunlight falling across the camera’s lens. Sagan immediately dubbed the image Pale Blue Dot, and it became his – and Voyager 1’s – Valentine’s Day gift to all of humanity; a last goodbye from the probe taken at a distance of 6 billion km (40.5 AU); 34 minutes later, its camera system was permanently powered down to conserve the vehicle’s power generation system.

From the moment it was published, the image became iconic: a representation of the sum total of humanity, something Sagan recognised at a time when the Cold War still dominated world politics.

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilisation, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

…It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

– Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

To mark the 30th anniversary of the original image, NASA issued a newly enhanced version of the image, carefully processed by a team led by software engineer and imagining specialist, Kevin M. Gill, seen at the top of this article. It once again reveals just how small and lonely our world really is. And while the Cold War has long since past, in this age of global warming and climate change, this new image of that tiny, pale blue dot and Sagan’s words remain as powerful a reminder of our fragile place in the Cosmos as they did more than two decades ago.

Betelgeuse: Extent of Dimming Revealed

I’ve previously written about the dimming of Betelgeuseas seen from Earth on a couple of occasions over the past few months (see: Space Sunday: a look at Betelgeuse (December 2019) and A farewell to Spitzer, capsules, stars and space planes (January 2020)). Now two images and a video have been released to show just how startling the apparent changes in the star have been over the course of a year.

As an irregular – and massive – variable star, Betelgeuse goes through cycles of dimming and brightening over time. However, what has occurred over the course of the past year is without precedent in the 125-year history of observations marking the star’s behaviour.

Overall, Betelgeuse’s apparently magnitude (brightness as seen from Earth) has fallen by a factor of 2.5 (or roughly 25-30%). This has prompted speculation that the star may have exploded into a supernova – its eventual fate – and we are currently seeing the light, which takes approximately 643 years to reach us, from the run-up to that cataclysmic event. While most astronomers do not believe this to be the case, the two images do present a stunning spectacle of a star in flux.

Side-by-side comparison of Betelgeuse’s dimming, as seen by the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Credit: ESO/M. Montargès et al.

The images were captured by the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch (SPHERE) instrument attached to the Very Large Telescope (VLT, currently the most advanced visible light telescope in the world) operated by the European Southern Observatory Captured in January and December 2019, they not only show just how much  Betelgeuse has dimmed in that time, but also how it seems to have changed its shape.

Again, such changes of shape aren’t unusual for a pulsating variable star like Betelgeuse. The surface of such a star tends to be made up of giant convective cells that move, shrink and swell. However, while these pulses – referred to as stellar activity – have likely been responsible for past changes in Betelgeuse’s shape observed from Earth, they have never been anywhere as extreme as those indicated by SPHERE – although it has been acknowledged that they could also be exaggerated by a cloud of dust ejected by the star long enough ago to have cooled, and is now partially obscuring our view of Betelgeuse.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: A pale blue dot, and more on Betelgeuse”

2020 Home and Garden Expo in Second Life


The 12th Home and Garden Expo (HGE) in support of Relay for Life of Second Life and the American Cancer Society, has formally kicked-off and will run through until Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020. Taking place across nine regions (Hope 1 through 9), together with two Linden Homes preview regions presenting the range of currently-available Linden Homes, the event offers some of the finest in home, garden, and furnishing designs available across the grid.

With multiple exhibitors taking part, the event offers something for anyone who is looking for a new home, ideas for furnishing and décor, wishing to improve their building (or other) skills, or who just wishes to keep abreast of the latest building / home trends in Second Life.

The Home and Garden auditorium and one of the gacha malls

As always, the Expo there will be a range of events and activities, including entertainment and talks, artists, auctions, Gacha stores (one on Hope 3, the other on Hope 7). and more – including, and for the first time at Home and Garden – a special Fashion / wearable creators mall.

Hope 1 presents the event’s entertainment stage and kiosks for Relay for Life Second Life relay teams, with the auditorium for talks and presentation located in neighbouring Hope 3.

The entertainment stage

So, do be sure to drop in the the Home and Garden Expo, tours the houses, look at the furnishing and enjoy the entertainment – and feel free to drop a donation or two into the RFL kiosks, even if you’re not in the mood to purchase anything, and help support ACS and RFL of SL in their world-wide endeavours.

For further detail and SLurls, please refer to the Home and Garden Expo website.