Of mansions and motifs

Explore the Great Gatsby - the Buchanan's mansion and pier with its green light from Gatsby's estate: "“I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him."
Explore the Great Gatsby – the Buchanan’s mansion and pier with its green light from Gatsby’s estate: ““I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him.”

At 09:00 SLT,  the Seanchai Library’s retelling of  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tragic tale, The Great Gatsby draws to a close as Corwyn Allen reads the final part of the story. The reading will take place at Explore the Great Gatsby Online, the interactive venue conceived and developed by Caledonia Skytower as a part of Seanchai Library’s presence in Kitely, and operating in support of a production of Simon Levy’s stage adaptation of The Great Gatsby, which also ends it run at the Tacoma Little Theatre (TLT) on February 8th.

I’ve covered Explore the Great Gatsby twice  so far in this blog. The first time as a result of an invitation extended to me by Caledonia and TLT’s Managing Artistic Director Chris Serface ahead of the official opening of the installation and the play. This gave me the opportunity to preview the unique collaborative, cross-functional and educational nature of the partnership between Seanchai Library and TLT. My second, more recent visit, was to explore the initial sets visitors to the installation would be able to explore, and the opportunities within them to discover more about the story, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writings, and the man himself.

As indicated in both of those articles, the Explore the Great Gatsby installation was intended to grow over time, thus encouraging visitors – particularly those who attended TLT’s performances of the play –  to make return visits. Given the significance of Sunday, February 8th as noted above, I also decided to take a further trip to Explore the Great Gatsby and see the latest additions and updates.

Explore the Great Gatsby - Gatsby's mansion: "The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard—it was a factual imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden."
Explore the Great Gatsby – Gatsby’s mansion: “The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard—it was a factual imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden.”

New since my last visit is the Gothic opulence of Jay Gatsby’s “new money” mansion, its great towers and spires rising high above the trees, fairly shouting news of the wealth of their owner to the world at large. The scene of lavish parties – all intended to lure Daisy Buchanan to his door – the mansion’s ground floor can be explored by visitors, and several iconic elements have been reproduced, including the location of the final scene of tragedy, the swimming pool. There are a number of interactive elements to the mansion, which provide gateways to further information on the novel, so careful examination of the rooms is encouraged!

Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s mansion (which serves as a façade for a model of the Tacoma Little Theatre), has undergone further exterior work, allowing it to stand in strong contrast to Gatsby’s ostentatiousness, exactly as F. Scott Fitzgerald intended.  Thus it – and the bay which sits between it and Gatsby’s edifice – serves to underline Fitzgerald’s observation of the divide that existed between those of established wealth and those newly-rich.

Explore the Great Gatsby - The buchanan's mansion: "Their house was even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion, overlooking the bay ... The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens."
Explore the Great Gatsby – The buchanan’s mansion: “Their house was even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion, overlooking the bay … The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens.”

With a wealth of interactive elements throughout, including links to the Tacoma Little Theatre, resources that explore the story of the Great Gatsby in more detail, and the opportunity to really immerse yourself a a piece of truly great American literature, Explore the Great Gatsby is very much worth taking the time to visit – and if you haven’t already done so, I’d urge you to so – it will remain open and available to visitors through until March 1st, 2015.

Signing-up to Kitely (if you need to) is easy, and the Seanchai Library team provide the necessary guidance for those who might need it. What’s more, once you are signed-up, you have the freedom to explore the rest of Seanchai Library’s extensive projects and offerings in both the Seanchai Homeworld, and through their satellite worlds.

Explore the Great Gatsby - you can also explore other locations within the installation, such as the Fitzgerald Gallery, the Welcome Centre and that other iconic landmark from the the story, the Valley of Ashes: "But above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg."
Explore the Great Gatsby – you can also explore other locations within the installation, such as the Fitzgerald Gallery, the Welcome Centre and that other iconic landmark from the the story, the Valley of Ashes: “But above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg.”

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The Great Gatsby: virtually redefining educational outreach

Explore TGGThose of us involved with and immersed in virtual worlds are very familiar with the power and opportunities they offer for educational purposes.

In January and February 2015, this will again be demonstrated in a unique way as literature, live theatre and a virtual world combine to present theatre goers and school children with the opportunity to not only witness the unfolding of one of the great stories from American literature – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – but to actually immerse themselves in the story itself due to a new an unique collaborative partnership between the Tacoma Little Theatre (TLT), in Tacoma, Washington state, and the folk at Seanchai Library.

From on January 23rd, 2015 through until  February 8th, TLT will be presenting Simon Levy’s stage adaptation of The Great Gatsby, directed by Dale Westgaard, to adult audiences and daytime audiences from local schools.

Coinciding with the play, through their extensive facilities on Kitely, the Seanchai Library will be offering audiences and schools attending performances with the opportunity to explore the world presented by the novel from the comfort of their own home or from within the classroom.

Explore Gatsby will run alongside TLT's production of 's stage adaptation of the novel, giving patrons the opportunity to explore F. Scott Fitzgerald's world in greater detail
Explore Gatsby will run alongside TLT’s production of Simon Levy’s stage adaptation of the novel, giving TLT patrons and schools  with the opportunity to explore F. Scott Fitzgerald’s world in greater detail

Explore the Great Gatsby Online, the début production in Seanchai Library’s EXPLORE the Stories Behind the Art series, will open its doors on January 14th, 2015. It will offer visitors the opportunity to visit key locations from the novel and play, and in doing so learn more about the era in which the story is set, explore Fitzgerald’s life and writings and discover more about the theatre in which the play is being performed.

On offer within Seanchai Library’s virtual environments will be a reproduction of the fictional West Egg, where the story’s narrator, Nick Carraway rents a small holiday guest house, only to find himself living next door to the enigmatic Jay Gatsby, giver of lavish summer parties. Both Carraway’s little holiday house and Gatsby’s mansion will be open to explore.

Also presented with the Explore Gatsby facilities will be a portion of East Egg, where Daisy Buschanan, the subject of Gatsby’s desires, lives in opulence with her husband Tom. Here, behind the Buchanan mansion’s façade, will reside a reproduction of the Tacoma Little Theatre itself, offering the opportunity for people to discover more about the theatre itself, which is among the oldest community theatres in the United States, and the oldest on the U.S. west coast, with a rich heritage going back to 1918.

And, of course, there will be the opportunity to visit the so-called “Valley of Ashes”, the industrial dumping ground so pivotal to the unfolding story, which lies between the fictional East and West Egg and the beating heart of New York City.

These various locations will serve as venues for a range of live events which both support TLT’s  production of The Great Gatsby and which also encourage visitors to further immerse themselves in literature, the stage and more; there will be readings and performances from the novel, interactive elements, within the various settings will provide information on a broad range of subjects, including information on the 1920s and the social issues people living then faced, the characters from the novel, etc.

Explore Gatsby will essentially be an educational study guide brought to three dimensional life. Through a special portal currently being developed by Seanchai Library, visitors will be able to learn how to download and use a viewer and operate an avatar, and then connect to Explore Gatsby in Kitely.

Tacoma Little Theatre will feature in Explore Gatsby, allowing people to discovery more about this historic community theatre
Tacoma Little Theatre will feature in Explore Gatsby, allowing people to discover more about this historic community theatre

Of special note with the project is the fact TLT present daytime performances of the plays they stage for local schools to attend. Thus, through their Explore Gatsby partnership with Seanchai Library TLT is presented with a dramatic – no pun intended – new way to engage with teachers, educators and school children in an immersive manner which links the performance of the play directly with classroom learning opportunities. The same also goes for TLT’s patrons, who can take a performance of The Great Gatsby home with them and them delve into Gatsby’s world through the Seanchai Library’s virtual recreations and events.

As noted above, Explore Gatsby will be opening its doors on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015, with in-world events and activities commencing on Friday, January 16th. Everyone involved in virtual worlds is extended a warm invitation to pop along and join in with planned activities as they take place – a programme calendar will be available nearer the time, and I’ll also be presenting it through these pages.

I’ve been privileged to be associated with Seanchai Library for a while now, and as a part of this association, I will be covering Explore Gatsby and the EXPLORE the Stories Behind the Art series as it develops. I’ll be kicking-off things in due course with a behind-the-scenes look at preparations for the début production.

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Fallingwater at Seanchai Kitely ready to open its doors

Fallingwater at Seanchai, Kitely (Image idea borrowed from Shandon Loring!)
Fallingwater at Seanchai, Kitely (Image idea borrowed from Shandon Loring!)

As I’ve recently posted, in June I donated my Fallingater build on Kitely to the folk at Seanchai Library to become a part of their new home world on that grid, and I’ve been working to overhaul and upgrade it since then.

The work on the place is now more-or-less complete, with just a few nips and tucks remaining, and the folk at Seanchai are now ready to open the doors to Fallingwater’s first official engagement as a storytelling venue.

So, on Saturday August 30th, at 09:00 PDT (SLT), Shandon Loring from the Seanchai team will be presenting Out Of Time, Tales of Time Travel, described as:

Individuals rewriting their own pasts. Brave souls safeguarding the world today from yesterday. Fools tampering with Einstein’s laws of physics. Stories exploring the wonders and perils of time travel, and humanity at its best and worst.

Anyone with an interest in storytelling in voice, and all the traditions which stand therein, and / or who wish to hear engrossing tales from Second Life’s and Kitely’s premier group of storytellers, are welcome to drop by the Seanchai Library’s Kitely home world and Fallingwater.

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RezMela: a training and simulation environment offering $500 in prizes

RezMela offers an interactive training and simulation environment in Kitely. Here I'm dealing with an air crash situation involving a power plant
RezMela is an interactive training and simulation environment in Kitely. Here I’m dealing with an air crash situation involving a power plant

Update, July 28th: As per the comment following this artilce, the competition deadline has been extended through until August 31st, 2014.

I recently received an e-mail concerning RezMela, a scenario-building tool intended for training and simulation hosted on Kitely, and which is currently running a competition with prizes totalling $500 USD up for grabs.

RezMela, currently in an alpha / beta mode, essentially allows subject matter experts to create and deliver interactive training within a virtual environment. It comprises a classroom-style theory space, where students can learn about and watch presentations on the subject being taught, and a practice space which is dedicated to learning-by-doing, through the use of immersive simulations.

The RezMela theory area, with the Command and Control board
The RezMela theory space, with the Creation and Control board

Simulations – referred to as scenarios in the RezMela documentation – can be rapidly developed and deployed using the Creation and Control (C&C) board. The C&C board provides the subject matter expert with access to a wide range of simulation “primitives” (not to be confused with the basic building blocks of OpenSim and Second Life). These RezMela “primitives” are trees and plants, buildings and structures, vehicles, terrains and so on, and a selection of different types of non-player characters (NPCs), which can be combined to create a required training scenario.

The C&C board presents simple 2D map on which icons representing the various “primitives” can be positioned, rotated, etc. As this happens, the actual simulation objects are placed out in the practice area of the RezMela environment, thus allowing a simulation to be quickly put together. Once the scenario has been built, additional elements such a weather, fires, smoke, dust, etc., can be added, and the time of day for the scenario set. When everything is ready, the scenario can be saved to the RezMela system, allowing it to be instantly recalled and created within the practice space at the click of a button.

The RezMela practice space. ther rock formation in the background houses the theory space classroom
The RezMela practice space. the rock formation in the background houses the theory space classroom

NPCs and Objects within a scenario are not necessarily static or empty shells. Building and structures can have interiors, lending themselves to many different uses, and student can interact with various objects and vehicles, while NPCs will respond to stimuli around them. As well as enabling easy creation of scenarios, the C&C board can also be used to deliver classroom videos and presentations on the subject matter.

Combining the theory and practice spaces allows subject matter experts to provide information and guidance on a specific learning / training environment within the theory space via the C&C board, and then monitor students’ performance in real-time as they tackle the challenges presented in the scenario in the practice area.

A prepared scenario being rezzed by the Creation & Control board. The pointing hand indicates the currently-selected object
A prepared scenario being rezzed by the Creation & Control board. The pointing hand indicates the currently selected object

Scenarios can be entirely created from scratch to suit a specific training / teaching requirement, or can be based on physical world situations, such as emergency or disaster management situations which have occurred, allowing students gain additional insight into such situations and events. The system can also be used for educational purposes as well, such as for teaching health and welfare or in teaching environmental matters and so on.

To help explain how the system works, DeepSemphore LLC, the company behind RezMela, have provided a range of videos and a slideshow introducing the basics of the beta system. There is also an in-world campus and workshop regions available to RezMela users where further information can be obtained.

Continue reading “RezMela: a training and simulation environment offering $500 in prizes”

Fallingwater at Seanchai

Fallingwater at night, Seanchai Library, Kitely
Fallingwater at night, Seanchai Library, Kitely

Back in mid-June, I mentioned that Fallingwater (Kitely) was relocating to the Seanchai Library core world there, the result of conversations between Caledonia Skytower, Shandon Loring and myself. In that report, I covered the physical move itself, relocating the house from a single region to the Seanchai 2×2 core megaregion.

Since then, and as time has allowed, I’ve been gradually re-working the place. Truth be told, I’d never really got it to a “completed” state in two years of having it on a region of its own, and the build really needed some TLC to get materials, etc., properly blended (I’d only just started messing around with them when I stopped working on the place in 2013). There was also much I was less than pleased with in the landscaping – such as the driveway up to the garages and Guest House, the river, and the falls, which I’ve always wanted to re-work.

A part of the revised drive with retaining walls and one of the smaller outdoor venue spots (right). Fallingwater, Seanchai Library, Kitely
A part of the revised drive with retaining walls and one of the smaller outdoor venue spots (right). Fallingwater, Seanchai Library, Kitely

As the house is now part of a themed estate (albeit one where each region effectively has a theme of its own), the land around the house needed a degree of blending so that it would fit the lay of the rest of the estate, and this gave me the excuse I needed to shovel through everything that I’d never really made the time to sort-out.

First and foremost. the falls received a complete face-lift. I’ve always been unhappy with how they looked throughout each iteration of the build, either in SL or Kitely; they never seemed to quite capture the spirit of the original. I’m a lot happier with the re-working. They’re still not “Fallingwater’s” falls – the rocks there are far more angular, but I think I’ve captured more of their “feel” at last.

The revised falls under the Great Room of the house. Fallingwater, Seanchai Library, Kitely
The revised falls under the Great Room of the house. Fallingwater, Seanchai Library, Kitely

Reworking the land meant I could get rid of the two roads leading up the house and replace them with gravel paths with brick shoulders. One of these. I decided, should lead to a stone jetty offering plenty of mooring pace for boats (water is a major feature in the estate), and the other I reworked as the main path connecting the house to the rest of the estate, reach via a bridge spanning the mouth of the river, and which I nabbed from Shandon and reworked a little, adding some wood texturing.

As the house is to be a venue for storytelling, providing space for people to gather has been an important consideration. So to help with this, I decided to thin out the trees a little and provide a couple of open-air spaces which might be used for smaller gatherings. One sits in the curve of the completely re-work driveway (I hated the original in the build, and while I’ve not found any sign of the walls I’ve installed along the drive in the drawings I have of the real Fallingwater, I think they fit the place rather well. beyond the drive, and outside of the walled parking area is another area cleared of trees and which faces out over open ocean to the north, as another space for informal gatherings.

The new "north terrace house" with steps leadig down to the jetty and the Guest House visible in the background. Fallingwater, Seanchai Library, Kitely
The new “north terrace house” with steps leading down to the jetty and the Guest House visible in the background. Fallingwater, Seanchai Library, Kitely

Cale also requested that I provide a space which could be used for meetings, workshops, social events and suchlike, again in keeping with the overall design of the house. This left me stumped for a while, but in the end I came up with a combination of a large cantilevered terrace extending out over the ocean on the northeast side of the island, and a building styled after the Guest House and offering two connected rooms. hopefully these will together provide flexible space for hosting indoor and outdoor events. A set of steps leads down to another set of piers below, and a path arcs around the headland and down to a small cove.

This all sits well below the lie of the rest of the land on the north side of the island, and so hopefully also offers a feeling of isolation from the rest of the build – although a path does link it to the pool patio by the Guest House, the patio also having been extended to provide a further venue for small gatherings.

The jetties on the south side of the island and the house through the trees in the background. Fallingwater, Seanchai Library, Kitely
The jetties on the south side of the island and the house through the trees in the background. Fallingwater, Seanchai Library, Kitely

I’ve add new lighting to much of the outdoors areas – lamps which come on at dusk and turn off again at dawn – which hopefully add some more ambience to the place. There are still some nips and tucks to be taken care of, but overall, I think the major work is done – subject, of course, to Cale and Shandon being in agreement.

I doubt this is the end of my infatuation with Fallingwater; I rather suspect that were the opportunity to arise, I’d happily start fiddling with the SL version once more. However, where Kitely is concerned – given that I have so little time I can spend there – I’m really happy that Fallingwater has a new home and will be put to good use.

You can visit Seanchai Library in Kitely via the Seanchai Library Kitely web page or via a hypergrid teleport from any hypergrid enabled OpenSim grid via:  hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/144/129/29 (main arrival point, Fallingwater is to the northeast).

I "borrowed" a copy of one of the bridges connecting the various locations in the estate to provide a physical and thematic link between Fallingwater and the rest of the estate. Fallingwater, Seanchai Library, Kitely.
I “borrowed” a copy of one of the bridges connecting the various locations in the estate to provide a physical and thematic link between Fallingwater and the rest of the estate. Fallingwater, Seanchai Library, Kitely.

Fallingwater joins Seanchai Library

Fallingwater as it appeared as a standalone region on Kitely
Fallingwater as it appeared as a standalone region on Kitely (click for full size)

Regular readers here will be only too aware of my obsession with Frank Lloyd Wright’s building designs, and in particular that of Fallingwater, which I’ve used as a model for no fewer than three builds over the years: two in Second Life (both now gone, but one safely packed away) and one in Kitely, where it has had a full region to itself for the last two years.

As I’m rarely in Kitely nowadays, the model there hasn’t really seen that much use. So, to rectify this, and as a result of conversations between myself and Caledonia Skytower and Shandon Loring at Seanchai Library, Fallingwater (Kitely) has been relocated to the Seanchai core world, where it will be used as an additional set of venues for Seanchai’s storytelling in voice.

The Great Room at Fallingwater Kitely will soon be a venue for stories in voice!
The Great Room at Fallingwater Kitely will soon be a venue for stories in voice!

The idea of relocating an entire region – buildings, furnishings, plants, tree, flowers and the rest on your own, and without having to pay for it to be done for you, is something liable to fill SL users with a feeling of foreboding. Fortunately, OpenSim users can make use of the OpenSim ARchive (OAR) capability to export and entire region / simulator’s contents to a local hard drive, subject to any permission protections used on their OpenSim grid.

A slight complication with Kitely is that it is not possible to target a single region within a group of regions  – “world” as Kitely call them – without also overwriting the others. As our aim was to make Fallingwater a part of the 4-region core Seanchai “world”, simply exporting it to OAR and then importing it into the Seanchai world would leave the other three regions replaced by default flat terrain.

There is a way around this, but it requires a small amount of fiddling, and the use of something like New World Studio (NWS) or  Sim-on-a-Stick (there are also user-offered services for those wishing to do something similar and who don’t have access to either). Using NWS (which ‘ve previously reviewed)  made the work of combining Fallingwater with Seanchai a simple 6-step process.

Combining Fallingwater with Seanchai's core 2x2 world on Kitely 1: my 2x2 region on my self-hosted New World Studio
Combining Fallingwater with Seanchai’s core 2×2 world on Kitely 1: my 2×2 region on my self-hosted New World Studio
  • First, I created a 4-region (2×2) set-up with New World Studio.
  • Second, using the OAR format, I exported Fallingwater from Kitely and Shandon exported the Seanchai 4-region world, which he passed to me as an OAR file
  • Third, I uploaded the Seanchai world to my 2×2 New World Studio set-up
Combining Fallingwater with Seanchai's core 2x2 world on Kitely 2: importing Seanchai's core 2x2 world
Combining Fallingwater with Seanchai’s core 2×2 world on Kitely 2: importing Seanchai’s core 2×2 world in NWS
  • Fourth, I selected the region Fallingwater was to overwritten and imported Fallingwater
  • Fifth, I exported the updated 2×2 set-up to an OAR file and passed it back to Shandon
  • Finally, Shandon uploaded the revised OAR into Kitely.
Combining Fallingwater with Seanchai's core 2x2 world on Kitely 3: replacing one of the Seanchai regions with Fallingwater
Combining Fallingwater with Seanchai’s core 2×2 world on Kitely 3: replacing one of the Seanchai regions with Fallingwater

The entire process of creating the New World Studio environment, exporting the OARs, uploading and merging them and then exporting the updated world literally took around 5 minutes. Granted, Shandon had some additional work to sort-out some items in the Seanchai world which were non-exportable due to permissions, but overall, the longest time in the process was sharing the OAR files via Google docs!

So Fallingwater has a new home on Kitely. However, the work isn’t finished. As well as the house, the plan now is to incorporate additional venues for stories and to blend the Fallingwater region more smoothly in with the existing Seanchai regions. I’ll post images of this as the work progresses!