Sea Brook’s haven in Second Life

Sea Brook, April 2020 – click any image for full size

A full region with the 10K bonus LI, Sea Brook is a remarkable setting that offers a stunning location that forms a rich, eye-catching, highly-photogenic haven of a destination that offers a tour de force of what can be achieved with vision and considered execution in region design in Second Life.

The work of Muira (Angelique Vanness), whose eye for region design I wrote about in 2019 after visiting Season’s Cove (now closed, but see The magic of Season’s Cove in Second Life), this is one again a place that feels far bigger than its 256m on a side size. In this instance, the sense of size and space is made all that more remarkable by the fact that much of the centre of the region is given open to open water.

Sea Brook, April 2020

The water takes the form of an extensive lake fed by falls that drop from a massive up-thrust of rock that rises to the north-east of the region in great granite or basalt blocks, topped by high fir trees. A broad, paved footpath winds its way around the lake’s shoreline in a loop, connecting three small terraces that thrust their own out into the clear blue waters. One of these terraces  forms the regions landing point, whilst all three present impressive views over the lake. At one end, this footpath connects to an imposing lodge that whilst grand in size, utterly fits with its surroundings. To the other end the path gives way to a rocky path – one of two in fact – that switch-backs up to the top of the high plateau.

Between the lake and the waters beyond the edge of the region, the land is entirely-low-lying with the exception to the huge plateau. Theses lowlands are rich is detail and  – if I might use the term again – present an expansive setting. Rich in tall Scots pines, they are marked by gravel tracks that run around the outside of the paved path around the lake, the woodlands between pavement and gravel cut through with winding trails that allow visitors to wander and discover all that lies under the shade of the trees: ponds, little camp sites, a children’s playground, picnic spots – the list is extensive without – the setting ever feeling crowded.

Sea Brook, April 2020

The paths also provide links to other locations within the region. These include a west side beach, tucked between two headlands. One of these is home to the ruins of an ancient church that now offers a cosy retreat. A second, intact chapel forms a book-end to the ruins, sitting on a low hills on the other headland, resting atop a low hill that allows it to look north across the beach towards the ruins of its companion.

East and south, behind the great lodge – which appears to be open to the public and itself offers an impressive place to explore – the land opens a little as at sits between rocky highlands and a growth of mangroves that surround one of the smaller islands sitting just off the coast. This little island is home to an old gazebo that offers a place to dance. Across the narrow channel separating the gazebo from the lodge, sits a little fenced meadow, a place where visitors can rez a horse to ride around the region – something that is well worth doing.

Sea Brook, April 2020

Atop the plateau there is yet more to discover, the switched paths leading up to it connected one to the other by gravel trails that wind across the plateau, separating the woodlands to offer obvious paths for people (and horses) to follow and which take visitors past table-top games, and along an arched path to another dance area that offers an elven theme.

As with the lands below, the plateau is also cris-crossed by wooded paths that reveal more secrets among the trees, and which I’m not going to spoil by mentioning here. However, I will say that look carefully enough and you will find a zipline that runs down to the little finger-like island rising from the middle of the lake and where bumper boats can be rezzed by those looking for a little fun.

Sea Brook, April 2020

Nor is this all; below the plateau, and nestled in the roots of the cliffs, are wooden doors awaiting discovery. They lead to a network of tunnels and chambers that run through the rocks from on side to the other. With paved floors and faced stone walls, these tunnels and the halls and rooms that open off of them make for an intriguing point of exploration on their own; one looks like a former wine cellar, others present more intimate spaces.

A truly stunning design, Sea Brook is absolute perfectly set within the encircling region surround of high mountain peaks that – with the right windlight – give it tremendous depth, this is not a setting to be missed. It has a huge amount to discover (I’ve only scratched the surface here), and is finished with a matching sound scape.

Sea Brook, April 2020

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Mapping Second Life’s mainland railways

via Linden Lab

The Second Life Railroad network is one of the major features of Second Life mainland – notably Heterocera – with lines also to be found on south and east Sansar and on Bellisseria, with number smaller (and private) lines also to be found across Second Life (such as the system in Second Norway).

Much as anyone can operate a car on the roads in Second Life, any Resident may use this public facility for any purpose consistent with the Second Life Community Standards/TOS (and at times the Lab has provided automated rail services). However, finding your way around the network can be a tad confusing, so enter 由里子 (Rydia Lacombe).

Not only is Rydia the creator of the sci-fi themed Aoshima, a homestead region Caitlyn and I enjoyed visiting in February (see: Beaming in to Aoshima in Second Life), she is a SLRR enthusiast, and something of a cartographer. She recently sent me her most recent map charting the major Linden-supplied train routes across and around Heterocera, Sansar and Bellisseria – and it is an impressive piece.

Rydia is a keen SL rail-roader, something she noted to me as we chatted about the map.

It’s what keeps me exploring! Mostly it stems from the time the WARR started building in front of the Burns freebie warehouse. I made my first SLRR railway maps in 2013 / 2014. I don’t have a formal means of distributing the maps, except through the various groups. The Virtual Railway Consortium [VRC] distributed my previous maps, but they don’t appear to be quite as active now.

– Rydia talking about her SLRR map work

WARR is the West Atoll Railroad, an electric railway line founded by Hilto Meridoc in 2010 and operating in southern Heterocera Mainland. The line opened in stages, first from Neumoegen to Electra, then east to Hera and west to Elpenor, before eventually closing in 2013, although I understand a part of it reopened in 2019.

Click the map above to go to the full-size version which you can examine on-line or right-click and download.

Despite its age and need of upgrade or overhaul, the SLRR has remained popular over the years and can offer a unique way of seeing Second Life mainland. Such are the number of lines and routes in Heterocera alone, that having a map makes a lot of sense, and the version Rydia has produced is an extensive, impressive,  polished, professional, and informative piece of work.

As with a physical world railway map, the various lines are colour-coded, and the map includes all the major routes associated with the SLRR, form the SLRR Main Line through to the likes of the old WARR line,  the the Okemo, Nakiska, and Southern Railway (ONSR), the Great Second Life Railway (GSLR), as well as the smaller and the more metropolitan routes such as the Northern Branch or the East River City Metro, the Bay City Trolleys and the current routes available in Bellisseria. Stops for the likes of airports are provided, together with crossover stations.

Rydia’s 2014 map of the Second Norway system

Unsurprisingly, Rydia’s work has been positively received in the past, with her approach to maps being adopted in a number of mainland regions.

As well as the 2013/2014 maps and this new iteration that would add grace to any SLRR station, Rydia  has also produced maps for some private region transport network, such as the Second Norway system (also perhaps in need of a little TLC, depending on what eventually happens to that estate).

There is a wealth of information available in the SL wiki about the SLRR – although I cannot vouch for how up to date it is – starting with the official page, and also covering the likes of the VRC, and from these, it’s possible to find out more about various lines and routes. Links from these pages also point to more technical discussions of the SLRR and Second Life vehicles. There are also various private estate lines (as with Second Norway), but these are currently outside the scope of the current map.

Despite some of the issues that can be encountered on the SLRR, if you’ve not tried it before, it’s certain worth exploring – even if only be reading about it initially. For my part, it’s something I’ve never actually blogged about per se in these pages, although I’ve ridden various trains and tracks.

Hmmm… so perhaps it might be time for an occasional series in these pages, something perhaps called From the Footplate or similar.

My thanks to Rydia for contacting me and for our chat.

Men in Focus: April 2020 edition in Second Life


Men In Focus, April 2020

Men in Focus, the gallery owned and sponsored by Men in Motion in support of the Movember Foundation (donations to which are accepted at the entrance to the gallery) and curated by JMB Balogh, will launch its latest ensemble exhibition on April 1st, 2020.

As I’ve previously noted in writing about Men in Focus, it is something of a unique location in that it focuses solely on male avatar studies and art my male artists in Second life, featuring art from invited artists and by members of the Men in Motion group. For this exhibition, the gallery features as 2D guest artists AlCyan, BanagherLinks, Patrick Ireland and Hobbit Zenfold; and 3D artists Reycharles, Harry Cover (ImpossibleIsNotFrench), Mistero Hifeng and Luc Lameth.

Men In Focus: Patrick Ireland

The range of art offered is once again impressive, each of the 2D artists utilising rich styles and approaches. On the ground floor, Patrick Ireland offers a fabulous series of images that run from self-portraits through social commentary and historical settings to provocative pokes at our imaginations, and reflections of popular culture, all wrapped within pieces that carry their own stories.

On the floor above, Hobbit Zenfold – an artist I’ve not previously encountered – offers a range of pieces that might be more closely focused as self-portraits, but which are equally rich in narrative, with several offering a fantasy or fashion element to them. A link in the form of face paint from both Hobbit and Patrick coincidentally flows between their individual exhibit spaces, the pieces containing it also offering an echo of cinematic wickedness.

Men in Focus, April 2020: Hobbit Zenfold

Above Hobbit, on the next two floors, AlCyan and BanagherLinks offer expressions of their Second Lives as avatars and photographers, each constraining his display to colour images that have depth and narrative before they in turn give way to pieces by members of Men in Motion on the upper floors of the gallery.

Spread between the floors are the 3D pieces by Harry, Mistero, Reycharles and Luc Lameth – the latter of whom I’ve also not previously encountered, and I found his Autumn Fairies selection a unique and charming turn in presenting fae folk (whom are so often presented in the female form), while his Shaolin Buddy (a play on Buddha) figurines are utterly charming – as is Harry Cover’s Nuts and Bolts Band.

Men in Focus, April 2020: Luc Lameth

April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, and Men in Focus is raising awareness of the disease, including how to self-test for possible signs of the disease through s series of information boards at the gallery’s landing space. Given that testicular cancer tends to be very prevalent among men of younger age ranges than we perhaps tend to associated with cancer (15-49 being the common age range), these boards are very much worth taking time to read if you are male.

Another excellent exhibition at Men in Focus, carrying with it a focused aim. The formal opening will be held between 18:00-20:00 SLT on April 1st, 2020, although the exhibition is already open for preview.

Men in Focus, April 2020: AlCyan an BanagherLinks

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Zia and Melu at Sisi’s Gallery in Second Life

Sisi Biedermann’s Gallery: Melusina Parkin

I’m reporting this a little late, given that both exhibitions only have a few more days to run, but currently on display in the featured artists sections of Sisi Biedermann’s Gallery are Melusina Parkin and Zia Sophia (Zia Branner), who will be at the gallery until the end of the month, so there really is only a couple of days left in which to see them!

Melusina Parkin really needs no introduction to readers of this blog; I’m an admitted admirer of her work, which I’ve featured in these pages on numerous occasions. Within her space at Sisi’s, she offers Journeys, another utterly engaging take on Second Life, the places it offers and their innate beauty.

Sisi Biedermann’s Gallery: Zia Branner

Melu’s eye for angle, depth, composition and detail always presents chances to see Second Life in a new way and / or light. Rather than focusing on the whole to tell a story, she discovers the part that perhaps utters only a single line: the curve and rise of a paved footpath as it winds between cresting undulations of flowers before it vanishes over a low rise; the silhouette of a lighthouse caught between the branches of a thicket as the Sun dips between the coastal hills beyond; a tree dipping branches into the sea as if testing the temperature of the water…

All these, and the rest of the images in Journeys form whisperings that are just enough for the imagination to create an entire world around them. At the same time, there is a rich impression of openness and space present within each piece that truly gives us room to breathe, to feel a sense freedom – something that in the current climate of having to stay at home and away from the rest of the world, can be refreshing and uplifting.

Sisi Biedermann’s Gallery: Melusina Parkin

Zia Branner is an artist in the physical world who uses paints with acrylics and use a variety of structure material – paste, gel, sand, glue, bandages and paper – together with oil crayons and acrylic ink, to accentuate elements with her pieces. Canvas is her preferred medium, although she also uses wood and paper, and while she has had formal art teaching, she is also autodidact, learning techniques and approaches whilst experimenting with art.

For her exhibition at Sisi’s, Zia offers an impressive portfolio of her art, from sweeping landscapes that encompass coastal scenes and rolling dunes to charcoal-like sketches of flowers and more abstracted pieces that use colour and line to capture the attention and hold the eye.

There is a vitality about each of these pieces, be it as a result of the sweep, turn, and mix of colour in some or the tactile sense of texturing visible in others, that truly brings them to life, perfectly echoing Zia’s view that “making art is rebellion against the finality of mankind”.

Sisi Biedermann’s Gallery: Zia Branner

As always, the floors of the gallery above the featured artists spaces are home to Sisi’s own remarkable and utterly captivating work. Having started painting in acrylics in the early 2000s, Sisi has developed her technique to encompass a range of styles and approaches, from painting to mix media and digital collages to Second Life photography, whilst encompassing a wide range of genres – fantasy, wildlife, portrait, landscape and so on. It is not hyperbole when I say her work is genuinely second-to-none for its sheer beauty and richness of expression.

Located just outside of the gallery is a broad glass-like spiral stairway leading up to the Artists United Gallery, were pieces by the likes of Rage Darkstone, TerraMerhyem, Nils Urqhart, Layachi Ihnen, Milly Sharple and more are offered in a richly eclectic and engaging exhibition that adds further depth to a visit to the gallery.

Sisi Biedermann’s Gallery: Sisi Biedermann

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Attuned to a Silent Melody in Second Life

Silent Melody, March 2020 – click any image for full size

A full region, Silent Melody is an impressive, open region designed by Celtic McDaniels (Celtic3147) that offer room to explore, take photographs, relax and, at a time when we’re all being told to stay home, simply feel the richness of nature and breathe.

Rising from east to west, this is a setting that presents what might be taken as a slice of wilderness brought into the virtual; a place where water tumbles from pool to pool or down sheer faces of high cliffs to feed fast-flowing streams that in turn tumble away to coastal bays and channels that cut the region’s eastern side into attractive, irregular lowlands and islands.

Silent Melody, March 2020

The landing point is on the largest of these islands, sitting just above its rocky coastline, a lily-filled pool fed by a fountain and guarded by a brickwork square of path, offers a place to start explorations. From here, a track winds south and down to where a wooden bridge connects to a tongue of mainland that licks its way to the open sea, passing between the jaws of the landing point island and a smaller isle that forms the south-east corner of the region.

Two further bridges connect the landing point, one to region’s inland areas and the other to another little isle to the north-east. Both of these northern and south isles offer their own attractions – a shingle beach here, a chair hanging from the boughs of a tree there, while a picnic corner sits at the tip of the tongue extending between landing point and southern island.

Silent Melody, March 2020

Between these eastern isles and the western highlands, the land is a rich mix. Tracks are to be found running through parts of the grass and flower carpeted landscape, while picnic and seating spots lay scattered under the shade of trees and shrubs, little bridges connecting tracks and greenswards by spanning stream and inlet.

In the heart of the region sits a natural bowl of rock nestled against the feet the the western cliffs. It folds its arms around the ruins of a cabin, an old piano sitting outside to presenting a romantic setting, even through keys and strings have long since between given over to moss. An usual sitting spot can be found here, perfect for cuddles or contemplation – but you might have to look up in order to find it!

Silent Melody, March 2020

Just to the south of this stone ring, a track winds to the west, ending in grassy humps that rise to a rocky out-thrust from the high cliffs, stone steps rising from grass to its flat top. Here sits a large French provincial style house – but be warned, it is a private residence, so do try to avoid trespassing too close. However, it is possible to skirt the front of the house and reach a grass-topped path that runs around the cliffs like a hat band sitting half-way up their bulk. This path offers a way out onto the east-pointing finger of rock that extends away from the cliffs and channels one of the streams running down from the cliffs, before depositing it by way of the further set of falls to the inlet that cuts deepest into the region.

A humpbacked bridge sits at the end of this rocky out-thrust, reached on one side by a track that winds inland over the lowlands to the east, whilst on its far side a set of stone steps run down to a low-laying finger of land also pointing eastwards. From here, and via a further bridge, this one of wood, it is possible to reach the region’s north side, where a slender, white-sanded beach is watched over by a cosy waterside café.

Silent Melody, March 2020

West of the café, just a short walk over flower-speckled grass, sits formal gardens and a little precinct of town-style houses, little places of business and a second café, all squared-off around a stone fountain and dominated by the imposing bulk of an Irish-themed pub. The garden paths leading visitors to this square also pass an outdoor dance area marked by a pavilion and glass-sided piano. It’s one of two of what might be called “formal” dance areas within the region, the other being a deck connecting the bulk of the landscape with the little rocky isle sitting in the south-east corner of the region.

With its sense of space, subtle sound scape, plethora of places to sit (including those that might take a little time to spot, high and low, such is the fun of exploring!), and lots of opportunities for photography, Silent Melody offers a pleasing visual medley for all who visit.

Silent Melody, March 2020

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Ostoja: a woodland retreat in Second Life

Ostoja, March 2020 – click any image for full size

Designed by ViktoriaRaven and Janeen Arliss, Ostoja is a quarter of a Full region that is offered to public visits and photography. Bounded on two sides by curtains of cliffs on two sides, it is open to the sea on the other two – both watched over by a tall lighthouse, the rest of the parcel forming a high, mesa-like island linked to the cliffs by a pair of rock bridges.

Seen from the water, it is both an an intimidating and intriguing sight: its sheer sides seem to be foreboding, but the coastline offers a landing point with wooden steps climbing up to the top of the island and – if one looks – and the hint of a cave entrance promising secrets to be discovered.

Ostoja, March 2020

The landing point is located on a curved shelf of rock sitting just below the island’s peak, a place where an aged terrace sits and a small garden guards the wooden steps that rise from the beach. The greenhouse offers a place to lounge or bathe, whilst on the far side of the terrace from it a footpath of stepping stones points the way to a cliff-side glade on the far side of the island.

Here sits a tree-shaded conservatory, it’s high dome overlooking he ruins of a wall suggestive of an ancient structure, now all but gone. Beyond the wall is a private residence, the boundary marked by ban lines should you get too close. These spoil the setting a little, but as they’ve likely been raised as a result of people ignoring the signs requesting privacy, their presence is understandable.

Ostoja, March 2020

Behind the conservatory and sitting slightly above it, is the ruin, of an ancient chapel, a quiet retreat complete with its own pool of water, the brick surrounds of which speak to it clearly having been added a long time after the chapel had fallen past its prime. Around it, the plants, sofa and lights make the old chapel a cosy retreat.

Take the steps down to islands coastline, and the ribbon of beach that is home to flamingoes, places to sit, the aforementioned landing point and – that hidden cave entrance.

Ostoja, March 2020

Tunnels and and caverns sit within the very heart of the island, winding their way to a point where a hidden place for trysts awaits, and a further opening offers a way out to the inland side of the island, a place with a cinder beach, lit by floating lanterns and overlooked by the house on its rocky perch. An imposing figure carved from stone rises from rocky footings between island and the waterfalls of the cliff walls, a further guardian for the the setting and the house.

Compact but with a lot to discover, photogenic and detailed, Ostoja is a delight to visit, and a destination not to be missed. Caitlyn and I both enjoyed our ramblings there, and would (again!) like to thank Shawn for tip.

Ostoja, March 2020

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  • Ostoja (Nadril, rated Moderate)