A musical [Smash] in Second Life

[Smash]; Inara Pey, July 2018, on Flickr[Smash] – click any image for full size

A good, good while ago now, reader Alana Onyett suggested I might like to take a look at [Smash], a region designed by Zoe Jimenez. At the time I did – although I’m ashamed to admit I then filed everything away without getting around to blogging about it. So this piece comes with an apology to both Alana and Zoe.

For those who like music – notably electronic dance music and indie (but by no means limited to these to genres) – [Smash] could well be the place to spend a little time sounding out (if you’ll pardon the pun!). Where one region may boast one or two venues for music, this is a region that boasts a good dozen different venues, indoors and out, set within and over what might be described and something of a post apocalyptic environment with twists of steampunk and sci-fi.

[Smash]; Inara Pey, July 2018, on Flickr[Smash]

Such is the number of venues within the region – which forms part of a larger grouping of sims – that the easiest way of getting around, particularly from the landing hub, is to use the provided network of teleport discs. These allow rapid transit between the different clubs. Alongside of these – for those arriving at the landing hub – there is also a teleport experience.

To use this, touch any of the individual signs scattered next to the landing point and which advertise the various club venues. You’ll be invited to join the region’s experience and on acceptance, will be transported to the destination advertised by the sign you touched. Thereafter, you’ll be automatically transported to any of the venues on touching the applicable sign (unless you remove yourself from the experience, in which case you’ll have to re-join it).

[Smash]; Inara Pey, July 2018, on Flickr[Smash]

However, while the teleport systems are convenient, when you’re on the ground I recommend wandering on foot, as there are plenty of opportunities for exploration and photography – although do note there are private rental homes scattered around the outer edges of the region as well. There are also stores to be found among the taller buildings, clustered towards the centre of the region, offering an excuse for shopping.

Events wise, this is a busy location – as the [Smash] website schedule quickly reveals, with around 40 DJs hosting sets through any given month, with up to seven sessions per day. Times are slightly biased towards the American side of the Atlantic, but there’s enough spread across sets for most people to manage at least one or two sets through any given week.

[Smash]; Inara Pey, July 2018, on Flickr[Smash]

Each of the venues within the region has its own uniqueness / quirks, all of which again offers a good excuse for exploration. I admit to finding The Pool a particularly novel location for a night club, given there is still water in the pool and very imaginative use has been made of the diving boards. Similarly, the Steamport, with its two venue areas – indoors and out (hit the teleport board to get into The Globe)  – sitting over the landing hub, is both imaginative and eye-catching.

My own musical preferences perhaps run in a slightly different direction to those on offer at [Smash], but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the amount of work that has gone into the design – which really is nicely done – or the amount of effort all concerned put into bringing it to life as a centre for DJ-led music in Second Life. So, even if EDM or indie or techno aren’t to your particular taste, I’d still suggest that if you enjoy exploring places with a difference in SL and which offer opportunities for photography, you find time to hop over to [Smash] and discover it for yourself, if you haven’t done so already.

[Smash]; Inara Pey, July 2018, on Flickr[Smash]

And again my apologies to Alana and Zoe for taking a fair while to get this post out!

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  • [Smash] (Whiskey Smash, rated: Moderate)
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On Strawberry Lake in Second Life

Strawberry Lake; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrStrawberry Lake – click any image for full size

Strawberry Lake is a public / residential Full region designed by Neva (Mirias) and Shay McAuley. it’s a picturesque place with a charm of its own, perfect for exploring and photography – providing the privacy of the local residents is respected.

There are nine residential parcels to be found here, the majority of them placed around the outer edges of the south, west and north sides of the region, with one sitting amidst the public areas, which lie across the middle of the region and to its eastern side.

Strawberry Lake; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrStrawberry Lake

A visit begins in the south-east, where a small built-up area sits, suggestive of a corner of a town. Cobbled streets sit alongside an open square bracketed by a gymnasium on one side and a little parade of shops on the other. The landing point isn’t on this square so much as under it, on a subway station platform that helps add to the illusion that this is the place sitting at the edge of a town somewhere.

Teas and cakes can be enjoyed on the square, but visitors are liable to be drawn to the cobble roads leading the way further into the region. One of these offers – by way of a bridge spanning the deep but narrow gorge of a stream – to the rural heart of the region. The second road points north to where the glass and concrete bulk of a great conservatory sits, and impressive structure that can also be reached via the wooden board walk that runs along the high cliffs of the eastern edge of the region, to where a little summer house nestles close to the conservatory, but separate from it.

Strawberry Lake; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrStrawberry Lake

Even with the private residential parcels, a lot is packed into Strawberry Lake. There are public places to sit and cuddle, paths to follow, little corners to find. The centre of the region is naturally rugged, the landscape cut by water formed into small streams which, but for a couple of tables of rock, would allow it to become an island. Decks vie with camp sites and shaded swings to offer places to sit, while rowing bows bob on the waters for those who prefer.

To help people find their way, lamps light board walks and paths, while lanterns float serenely overhead. Even so, parts of the region can be a little difficult to get around and some scrambling over rocks may be required. It’s also worth noting that a couple of the streams should be regarded as natural boundaries between public and residential areas, so wading across them isn’t advised.

Strawberry Lake; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrStrawberry Lake

Strawberry Lake can be a little eclectic in some of the choices made with the broader décor of the region. Skeletons lie outside the conservatory building (although not without a sense of romance), some of the images to be found in the public areas are of a distinctly adult lean, when found, as is at least one statue; and there is also something of a religious lean in a lot of the statuary which is one place interestingly juxtaposed with the adult images. .There are also little touches of humour scattered around as well.

At the time of our visit, a photography competition was under-way – although the given closing date was Sunday, July 15th. Full details are available from information boards within the region – notably at the landing point. However, and in short for those wishing to hope over an participate before the competition closes: the region should be a feature of entered photographs (up to two per entrant, posted to the region’s Flickr group with the title “Photo Contest”), and there’s a crash prize pool of L$3,500 to be divided between the top three entries. None competition images are also welcome within the Flickr group.

Strawberry Lake; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrStrawberry Lake

Picturesque, eclectic, and potentially offering a nice little corner of Second Life for those looking for a home, Strawberry Lake made for a relaxing visit.

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In the Wild in Second Life

In the Wild; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrIn the Wild – click any image for full size

Given it is summer in the northern hemisphere and many are experiencing heat waves (even those of us in the UK!), the mind  turns inevitably to holidays and vacations. Often, however, we can’t always just take off to somewhere where the sun and warmth are more fun; but fortunately, there are plenty of places in Second Life that at least give the illusion of escape when we’d all rather be somewhere other than slowing baking in the heat at home.

Take In the Wild, for example. Sitting at the eastern end of the Orchard Heights Estates, it offer local residents and visitors alike the opportunity to escape the demands of physical and virtual life, and simply relax in a parkland setting offering much to see and do. For those seeking a little piece of privacy for a day, it also provides vacation cabins and tents for daily rent.

In the Wild; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrIn the Wild

Designed by Liyora Resident, this is an exceptionally picturesque region, rich in detail with plenty of opportunities for photography and fun. Comprising three islands connected by bridges, the park offers a good mix of land and water, with trails and lookout points on the former, and sampans, bumper boats and kayaks on the latter – there’s even a swimming area with floating slide available, as this is a family friendly park.

The largest island includes the landing point, overlooking the waters and complete with an information board. A long covered bridge links it back to the rest of the estate, reached via a track snaking down the hillside. Above and behind the landing point is one of the park’s rental cabins, sitting atop a high cliff and presenting superb views to the south and north-west. Between landing point and cabin is a second track, pointing the way to the bridge leading to the next of the park’s islands.

In the Wild; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrIn the Wild

This is where the water fun can be found – the swimming circle with its slide, and the bumper boats, together with a couple  of static water vehicles  which give the park a sense of being used, rather than offering actual rides. This is the largest of the island, backed by another high shoulder of rock on which a further cabin sits, guarded by the tower of a windmill and partially overlooking a circular inlet cutting into the lowlands.

Out on a north-eastern headland of the island is a public picnic area offering another fine lookout point, sitting as it does on a shoulder of rock just below another of the park’s cabins and the local lighthouse. Before this headland is  tongue a of land ending in a finger of rock where a further bridge connects to the smallest of the three islands, and home to another holiday cabin as well as the park’s music events area.

In the Wild; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrIn the Wild

As well as the cabins, there are several tens scattered around the islands, also available for daily rent and provided pre-furnished and a modest LI allowance for rezzing props, etc. Paths through the park take a variety of  forms: dirt tracks, wooden board walks and sets of paving stones loosely place across the grass. Like spots offer solo places to sit in the shade of a parasols and. The kyayks mentioned earlier can be obtained via a waterfront rezzer a short walk from the landing point. and come in single and tandem seat versions.

In the Wild can be summarised as a well-designed region, one that is – as already noted – very picturesque. It is certainly well deserving of a visit.

In the Wild; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrIn the Wild

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Abandoned Abandale in Second Life

Abandale; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrAbandale – click any image for full size

Somewhere, along some coastal road, perhaps hidden under the shade of trees or easily missed as it tries to compete with the stunning ocean vista on the other side of the road, an ageing, fading sign points the way down a turn off and is stencilled with a single word, fading with age: Abandale.

Take the turn, and the road gradually becomes more and more decrepit until, just as the idea of turning back and forgetting curiosity’s call, it arrives at a narrow stretch of coastline caught between sea and undulated shoulders of rock. Here sits a place where the black top finally gives up, and an old cargo container offers itself as a makeshift bridge spanning a narrow finger of water, the original crossing perhaps only a ford. It is the setting for the remnants of Abandale, a little town lost from civilisation and forgotten by time.

Abandale; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrAbandale

There’s not much here to commend itself to visitors seeking comfort – all that’s left of the motel which may once have  stood at the town’s edge is the entranceway and the front office. Whether the rest was demolished or fell prey to a violent storm – the place stands almost on the edge of the land – is hard to say.

Beyond a curtain of trees from this, and reached by a wooden board walk, sits the ruins of a large building. But it doesn’t appear to be part of the motel; its general shape and the large gates sitting to one side suggest it was once a house, possibly part of a farm, going by the broken windmill and barn close by.

Abandale; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrAbandale

The town’s bar, however, does survive intact. It faces the ruins of the house across what’s left of the main road, but the sign confirming it is open for business may not carry quite the assurance the proprietor likely hopes. Certainly, the detritus of other human habitation before it doesn’t offer a comforting invitation.

Across the narrow channel of water the intrepid explorer can find more signs of former habitation: a long abandoned and broken little fun fair shaded from the sun by a tower of rock, the ruin of an old chapel sitting on the other side of the road and reached via an old track. A second track offers passage up to the hills to where a run-down cabin sits.

Abandale; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrAbandale

To the west of this, down on the coast, sits a beaches – perhaps the one place that offers an almost pleasant greeting for those who find it; certainly, someone has opted to set-up camp close by and avail themselves of the bar and volleyball. Perhaps whoever it is owners the rather pristine motorbike parked outside the old town’s garage, and they’ve found what’s left of Abandale a cosy enough place to rest from their own travels…

Designed by Dominique Redfield, Abandale occupies half a Homestead region and offers SL visitors something just that little bit different. Poetic licence on how to reach it aside, a visit begins up on the hills marking the parcel’s southern boundary, a switch back path offering a way down to the ruins of the house mentioned above, as a well as presenting a short walk along the cliff-tops to a high placed little wooden snug.

Abandale; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrAbandale

There is a ramshackle, ageing charm to Abandale, with plenty of room to explore and for photography. True, some of the landscaping is a little rough (I’d personally have avoided laying the dirt tracks up the slope to the cabin, or at least worked the land a little more to help blend the edges of the track more with the rocks and shrubs), but there’s nothing here to really spoil the time spent in visiting it.

For those who enjoy atmospheric settings for their photography and who enjoy experimenting with their windlight settings to define a desired result, Abandale offers plenty of scope (and has its own Flickr group). Similarly, those looking for places to sit and relax in a “country grunge” type of setting, will find plenty of such places here as well, from the beaches to the aforementioned cliff-top shelter.

Abandale; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrAbandale

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Return to Chouchou and a musical crossing of the divide

ChouchouMemento Mori

One of the places I’d always enjoyed visiting in Second Life – although I admit it’s been getting on for 4 years since I was last there – is the paired regions of Chouchou, Chouchou V. These form the in-world base for the musical pairing of Japanese pianist arabesque Choche and vocalist Juliet Heberle, together also known and Chouchou. Over the years they gained a strong following in-world and have produced a number of CDs of their musical and original compositions, with samples and tracks showcased through their YouTube channel.

I first blogged about Chouchou – the region – far back in 2012, and it is both surprising and gratifying as to how little has changed over the years. The ground level setting, with its sand banks, shallow waters and teleport ladder rising into the sky remains always as it was, offering a haven of peace presided over by the duet’s music (do have the music stream enabled when visiting).

Chouchou

The teleport ladder provides access to two areas in the sky (both of which can also be reached via direct teleport as weell – SLurls at the end of this article): Islamey and Memento Mori (a third area, Babel, sadly seems to have sadly disappeared at some point in the past).

Islamey offers something of a traditional Japanese garden look, with teahouse built over water and walks under cherry blossoms, all sitting beneath a bright blue sky. This was once the venue for concerts – but to be honest, I’m not sure if this is still the case. But even if not, as I noted far back in 2012, it is a place of quiet contemplation where you can come when you want to give free passage to thoughts and ideas, or when you simply want to find peace and let Chouchou’s music soothe you gently.

ChouchouIslamey

Memento Mori is a place that used to draw me a lot because it is a magnificent build styled after the great medieval cathedrals, and that simply must be seen to be appreciated. It may appear to be a startlingly bright environment when first arriving,  but it is well worth leaving the default windlight set while climbing the stairs from the arrival point up into the cathedral’s great nave; the way the jet black piano is revealed through the surrounding light is almost transcendental in feeling and perfectly suited to the setting.

The intricacy of this build – a joint work dating from 2010 by Juliet collaborating with Miya Grut and with the support of Yuki Aabye for some to the sculpt work – is completely mind-blowing: From the sheer size of the cathedral, through the curling stairways leading to the upper passages, the great bell suspended over the piano as it sits within the space below the great tower to the ghostly pews between the nave and the two outer aisles, the beauty here tends to leave the visitor in awe. It is genuinely a place that has to be visited and seen, rather than written about and photographed.

ChouchouMemento Mori

I was actually drawn back to Chouchou for two reasons. Firstly, to witness Memento Mori once more, simply because it has been so long since my last visit. Secondly, and, more particularly, because reader Silvana Silk e-mailed me with a link to a recent video on Chouchou’s YouTube channel announcing a new set of concerts by arabesque Choche.

A noted and respected classical pianist going by the name of Michal Horák in the physical world, he will – for the first time – be giving a series of concerts in Japan under both his physical world name and his Second Life avatar name. As the notice with the video states:

Up until now, arabesque has been working not only as a composer and a pianist of Chouchou, but also as a classical pianist under his real name Michal Horák. And this fall, for the first time the two names will be combined together. He will have the first piano concert under two names with this title “Michal Horák/arabesque Choche Piano Concert.” The concerts will be held in Tokyo, Osaka and Kagoshima, and Chouchou’s new and second piano album “piano02 opus” expected to be released on December, 2018 will be on presale at the concert venues.

Tickets for the concerts are on sale, and there are links in the video description (in Japanese) to the concert venues – I only with I was in a position to attend one of them. As I’m not, and to mark the occasion in my own small way, I’ve put together a video of Memento Mori. I hope you’ll enjoy it and use it as a reason to visit / return to Chouchou.

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A vision for the mind’s eye in Second Life

Aphantasia; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrAphantasia – click any image for full size

The rolling echo of distant thunder reverberates between high peaks, a bass backdrop to the much closer dusk-time voices of nature that rise from between the tall fingers of shadowy trees clustered across the tops of a little archipelago of grassy islands. The waters from which these rise are turned brown under a sky heavy with an evening haze through which a lowering Sun tries to reach and which those thunder reflecting peaks into shadowy guardians surrounding this little grouping of islands.

Such is the aural greeting awaiting visitors to Aphantasia, a wonderfully atmospheric Homestead region designed by Benny Green. The region’s name is taken from that suggested for a condition where one does not possess a functioning mind’s eye, and so cannot voluntarily visualise imagery – the face of a loved one, a favourite place, a shop down the road, and so on.

Aphantasia; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrAphantasia

It’s an interesting choice for a place that is, in two words, visually stunning – although perhaps to be fully appreciated during an initial visit, it requires a slight tweak to you viewer’s windlight so the beauty of the region can be seen under daylight. The landing point, rich in those night-time sounds (themselves joined by the soft clucking of a chicken or two perhaps nervous at the approach of darkness), sits upon one of four islands in the region, a home for a circular cottage and a well. It is anchored to the largest of the islands by a rope  bridge, one of two ways to explore the location (the other being the teleport trapdoors to be found at several locations in the region).

Across the bridge, the large island offers a richly wooded setting, paths winding under tall conifers and smaller trees, directing people with to two further bridges or to the ruins of an old house where a bathtub sits among tube plants, toadstools and flowers, watched over by a snake coiled lazily around an old tree branch.

Aphantasia; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrAphantasia

Travel through the conifer-crowned and rugged south-western finger of this island, and you can make your way to the haven of a houseboat moored in the lee of a high cliff. Here can be found signs of occupancy  – possibly by an artist / musician, going by the paraphernalia on the rear deck.

Of the two bridges mentioned above, one offers the way to an island devoid of human clutter, but offering a grass pate on which to wander, watched over by the imposing bulk of a great oak tree. The second bridge provides the way to reach a round plug of rock rising from the water and just about big enough to accept the cosy stone folly sitting on its head. But this isn’t the fourth island in the group.

Aphantasia; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrAphantasia

Set well aside from the others, the fourth island in the group lies to the north-west. No bridge connects it to the others, so reaching it requires the use of one of the teleport trapdoors at the landing point, the folly or the houseboat. It is home to a grand conservatory with some interesting furnishings within (mind you don’t find the wheelchair too head-turning an experience!).

Atmospheric and enchanting, Aphastasia is richly detailed, visually and aurally. There are numerous places to sit and relax or cuddle throughout the sitting. Do note the region’s description does state some mild adult activities might take place – although none were witnessed on our visits. There are also a couple of points on the largest island where some of the trees need converted to phantom as they can unexpectedly bump people sideways when encountered – although keeping to the tracks seems to avoid collisions.

Aphantasia; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrAphantasia

For those who take photos of the region, there is a Flickr group where they can be shared (and which interestingly show a hall / cavern of some description being present quite recently, although we found no sign of it on the ground, under the ground or in the air). Also, if you appreciate the region as much as we did, please consider making a donation towards its upkeep at the landing point.

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With thanks to Shakespeare and Maxie for the pointer.