Grauland’s rugged summer looks in Second Life

Grauland, July 2020 – click any image for full size

JimGarand has re-opened his Homestead region of Grauland with a further iteration of its looks; one that brings a new face to the region whilst also offering echoes of past designs.

For this iteration, the region has been split into two islands, each with its own particular look, although both make excellent use of Alex Bader’s modular cliff sets to give them form. The smaller of the two sits roughly rectangular in shape, and is home to the Stonehenge seen in the last iteration of the region (see: Art and a fort in Second Life), with the region’s signature “Giant’s Causeway” (via Cube Republic’s Basalt columns set) on its west side.

Grauland, July 2020

Broad and flat and the home of wild flowers, this island is connected to its larger, L-shaped cousin via a truss bridge of an exceptionally sturdy build. This spans the intervening channel to arrive at the region’s landing point with its customary teleport to Jim’s sky-borne store.

Topped by woods and trees, this larger island descends in tiers from the north plateau to the south-west beach. Three  furnished houses occupy these major elevations, two of them – to the north end of the island an in the mid-elevation comprising somewhat blocky designs that help them feel a part of the block-like nature of the plateaus on which they sit. However, in terms of position, the mid-level and beach-level houses are perhaps the most striking, as they bracket the island’s most interesting aspect: what might be called a “concrete garden”.

Grauland, July 2020

Built partially over water, this is a curious and engaging feature, comprising a rich mix of elements: a maze of cube-shaped rooms, a glass-domed pavilion with sculpture within it, seating areas marked by oak and ash trees in planters, water features and stepping stones and the regimented lines of cement blocks that formed a part of the Grauland landscape when we first visited it in March 2019 (see: Art as a landscape in Second Life). There’s more here waiting to be seen, but that will suffice for a brief introduction.

This garden area both forms an artistic statement in its design and contains art. The maze of cube rooms, for example stands more as an artistic statement than a puzzle as the ways through are easy enough, but in winding one’s way through the rooms will reveal paintings and graffiti on the walls and carefully placed items of furniture. There’s also the sculpture within the pavilion, more sculpture in the open; even the position of a large angular rock (courtesy of Alex’s Bader’s Zen garden kit) is offered as a part of the art in the setting.

Grauland, July 2020

Further statues and sculptures lie at various points around the landscape – overlooking the waters, sitting with the trees, etc., that further add depth to the region. Even the rounded stones and rocks on the west beach, mixed with curved cement walls and a line of marching turtles, make a unique, artistic statement.

As well as extending out to the west, the beach also forms a separator between the higher elevations of the large island, splitting them in two with a narrow ribbon of sand spanned above by an arched bridge. This path leads to a further ribbon of beach running south-to-north along the region’s eastern side and around the island’s south side.

Grauland, July 2020

Each of the Grauland designs has always had a certain attraction about it – not just photogenically, but in the overall approach and layout. This is certainly the case here as well, whilst a sense of romance is added through the inclusion of dance systems around the landscape.

I’ve always enjoyed Grauland’s various looks, but there is is something about this design that I find particularly engaging. It has a pot-pourri of elements – Stonehenge, rugged islands concrete constructs, water features – that stand individually as focal points to be appreciated by those visiting, whilst also flowing together as a very natural whole. There is also the considered mix of the “new” and the “old” (in terms of previous designs) that is sure to appeal to those who are familiar with the region’s past iterations.

Grauland, July 2020

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Eris Isle’s expansive beauty in Second Life

Eris Isle, July 2020 – click any image for full size

Eris Isle is a full region design by Pablo Nova and Karma Koppel that is currently gaining a lot of attention courtesy of a MadPea Hunt – although the fact is, the region deserves recognition in its own right, although a visit can come at a little cost.

A Full private island making use of the 10K land capacity bonus, Eris Isle actually feels a lot bigger than a single region, thanks to a considered used of elevation. This breaks up the land to make some of the paths more circuitous at ground level whilst naturally concealing various locations, allowing them to come as a surprise to explorers (assuming people refraining from camming too much!). The raised elements of the landscape also provide additional space both on – and under – them.

Eris Isle, July 2020

It is on the central uplands that visitors arrive, an expansive table of rock that is home to a broad deck built partially over water. It is backed at one end by the cliffs of the island’s peak area, whilst the other falls away to waters that break up the land with a series of navigable channels. Grass tracks to the east and west offer starting points for explorations.

Take one of these, and you be taken down from the landing point and you can either pass over a rope bridge and continue on to a waterfront park area, or cross a second bridge and over a ridge line to where it descends to a farm  converted to house weddings within its large barn. Take the second grass track and it will lead down to where a covered bridge also provides access to the farm wedding venue.

Eris Isle, July 2020

It doesn’t matter which is taken, both offer a lot to see: a greenhouse and gardens, waterside paths running beneath ridges and cliffs and that lead to hidden places to sit; waterfalls that tumble from other high ridges and cliffs to arrive at rocky pools watched over by more seating areas and topped by lookout points, and so on.

Beyond these, more paths await discovery, some passing beyond the aforementioned gardens to reach northern headlands, bays and waterfront cabins (and a cottage) or wind their way up into rocky areas otherwise hidden from view, and / or reach the highest peaks and ridges of the island. The later include the lookout point mentioned, places to mediate and where Tai Chi can be practised.

Eris Isle, July 2020

It is finding all of the rocky routes that makes exploring the region particularly attractive. The care with with the region’s highlands have been built up means that these paths have a natural look and feel, so much so that in places they may not actually appear to be paths at first; even where they sit as steps, there is a natural cast to them entirely in keeping with the lay of the land as the lead the way to parts of the setting that might otherwise at first appear to be inaccessible, such as the west side camp site or the south-west horseshoe cove.

All of this still only scratches the surface of Eris Isle. There’s still the caverns to be found, either on foot or via the pedal boats off to the east side of the region. If boats aren’t to your liking, then a hot air balloon ride around the island might be. This can be found on the north side of the island (unless the balloon is in use) and is honestly hard to miss when moored.

Eris Isle, July 2020

Art also plays a major – and subtle role within the region, with sculptures to be found through the landscape (particularly around the garden area), and more can be reached via the gallery / ballroom teleport board at the landing point. Located in the sky over the region, at the time of our visits, the gallery was home to exhibitions by landscape photographers Charly Keeley-Keating, Pavel Stransky, Rawnie Lane and Shasta Laval.

Admittedly, all of the detail within the region does come at a cost, as mentioned at the top of this article. There is a lot of mesh and texturing that can hit viewer performance – particularly if there’s a large number of avatars present (numbers sat between 15-22 during our visits); with shadows enabled, I found my system running in single digit FPS. However, mitigating the potential hit by disabling shadows when walking / investigating, reducing the number of non-impostered avatars the viewer renders, etc., is worth the effort, as Eris Isle does have a lot worth seeing.

Eris Isle, July 2020

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A musical Pony Box in Second Life

Pony Box, July 2020 – click any image for full size

Pony Box is a half Homestead region designed on Dandy Warhlol (Terry Fortherington) on behalf of the Pony Box group as a location for them to offer DJ and live performer music to group members.

We are a community of Music Lovers. Where music speaks to the soul. Underground electronic sounds is what we are about.

– The Pony Box About Land description

The setting is that of a stretch of coastline backed by cliffs from which dual waterfalls tumble, the water from them cutting a path through the lowland grasses and shingles to reach the sea, while sandy beaches lie to the south and north sit as book-ends to the land.

Pony Box, July 2020

The land between the northern beach and the stream is home to Pony Box’s main structure: a warehouse converted into a pub. It sits in the middle of broad wooden decking, one arm of which stretches out over the beach on legs that dip toes into the blue waters at the deck’s far end. This decking is home to two of the setting’s DJ music venues; one at the end of the pier-like stretch, the other nestled alongside the warehouse-pub.

Steps descend from the stream side of the deck, providing a way to reach the shingle bank, home to a set of white bleachers. These face a live music stage sitting on the humped back of crooked finger of shingle that reaches into the stream, partially blocking it.

Pony Box, July 2020

Two bridges span the lower extent of the stream, providing the best route to reach the southern extent of the land. This is a low, rugged landscape marked by the tall fingers of fir trees and the rounded, squatter spread of crab apple, oak and walnut trees that shade the island’s second major building. Empty at the time of our visits, this suggested it might be intended to become a club house or perhaps an indoor venue for music.

We aren’t open all the time for music. We currently have a DJ who spins tunes every Friday at 1:00 pm SLT. We also do parties advertised through our land group, which I organise. The best way to find out about events is through the group.

– Mr Frosty (JackFrosstt), Pony Box co-owner

Pony Box, July 2020

The highlands to the est of the land aren’t direct accessible, although there are also signs of old habitation on them to give a further sense of depth to the vista as the land rises to form a natural barrier between Pony Box and the rest of the region.

There are one or two rough spots in the landscaping – some of the lowland rocks have been stretched so that their physics shapes no longer match and so you can end up wading through them rather than walking on them, but on the whole, the setting offers good scope for photography and he beaches offer places to sit and relax, as does the pub in the old warehouse.

Pony Box, July 2020

So, if you’re looking for a place to visit or a new place to find music, why not keep an eye on the pony Box in-world group, and hop over to the island and take a look?

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A notebook for Aspen Fell in Second Life

Aspen Fell – The Notebook, July 2020 – click any image for full size

It’s been several years since we last visited Aspen Fell in Second Life. A homestead region managed by Jessica Marabana, it’s a place that periodically undergoes transformation by designer Aspen Fell to offer visitors something new to appreciate whilst exploring, in taking photographs of and in writing about. However, I have to admit my curiosity was particularly piqued in reading the latest description provided with the region’s entry in the Destination Guide:

The Notebook is inspired by the movie ‘The Notebook.’ Stroll through the streets of Seabrook, South Carolina, have a seat in the movie theatre, and feel the love Noah and Allie, through all the ups and downs, had for each other.

– from the Aspen Fell Destination Guide description, July 2020

Aspen Fell – The Notebook, July 2020

I have to confess that The Notebook is not a film with which I was familiar prior to reading those words, so I made a call to a friend (aka Netflix and a couple of hours in front of the telly) to learn more – although as I found out on making my return trip to take the photos seen here, the landing point does offer a note card with a fair synopsis of the film to incoming visitors, which I may have accidentally discarded on arriving for our exploratory wanderings.

In short, the film – itself based on the 1996 début novel by Nicholas Sparks – is a decades-spanning love story about a young man of humble origins who lives and works in Seabrook Island, South Carolina. During a night at the local carnival, he becomes smitten with a young socialite who is vacating in the town with her family. His persistence eventually wins her over – although her family doesn’t precisely approve. In part due to their objections and the interference of the woman’s mother, and in part due to America’s entry into to World War Two, the two separate and remain apart for several years until a chance sighting whilst Noah is visiting post-war Charleston brings the two indirectly back into one another orbits, and eventually leading them to renew their relationship.

Aspen Fell – The Notebook, July 2020

As simple as it sounds, the film – like the novel – is nuanced it the way it presents its story. We see the unfolding relationship of two main characters – Noah Calhoun and Allison “Allie” Hamilton – in flashback, as an elderly patient in a nursing home, referred to as “Duke”, reads their story from a journal to an elderly female patient. Through the intertwining of the modern-day storytelling and the flashbacks we discover that not only did Noah and Allie’s love eventually endure, but the the elderly man and woman are Noah and Allie, and his reading of their journals is itself a poignant act of love for her, stricken as she is with dementia.

I know you feel lost right now; but don’t worry, nothing is ever lost, nor can be lost. The body sluggish, aged, cold; the embers left from earlier fires shall duly flame again.

“Duke” / Noah Calhoun, quoting in part lines from Walt Whitman’s Continuities

Aspen Fell – The Notebook, July 2020

Within Aspen Fell, notable elements in the film in which the story of younger Allie and Noah’s relationship are played out are presented as vignettes. There is the main street of Seabrook Island itself; the carnival where they first meet; the lumber mill where Noah works; the abandoned house he shows her, which she describes once it his been restored to its former glory and which he eventually renovates in accordance with her vision in the belief it will bring her back to him.

And there is more: in the town you can dance in the rain or watch the changing traffic lights in reflection of Allie and Noah; in the carnival you can try the rides, at the house you can explore Noah’s renovations and make yourself at home, or close by, you can visit the boathouse and take a canoe out on to the water and get caught in the rain, just as they do.  Thus, as a homage, the region’s vignettes are all nicely framed and gently linked by a winding path.

Aspen Fell – The Notebook, July 2020

Just how much love for the film has been put into Aspen Fell can additionally be seen in the smaller details. For example, the movie theatre is promoting Albert S. Rogell’s 1940 version of Li’l Abner, starring Buster Keaton just as it does in the film. Elsewhere, the dilapidated house contains the old piano Allie sits at and plays (and in respect of this and the piano solos featured as a part of the film’s soundtrack, the region’s audio streams features piano solos). Look hard enough and you may even spot a copy of Allie’s journal the elder Noah reads to her to frame the story.

The introductory note card states the region is open for rezzing to allow for props, etc., but during our visits, I found this not to be the case, even with membership of the local land group. However, this isn’t really an issue; there is more than enough to see within the region, and a fair number of poses available as well.

A labour of love, a photogenic setting and – for those not familiar with the film (or the novel) – and education, Aspen Fell – The Notebook makes for yet another engaging visit.

Aspen Fell – The Notebook, July 2020

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Carolina’s new summer look in Second Life

 

Caolina, July 2020 – click and image for full size

It’s been a year since we lasted visited Arol Lightfoot’s Homestead region design of Carolina, so given it is back in a summertime look, we hoped over recently to see what was new and found the answer to be, “Everything!”

In the summer of 2019, Carolina was very much tropical in nature with lowlands, beaches and bays all combining into a setting ripe for wildlife and opportunities to wander (see: The beaches of Carolina in Second Life). For summer 2020, the lowland feel to the region is largely retained – with two very obvious exceptions – but the setting is very much more temperate in style.

Carolina, July 2020

Those exceptions are two tables of the rock that rise in the south-east corner of the region, separated one of the other by a narrow gorge but maintaining contact by means of the rope bridge that has been slung between them. The larger of the two sits bare-headed save for a single wooden frame. Its south side drops straight and true to a lip of rocky land that sits above the region’s one major stretch of sand; to the north it in part falls to a set of low-lying steps that then descend onwards to the region’s inland grasslands.

The second plateau reverses this arrangement: its north side drops sheer to the lowlands, whilst its south face steps down towards the sea in a series of rocky shelves over which water tumbles to form three streams that spread out to the surrounding waters like splayed toes.

Carolina, July 2020

The landing point sit on the larger table mountain, the wooden frame forming the upper end of a zip line (Cube Republic’s excellent design) that presents the only way down other than stepping off the edge of the cliffs and trying to avoid hitting the ground below too hard. The line stretches out over the southern lands, crossing above grass, sand and sea as it descends to reach a small, crooked headland, where sits a small lighthouse and an accompanying modest bonfire.

Where you go from here is up to you: scramble down the rocks and you can follow the beach as it points eastwards until it arrives at the splayed toes of the mountain steams. Or you can turn slightly inland and follow the gravel path that runs in the same direction as the beach, but along the lip of rock that sits above the sand. This route has the advantage of offering a bridge over one of the streams and the opportunity to strike off inland through the gorge between the high hills. Or, you can leave the beach and path along the south side of the region until later, and head immediately inland from the lighthouse and headland.

Carolina, July 2020

It is this last route that will open the rest of the region to you, revealing it as a land rich in oak and willow and ash and birch, the trees scattered across the grasslands and around the small bays that sculpt the coastline. Three buildings sit upon the land, all ranged to the north and varying in style from a cosy waterfront cabin that looks east over the little curve of  sand, gravel and rock that might pass as the region’s second beach, through a summer house sitting within its own wild garden whilst offering more creature comforts within, to a solid rectangle of a house that sits on a rounded north-west headland as if awaiting occupancy.

There are multiple ways to reach all three, and all of them are set far enough part such that walking between them will reveal more of the island’s secrets. But as cosy (at least with two of them) and attractive as they are, and deserving they may be of being seen, they are not the focal points for the region. That honour goes to the large pond sitting close the the centre of the land and from which a great weeping willow rises, offering shade and coolness beneath its drooping arms.

Carolina, July 2020

With mist curling around the base of the tree and the water topped by reeds, lilies, marsh plants and waterlogged grass, the pond is home to all manner of birds and waterfowl that make it a haven for photography, while the piers and open-sided boat offer places for romance and sitting within its arms.

It is in wandering the island and finding it wildlife – birds, frogs, otters, bears – and the accompanying animals – dogs, cats, horses – that gives Carolina a depth of life. While the many ways to explore it give plenty of opportunities to find the little surprises (I presume the telephone box sits among the firs and birch of the gorge is there just in case someone want to make a  … trunk call!) and touches that lie throughout.

Rezzing in the region is open – but visitors are asked to kindly restrict this to poses and props for photos and to please clean up when they’ve done. For those seeking a place to sit and cuddle / chat / pass the time, Carolina offers numerous places where all three can be enjoyed, once again making it another engaging and charming build from Arol.

Carolina, July 2020

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Randelsham Forest in Second Life

Randelsham Forest

Shortly after Linden Lab launched the Log (or lodge, as I tend to prefer) Homes for Premium members on Bellisseria (see Second Life: Log Theme Linden Homes released), they started to add – as they had with other Linden Homes themes – a number of public spaces. Some are on the main run of land, others sit on islands within the lakes and rivers. All offer places of escape and relaxation. Chief among them its is Randelsham Forest, intended to act as a community hub, open to those who might wish to make use of it.

We actually visited Randelsham back at the end of April. It’s a rugged location, sitting between lowlands with house and a large, semi-sinuous body of inland water. At the time, I didn’t blog about it, as it appeared the regions around it were still very much a work in progress: whilst on a stretch of the Bellisseria railway passes by and has a local station, the line doesn’t as yet connect to anything.

Randelsham Forest

This is still the case, but it’s clear that now that SL17B no longer requires the input, the Moles are returning to work on Bellisseria, so I’ve little doubt things will be properly connected up.

The focal point for the setting is a large “tree house”, in part sitting up on wooden legs from the shore of the lake to level itself with the railway station, to which it is linked by a wooden board walk. Split into two, the tree house offers a large lounge area with wooden walls with a long balcony to one side with a bubble rezzer at the far end for those who fancy taking to the air. A bridge on the other side runs down to an open-sided platform ranged around the trunk of one of the area’s great redwoods.

Randelsham Forest

Like other community areas before it, the tree house is able to be reserved as a community use space to gather with the community, your friends. socialize, hold events, and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

– Patch Linden, April 27th, 2020

Lamp-lit paths await discovery, offering opportunities for people to the means to descend down to the banks of the lake, where trails further give opportunities for exploration and to find places to sit.

Randelsham Forest

The paths also offer routes up into the hills rising either side of the rail lines, to peaks where people have the opportunity to take to the air in a different way – via zip line;  although when we tried it, the ride was a little rough! The line out to the lake’s island also (at the time of our visit) leaves folk without an option to get back to shore without flapping their arms to take to the air; I assume this will be rectified as more work in the area is completed (a rowing-boat rezzer, perhaps, to connect to the little pier below the tree house?

With a path down to the houses on the inland side of the hills, Randelsham offer a perfect setting for the locals to use and hold their own events, planned or spur-of-the-moment. On a broader front, it, and the social spaces large and small that can be found throughout Bellisseria offer the means to help break-up the land and present places for explorers and visitors to discover. For my part, I’m looking forward returning and using it for a start of some more horseback explorations of Bellisseria.

Randelsham Forest

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