Lotus blossoms and the hint of seafront piers

Lotus Stage built by  Donpatchy Dagostino for the SL9B event in Second Life
Lotus Stage built by Donpatchy Dagostino for the SL9B event in Second Life

I returned from my vacation to find that the SL9B event had been running for quite a while, I quickly fired up my Second Life viewer so that I could pop in and explore. I even managed a rare blog post and (giddy from the whole experience) find myself writing another post within days (as opposed to months!) Whatever next?

Donpatchy Dagostino's Lotus flowers
Donpatchy Dagostino’s lotus flowers

You see, for my vacation (or as we would say in the UK, my ‘holidays’) I went to stay at a camp by a lake in Maine. English people might think of a camp as a tent, and damp sleeping bags, stretched over bumpy ground above a subterranean sea of seething worms. In America, a camp is frequently a house with electricity and running water, a bathroom, kitchen with fridge (though we roughed it a bit without a dishwasher); we also had beds with mattresses, a washing machine, TV and DVD player plus a phone but (gasp) no internet!

Lotus stage with its vague hints of Victorian seafront piers...
Lotus stage with its vague hints of Victorian seafront piers…

My favorite activity when staying ‘at the lake’ is to take out a lovely little silver rowing boat and row round to a sheltered corner of the lake that is filled with water lillies. The lilly pads and fallen trees in this area keep the speed boats and jet skies well away, freeing me to float peacefully amongst the lillies and dragonflies. When my wanderings around SL9B brought me to the Lotus Stage with all the lotus leaves and flowers scattered at its feet I was delighted. Despite the difference that exists between lillies and lotus plants I was reminded of my rowing boat rides on the lake. At the same time I was intrigued by the scale of everything at the Lotus Stage. My avatar’s eye view of giant floating petals and lotus blossoms reminded me of the movie ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids‘.

Lotus Stage ramp leading up to the performance area
Lotus Stage ramp leading up to the performance area

The stage itself reminded me of an old theater that you might find on a Victorian seafront pier; this impression was helped by the railway bridge to nowhere that runs alongside the stage, home for a stationary steam engine and its carriages. To climb up to the Lotus Stage the creator, Donpatchy Dagostino, built a long elegant ramp that spirals gently up into the petals of the giant lotus flower and opens out into the stage area. When I was wandering around on my first visit I actually arrived at the stage during a performance by the astonishing ChangHigh Trinity Dancers. Fire, lights and lasers were shooting out from the stage. The show was a striking contrast to the cool reflective waters lying below and perhaps the organizers planned it that way as a safety measure? I returned the following day to get a picture of the stage standing empty and silent in the early evening shadows.

Lotus Stage standing empty but for shadows
Lotus Stage standing empty but for shadows

I delved into Google to see if I could dig up more information about The ChangHigh Trinity Dancers and found the following description on their Facebook page:

CHANGHIGH TRINITY SISTERS FIRESHOW of LIGHT, LIFE and LOVE

We are four spiritual sisters, from different parts of the world, who have come together and created a very unique and extremely beautiful and powerful circus/fire-dancing show in the virtual 3D world of Second Life. We perform using rotating trapezes, on high wire, podiums and on rolling balls.We fire dance on walking elephants and perform many very unique acrobatic animations, all colored by vivid radiant effects of many different kinds, scripted and available inside Second Life; such as fire balls, light particles and poofers, lasers, sparks, smokes and ofter kinds of realistic light.

One of the ChangHigh Trinity Sisters
Yman Juran the founder and lead fire dancer of the ChangHigh Trinity Sisters

Finally, thanks to my ‘go to’ sources of information: Honor McMillan, Crap Mariner and Daniel Voyager Thanks for all your work in helping SL9B happen and thanks for your blogs and tweets that helped me find my way around and understand what in the virtual world was happening at SL9B!

Take a walk around this idea: SL9B – Community in 3D

2SPS Gallery: Second Life SL9B
2SPS Gallery by Soul Yheng and Sandralee Palianta: SL9B (Second Life 9th Birthday)

Beau Hindman of massively.com has been exploring Second Life for eight years now, he observes  in his post “Free for All: Second Life, the little 75 million-dollar engine that could” that the virtual world was a ‘social medium before social media’ 

If I look back eight years ago, when I first joined Second Life, it’s neat to think just how ahead of its time it was. While the insiders of Second Life were participating in a smaller, self-contained social medium, the way they shared and collaborated was much the same as how we participate in worldwide social media now. (Beau Hindman)

Future Communities by noke yuitza
Future Communities by noke yuitza: SL9B

Beau makes the observation that Second Life pioneered various tools to assist communication amongst its users; his favorite is the SLurl (a hyperlink that allows you to land at a precise location in the virtual world. SLurls to this blog’s images at end of post below).

While I enjoy clicking on a friend’s Twitter link and checking out a picture of her favorite dog, I can click on an SLurl and instead find artwork inspired by her furry best friend or a virtual dog that I can interact with. Before Google made easy collaboration in documents, Linden Lab created the ability to create almost anything with your friends, chat via voice while doing so, and even possibly sell the creation for real life cash. (Beau Hindman)

Second Life's slurl locator
Above: Second Life’s SLurl locator.

Beau Hindman says of the SLurl “It’s one of the very few instances I can think of that allow someone to follow a link to visit a literal, three-dimensional idea — a thought in the form of an explorable piece of content.” That is pretty exciting to strongly visual types with a science fiction bent like myself. It opens up whole new realms of travel for the mind. Ah, but then entrepreneurs like Anders Gronstedt have also found that the men in dark gray suits (who pride themselves on being very solid and sensible) also find three dimensional meeting spaces useful for training and business purposes. (See: Immersive 3-D Worlds: Avatars at Work.)

Tree of Faces by Cherry Manga
Tree of Faces by Cherry Manga: SL9B

Second Life is a moldable, social experiment that can do things Twitter or Facebook cannot. Granted, its saddled with the performance issues that come with a world of streaming, three-dimensional material, but Linden Lab has already experimented with embedded players that shine light on a possible browser-based future. As PCs become cheaper and the magical tubes that carry our internet become fatter and more affordable, Second Life will benefit by becoming much more accessible. (Beau Hindman)

This particular social experiment is currently celebrating its ninth birthday. Now, for some (dark gray suit reason) Linden Labs decided not to celebrate the event as it has in past years. Previously the Labs provided land and resources for Second Life users and encouraged them to fire up their imaginations to celebrate with fabulous 3D creations. This year the Labs suggested that the various communities within Second Life should take the theme of community and simply celebrate amongst themselves. (Perhaps the Labs should consult Anders Gronstedt regarding the cut of their suits?) Recognizing that this would mean losing the sense of the greater community, a small group of Second Lifers set about organizing the giant birthday bash known as SL9B without Labs support.

Birthday cake stage by Mikati Slade
Birthday Cake Stage by Mikati Slade: SL9B

Within five weeks they found sponsors; trained volunteers; handed donated land over to builders; enrolled the help of code scripters; set up exhibit spaces for shop keepers, community groups and artists; they then promoted the whole shebang with the help of Second Life bloggers. The result is visible this week across 20 sims displaying 300 diverse exhibits and includes stages for musicians performing live music. Many different communities use the virtual world and with the help of hundreds of volunteers plus in-world social networking tools (as well as external social media) this amazing feat has been pulled off. Intriguing to consider that the virtual world is the perfect place to render the concept of community in three dimensions. The event ends on June 27th, 2012. Take a walk around the idea soon!

SLurls to locations featured in this post:
2SPS Gallery by Soul Yheng and Sandralee Palianta http://slurl.com/secondlife/FruitIslands%20SL9B%20Fun/29/189/21/ 

Future Communities by noke yuitza
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Dreamseeker%20SL9B%20Nove/49/57/22/ 

Tree of Faces by Cherry Manga
http://slurl.com/secondlife/SL9B%20By%20Us2%20/86/164/21/ 

Birthday Cake Stage by Mikati Slade
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Dreamseeker%20SL9B%20Tisa/234/250/22/