Monday, March 29, 2010

Svarga - Second Life's Virtual Ecosystem Experiment

Svarga, a preserved relic from Second Life's past

There is alot of buzz recently about a place called Svarga. I first read about Svarga a few days ago on Ziki Questi's blog (great blog), and later learned, from an article in New World Notes, that Linden Lab had purchased the sim from its creator. This is a sim that has been essentially frozen in time as of 2006 and had suddenly disappeared from the grid last summer. The buzz is about Svarga's restoration to Second Life, and how  Linden Lab deemed its legacy so important that it purchased the sim and brought it back from limbo. Svarga was once selected as one of the Seven Wonders of the Digital World by the Second Life Project. And Philip Linden describes Svarga as coming close to his original vision for Second Life. Now that really peaked my interest. I teleported myself to Svarga. 

Click on the pictures to enlarge them to their original size for better viewing.

Taking the tour of Svarga conducted by a waspish tour guide

Svarga was build by Laukosargas Svarog, a former game designer living in the  United Kingdom. In mythology, Svarga is the heavenly abode of the Slavic god Svarog, the supreme god of the Slavic pantheon and the god of fire and blacksmithing. This is very fitting as Laukosargas is a master builder who has been described as playing god in this virtual world. Work began on Svarga in 2004 and nothing was added since 2006. That was the old stone age in Second Life time - a time before sculpted and flexible prims. When you visit Svarga, keep in mind that all the contents of the sim were built with basic SL primitives.

The Landscape on Svarga
(Note the red/yellow/orange plant on my right)

Teleporting to Svarga lands you on a welcoming pavillion on a small island outside the gate of the main entrance. At the pavillion, I was confronted by a giant wasp with a wicked stinger. The creature turned out to be a harmless tour guide; so, I jumped on its back and took the tour. It was great fun swooping high and low over the island. And the tour narrative offered interesting information about Svarga and its history. The story goes that this island utopia was formed by the collapsed caldera of a very old volcano, and, here, Laukosargas Svarog conducted her experiments in artificial life. More on that later.

Giant Twirlyshrooms

The landscape has a delightful nostalgic look about it. My friend Jaysun describes it as 'flintstone', meaning cartoony. Certainly, landscaping in Second Life has evolved far beyond what we see here; but I believe that this look is definitely planned ... it's artistically surreal. And there is detail and complexity here that is amazing given the building material available at the time. It's a quality build that stands up well even today.

The Castle Tower with its spires, bridges, and pavillions

The focal point of the island is the castle tower with its spires and sweeping complex of bridges and pavillions. The tower rises out of the soil of Svarga and spreads like a giant flowering plant. Indeed, the tower is an architectural expression of the plant that I drew your attention to earlier. A Gaian worship of nature permeates the sim. There are nice views of the island from the bridges and the pavillions. Note the little back smudges in the pictures above the tower. Those are rain clouds that form and travel on SL winds dropping precipitation on all areas of Svarga.

Svarga's Collection of Elven Musical Instruments

The SL Hamsa (protecting hand) decorating the castle

Jaysun and I found a great photo opportunity

In the top chamber of the tower are books on Second Life

What is so special about Svarga?

I had a very enjoyable time exploring Svarga. It is definitely worth the visit. The sim has many delightful attractions. However, I was expecting to visually experience one of the seven wonders of the virtual world. By that standard, I was somewhat underwhelmed. In its time, Svarga may have been at the pinnacle of sim design; but, I have seen many sims that have since far surpassed it visually and artistically. I had many questions.

What was it about this sim that drew so much praise and acclaim for its creator and her creation? Why was this sim deemed so important that it must be preserved? What did Philip Linden mean when he said that Svarga comes close to his original vision for Second Life? He couldn't have wanted this 'flintstone' look to be the standard in Second Life, could he?

Laukosargas Svarog's Experiment in Artificial Life

There is more here than meets the eye. While strolling around Svarga, Jaysun and I met a charming SL old timer and Svarga enthusiast named Clinton Oddfellow who filled us in on the real significance of Svarga. He explained that Svarga is a self-contained fully functioning ecosystem. I found a detailed description of this highly complex ecosystem with its interrelationships and interdependencies and its self-replicating artificial life forms in an article by Wagner James Au appearing in New Word Notes that began with this wonderful introduction: 

"In the beginning, Linden Lab created the heavens and the earth, but the sky was empty and the land was barren. The trees were green but did not grow, the sun and wind passed overhead but did not affect them.

Then Laukosargas Svarog came upon this and said, Come, let us make clouds so that they can be borne upon the wind. She did, and it was good. Then Laukosargas said, Let these clouds cast rain upon the ground, and where the land is marshy, let marshy flowers bloom, and where the land is open, let open flowers bloom. And let the sun shine upon these, and where the sun shines brightest, let them grow more, and where it shines least, let them lay fallow. This she also did, and it was good. Seeing this, Laukosargas said, Let bees fly amongst these flowers to pass their seed between each other, and thus be fruitful and multiply. Then she said, Let there be birds to feast upon the seeds, lest these flowers be too fruitful and multiplicitous. This she did as well, and it was likewise good."
God Game (New World Notes May 31, 2006)

This New World Notes article is a must read for any visitor to Svarga. The ecosystem of Svarga is a fascinating and important experiment that establishes the reputation of Svarga as one of the wonders of the virtual world. Clinton Oddfellow informs me that, when the ecosystem of the restored Svarga is fully operational and after a passage of time, the sim will be filled with life. I hope you plan a visit to Svarga to see this piece of Second Life history and perhaps to also get a glimpse at the future of virtual worlds. 


More Articles on New World Notes about Svarga

Why Svarga's for Sale (New World Notes December 10, 2008)

Svarga is back in Second Life (New World Notes March 22, 2010)

The Praise is Not Universal.

Socialist Sim Svarga Resurfaces (Second Thoughts March 22, 2010)

Svarga Videos:

Related Posts:

Le Mont Saint Michel in Second Life (November 28, 2009)

Mariko Magic: Moorish Dreams (November 11, 2009)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mariko Magic: Theodora by Lady Thera Art and Fashion

Theodora by Lady Thera

Theodora by fashion designer Thera Taureg is a masterpiece - a work of extraordinary skill, an artistic achievement. Whenever, I wear this outfit, I marvel at the ingeniuity and creativity of its triple layer design and how everything just flows together into a graceful whole. Its a strikingly lovely dress, and I'm very excited to have it in my wardrobe. Theodora can be found at Lady Thera's Art and Fashion where it sells for L$990. Theodora was inspired by one of my favorite persons from history - Empress Theodora of Byzantium. She was born 1,510 years ago; but, Theodora is a woman for all ages.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them to their original size for better viewing.

Empress Theodora (c. 500 – 548 AD) was one of the most influential and powerful figures of the Early Middle Ages. She was the empress of the great Byzantine Empire which she jointly ruled with her husband, Emperor Justinian I. Of humble background, she had been an actress and a courtesan prior to her marriage. A delicate beautiful, a delightful wit, and a keen political acumen endeared her to Justinian who appealed against an old Roman law forbidding the marriage of officials to actresses in order to marry her. Justinian considered Theodora his full intellectual partner. The pair took control of the empire following the death of Justinian’s uncle and father by adoption, Emperor Justin I, in 527 AD.

Empress Theodora from a mosaic in Ravenna, Italy

They were a dazzling couple who ushered in the most brilliant period in Byzantine history. It was renaissance of power, conquest, and culture in the former eastern Roman empire. During their rule, Theodora and Justinian transformed Constantinople, the capital of the empire, into one of the world’s most splendid cities. And among their many monumental public works in Constantinople is the magnificent Hagia Sophia - Church of Holy Wisdom – once the greatest church in Christendom and a grand achievement in Byzantine architecture.

Empress Theodora on the Throne of Byzantium

As joint ruler of the empire, Theodora had a real effect on political decisions within the empire. Most noteworthy, her participation in Justinian's constitutional reforms resulted in an expansion of women’s rights that was unprecedented for the age. Forced prostitution was prohibited, women were granted more rights in divorce cases, mothers given guardianship rights over their children, the death penalty was instituted for rape, the killing of wives accused of adultery was forbidden, and laws were established that allowed women to own and inherit property. Today, we recognize her as an early pioneer and a heroine of the women's rights movement. Theodora died from cancer in 548 AD. She is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Theodora by Lady Thera comes with jacket, blouse, underblouse, underblouse, pants, gloves, and 3 triple flexi skirts - mini, median, long gown - which give you 3 different looks. I am particularly fond of the mini which I have highlighted in the previous pictures of this post.

The long gown is elegantly regal. In this look, the triple layers in the skirt creates a 3-dimensional effect that is truly magical.

The midi skirt gives a very sexy look that is sure to attract attention. It's perfect for parties and a night at the clubs.

The hair that I am wearing is from DrLife and is called Boachai. Boachai was designed by my dear friend Leena Ying, owner of DrLife, and sells for L$350. Boachai comes with 9 colors - red, silverin, platinum, honey, blonde, black, brown, golden brown, dark brown - which you select with a menu.

In real life, I made a memorable trip to Istanbul and explored the magnificent Hagia Sophia and touched the remnants of the great wall of Constantinople. So I am glad that I can bring you this little taste of Byzantium. And consider taking a trip to Lady Thera's Art and Fashion and aspire to the Imperial Throne of the Byzantine Empire.

Lady Thera's Art and Fashion:

DrLife Main Store:

Pictures were taken at the Frank Lloyd Wright Virtual Museum, Villa Amorosa, and Kingdom of Sand.

Frank Lloyd Wright Virtual Museum

Villa Amorosa:

Kingdom of Sand:

A marvelous website with fascinating audio lectures on the history of the Byzantine Empire by historian Lars Brownworth.

Video: Hagia Sophia

Other posts for Lady Thera's Art and Fashion:
Lady Thera & Vincent Van Gogh (January 24, 2009)

This post was recently featured in the Facebook page for the movie Little Theodora:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Awakening - My Early Spring Garden


I wanted to experience snow. You can understand a girl from Hawaii's longing for a lovely white winter. Well, I just survived a historic snowy winter in the northeast. Being hit by two humongous 'snow hurricanes' can dampen one's enthusiasm for snowfall. I'm ready for spring.  And spring has finally arrived at Hallelujah. 

Click on the pictures to enlarge them to their original size for better viewing.

My Townhouse Garden at Hallelujah

I celebrated the new season by putting in a new garden behind my townhouse. The former rose garden was taken down for the winter and starting over gave me the opportunity to try a different concept in garden design. This garden would capture early spring. The trees will be in early bloom and bud. And, rather than formal, it would be a naturalistic garden.

A naturalistic garden is a planned garden that appears to have been the result of nature and not of human hands. Such a garden has three levels. The top level is a canopy of mature trees.  At the garden entrance are two large blooming hawthorne trees providing the canopy. In the middle level are a large number of smaller sapling trees, also hawthornes, randomly planted, mostly in bloom, but some in leaf bud.  A ground cover of naturalized red and white tulips is the lower ground level. The ground is shaded by the canopy. As a finishing accent, the garden opens up to a delightful field of yellow daffodills.

I am thrilled with how well this garden turned out. It's lovely.

The Garden House is a Swedish Lusthus designed and built
 by my dear friend Jaysun Dagger.

The garden is a wonderful place to just park yourself. And my neighbors will love the beautiful views of the garden looking out from the windows of their townhouses.  These townhouses are now available for rent.

The Garden Opens to a Field of Yellow Daffodils

A view from inside the garden house.

Jaysun dropped by the garden for an afternoon tea and a serving of pie.

Miyamoto Musashi, my little pug dog, has a case of spring fever after having been cooped up in the townhouse all winter. Musashi took to the garden right away. He enjoys digging up tulips and chasing the chipmunks and squirrels. During the spring and summer, Musashi be will living outdoors, roughing it in the garden.

Jaysun built Musashi a cute little doghouse; a doggy lusthus, actually.

At night, the garden is magical.

For the fashion minded reader, I am wearing an outfit from Zaara called Anjuna. Anjuna was designed by Zaara Kohime, owner of Zaara, and sells for L$280. Zaara offers Indian flavored designs blended with a modern aesthetic. Its a wonderful place to shop and browse. Anjuna consists of a bright block print tie on shirt, a white tank, and white drawstring pants. The tie on shirt is available in red, blue, and green. I am wearing red.

The hair that I am wearing is marvelous, isn't it? Its called Alicia and is available at DrLife for L$350. Alica gives you 9 colors - red, silverin, platinum, honey, blonde, black, brown, golden brown, and dark brown. Colors are changed by menu. If you see Leena Ying, owner of DrLife and my best friend, tell her you saw this hair on Mariko's blog.  

Drop by Hallelujah and take a walk in my garden. Aptly enough, I'm located in Hallelujah's Garden District. If you want to join our community, there are a number of lovely rentals available. You can also hang out at the Jittery Junco Coffee Shop and become a Hallelujah regular. Come and see why Hallelujah is such a special place.

Hallelujah Azul:
The spring trees, tulips, and daffodils were purchased from Green and Wild Garden Center.

Green and Wild Garden Centre:

Related Posts:

My Hallelujah Townhouse (July 15, 2009)
Garden Party (July 19, 2009)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar Night at Hallelujah Azul

It's the Academy Awards at Hallelujah Azul

It was Academy Awards night at Hallelujah, and the community and its guests celebrated in a grand style.  'Twas a black tie affair and an evening of fashion, personality, and dancing. Everyone was absolutely dazzling, and, last night, Hallelujah's Town Square was the place to be and be seen. Indeed, there were a number of stars in attendence. It's these wonderful events springing from our spirit of community that have made Hallelujah a very special place.

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Hostess Gwendolyn Bieler interviewing on the Red Carpet

Mervyn Rees as the star of The Big Bust and The Downward Spiral

The Lovely Alicia Chenaux on the Red Carpet

Eyes were on Johnny Firehawk

Lulubelle Muircastle tops the Best Dressed List with this fabulous gown
 by MEB Fashion aptly named Red Carpet

Tymmerie Thorne celebrates her Oscar

Me as Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady

Hallelujah Azul:

If you want to join our community there are a number of lovely rentals available or hang out at the Jittery Junco and become a Hallelujah regular.

Videos: My Fair Lady

Related Posts:

Hallelujah Azul Art Walk (November 15, 2009)

Jittery Junco Coffee Shop: The People (August 14, 2009)

Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah (June 13, 2009)