Monday, April 4, 2011

If you believe in the therapeutic value of self expression through creative writing....

"Soldier Writing" by Jean Louis Torain, courtesy of

I believe in writing.

When we express ourselves through the creative process of putting words on paper--or on a screen--it is possible to uplift ourselves, to inspire and move others, and sometimes to work through the things that haunt and challenge us.

I've exorcised some pretty nasty demons with my writing. While I am appreciative of the idea that any of you bother with reading this nonsense I spew, and may sometimes even get a smile or a little "aha" moment out of it, I am really doing this for myself (self-centered old harpy that I am). I have other good friends who have made progress in their own lives and helped themselves to deal with events like divorce, 9/11, combat-related PTSD, sexual abuse and long-term unemployment though their creative writing.

If you agree with this general idea, maybe you can help out a friend of mine who works with the Missouri Humanities Council. They are involved in a partnership with the Missouri Writers Guild and the Veterans Administration to support a creative writing project for veterans undergoing in-patient care at a VA facility near St. Louis. This particular facility has had a great creative writing program through their occupational therapy unit for a number of years, but right now they could use a little bit of help.

The participants in the program currently do their writing with pencils on paper tablets. They could really use some laptops. My friend is working on getting some used and/or refurbished machines donated for the program, but he probably won't mind if I try to help too, since I really think this is important and useful. Not only does the writing generated by these men and women have a positive impact from a therapeutic standpoint--everyone needs to tell their story--but it also is generating documentation of a unique period in American history and the first-hand perspectives of the individuals who are living through it.

So here's the deal: if you have any ideas on sources for good, serviceable laptops that could be donated for the program, please send a message with your thoughts to:

They don't have to be fancy, just something with a decent-sized screen that can be used for basic word processing.

Keep on writing, y'all.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

In Search of the Enlightenment: finding a home in the 18th century in SL

Principato di Melioria

One of the principle joys of spending time in-world is that when you start to feel like you're in need of a change, you can easily take your adventures in a completely new direction. Sometimes, serendipity will run you over like a cartoon steamroller right away, and once you've peeled yourself off the virtual pavement, you'll find yourself in the midst of a fresh activity or new community that suits you nicely. Other times, you will find yourself on a pixelated Bataan death march through one place to another before you at last find some congenial environment to settle in for a spell.

Well, a while back, this old girl took a notion to spend some time wandering through the 18th century in Second Life, and off I went. The process was initially a pretty slow one. There's a boatload of different places to look at, a pile of groups you can join, and a wide variety of ways to have fun within the context of an historical time period that was characterized by an explosion of intellectual and scientific exploration and experimentation, social and political upheaval, military and economic adventurism..., the music is really cool and you get to wear big, theatrically foofy outfits, if you are so inclined.

So, anyhow, I basically took a version of the Grand Tour, looking at different sims and communities. First off, let me state right now that I am not going to offer any value judgments on what place might be the most authentic or which roleplay crew is superior. I don't swing that way. People are all different, and God bless 'em, they have different interests and wildly divergent views on how to have fun. That's another great thing about SL: it accommodates spectacularly diverse ways of learning, interacting, and playing. If you don't find an environment and a community that suits your way of getting by in the world, then by golly you have the option of creating something that does.

As far as the 18th century in SL, if you have an interest in roleplaying as a member of some royal court--complete with huge powdered wigs the size of Connecticut, intrigues, amours, and diplomatic shenanigans--you can certainly find that. You also can find beautiful builds that are just nice environments to look at, live in, or socialize in. My personal favorite in the latter category is Chenonceau, which I have mentioned in a previous post. But I was looking for something a bit different in terms of roleplay--a situation in which different kinds of narratives related to the inventiveness and uncertainty of the times could be developed a bit...

...and then serendipity finally kicked in, thanks to a recommendation from the folks who run the Alsium sim. They gave me a landmark for a place called the Principato di Melioria, a fictional but historically plausible minor southern Italian principality ruled by an enlightened Prince. The gentleman in charge has ties to England and an interest in a variety of subjects ranging from archaeology to architecture, to hydraulic engineering. His tiny island principality flourishes thanks to low taxes, a very relaxed approach to trading and banking practices, and a welcoming attitude towards well-born tourists (and their money). Here is how the sim is described in an introductory notecard:

" The year is 1780 and the ruling family of Melioria is the House of Elswit, an English family with a complicated history of international social connections and business interests. Over the years they gained lands and titles, and with this roles in the history of England, the Holy Roman Empire, the Papal State, the Venetian Republic and finally they were bestowed with the island of Melioria, a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea on the coast of Massa Lubrense near Napoli, which was elevated to a principato and since then became the main seat of the House of Elswit.

The current head of the family and ruler of Melioria is Sua Altezza Capacitatodd Elswit, Principe di Melioria, Duca di Vesuviana, Nobile del Gran Consiglio della Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia and Principe del Sacro Romano Impero. By his own people and his friends he is described as an enlightened man, who has studied and travelled most of his life and has now settled in the seat of his family.

Since 1738 when Herculaneum was rediscovered just to the north, followed by Pompeii in 1748, the island of Melioria has become a known spot for the young nobles of Europe on their Grand Tour. Known for its calm climate, secure private banking houses, no taxations on bank accounts and trade, the small casino and the famous curative mineral baths and waters. And of course for the incognito sanctuary it offers to royals and nobles alike across Europe.

In the last year however, during which the Principe reformed his island, many friends and visitors have arrived in the port of Melioria, making it more and more an international Port of Call. Venetian nobles have settled branches of their trade interests on the west side of the island, and with them arrived many others from the most serene republic of the north, to continue or even bring a new direction to their lives. French courtiers have discovered the mineral baths and some even enjoy the lack of formality. A Bavarian baroness travelling along the mediterranea has chosen the island as a residence to contemplate her life in a nicer climate.

In Melioria the most different lives of people come together on the island of this little principato. Nobles and merchants, tourists and workers, everyone has their role and finds their purpose without the need of caring too much about their position in life. For some it has proven to be a confrontational atmosphere, as they are cast back to their own personalities without the pomp of court life; others enjoy the simple life without obligations and spend their time contemplating, studying, writing, hunting or fencing.

It's an interesting and entertaining place with a lovely and well-managed build, thanks to the efforts of sim owners CapabilityTodd Elswitt and Blue Revolution and others including Gallyon Milneaux and Sim Manager Aria Vyper. By the way, I wish to emphasize that Melioria is NOT a roleplaying sim, but instead, an historically-themed sim, on which rolpeplaying does occur at times. There is a modestly-sized but excellent roleplaying community on the sim. This loosely-organized group is open to new participants: you may have noted a reference to a "Bavarian Baroness" (an essentially correct description).
Diogeneia Franziska Freifrau von Kühr

Yes, I have been welcomed in this intriguing little principality, and in fact the folks in Melioria have asked me to help with developing some rp guidelines, which we'll talk about in a subsequent post. In the meantime, please feel free to stop by and see the sim. Everyone and anyone is welcome to visit and shop and look around--you don't have to be wearing 18th century clothing or in the form of a human avatar to do so (period clothing and human form are only required if you wish to join in the roleplay).

Just please be aware that you have to be courteous and flexible. Sometimes there will be no roleplay going on, and everyone on the island isn't going to be into playing if you wish to start something. Also kindly remember that the houses, including the big villa on the hilltop are private residences and one should not enter without being invited to do so. And sometimes, the sim may be closed to the public due to an event--for example today (Sunday, 4/3/11), there is going to be a wedding on the island and the sim will be inaccessible for a while. Like I say, just be flexible.