Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Second Life

By Bixyl Shuftan

I recently went to the recently opened Vietnam Veterans Memorial’s virtual counterpart here in Second Life. Besides viewing the very well detailed replica of “The Wall,” I met up with one of the men behind it, Evian Argus. I gave him an interview, and he took me on a tour of the sim.

Evian Argus (Robert Eagan in real life) is the President of Meme Science (, which built the sim in honor of the Veterans who gave their lives, “we endeavored to communicate the history and existence of this significant memorial to current and future generations in an innovative and relevant manner,”  and for people interested in visiting whom are unable to visit the real memorial. Planning, designing, and building the sim took about two months, done by Bleys Chevaller (Don Cramer in real life). He spent several Fhours at the D.C. Vietnam Memorial, taking over 300 photographs of The Wall and statues. He then spent about a week studying the photographs. Work on the Three Soldiers Statue and the Vietnam Veterans Womens Memorial Statue was done by Meleni Fairymeadow. The sim was and will continue to be funded by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

The virtual memorial was opened to the public in Second Life on November 7, coordinated with the 25th Anniversary ceremonies in Washington D.C. Between then and Veterans Day, about 1000 residents came over. And as I looked the place over, people continued to drop by to visit. Upon entry, one is greeted with a movie screen showing both images of the real wall and it’s replica here, along with audio of some of the names of the fallen.

The Three Soldiers Statue is “made up of mostly prim design w ith some sculptie objects,” with a total of 484 prims. Asked if there were any problems making it, “I had this sculpture made of all sculptir designing by another artist. It did not meet my design specifications, so I did not use it, ” So he paid the man and hired Meleni Fairymeadow, whose work with mostly prims he felt better captured “the true essence of the emotion of the individual soldiers.” Fairymeadow also worked on the The Vietnam Veterans Women’s Memorial, taking a total of about 70 hours and about 4 16 prims.

“The Wall” in Second Life contains 58,223 names instead of the 58,256 of the real one. Mr. Chevalier had found out 33 of the names had been placed by mistake, and there were three which had been added recently. So the correct number of names were listed. And from the avatar’s point of view on the walkway, like a person there in real life, one cannot help but be struck by the enormity of all those names on the large wall of black. The memorial’s names are faithfully detailed, and legible once fully rezzed. Besides the mouse, one can zoom in on them using control-0 and control-8. At night, lights in the walkway turn on and illuminate “The Wall.”

Finding an individual’s name was made simpler by the builders, “We have four directories. You can search for any name on the wall, and teleport to that name on the exact panel, and leave flowers or flags for that name, right from the Directory.” For testing, I had to pick a name at random from a list of names online, choosing Frank Blas. It took a few tries, but it worked after a couple false starts. Besides the option of teleporting to the name, one can also have the area briefly marked with a white arrow and walk down to it. Flags and flowers left will show who they are left for.

Every detail in the sim was finely done, the autumn leaves slowly falling in the breeze, the occasional squirrel chirping as it skitters about the grass. There was one detail the builders would like to have included, but were unable to. The real Wall’s black granite is polished to a mirror-like finish so when you look at the names of the dead and missing, you see your reflection among them. This could not be replicated using the existing building tools in Second Life. Chevalier hopes someday they will be improved to allow them to recreate the reflection experience. Still, “The Wall” can only be considered a faithfully detailed and well done tribute for our veterans in Vietnam.

For further information, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Second Life has it’s own website: (http://ww A Youtube report is also available: (

The builders of The Wall sim still have plans for further builds and improvements. Besides improving the name directories, they plan to increase the number of items one can leave at the wall, including photos and other custom textures. They also plan to add a new building that will host both real-life and Second Life material related to the memorial, such as video and weblinks. They also plan to add an image of the Washington Monument so it will look visible from the memorial as it does in real-life. For the website, they plan to add a search feature to find individual vets from there . One will also be able to view information about the vets from the database, and possibly add comments about them. One will also be able to leave items at the virtual memorial from the website, or schedule to have them left. Finally, as one can get a pencil rubbing of a name off the real wall, one will also be able to get a virtual rubbing from the web site.

On a final note, I was not able to start and finish this article in time for Veterans Day. But as Evian Argus noted, tributes to Veterans are not confined to then and Memorial Day.

“Thanks for coming, and your interest in the Wall.”

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Addition (May 25, 2015): This was among the first articles I wrote for SL Newspaper, and still among my favorites. "The Wall" would be up for a few more years. Finally on Veterans Day 2011 when I looked on the map for it, it was no longer around.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Couple Humorous Stories

Second Life has been full of funny moments. Here's a couple that stick out.

The first relates to my avie. I had started out with the ringtail foxfolk, partly to stand out, and partly as a reflection of my love of science-fiction. A friend gave me some cash to upgrade, but I postponed it for a while, giving some thought on what to upgrade to.

While in a store looking over options, I got the attention of a couple others, "I don't see too many still in their original skin," spoke one. I explained I was thinking over my options. "Well, I'd make a decision soon. The way you are now, people are going to think you're new. With a new avatar, it's going to change how people look at you."

A friend of mine had recently joined Second Life, so the next day I made my decision. I decided to stay a foxfolk, but with my family part redneck, and one of the online sci-fi comics I read it's red foxfolk were traditionally laborers, I got a Luskwood Red Fox avatar.

So did the way people saw me change? Well, the next day while exploring around, a woman walked up to me, and propositioned me! She was a cyberhooker looking for a few bucks.

I've never "paid for it" in real life, sour love life or no, so I politely declined. I guess since I was out of my "baby coat," she assumed I had cash.

A couple coworkers of mine had plenty of tattoos, piercings, odd hair, filed teeth, etc., and managed to find women to marry them. So perhaps it's not hard to imagine that some girls would go for a "foxy guy." ;-)

My second story had something of a somber beginning. It was Tuesday, September 11, the sixth year anniversary of that dreadful day. In SL, I stopped by a memorial to pay my respects. I was going to teleport out for the evening, but recalled a recreation of the Twin Towers next to the "New York City Block" area. So I teleported there to see if there was any memorial there, and landed in the middle of a conversation between two ladies, "Hey, there's a fox on your head." ;-)
I greeted them, and they welcomed me into the conversation. It turned out they were both New Yorkers, from Brooklin, and they were in on the design of the place, basing it on their home turf. We discussed 9-11, the ceremonies that day, and a third lady soon joined in.

In the middle of the talk, a guy ported in, and walked up to a couple of the girls. It took a few moments for him to rez, so we thought nothing of it at first. Then below his belt, a certain obviously male extremity appeared.

I wasn't sure what was going on. Was this guy last at a nude beach or somewhere and he forgot? So I typed the first think that came to mind:

"Excuse me, your fly is down."

And the girls burst out laughing. I wasn't sure how the guy would react. He reacted by porting away almost immediately. One girl spoke, "What happened? I didn't see (him fully rez)." We explained to her, and concluded it was some creep who was trying to get his jollies by shocking the girls. But instead got humiliated by my one-liner.

One of the girls and I exchanged friendships, and we've continued to keep in touch.

Guess my cheesy puns are good for something after all.


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Addition: This was my very first article about Second Life, sent as a Reader Submission to Second Life Newspaper in October 2007. The picture is from September 17, 2007, possibly from New York City Block. The stories are a rather amusing incident just after I got my red Luskwood Fox avatar, and another when I dropped in on the New York area.

The first story I continued to look back with chuckles. As it turns out, lots of girls in human avs don't mind a little hair on the chest when it comes to dating. Of the second, It was the owner of New York City Block Cheri Bing I became friends with. And we kept in touch for years until real life would force her off Second Life. As for me, this would be the first of many, many articles I would be writing about Second Life.