Friday, November 11, 2016

Election Night 2016

By Bixyl Shuftan

For about a year and a half, the 2016 US Presidential campaign had been going on. It had been a divisive race full of charges and countercharges, accusations and counter accusations. On the side of the Democrats, Hillary Clinton was the dominant candidate from the start of a small field of candidates with only the former Socialist Bernie Sanders able to be much of a challenge against her. She would go on to get her party's nomination, the first nomination of a woman for the office of the Presidency by any major political party. The Republicans had a much larger field of candidates, of which much to the surprise of most Donald Trump, media celebrity and real estate mogul, took the lead in the polls. Despite his lack of experience in politics, he didn't falter and began winning the majority of primaries and caucuses. He would go on to win the nomination of the party, the first time a major political party had nominated someone who was not a general or had held political office.

In Second Life, the election would be reflected in the virtual world in many ways, much like it was eight years earlier in 2008. Early on a couple Trump locations set up to remind people of his name and possibly pick up a t-shirt. In spring, larger locations would be built, notably the Sanders HQ, the "Feel the Bern" location, and the Trump Manor and Trump HQ. The latter two were under the "Trump Organization," which was accused by the owner of the Sanders of HQ of sending griefers over. And the organization admitted being behind a political prank in the form of a "Trump Wall" towering over the Sanders HQ. Later on, the Trump buildings would close, and a Clinton HQ would spring up in it's place. Later on, another Clinton HQ would spring up in the Bay City area just as the first was about to come down, and the Trump Organization expressed plans to build a new hangout over a sim of it's own. But Linden Lab would step in and ban the group's leader and several other members, closing down the sim. The Lab never stated why these members were banned, but shortly afterwards the group leader revealed himself to be a member of Woodbury, an old group in Second Life infamous for it's reputation for harboring griefers, adding ammunition to the arguments of the Democrats Trump supporters were nothing more than griefers. Some of those still active in the group would keep a low profile and quietly set up a Trump Pub where they could hang out. The Democrat HQ in Bay City would be the site of gatherings as people watched the Presidential debates from there.

Finally, it came down to Election Night, November 8 2016. The night before, I dropped by Cafe Wellstone, a pro-Democrat location which I had lost track of and thought had closed down but was told by a friend it had moved to Castle Redwood. I dropped by the night before, and finding a few people there asked if they were talking about what would happen tomorrow. One told me he was hearing two kinds of comments, optimism that Clinton would win "and 'thank God it will be over!' " Of the slim but real possibility of another 2000 disputed election, he joked "then we all do the 'let us win, pleeeeez dance.' ... I am hoping that the D's learned their lesson and will fight tooth and nail if it is close." Someone else commented, "It would be better if its not close.  A landslide would send a clear message." "A narrow victory, especially with low turn out, would say that neither side is sending the right message anymore."

When I asked what a Clinton victory would mean for the four years ahead, I was told, "That we were in for a slightly better time than if Trump won... of course I am a Berner (grin)." Another commented, "Frankly I want to see if there is any significant write in for Senator Sanders." "Our local County Democratic Party actually sent out a facebook notice telling people that their vote wont be counted if they write in Bernie." When I asked about the third parties, "I could not ever bring myself to vote for a Libertarian... Cats are libertarians, and while they are great company, I would not trust them with our government. As  for Stein, I want to like her, but the Green party seems to intent on spending all of their effort and treasure on the Presidential election and not enough on building a ground base of local officials. I did consider voting for Stein though, for awhile. but they I decided that my vote for Bernie, if coupled with other write ins, might send a message." "Sanders is pretty much what you see is what you get. Loved his answer to the question are you a socialist. 'Yes.' " When I asked how would they answer those who feel socialism doesn't work, one defined it as "economic democracy," and, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others."

"All kidding aside," he spoke about the day ahead, "I am pretty sure that this election will be a watershed... older, more conservative voters are going to be in a position where they are being outnumbered by younger, more progressive voters...  anti marriage equality, anti abortion and the like just wont fly with younger." Another commented, "The big question is will those young voters stay progressive as they grow older? Keep in mind all of the Deplorables were once young too." "The centerline of the future highway is moving left." One compared Donald Trump to the late Jack Kevorkian, an advocate of assisted suicide.

The following day, I would cast my ballot, and later on head to Second Life. It would be about 6PM SL time before I could check out the political locations. The lag was bad, and it would show up on a number of my pictures. By this time early returns were in and showing encouraging signs for the Republicans. Dropping by the Trump Pub, I found quite a crowd. A number of them were furred, some with rainbow "Trump/Pence" signs with a pawprint in them. One remarked, "It actually amazes me how many furries are trump supporters. Its a whole damn lot." There were also women avatars with pink "Women for Trump" signs. There was also one small chicken avatar, possibly the same one I spotted at the Clinton HQ during the first Presidential debate.

The atmosphere had something of a raucous air to it, with some clearly badmouthing the opposition, "THIS JUST IN: NBC's Facebook live stream is full of crying babies!" "Trump should say 'After I win I'll send all Clinton supporters a box of tissues." "lol, My friend is threatening to leave the country if Trump wins." A few of the avatars looked suspiciously like griefer ones, including one caricature of one with a pencil-neck, thick glasses, and braces, with an account name that included a misspelling of aspergers. The guy whose tag stated he was the security officer had his limp male organ sticking out from his pants. One guy texted he was kissing one of the ladies on the breast.

One of the Trump supporters there would message me, later giving me the okay to use parts of the conversation. He had recognized me from when I dropped by the Trump Headquarters, and thanked me for covering both sides of the campaign, "I came to the HQ when I saw an article about it on Facebook.  I hadn't played SL in a long time.  This was the very first Second Life experience I had that had nothing to do with ... sex.  I came here open minded but I saw the truth."

"Think I'd be banned if I go to Clinton headquarters dressed like this?" "I'd be scared of getting some form of virus for going there" "I got banned from Clinton HQ on Day 1." I then decided to slip out and check the Clinton HQ at Bay City. The mood there was not so cheery as the news coming in was less than encouraging, "Man I really hope that it's a fact that most democrats are night people." "Hate to say it but Trump looks like he will take Florida." Others remained hopeful, "I prefer that straw to grasp at." "Overall still (a) very tight race." Someone mused, "Anyone write in (trying to keep a straight face)  Philip Rosedale?" Someone else joined in, "If someone rezzes a megaprim to block you from voting, report it." Another shrugged, "I so totally can't come up with any secondlife jokes over this."

There were some moments of hope, "WE GOT VIRGINIA!" "Rural areas came out hard for Donald J. Trump. We knew they would. Those votes always come in faster, because there's less of them to count. Hillary Clinton, as is traditional with Democrats, have more urban areas to account for. She was always going to fall behind early. We have a long night to go." But overall the mood was becoming glum, "Dammit..they are calling Ross losing the Senate" "I see by my feed that Democrats are freaking out. Stop. Just breathe." "How in the heck am I going to reason with a far right wing nut Beck?" "Do you suppose Donald is sitting there on his couch at Trump Tower with a cigar saying, 'WTF, I'm winning?  Noooo!'" A couple looked back at Obama's victory in 2008, "I remember sitting with friends eight years ago and crying as Obama won." "I cried too."

I made a short trip to Cafe Wellstone, and the optimistic mood from the night before was gone, "Talk about rigged... if it all was rigged at all it was rigged IN FAVOR of Trump!" "I said 6 months ago that the FBI would come out with something right before the election, and everyone said 'nah, they will stay out of it.'" "Evangelicals don't seem to have any real principles." "... they're anti-choice, anti-gay, and anti-woman." "... they are incredible hypocrites, and they do not deserve to be called Christians."

Back at the Trump Pub, the atmosphere was becoming more celebratory, "We will have to close our borders tonight." "I'm pretty sure there's going to be a rush of illegals to the border." Not everyone was from the US, "And people trying to get into here in Canada. lol No we don't want them! lol" Things sometimes got to the point of rubbing it in, "(I) lost 10 Facebook friends tonight. I ****ing love this! I just asked a bunch of people if they started packing to move to Canada yet?" "A couple friends of mine are armed to teeth want to go with arms to D.C if Hillary wins." "lol Hitlery Clinton ain't gonna win." "Hillary supporters are crying." "In her face we see defeat." One person wasn't laughing about the reactions of others to his votes, "I almost lost *****, one of my best friends of all time." "F**k that, I got called an uncle tom and an airhead." The returns continued to come in, "OMG, Trump just won Wisconsin!" "Trump takes Iowa!" "Mexican Pesos just lost 10%" "Time to plan on draining the swamp in DC."

Heading once again to the Clinton HQ, the atmosphere was becoming increasingly grim mixed with anger, "NBC says Clinton is 209, and Turmp is 228." "Yeah, Florida just kicked Trump up to 216." "What a scary world we live in." "I have to lay down." "I am gonna puke." "I really didn't see this happening." *stares at the screen in disbelief* "The KKK came out of the wood works." "(I) can't believe we could be moving backwards soon." "Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Hillaryyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!" "The Canadian Immigration site is crashing." *starts digging the holes for the Canadian fence* "I apologizes for all the times I made fun of Canada." "My kid just brought me a mixed drink and is playing the song 'Bye Bye Miss American Pie.'"  "Seriously how is he winning? Am I terribly misinformed on something? Is there some secret of the universe that I don't know?" "I think a lot of it is just misogyny." "That's how. People fear change. Fear breeds people like Trump." "Greed breeds people like Trump." "Greed and lack of accountability thanks to the power of money." "My Great Grandmother died from a back alley abortion. I just.. I can't even THINK of that reality." "Everyone I talked to who wanted Trump was just so scared. Scared of feminists. Scared of black people. Scared of Muslims. Scared of 'the war on Christianity'." "That same fear won in Britain with the Brexit so that sucks." "That because all those scared people wanting trump don't know much of anything." "I may take up smoking now." "It's sad you'd ruin your health over politics." "My health might get ruined by losing my healthcare." "Those protest votes for the pissy little candidates, might have been just enough to make blue team win."

"It is really amazing how close most of the voting has been though." "This election will be one for the history books, even if it's sickening." "It really is! SO CLOSE!" "Republican voters really coming out and passionately voting. Trump voters are ride or die!" "Too close knowing we have a lot of misinformed people out there." "They are ride or die of course, right over a cliff." "Media is getting their monies worth out of this for sure." "If Trump wins, he might have share both houses... so no one will be able to restrict his decisions!" "That would be horrible." "(I) think Puton has taken over the polling stations." Pennsylvania, which had gone Dem in the past few elections, was going slightly for Trump this time, "Though damn, the Pennsylvania gap is growing. He's now up 33,000." "PA, people believing Trump really knows how to bring back coal and steel. Very sad in more than one way." *kicks the counting machines over in PA as they seem to have stalled out*

A number of people had come by just to harass. Someone was there in an Obama avatar with breasts, another with a username with the word "poop" in it. Both were thrown out. Someone was also doing a breaking wind sound effect, with clouds of green gas filling the place. Someone was also doing some lightning animation that made it hard to see.

Not all the talk was about the Presidency. At one point the conversation went to marijuana legalization, "On the plus side, California legalized marijuana." "That will surely help them get over this." "they did. black market is pretty pissed about that though." "Weed rulZ." "People are going to smoke it anyway, so why not tax it and run it through the FDA." "Ew that stuff should be illegal." "What planet are you from?"

But eventually the talk went back to the main topic, "Trump needs two more states to win" "If ya folks don't take this as a wake up call your'e all crazy. Go cry in a corner for a week if you have to but when the time is right we all gotta work together." "Yeah.. reality is going to sit for weeks if he wins, and I am sure not going to feel good about this." "This is like watching a runaway train wreck in slow motion hoping the driver regains control at the last minute." "I've already thrown up." " I'll be calling my neighbor.. I'm scared she might do something." "Don't get upset people I am pretty sure Hillary will beat it." "I still have a shard of hope for Hillary." "Fingers crossed." "It's not over yet!!!!!" *takes a shot of alcohol* "She got Nevada." "Yyyayyyy!" "I think.. assuming Trump only gets Wis. and Ariz, and Hillary grabs all the remaining close ones, Hillary can win 272-265.. according to politico and my poor math." "She can still win." *sings* "There will be miraclessssss...if you believe....." "Did you could Alaska?" "Alaska's 3 are nothing."

But what optimism there was was fading, "Fox has Wisconsin called.. 215 to 254. And with PAs 20 magically going the wrong way, that's probably it." "I think Trump just won." "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO don't say that!" "There's almost no way he can lose it at this point." "I cannot believe how close this crap this." "If Trump becomes President, it is a blow for the whole world." "Melania as first lady ? ...that's like...kick'em when they're down." "Obama must feel insulted." "I hope this is just a bad dream." "Trump needs one more state to win!"

Some were looking for people to blame. "Just goes to show, you should never underestimate idiots." "How the hell did that happen?" "Why would anyone vote for him?" "Why .. well one word.. stupidity." "They want to go backward." "Yea over 50% of Americans are stupid... that's clear." "But the stupid ones go out and vote." "People thought no one would be dumb enough to vote for Reagan." "Racists want to vote because they dont want to lose power." "My daughter's alarm just went off and I have to tell her what's going on. OMG..what a way to wake up"

Eventually, at 11:45 SL time, it was pretty much confirmed Donald Trump would be our next President. "It's teh end of teh whirled." "Welcome back ta 1950's 'murrica." "I demand a recount!" "Me too !!! God..... people are so BLIND to Trump!" When Trump came out to give a victory speech and offer an olive branch, asking the country to come together, the crowd at the Clinton HQ had  nothing but bile to offer, "I gives der fuhrer the middle finger salute!" *shudders at that foul image* "Historic USA no more ...damnnnnnn ! cant believe thisss!" "He's joking...  Bind the wounds after the crap he pulled?"  "May God have mercy on our souls." "Crap, just woke up and saw the news. I won't be able to watch the news for the next 4 years at least."

I asked the crowd what they planned to do for the next four years. But they either didn't hear me or ignored me.

I headed back to the Trump Pub. They were now in a party mood, with some playing "Cards Against Humanity" and some dancing. One was logging out just as I came in, "Ok I must log out and go to bed, but GOOD JOB Deplorables! Now the hard work begins." So did someone else, "Night, good luck, have fun with the celebrations." "We have a Republican House Senate and President." "I'll play some victory music."

Talk soon turned to the loosing candidate, "God every time I look at that mean a** old b*tch I want to barf." "F**k you guys! The world wins!" "Then she calls Trump to congratulate him. Go to prison Hillary, take your gang with you." "I wonder if Trump is really gonna get her in prison (grin). That would be so funny." "He's a man of his word."

One guy expressed worry, "I hope they keep Trump safe.... I'm serious folks. I think its wonderful he was elected and won. But don't think for one second they are not going to try to hurt him and we won't have another JFK repeat!!! They better keep him verrry safe! They are not going to give up so easily and I have a bad feeling." One guy retorted that would be playing with fire, "If anything happens to Trump do you see those red states? They're armed to the teeth." "The current government has 3 months to rig something." "What could they rig? They can't change that he won." "Maybe start a martial law or something." "Eh, I wasn't for either really. Actually I can't even vote in the US, because I'm in the UK, lol."

There was some talk about how the election could have gone differently, "Bernie would have won against Trump I think." "Their fault (grin)." "I honestly think it's a toss up to be honest." "It was Hillary herself, she was just unpopular."

At one point, someone put up a large picture of a man dressed like a king on a throne with an American Flag draped on it. If this was supposed to be Donald Trump, it looked like a grim caricature. Someone asked, "Isn't that from Assassin's Creed?"

The chicken avatar was still around. When I asked everyone what they saw in the next four years ahead, the only response I got was someone describing herself as taking the chicken and running.

One commented, "I am thrilled. You guys rock! We won our country back, and didn't fire one bullet. Praise the Lord ... We f***ing did it!  Hell yeah we do what we do. And we are one people under no one, with liberty and justice for us all."

There would be more random comments and general badmouthing of Clinton and the Democrats. People were also heading out. "Going to try to sleep for a few before I have to be back up - night, all (smile)." "I'm headed out too....all of you guys rock. everyone sleep well tonight!" "It was a great event." "Thank you **** for inviting me over. I've not got even one damn nail left. I was biting the s*** out of 'em."

Eventually it was time for me to head out. Looking for a place to call it a night, I recalled the Capitol Hill building eight years earlier. It had been long closed for a long time, but there was another capitol building, the Texas Capitol Building at Antiquity Texas (153, 132, 23). So I went there, and reflected for a few moments about what had happened.

There had been more than a little chatter about the election in the groups I was in. This included the Sunweaver and Angel group chats. Reaction overall was mixed, some happy, some expressing surprise and disappointment. One friend IMed me, saying she was planning on moving to Germany before the election but now she was more determined to do so feeling she'd be facing a loss of her rights.

On Facebook, it seemed about a third of my feed broke out in celebration, while a third erupted in despair, wondering how this could have happened or screaming out at the "betrayal" of the voters. Not many gave lukewarm comments. Among those who did were a few Sanders supporters whom were more or less saying "we told you so."

Others would also write about Election Night. A writer from Kotaku would be around earlier in the day, taking a number of pictures. Daniel Voyager was at one of the older and smaller Trump locations on the Mainland, reporting it was deserted, and found only shock and despair on his Facebook and Twitter feeds. Hamlet Au of New World Notes would post on his Facebook feed the political cartoon of the Lincoln Memorial crying that was done following the Kennedy Assassination, would later suggest that Trump's victory ensured a successful future for virtual worlds, although it would be one where female and minority avatars would face harassment from griefers, and write about a professor who felt Trump won in part because he had a greater understanding of social media.

And so, the country will be getting a new President in a few months. For the first time ever, one without public office or Army general in his background. While many fear his lack of experience will inevitably mean rash decisions that will damage the country, others feel this means the same lack of experience will allow more mental flexibility to "drain the swamp" of corruption and graft in Washington and make needed change.

In any event, the long race is over, and time to get back to our Second Lives.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, November 7, 2016

Halloween Celebrations in Second Life

By Bixyl Shuftan

Halloween is a favorite time of many in both real life and Second Life. It was once considered by most to be just for kids (and their parents), and limited to the United States and Canada. But in the past few decades it has become increasingly popular with adults with costume parties, zombie walks, and even dressing up in costume at work. It's also becoming an event in places at Europe and Asia. The attraction, to put on a costume whether it's to just be out of the ordinary or emerge as the "real you," or some segment of it.

In Second Life, people can already look more or less like they want to and come here to get away from the drudgeries of real life. So some might think Halloween for most residents would be redundant. Wrong. Many take the chance to dress up as something they normally wouldn't. And of course there's always room for spooky stories and songs. So there were numerous events inworld across the Grid.

On Tuesday October 25, the Happy Vixen in the Purrfection Estates sim had their "Monsters" event, with the energetic DJ Tantari spinning some "monstrous" tunes. Among the spookier avatars there were, skeleton, naga, and vampire bat.

 Two days later, the club would have it's "Night Creatures" event. There, vampires and bats walked (or flew) about. This one looked a bit "heartbroken."

Some of the children of the night were more cute than creepy.

On Friday October 28, The "Green Fairy" in Ravenwood held it's Halloween party.

Fuzzball Ortega, the sheriff of the now gone Steelhead Estates, was the DJ for the event, having "wolfed out" for the occasion.

For Club Cutlass of Sunweaver Bay, the theme was "70s Night," but some people took on a Halloweenish look for the occasion.

Saturday October 29 would see a number of Halloween parties. Nydia Tungsten, whom got her start in Second Life as "DJ Naughty Nydia," performed for a small party. She would dress as a character in a novel she has been writing recently.

The Sunweaver community would have their main Halloween party that night, but not at Club Cutlass. Instead they put decorations around the Drunken Parrot Pub, also in Sunweaver Bay, and turned on the fog machine.

Cynthia Farshore played a set of spooky tunes that night, from "Monster Mash," to "Flying Purple People Eater," to the recent classic, the theme to "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

There were two 2000 Linden dollar prizes up for grabs that night. The one for women was split between Miyuki Naidoo and Dusk Griswold, pictured above in the Wonder Woman costume.

Among the other locations having their Halloween party that night was Luskwood, doing so on a platform high above the sim with a spooky jack o' lantern face on the dance floor.

 Like their anniversary event the week before, they were packed with dozens of people over. Squirrelgirl DJ Halley spun the tunes for the event.

Although a "Furry" community, the one of the best costumes was that of a human avatar at the party.

Halloween fell on a Monday, which is a slow day for parties usually, but it would see some. Safra Nitely would host a party in her sim's dancing room, which was all decorated and with spooky lighting. She would play the selection of Halloween tunes herself.

That night at 7PM SL time, the Happy Vixen would hold one more Halloween party, with DJ Khyra spinning the tunes

 It was a small party, but one with some good outfits, such as Miyuki Naidoo's.

Pink is not a color usually associated with Halloween, but Marusame Ari (aka "The Pink Wonder") made it work.

This was also the day of the "Creepy Crawl" in Second Life. We will display some of the pictures taken there later (time permitting).

It was quite a Halloween in Second Life with it's share of treats among the tricks.

*Correction* - Originally, Miyuki Naidoo and Valkyrie Ice were listed as the winners of the Halloween contest at Sunweaver Bay, but someone alerted me to the error. 

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Burn2: The "Burning of The Man"

Burn2, the Second Life reflection of the Burning Man festival in real life, is the largest annual art and musical festival inworld. This year, it took place from Saturday October 15 to Sunday October 23, with the builds remaining up for several more days. The high points of the festival were the "Burning of The Man," and the "Temple Burn."

When I had first visited the Burn2 grounds, I wasn't sure where "The Man" was as he's usually standing tall. As it turned out, he was build smaller and mounted on a wheel to reflect how the real-life Man of 2016's Burning Man festival was constructed, to reflect the theme of honoring Leonardo DaVinci. In real-life, the mechanics broke down and The Man remained static. Here, the scripts remained intact and "The Man" could occasionally be rotated.

But on Saturday October 22, it was time for The Man to face the flames. As 12 Noon approached, people gathered to watch the structure get set on fire.

Some time after Noon, the flames finally started.

 And it didn't take long for the fire to spread over the small structure.

Before long, parts of the structure and the building underneath began to char.

 The fire began charring more wood, and pieces started to fall off.

It wasn't long before quite a bit had fallen off.

Me and the others continued to watch from a distance.

 And soon, the wheel that held The Man began to crumble.

And crumble some more.

And finally it fell, on top of it's supporting structure.

And soon that fell to the flames as well.

 Pygar Bu of Bay City was the volunteer who checked out what was left of The Man, getting a little close to the flames.

 And the all-clear was given for the Burners to go into the flames.

 Some looked more suited to handle fire than others.

 Someone set loose some kind of lightning bolt, briefly illuminating the area. After it faded, it was back to the flames on the burning wreckage and embers. I had to teleport to other events that day, but it was obvious what would happen later: the flames dying down and nothing left but embers, charred pieces of wood, and a few parts that had fallen off, seemingly untouched by the fire.

The "Burning of The Man" would take place again at 6PM. In the past, both The Man and the Temple had three burns on their respective days, sometimes called the Pacific, European, and American burns. But this time there would be only two

The following day would be the other highlight of the festival, the Temple Burn. This will be in another article.

Bixyl Shuftan