Monday, July 16, 2018

The Formosa


An Iconic Hollywood Venue Recreated in Second Life

By Klaus Bereznyak

The Formosa in second life is an authentic virtual recreation of the iconic restaurant and bar situated in West Hollywood, California. It's real-life counterpart has a long history of being popular with stars, who have been hanging out there since it was built in the 1920s, and it even appears in a few movies.


It is the latest labor of love by Gardenia Malheur, who has already brought some of her favorite movie sets to life here with characteristic affection and an eye for detail. She co-built a replica of the infamous Sheats-Goldstein house by architect John Lautner (which appeared in "The Big Lebowski"). She has even recreated the whole set of the 1964 movie "The Night Of The Iguana", directed by John Huston, including the hotel, as is it still found (in ruins) on Mexico's west coast, plus the beach bar, and the amazing coastal landscape. Gardenia tells me that taking that whole installation down was the hardest thing she ever did in SL. Add to that the two mid-century modern builds inspired by Motorola ads of the late 50s and 60s that she sells on Marketplace, and you'll get the picture of someone who has mastered the art of imitating bygone life in a virtual setting.

Gardenia kindly took the time to tell me all about The Formosa in her own words. I asked her what inspired her to build a virtual replica of the venue:

"I'm a huge classic movie fan and I found out about The Formosa on my first viewing of the movie L.A. Confidential. That scene where Jack Vincennes and Ed Exley barge in on Lana Turner's tete-a-tete with Johnny Stampanato made a great impression on me. We can see the interior decor of the bar as it was in the late 1940s, with its black and lacquered red oriental influence. And that bar!! I loved the low ceilings, low light, rows of bottles, green cylindric lamps... And the rows of pictures of movie stars! It was so incredibly evocative of Old Hollywood, and it spoke - no, it SANG - to my movie buff heart. I started wondering if I could recreate it using the building tools in Second Life. I wanted it to be as realistic as possible, because I wanted to feel what it would be to walk around, sit in a booth and sip a drink at the Formosa, in the 1940s and 1950s."

She quickly discovered that, for all its notoriety, there were only a few resources available when it came to really getting the detail she needed to make an authentic recreation. Relying on photographs of the place and its surroundings and using stills from a handful of YouTube clips, she felt out the space and put all the pieces together.

"I wanted to recreate not only the inside of the Formosa, and the build, but also the street corner, the way we see it in L.A. Confidential from Exley's car parked in front of the Formosa, on the other side of the street. I also wanted to add the old Universal Studios, where the stars would cross the street for their lunch break at the Cafe, or end the day and evening after a long day of shooting."

I have walked through the build several times and always been amazed how convincing it is. It's a perfect piece of time-travel tourism, and I wondered where Gardenia might have had to use some artistic licence. There were parts for which she had no visual documents:

"I had to create something that would be an acceptable extension of the Bar and Railcar areas. I decided it would have a seedy, eclectic look, mixing different decades. For the garden, I decided to indulge in my love for exotica and tiki and go swanky-loungey with a few nods to the Asian theme of the original spaces. I mean this is Hollywood: no need for too much realism!"

Round every corner, there's something a little surprising or delightful. I loved the moody yellow lighting of the booths and the green glow around the bar. I asked Gardenia to tell me about the most surprising thing she discovered while creating the venue:

"Actually, there are two. The first one would be the little 'shrines' on the outside wall facing the bar. The owners were obviously Elvis fans as there was a collection of memorabilia on a kind of bookshelf over one of the booths: tickets to Elvis shows, statues of the King, ephemera, photos. It was cute and uncanny, and  gave the place a whimsical touch - totally complementary to the movie stars' photo strips. The second one is the railway car part of the establishment, which is a recycled Red Car from the old Pacific Electric transit system and was in fact the original Formosa Cafe! That's where it all started in 1925 when prize-fighter Jimmy Bernstein opened the place. The other parts were added through time."

The Formosa is not just a sterile facsimile, it's a living venue in Second Life, intended to be used. Quite apart from the joy of finishing the build, Gardenia tells me that her best moments so far have been "the opening, in the presence of my closest friends! And, vanitywise, reading about it with Pearl Grey's lovely piece on her blog 'Million Happy Endings'," which was also highlighted by 'Kultivate Magazine'.

There have already been a few themed parties at the venue, and there are more to come:

"It's a bit on hiatus for the summer weeks, but I want to show movies and have more pool parties and a few romantic soirees in the months to come. It's hard hosting and DJ'ing and I hope I can find at least another DJ to help rock the place. I'm working on a realistic schedule for future events."

"For vintage movies lovers, it's a curiosity, especially if you've seen and loved L.A. Confidential. Everybody's welcome to visit; it's a sweet vintagey place to sit, chat and cut a rug... because after all, I have some of the best dances in all SL - if I may say so myself (coughs)."

Links
SLURL: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Scheveningen/229/202/3703
Million Happy Endings: https://millionhappyendings.wordpress.com/2018/02/08/the-formosa-cafe/

Klaus Bereznyak

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Moon Stew Cafe


New Roadside Cafe is Inspired by a Jazz Musician and a Recipe

By Klaus Bereznyak

Since January 2016, Cafe Klaus has been welcoming casual passers-by and regulars to a magical little corner of the Mainland Continent of Heterocera. The location had instant appeal and seemed the perfect place to build a roadside cafe, alongside Route 1 and well served by regularly passing Yavascript Pods. Many of the surrounding parcels are tastefully maintained by Prokofy Neva of Ravenglass Rentals and have ensured that there's been a sense of life and habitation at a time when much of the mainland has been abandoned.


As it was, it proved a great place to entertain guests and enjoy a regular Cocktail hour as the shadows lengthened and the Linden sun set over Patagonia. When it came to decor, I indulged a love for jazz and old-world aesthetics with a touch of colonial Africa. However, on the June full moon, 2018, the cafe underwent a radical re-build. It felt like the right moment to dive deeper and bring an earthier, more rootsy feel to the place. The tipping point leading to the transformation was the discovery of a stew recipe by the brilliant and eccentric jazz pianist, philosopher and bandleader who went by the name of "Sun Ra".


Through the 1960s, Sun Ra and his Arkestra lived in a commune in New York. Surrounded by deprivation and a heavy drug culture, the Arkestra became an informal rehab of sorts, presided over by Sun Ra, who was creating experimental music that seemed to emanate from other-worldy sources. He explained that he had been told during a visionary experience while at college that should give up his studies and focus on speaking to the world through music. When times were hard, Sun Ra would take over responsibility for cooking meals for the band, and this was when he dished up his "Moon Stew".


Many things came together at once to make Moon Stew Cafe a going concern, and we are now open for business. Avatars who swing by the cafe can pick up a free Moon Stew Bowl and a copy of the recipe from the bar. They can enjoy the sights and sounds of the Arkestra on a screen above the rice cooker, relax and drink cocktails, and it's still a great place to enjoy the sunset.


The inspiration for this place has been drawn from many corners of Second Life, including rugs and furniture from the Worlds Collide shop (also on Heterocera), and various pieces of artwork by SLartists. The aim has been to create an eclectic theme that I hope is in the spirit of Sun Ra's endeavours. It celebrates life, roots (cultural, spiritual and edible), wholesome food, creativity and self expression in the face of adversity. Aruba DeCuir's "African Moon 2" dominates one wall of the storeroom-lounge. Visitors can also enjoy vegetable art by Tea Gupte on the walls, and there is more to come. Like its predecessor, the cafe will continue to promote artistic creativity on the grid. Information about current exhibits can be found in the smaller room of the cafe.


By pure serendipity, local parcels came up for sale at the same time as the re-build, so the whole region of Patagonia has been augmented in the past month. There is currently a farm over the road (supplying some of the essential stew ingredients) and plenty to explore in the locality.

SLURL:
Moon Stew Cafe: https://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Patagonia/118/153

Klaus Bereznyak

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Yosemite Sim to Close


By Gemma Cleanslate


One of my all time favorite regions in Second Life is Yosemite. This multifacited sim is just full of places to tour, horseback ride, look at art, relax in the cafe, or visit the shops in the mall, or the Magenda, Jadyn’s store .

 
There is the John Muir camping area where you can set down a short picnic and camp. There is also a memorial site for those who want to place a candle or another tribute to some one gone. 


Jadyn Firehawk has been improving and adding to her builds for years  to represent the real Yosemite, which she dearly loved. I have visited the sim  often either for events,  for breakfast meetings that are held once a month, or just roaming and looking at the art exhibits.

Now it is with sadness that I have learned that Yosemite will close, perhaps temporarily, or not.
I know all the members of the group will miss it. Jadyn sent a notice to the group:

 I regret to inform everybody that I have decided to close down Yosemite Sim, due to a combination of medical and financial reasons....I am hoping to be able to reestablish a Virtual Yosemite in SL as soon as I can, though it will probably be on a reduced scale, such as on a homestead sim. The main park, Yosemite Valley (Forever Wild), and the rental cabins have by far been the most popular things about Yosemite Sim, and so I hope to be able to bring at least those two things back to SL at a later date.

 P2P will experience no change.  Read about Yosemite and Jadyn here , and Deaflegacy’s interview.


If you want to visit to see this wonderful western America replica of the Yosemite National Park you still have time. The teleport board is so helpful getting you around to the various venues. I plan to visit several times for sure. I wish Jadyn so many best wishes and recovery soon. It is always sad to see a region go but hope for a quick return for the partial park soon.
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Yosemite/190/63/22

Gemma Cleanslate