Thursday, 29 December 2016

11. The New House Build and Learning to Reference Second Life Creators

I wanted to do a quick post today because I know it has been awhile since I posted but end of year madness descended upon my family and it still has not ended. However, I am still here and still posting and just wanted to share my building progress. I LOVE building. I rarely spend money on clothes or body parts or hair...but I will happily spend quite a lot of time and Lindens looking at textures and builders kits and house parts and animations. I am not quite at the stage of adequately using and importing items from Blender and Gimp yet, but I have been working through tutorials and will hopefully reach that point sometime in 2017.  For now, I am just thrilled to have set the goal of this project, worked it to the end and learned so damn much along the way.

I will spend some time in the new year with a proper "What I went through to get to this point in building" post...but for the moment, I just wanted to share this with you and credit the designers and creators that are featured in these photos so I can get used to referencing them in this way because they are ALL artists. In real life, if I took a photo of someone's work, and showed it to people, I would definitely not hesitate to credit them, and the artisans of Second Life certainly deserve no less. So...here we go...this is my Second Life Home.

This house is part mesh, part prims. There are a few considerations I had in mind while building it...
1.  I live on an L shaped, 1024sqm land space. It is basically two 16m x 32m pieces of land joined together. In order to fit it on the land, it has to be either "L" shaped, which my first build was, or narrow enough to fit the space. The footprint of this build is 14m x 31m. 

2.  I have a Land Impact (LI) allowance of 351. Which is not really very much. So, any build I do MUST be low LI, so I can still fit furniture and things in it. This build is 37 LI in total. 

3.  It has some really lovely views as I live on a bit of protected riverfront in the Snowlands across from an ONSR rail station. Therefore, it was important that I have lots of big windows in the right spots in order to be able to enjoy that.
Front view

This is the front view of my house. I built it, therefore I am the creator of this one :D BUT I would like to mention these creators...
Stained Glass Window:  *REMEMBERS* 
https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/174631?id=174631
Roof: Dachs 
https://marketplace.secondlife.com/p/roof-dach-mesh-builder-edition/7837571

Front Conservatory Area

Plants:
Simply Shelby Hydrangea (Coral) 
Simply Shelby Fall Hortensia (Purple Plum)
SLurl http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Abbey%20Glen/155/110/758
Storax Tree Vintage Plant Stand
Chair: Storax Tree Royal Heritage Monarch's Armchair
SLurl http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/L%20A%20Dreams/79/170/21
Fireplace:  LAQ Decor Tile Stove
https://marketplace.secondlife.com/p/LAQ-Decor-Tile-Stove/5487036

Kitchen Area

Kitchen: ~BAZAR~
SLurl http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/L%20A%20Dreams/79/170/21


Loft Bedroom which converts into...

The Loft bedroom is able to be converted for different uses through the use of a fantastic and really easy to use holo rezzer (Yes like in Star Trek). I use the 'Optimus' MultiRezzer v1.3 by Low Industries
https://marketplace.secondlife.com/p/Optimus-Multirezzer/4908598 The idea for which I first got from THIS BLOG POST, in the Blog The Digital Pasture by Penny Patton. Since I read it and it completely changed the way I thought about virtual spaces, I have been playing with the holo rezzer quite a bit. A note here is that all furniture is set with certain permissions for use. This allows a creator to sell unique items, or items that can be completely modified, or ones that can be copied. So, the permissions are Copy (which allows you to make copies of a piece as many times as you like), Modify (which allows you to change a colour, or the size, or whatever you like) and Transfer (which allows you to give away an item). To be used in a holorezzer, an item MUST have the permissions Copy/Modify. Without them, the items get eaten up by the magical world of Second Life. I learned this the hard way....and then read the instructions more closely. so word of warning in both Second Life and First Life...ALWAYS read the manual!!!!

Stockholm Bed, Stockholm Bedroom Lamps, Traveler Writing Desk and Stockholm Typewriter:  ~BAZAR~
SLurl http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/L%20A%20Dreams/79/170/21
Fireplace:  Simply Shelby Wood Stove
SLurl http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Abbey%20Glen/155/110/758


A steampunk themed sitting room/workshop area and...

Old World Terrestrial Globe, Workshop table, Steampunk Computer and Mad Scientist Lab Interrossiter:  Aley at Arcadia Asylum
SLurl http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Mieville%20Pond/129/57/21
Gyroscope: Simply Shelby Vintage Gyroscope
SLurl 
Chairs: ~Hare Couture~ French Wingback 1-Prim Chair (Navy)
https://marketplace.secondlife.com/p/Hare-Couture-French-Wingback-1-prim-Chair-Navy/2695698
Submarine: Gustav's 1920s Submarine Toy in Silver
I actually have NO idea where I got this one from but if anyone out there does, if you could provide me with the SLurl or URL, I would be very grateful! 
Soapbox Airplane: Gustav's Soapbox Airplane
The same as above goes for the Soapbox Airplane!

Humidor:GothixGrafx Humidor Smoking Stand #4a
https://marketplace.secondlife.com/p/Humidor-Smoking-Stand-4a/2812880

An Art Studio

Art Studio Storage Shelves, Art Studio Paint tubes, Art Studio Brushes in Jar on Wall and Art Studio Easel Medium Canvas by Artisan Fantasy
SLurl http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Artisan%20Fantasy/191/110/2001
Just as an aside about Artisan Fantasy, I went to the 7 Republic event and played the gacha to get all the pieces from Artisan Fantasy. I managed to get all except for one. The gacha items are given with the permissions Copy/Transfer, however to be able to use them in the holorezzer, I need the items to be Copy/Mod. Artisan Fantasy offered to exchange the Copy/Transfer set to customers provided that they had acquired the full set with each piece being acquired specifically through the gacha (and not bought off another player). As I had not received the full set, I did not qualify, however I contacted the creators anyway, explained the situation and what I was using the items for and they graciously sent me the Copy/Mod items in exchange for the ones I had. My experience with Artisan Fantasy was pleasant and delightful. Art was just the nicest person and I would thoroughly recommend this store not only for the quality of their products, but also the quality of their service. 
Mannequin: :FANATIK HOME: Mannequin (Wood)
https://marketplace.secondlife.com/p/FANATIK-HOME-Mannequin-mesh-clothing-mannequin-mesh-display-dummy/4444179
Workshop table with grid: R(S)W Workshop Table - Ash- by Robin Sojourner at the Builders Brewery Creators Village
SLurl http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Builders%20Resource/168/41/24

There is still a lot of work to do with decorating, but by getting in and building I have learnt SO many things. I have learnt not just about the actual construction of things, but also about placing and fitting textures. I have learnt about Land Impact and how certain things affect it. I have learnt to not only link an object together but to lock it down so I don't accidentally delete bits of it. I had to have conversations with many people in builders groups with regards to HOW to do these things and most of all, I have learned great respect and admiration for the artists and creators of Second Life who are able to do the most incredible, delightful and wondrous things in ways that inspire and amaze me.

Monday, 14 November 2016

10. Fighting the prejudice of bad press

Ok...let's just get this out there. Second Life has a terrible reputation. Whenever I mention it to gamer friends I am met with snickers and innuendo. Comments like, "Second Life? Sexy life!", "Are you going to get all furry now or turn into a Bronie?" Seriously...sometimes I think people get stuck in adolescence and ignorance. Most of these people have never set foot inside Second Life. All they have to base their opinions on is gossip and rumour and press from YEARS ago. 

So I would like to dispel these rumours for my readers. SECOND LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT. When you close your mind with ignorance and prejudice you miss out on the truly beautiful and wonderful and amazing and GENEROUS gifts that other people have brought to the world. 

You miss out on the fairytale
You miss out on learning
You miss out on the quiet moments in beautiful places
You miss out on the laugh out loud ridiculous

You miss out on the creative thoughts of other people
You miss out on classic references 
And you miss out on the opportunity to look at the world in a different way

I don't care about other peoples sexual practices. Each to their own and what happens between consenting adults is absolutely none of my business. For me, Secondlife is so much more than the sensationalised bad press that people seem to want to hold on to. I hope that by showing you the world through my eyes, that you will also look at it in a different way and maybe, you too will see the people behind the avatars and the wonder in all that was dreamed and delivered by these incredible people, past, present and wherever the future may take us.

Monday, 7 November 2016

9. Byrd Island

This Sim is done by LICK Sim designs and it is exquisite. Excuse me if I gush a little but this is the first Sim I have been to (that wasn't an art installation) that I have loved every moment, from the time I landed to the time I regretfully teleported away. The music was laid back and moody which perfectly fit the ambience of this Place. The lighting, the effects….the BIRDS. You just can't help but wonder what happened to the inhabitants of this house.

You teleport in on a jetty overlooking a beautiful bay. As you walk off the jetty you come across an old rickety wooden elevator and a ladder. I chose the ladder and climbed to the top of the sim, turned around and physically gasped in real life. The scene was so….Jane Austen. I wish I'd worn more Austenesque clothes but there was no way I was going to get changed now (That and I don't have any!). Tearing myself away from the view, I walked a short distance and spent some time just sitting on a lovely bench and admiring the view. The sun going down, the muted colours, the gentle music playing in the background…it was just so peaceful.


I walked through fields of long grasses and wildflowers. Sat quietly and watched the birds circling overhead. Explored houses that were beautifully and tastefully decorated in old farmhouse styles and left as if their occupants had just disappeared suddenly.

In one house I had an Edgar Allen Poe moment and had to read "The Raven" all over again...



Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, 
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. 
"Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
Only this and nothing more." ~Edgar Allen Poe  


But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour. Nothing further then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered— Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before— Then the bird said “Nevermore.” ~Edgar Allen Poe

This Sim has been taken down now. Such is the transient nature of some of the most beautiful places in Second life. However, LICK is currently in the process of making a new Sim and I for one can't wait to see it.

Refs:

Poetry Foundation. The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

8. My First Apartment

PLEASE NOTE: If you are new to my blog from my Facebook Art Page, please read THIS post first before you get confused as to why I am blogging Second Life :) 

Ok, so up until now I have been living homeless, plonking down each time I log off in a beautiful sim called Botanic gardens. Sometimes I log out in the glowing plants part, other times I lay down, read a book and watch waves.  It is a truly lovely sim and I've walked all over it and tried everything there…The piano (I have real talent ya know!), meditation (I think I need some classes).

I spend a lot of time in the Noonkin CafĂ© in Alba Estates because the deck is so lovely at all times of day and the music feed is exactly to my taste.  I won't include pictures here of Alba, but only because I am going to gush about it in a later post I have planned. But just allow me this little fount of delighted digression...
The owner of the Sim, Douglas is just a delight. I IM'd him once to tell him how much I loved his sim and asked him a few questions about whether he made it all (The answer is yes) ….then another time he IM'd me to thank me for my (poor and pitiful) donation to his tier payment and we had a conversation that just made me smile. He has a great sense of humour and I would like to chat to him again, but I am just a bit wary of intruding in people's busy SL lives and annoying them.  Soooo… I often just park myself down there while I am drawing or working on an art project in real life. I would love love LOVE to rent a house there. There is a beautiful little cottage by the water that has a little beach and a gorgeous estuary flowing past it and the most wonderful little sitting spot out the back. Sadly, I just can't afford it. Having said that, the prices of the gorgeous little houses and land are more than fair and reasonable...I am just watching my...errmm...lack of pennies at the moment. I spent a day wandering around that little house imagining what furniture I would put in it and sitting on the bench on the beach reading and wishing I could actually live there….maybe one day.

Standing at the front door and looking into the apartment
For now though, I rented a little skybox from Manor Suites Apartment. I just wanted to feel a bit…grounded you know? Less like an itinerant and more like I had a home in the world. It was very cheap. It is fully furnished because I didn't want to have to actually think about decorating and buying furniture and getting into that just yet. I am still too busy exploring and working out the simplest things….like where IS everyone? How do you get to engaging people in conversations that last more than a few sentences and don't just involve the best places to shop?

Looking down at the living room from the loft bedroom.
TV is on the wall. Woodland scene out window.
So, a skybox is like a little apartment…umm…in the sky. If you want to see how one is made, you should check out the video by Beau Hindman here.  It is one step smaller than a sky dome. Same principal, but a skydome is usually bigger and has an outside area, sort of like a private parcel of land placed in the sky. I have picture windows. The scene changes depending on the time of day. Sometimes it is a city skyline at night, at other times it is a woodland in the day. But I can't go outside and sit in a yard. 

It has a loft type bedroom, a bathroom complete with toilet
Splish Splash I was taking a bath...
(what would I need THAT for….honestly my avatar neither pees nor poops!!!!!), a kitchen and a lounge. I can change the music that streams in my apartment and it even has a TV, which to me is a mind bending concept. You can watch YouTube on it or stream TV I guess through whatever website you choose.  It's not something I plan on using at the moment as I much prefer the ease and size of my actual computer browser or my RL tv for that.

Drinking an ENORMOUS glass of wine in my kitchen

But the biggest advantage to having the apartment is that it is somewhere I can get changed without embarrassment or having to rely on the goodwill of the Builder's Brewery change rooms.  And it actually makes me FEEL like I am more a part of the world. Like I am here to stay rather than just here visiting.  And I guess that is an important distinction between being part of a world rather than just looking into a world. 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

6. On the Trail of DanCoyote

(PLEASE NOTE: I have not reproduced images of any of Dancoyote's art because I did not have permission. But if you check out the articles and websites below or even do a google search, you will see LOTS of images of his work)

I have to admit to this.... Dancoyote Antonelli is one of the reasons I started a Second Life account and I am a squealy fangirl. THERE it’s said and it’s out there. Now you can all just take your superior hats of judgement and go sit on them elsewhere <GLARE>

For those of you who do not know...Dancoyote Antonelli is a LEGEND! You heard me...LEGEND!!!!! OK... before I go off on waves of bliss and have to hyperventilate into a bag again, let me tell you a little about Dancoyote and why I admire him so.  You may as well find a comfy chair and some popcorn because this may take a little while...

Dancoyote Antonelli is the Second Life avatar of D C Spensley. I first came across him when I was doing a bit of research into virtual art and I came across this gem of an article, which actually led me into exploring second life art more closely and in turn getting an avatar and account myself. 

1. Dancoyote was one of the people who made being an artist serious and relevant in SL. Now THAT is a polarising statement so please let me explain.  The economy for artists was very low and Art for Art’s sake was not really a viable career choice for Artists in world. DC brought about a new push in world for art being one offs instead of reproductions. If you brought a DC it was an original and there were no others like it.

2.  He started an ART MOVEMENT. Hyperformalism. It is the classical use of abstraction and formalism in a hyper reality state. http://www.dancoyote.com/?page_id=17

3.  Zero G Sky Dancers!!!!!  What incredibly inspired and inspiring art.  This took performance and installation art to a whole new level of ecstatic awe. If you have never seen it, do a search on Youtube and WATCH it then sit down and have a weep with me because neither of us got to see it as it played out in world.

So, like a super sleuth, I traced the history of Dancoyote and watched it unfold before my eyes. From the beginnings when Ars Simulcra tempted him into the world. I got angry when someone tried stealing his art. I laughed out loud and joyously when he had a script commissioned to stop that. I watched the rise and rise of the Skydancers and the explosion of articles that proliferated from the success of this incredible talent.

There was one last post in 2013 and then...

...silence.

And I thought he had gone from Second Life forever.  It felt like DC was Willy Wonka and he was closing the doors of his chocolate factory.  My heart broke a little and I mourned for the loss of a beautiful story unfinished and a joy that had been and passed into the meta....

But then....this....
DanCoyote Antonelli, Thank you for your donation of $L1000.

This footprint...

This clue...

This hope of a story yet to be told and a wonder yet to be seen...

Dancoyote had been HERE.

Refs:

SLurls:
Community Virtual Library
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Bradley%20University/49/120/27
Second Life Profile Dancoyote Antonelli
https://my.secondlife.com/dancoyote.antonelli

Websites:
DanCoyote The Sixth Finger
http://www.dancoyote.com/
The Artworld Market Report Dancoyote Exhibition
http://minskyreport.com/dancoyote.htm
Dancoyote Antonelli Seondlife Wiki Fandom
http://secondlife.wikia.com/wiki/Dancoyote_Antonelli
Not Possible IRL: Dancoyote Antonelli
http://npirl.blogspot.com.au/2007/10/dancoyote-antonelli-overcomes-real-life.html

Journal Articles
The Fibreculture Journal 11. Art and (Second) Life: Over the Hills and Far Away?
http://eleven.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-070-art-and-second-life-over-the-hills-and-far-away/




Thursday, 20 October 2016

5. At the end of my first week

So at the end of the first week, here are some of my thoughts. These are some of the things I wish I could most go back and tell myself….


Hello Adventurer! How YOU doing? So you want to join Second Life? Well...Sit down and make yourself comfortable in the chair over there by the fire and let me give you a little bit of advice....

This is not a game…it is a simulated world. That will be the first and hardest thing to wrap your head around, coming from a gaming background like you do. There are no goals except the ones you make. There are no achievements or levelling up. There is just you and the choices you make.

The interface is really not very intuitive. Once you are thrown off noobie island, that is it. You are on your own buddy. There are some places you can go and if you decide to visit here I would direct you to them quick smart because they are the places where you will actually learn the things you need to know…like how to change your clothes without embarrassing yourself. The best place I visited was New Caledon, the steampunk sim that has Caledon University. The tutorials were really easy to follow and the people there were friendly and welcoming.

Without a goal, you will feel lost and will quickly become bored and despondent.


Don't assume everyone in world is creepy and out to get you and grief you. You will not meet one person who treats you badly or even annoys you in this first week. There will be no drama and no griefing. People will be genuinely friendly and are often happy to give you advice, especially if they know you are new.

Don't read the bad press from years ago. Go in and make

your experience about what YOU want.  Think about what you like to do, what you might want to do, who you want to be and live that life. Stay away from the "adult" areas (unless that is where you actually want to be) and take a class in safety at the Caledon university.

Also remember, YOU CAN'T DIE IN WORLD. That was something you will have to wrap your head around because, coming from games like WOW and Subnautica and such, avatar death is something that happens with enough frequency to make you jumpy. So let me repeat it because it took me a little while to fully comprehend it...You CANNOT die in world!!!!!!


One more point about safety, if someone is annoying you...just teleport away. Mute them, block them and go somewhere else and do something else...don't let someone else's bad attitude ruin YOUR experience.


You're gonna be ok. You are going to get frustrated and the learning curve is going to be steep. You will accidentally get naked in public and not know how to get dressed and be so mortified you mention it over and over again. You are going to run into walls and people while you are learning to move around in the world. You will not know where to go or what to do. You are going to freak out the first time you fall from great heights while flying. You are going to doubt your ability to translate your first life art into second life art and you are going to have a hard time talking to people because that's just you. When it all gets a bit much, just stand up and walk away from the computer. Go outside. Breathe fresh real air and live your first life. Your second life isn't going anywhere without you. 


And lastly, adventurer....Explore, Explore, Explore. Remember that book written by Enid Blyton? The Magic Faraway Tree? The one where different lands would come to the tree and the kids got to visit them and have adventures in incredible, fantastical, WONDROUS places? You always wanted to be one of those kids...and in Second Life, you will feel like you are. 





Refs:

SLurls
Botanical Gardens Infohub 

Caledon Oxbridge
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Caledon%20Oxbridge/96/196/27

7. The Dreams of Academics

Today I did some exploring and research into universities that still have their sim worlds online. I was sort of hoping I would be able to find one that had some signs of life. I had read an article about  the University of Western Australia leaving the sim after many years ( http://uwainsl.blogspot.com.au/) and also this article about touring abandoned universities by Patrick Hogan (http://fusion.net/story/181901/we-took-a-tour-of-the-abandoned-college-campuses-of-second-life/) and I got to thinking about whether they were all university ghost towns or not….Turns out, they mostly are. It was a thoroughly disheartening and lonely experience.

(Update: After I wrote this...THIS incredibly wonderful news came out on the UWA blog...http://uwainsl.blogspot.com.au/2016/10/uwa-sims-saved-through-31st-july-2017.html )

Ikran at Berkman
The most lively university campus was Harvard which I visited after reading this post (http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2016/09/harvard-berkman-second-life.html). There were 4 people (including me) in the sandbox.  I am not sure what any of them were doing, I didn't see any rezzing or building going on.  I did a tour of the whole campus and met an Avatar (the movie) Ikran who did NOT want to be flown no matter how many times I jumped on him like he was a trampoline. 

Then I got cheeky, thinking about squatting and building and how awesome it would be to have a little house at Harvard….turns out they have an auto return on items. So while I was learning to build a very blocky couch right near the abandoned admin building, my little prim house went POOF! Right back into my inventory. And so my hopes of being an eternal student resident at the second life campus of Harvard were dashed.

Film Set at Ball State
I visited one campus where I met someone  in an empty classroom who just liked to go there for the "quietitude". He said I was the first person he had seen there in 3 months. It was an incredibly well set out university with a set for making films, art gallery, classrooms ready to be lectured in with full facilities for a slideshow or PowerPoint.   Another university I went to, I met a very strange fellow who thought to follow me around spamming me with hugs whenever I paused, which quite frankly got annoying and a little creepy so I teleported out of there quite quickly and didn't get to see a whole lot. One campus had the best white trash set up in the forest I had ever seen, complete with trailer and backed up toilet.


TIme Clock at USQ
An abandoned set at USQ that once
served a great purpose
 One of the hardest ones for me to visit and bear witness to was the Southern Cross University campus. It was stripped bare, only a few chairs here and there in an otherwise barren landscape as a reminder that once great things were done here, and great minds thought together here. I had been reading through papers written by SCU academics on trials they had conducted on Second Life, what they had learnt and what they had achieved. What they did was inspiring and thought provoking but I was two years too late.
USQ

Mostly though, the campuses were beautiful and waiting. Waiting for the classes to come back. Waiting for the academics and people to come back, like a school let out for summer vacation that goes on and on.  Outdated notices were still on signs proclaiming admissions procedures for 2009 or class timetables for a different year past. Relics of an era of such hope and promise and…creativity in education. 

I ended my tour at a place I found on one of my very first days in Second life about a month ago now, because I needed it. I needed to be somewhere that still held that hope and promise and vision. Somewhere that had just recently come back with a bang and a whoop….it was UTSA Tejano Tech. If you only go one place, visit one academic institution or art gallery in Second life, go there. Go there and leave them a note. And then go to their blog (https://utsa-sl.blogspot.com.au/) and leave them a comment there too. Tell them they have an incredible vision and you are cheering them on. Let their people counter count you so they can show their statistics to other academics who are dreaming their dreams of a virtual learning platform and say, "It CAN be done. This dream is NOT over."
Ball State University

University of Derby. OHH! Shakespeare is on today...if I was still in 2009
Ohio State University. I feel very welcomed. 
Ohio State University Clear flight paths. How considerate!



Friday, 14 October 2016

4. The First 5 Days in the Second Life of Mangrovejane Part 4

Day 5.  Time to build. What shall I build? Got to start somewhere. Lets start with a box....

Handy Dandy BASIC Informational Interlude while building.....
Prims
The basic building blocks using the in world building tools are called Primitives or prims. They are three dimensional shapes that can be pushed, pulled, stretched, rotated, skewed, sliced...they can be given new textures, made transparent, be made to glow. They can be given physics in order to move in certain ways and each prim has a weight in the world. 

Some things are measured in prims. Land for instance, is measured not just in size but also in the amount of weight in prims it can hold.  This has been since superseded by the measurement Land Impact (LI), however, a rough rule of thumb here is that 1 prim = 1 LI (unless linked to other prims and then the formula gets a bit complicated and I am still unsure of that so I am certainly not going to try to explain that right now). 

In the past few years, mesh has become a really popular way of building, especially with clothes.  You will see a lot of mesh furniture and landscaping items as well for a number of reasons but one of the most useful applications when you are watching your LI value, is that you can make very low LI and prim value items with mesh as well as making them more finely detailed and realistic looking. These are usually made using third party programs such as Maya and Blender  and uploaded into the world using some sort of computery type magic that once again, I am not knowledgeable enough to talk about at the moment. ;) 

And one last thing, there are two really important groups in world that I found who are incredibly helpful and active and do not mind at all if you ask the most basic questions that they have probably heard a million times before (blush) and who also run building classes and games (like Primtionary, a game similar to Pictionary but instead of drawing, you build your word with prims!)...they are Builders Brewery and Ivory Tower of Primitives. If you get in world and you want to build anything at all, do a search for them in groups and JOIN. The SLurls to their sims are listed below in the references. 

...4 hours later
Ok I ended up with a MONOLITH .  I took photos and then accidentally ripped the base off. Yup. THAT happened.  Because of course none of my pieces were actually linked up together like when you build textboxes and clip art together in word in a lovely and artistic way and then have to group them together so they stay together.  <sigh> Then I spent a lot of time trying to fiddle it back on. 

With a LOT of help from the lovely people in the Builders Brewery Group, I managed to get all my bits linked up and packed away. So now I give you....PRIM AND PROPER! TA DA!!!
Prim and Proper

You’re impressed. I can tell. And amused because it’s all made out of prims...and its prim and proper...get it? GET IT?!!! Oh nvm....

Refs:
SLurls
Builders Brewery Sim and School 
Ivory Tower of Primitives

Articles
Second Life Knowledge Base: Build Tools
Second Life Wiki Articles:  Good Building Practises

Videos
Basic Building Tutorial for Second Life Part 1 (of 2)
Basic Building Tutorial for Second Life Part 2 (of 2)