Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: The New Ava Bento, Bakes on Mesh Head by META Is Only L$99

Housekeeping Note: I actually wrote most of this blogpost on October 2nd, 2020, before I decided that I needed to suspend blogging to focus on my full-time paying job as an academic librarian. I still do, but… I decided I was so close to finishing this post that I just went ahead and did it tonight, and there’s no reason to hold it until November.

I received a rather unexpected gift this morning when I logged into Second Life, along with the following note from the creator, MikeThayer:

Hello, hope you are doing good. I make bento mesh heads for SL. I noticed your blog on my first release, the Bae head, and wanted to thank you for getting the word out. My latest work is Ava, another female bento head with SL UV map (much better match to skins made for classic avatars this time) and it would be great if you take a look at it and even better if you can blog about it. I’m selling for just 99L like Bae and it’s a promotional but no time limit on it. I hope you would help me get the word out. Have a nice day 🙂

Wow! This is not the first time I have received a freebie from a vendor, but it is the first time I have received a mesh head or body. Strawberry Singh (now employed by Linden Lab as Strawberry Linden) built her blog around her detailed reviews of various mesh heads and bodies. She started off buying her first items that she reviewed on her popular blog, but after a while, SL content creators would just give her their heads and bodies, so that she would blog about them. In fact, Strawberry even created a nice little side-business creating and selling customized shapes for various mesh bodies and heads (here’s a link to her store on the SL Marketplace).

And I looked at this gift and I’m thinking to myself: Are SL content creators about to start raining down mesh heads and bodies for me to review? Am I about to become an even bigger Second Life celebrity? Could I be the next Strawberry Singh?!??


Probably not. For one thing, my blog doesn’t focus exclusively on Second Life, like Strawberry’s did. And I do tend to devote most of my writing to finding “steals, deals, and freebies” in Second Life (you can find all my blogposts in that category here), as opposed to blogging about new releases and full-price items. So, no, unfortunately, I will not be becoming the next Strawberry Singh 😉 and, alas, it will fall to somebody else to fill Berry’s shoes (and I’m quite sure that many bloggers are doing so already).

However, it has made me realize that I will need to create and post some policies about receiving gifts from vendors, since it is starting to happen more and more often lately. I will scout around the many thousands of Second Life blogs, and see how other bloggers are handling this particular situation.

Anyway, my apologies for going off on another tangent, let’s get back to the main story here. Here’s what the Ava head looks like with the default shape and the included full-head skin tattoo layer (you will have to find body skin to match, as well as some eyelashes to fit):

Note that there is no HUD which comes with this head; you will not be getting all the bells and whistles you would expect from a top-tier brand name like Catwa or LeLutka. But for only L$99, it is a beautiful, no-frills, perfectly serviceable head which will work with all your Bakes on Mesh skins, cosmetics, hairbases, and tattoos.

After tweaking the head a bit to obtain a pleasing shape (it seems to respond fairly well to the sliders), here is my final look (sorry, but I was unable to find suitable eyelashes in my inventory):

This avatar is wearing:

Mesh Head: Ava mesh head by META (L$99 on the SL Marketplace)

Mesh Body: Classic mesh body by the Meshbody (L$1 group gift; more details here)

Skin: Elvira Bakes on Mesh/system skin in maple from 7 Deadly S[k]ins (a free Advent calendar gift from last Christmas; the group costs L$295 but I joined the group when the offered a free group join period)

Hair: Agatha by KUNI (free group gift; group is free to join)

Dress: Tammy dress by AdN (free lucky board prize; group is free to join)

Shoes: Wales pumps from Essenz (a free group gift from several months ago; the Essenz group costs L$350 to join)

Your total outlay for this Bakes on Mesh-compatible, Bento mesh head and body combination is only L$100—which is an outstanding bargain!

Version 3.0 of the Kalhene Anya and Alexa Bodies: A Great Second Life Bakes-on-Mesh Bento Head and Body Package Gets Even Better!

I have been following the progress of the Kalhene Bento, Bakes on Mesh bodies (the Anya female body and the Alexa transgender body) for some time now, and I am mightily impressed with how often the creator issues updates. We are already at version 3.0 of the Anya body, which I have found to be 99% compatible with apparel and footwear designed for Maitreya Lara mesh bodies (the only area where I have sometimes encountered problems is the wrist area on certain long-sleeved tops).

For only L$1,695, you get not only a Maitreya-Lara-compatible Bento mesh body, with a top-notch HUD, you also get a Bento mesh head, plus pretty much everything else you need to get started—skins, eyes, hair, a starter wardrobe, even an AO to control the eyes, head, and hands! All you need to add is a body AO and you’re all set!

Let’s draw up a side-by-side comparison chart, showing you what you get for your money: column A is the Kalhene Anya version 3.0 head and body, and Column B is the Maitreya Lara version 5.3 mesh body with a Catwa brand of Bento mesh head (the most popular combination):

Kalhene Anya 3.0Maitreya Lara 5.3
Base Cost of Mesh BodyL$1,695L$2,750
Petite Breast OptionIncludedL$599 extra
Flat Chest OptionIncluded L$499 extra
Bento Hands and NailsIncluded; Fingernails come in 36 colours and patterns, and 3 stylesIncluded; Fingernails come in 19 colours and 5 styles
Mesh Feet3 feet heights controlled by HUD (flat, medium, and high)5 feet heights controlled by HUD (flat, kitten, medium, high, and point)
Bento Mesh HeadIncludedNot Included (Catwa heads cost L$5,000)
Starter HairstyleIncluded (2 styles)Not Included
Starter SkinIncluded (5 skin tones in regular and flat-chested versions)Included (22 skin tones)
Starter WardrobeBikini (12 colours), Dress (8 colours), Shirt (4 colours), Leggings (4 colours), Flat Shoes (5 colours, 2 styles), High Shoes (5 colours, 3 styles). Apparel comes in versions to fit both regular and flat-chested versions.Bra and Panties by Erratic (9 colours) and Zaara (black)
TOTAL COSTL$1,695L$8,848 (not including cost of hair and a starter wardrobe)
Comparison Chart: Kalhene Anya versus Maitreya Lara with a Catwa head

Also, because the included skin tones that come the Maitreya Lara body and your choice of Catwa head will not match, you will also have to shell out for skin appliers from your favourite skin store (or a Bakes on Mesh skin, since both Maitreya and Catwa now support BoM). You could easily spend well over L$10,000 before you’re done with the Maitreya/Catwa combination, whereas you could take that extra money and put it towards apparel, footwear, hairstyles, and Bakes on Mesh skins, cosmetics and tattoos if you opt for the Kalhene Anya mesh body.

Here’s a look at the HUD that comes with version 3.0 of the Anya body. Note that unlike earlier versions, there are now three feet heights, controllable by the HUD (instead of separate mesh bodies): flat feet, mid-height feet, and high heel feet.

There’s a pretty complete set of alpha selections on the HUD, which compares quite favourably with those of the major mesh body brands, and of course you can also use the alphas that come with the clothing you buy. If you do need a set of alphas to use with clothing that does not come with them, you can pick up a free set from Little Black Dress at this SLURL (just click on the bag on the floor).

The separate clothing HUD allows you to change the colour and style of the included hairstyle (bangs/no bangs), as well as all of the included starter wardrobe items, including the metals and gemstones on the included set of rings, the ability to show or hide the rings on each finger, and the colour and style of two kinds of shoes, flat and high (including the flats shown here; other options include sandals and pumps). Black and white pantyhose and tights (in all three feet heights and four different transparency levels) are included in the package, too.

Here’s a look at a completely styled version of the Anya mesh avatar, showing you where on the body and clothing HUDs I made selections:

As you can see, you can create and style a complete avatar look using only the elements in the Anya package! However, I also wanted to show you how this body would look with a different head and skin (the Anya head and body are separate attachments, and of course you can mix and match them with other BoM-compatible heads and bodies as you wish).

This avatar is wearing:

  • Mesh Head: Strong Face gift Bento mesh head from The Genus Project (free group gift)
  • Mesh Body: Anya version 3.0 from Kalhene (L$1,695; Kalhene has a a small store located opposite the N-Core Design footwear store (here’s the SLURL)
  • Skin: Brielle by Amara Beauty (a former free group gift; group is free to join)
  • Hair: Beyoncé hair by enVOGUE (a L$1 gift from a previous year’s Hair Fair)
  • Gown: Azahara ballgown in red by Scandalize (which I picked up using the recent group gift of L$400 store credit; the Scandalize group costs L$100 to join, but if you hurry, you can join for free and pick up a second L$400 store credit offer! I believe today is the final day you can join the Scandalize group for free.)
  • Jewelry: I pulled this old set from my inventory; they came from a store that has long since left the grid!

TOTAL COST OF THIS AVATAR LOOK: L$1,696 (L$1,695 for the Kalhene Anya mesh body, and L$1 for the hair)

San José State University School of Information’s Virtual Center for Archives and Records Administration Is Holding a Research Symposium in Second Life on October 24th, 2020

While I have written in the past about the use of Second Life by librarians who have set up virtual public and academic libraries, it should be noted that SL has also been home to not just libraries, but also museums and archives of various kinds throughout its 17-year history.

The School of Information (iSchool) at San José State University (SJSU) in California, which offers a Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) degree program, runs the Virtual Center for Archives and Records Administration (VCARA) in Second Life, which describes itself as follows:

An iSchool student group, VCARA is a MARA-created space and community based in the virtual world Second Life (SL). We offer many resources both in SL and online including annual conferences, events, exhibits, trainings, and webcasts. VCARA is open to all students, alumni, educators, and other professionals interested in virtual worlds and any aspect of information science including archives, education, and libraries.

The SJSU School of Library and Information Sciences in Second Life

On October 24th, 2020, VCARA will be hosting an event titled XR: Bridging the Gap Research Symposium:

Plan now to attend the XR: Bridging the Gap Research Symposium on October 24, 2020, from 9 a.m. to noon SLT (Pacific Time).

Venue: VCARA’s XR Research Center in SL on the SJSU SLIS sim (SLURL)

The goal of this symposium is to provide a venue for members of Virtual Worlds, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality communities to share accomplishments and challenges and to learn from one another.

9 a.m. – 10 a.m. – Keynote Address

10 – 10:45 a.m. – Birds of a Feather 

– Accessibility
– Networking/Communities of Practice
– Content Creation/Building

11 a.m. – 12 p.m. – Lightning Poster Session followed by a trip to Mozilla Hubs (with our without your headsets)

I have accepted an invitation to be a co-host of one of the Birds of a Feather discussion sessions taking place, on the topic of Networking and Professional Development in Virtual Worlds and Virtual Reality (along with Bethany Winslow, an Instructional Designer at San José State University). The BoaF sessions will be approximately 45 minutes in a breakout room, after which we will join up again in the main room to give a 5 minute recap of the important aspects of each BoaF.

The event is free, and everyone who is interested in the topic of virtual worlds and virtual reality in archives, education, and libraries is welcome to attend! To find out how you can become involved, please contact Dr. Patricia Franks, at the SJSU iSchool.