Relay for life 2015: The future of your money.

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This year the American Cancer Society(ACS) organizes another Relay For Life(RFL) charity event in Second Life. The impact of this event can be estimated from their site: “As of July 2014 RFL of SL ranks number 17th out of 5000 teams worldwide in donations receive.We have brought in over 2 million US dollars to help with the fight against cancer.”

17th out of 5000. That is no mean event!

I ran into the Relay For Life charity some years ago and still recall the event vividly. I was confronted by a donation stand near a castle named Camelot and a big star spangled banner was waving in front of the home of the British king Arthur.Was this over-sized flag signalling something?

I became curious and looked for information. It soon became evident that it was an event specifically organized by the American Cancer Society for their own benefit. Indeed. All the money that is gathered world wide is used to financing activities of this All-to-American organization.

Nothing wrong with that you might say? If it is used for a good cause which eventually benefits the whole world, why would you be against it?
Actually, there is nothing wrong if they were upfront about it.
But for a long time they were pretty secretive about it and they still are.
But at least the are now more open about who is behind RLF as compared to last year:

For 100 years, the American Cancer Society has been working to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Together with our millions of supporters, the American Cancer Society (ACS) saves lives by helping people stay well and get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back. The American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. The American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community-based, voluntary health, and international organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.

So from this statement we gather that the ACS is both a nationwide organization and an international organization. Which would stand to reason considering that  Second Life is a global community and as of July 2014 RFL of SL ranks number 17th out of 5000 teams worldwide. It means that part of that money raised comes from the world and it would be a sad thing if all that money was just used to benefit one nation.
So does it?
Have you checked?
I bet you didn’t.
Actually the ACS is an American organization that is bound by American laws and their grants are exclusively focused on funding US based research. You can look it up for yourself on their website. Not one grant is given to a foreign university. Hence all research is done in the US within the restrictions of the US laws. And that will probably also apply to sharing research data, if they even posses such data, as they mostly finance research.
This doesn’t mean the ACS exclusively focuses on the US. It does provide information and help within the limits of the  laws as they show on their website. But all of that help is of an informational nature and aimed at those countries that are on the friends list of the US.

But what happens to countries that are not on the friends list? Have you checked if your country is?

It would be fair if the ACS was honest about what they do with the money they raise and make explicit who benefits and who doesn’t. Now it seems to me that they invest non US money in US based research which they will only provide to your country if they are allowed by law.
And this is just about research. How about all the community programs that are solely based on the US  and the world raises money for?

If you decide to fund Relay For Life as a world citizen or a foreigner you might never see any direct benefit from it. Perhaps it would be better to give your money to your local cancer organization or. preferably, to a truly international one.
Perhaps if the ACS pays attention to rest of the world it might become a true world leader. It seems that being transparent and open about it would be the first step.

But even as an American you might think twice before donating to the ACS. Their president makes a whopping 2 million a year… which is about the amount of money relay for life in SL raised in 2014. You could say SL paid his wages.
And the ACS seems to have dubious ties with companies, which seem to influence their policies.  More criticism can be found in links below.

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ACS & Relay for Life

http://www.cancer.org/
http://relayforlifeofsecondlife.org/

Charity status

https://www.charitywatch.org/top-charity-salaries
http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=6495#.VOjbpfnF-So

Critical articles
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/05/24/american-cancer-society–more-interested-in-wealth-than-health.aspx
http://www.preventcancer.com/losing/acs/wealthiest_links.htm

http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.nl/2014/04/american-cancer-society-sells-out-its.html

Story-telling: The hobbit – The battle of the five armies.

Yesterday I saw the Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies, and wrote a short scathing critique of the movie on metacritic. This third episode is simply a long series of fights interspersed with some dialog. However, besides giving criticism I want to learn from such movies, so I am going to write a few short notes the story telling in this episode.

The biggest problem.

The biggest problem is that Jackson wanted to make an epic movie that mirrored Lord of the Rings, but the Hobbit wasn’t enough of an epic book to provide the material for such a tale. In fact the book reads as a bedside story the kind a parent tells to one of his kids just before sleeping. The hobbit is the kid undergoing the adventures in a world where magic and magical creatures exist. A wondrous tale of adventure and danger ending with treasure and the defeat of a mean dragon.

Because the story lacked body, it got expanded.. Hence the introduction of Azog, the orc, the addition of a love story between an elf and a dwarf and the adding in of a fight between Sauron and the good powers.One can be against adding such extra stories, but in itself I find this neither good or bad. You might not agree with it, but it doesn’t make for a good or bad tale merely because something is added that wasn’t in the original book or, the opposite, because something was left out.
To a certain extent a movie maker is at liberty to do whatever he or she wants with his movie, although if a movie maker changes too many things in the story, he or she might probably have to change the title to be fair to the original book or writer.

The problem with the last entry in this trilogy is twofold. The lack of things to tell becomes glaring obvious and what is added never feels part of the overall story as it doesn’t integrate well.The effect is that story telling suffers.

But how can this happen while at the same time so much is going on? In fact.. there is so much going on you might think that having enough to tell is the least of Jackson’s problem. Yet at the other hand; there is nothing much to tell either. This sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it?

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The party: a lot of dwarves and a hobbit. While having many dwarves with their own personalities in the movie is nice, it is a bit wasted as few get the attention they need. Less dwarves with more story might have been better for the story line.

The issue is that Jackson doesn’t seem to focus. He wants to do a lot, but never concentrates on a single thing.
Even with the massive cast he already has( the thirteen dwarves, a hobbit, bard, Gandalf, beorn, the elf king, the bad orc) he still adds more, like Alfrid the side kick of the master of the town who he made up himself(why if he already had the master of the town to fill that role) and Legolas, who isn’t in the book and could have been left out because he will get a big role to play in the lord of the ring movie. And he still adds more. Saruman, Sauron, Galadriel, Elrond all put in an appearance to add an extra scenes that feel like filler.  And of course Radagast is in it too. And if that is not enough he adds a love interest for the dwarf Kili.
In fact he has pretty enough of stuff to tell. Like Thorin getting greedy and the impending conflict with the townsfolk.  And the battle between the five armies would have in itself given enough to tell about.

Ironically Jackson resembles Thorin in that he sits on a stack of stories that is more than enough to make for  good movie but he wants to add more and more. He hurries from one scene to the next, never giving enough time for things to develop. Like for instance the relation between Tauriel and Killi feels just rushed.

What than can we learn from this?

Kill your darlings
You and I have heard this before. Leave out the things that do not really belong to the center story.Legolas could have been left out. Like Alfrid, Radagast. Saruman, Sauron, Galadriel: they are are superfluous. I am not against the introduction of Tauriel. I actually thought it was a good idea, but I don’t think the love story with Kili was such a good idea. Elves and Dwarves somehow don’t mix. Perhaps it would have been better to hook her up with Bard. Which might have been too much of a reprisal of the love between Arwen and Aragorn, but at least more believable.

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Cool but superfluous.

Concentrate on a few individuals
Unless you are planning a television series, it’s probably wise to concentrate on just a few characters. Thorin would have been an obvious choice. Bilbo of course, perhaps Bard and Tauriel.  Four characters that we follow that can be paired. Thorin with Bilbo.. Bard with Tauriel.

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Legolas: could have been left out the story. Tauriel could have filled in.

Make them change
Thorin was a great character with his faults and as such I think he was probably the best of the characters. We could see him change, make wrong choice and at the end he changes and become the great king he wants to be.
Bilbo we see change from a reluctant bumbling hobbit into a brave hobbit that does the right thing when Thorin doesn’t. It leads to betrayal. It is the ultimate setup for a good storyline.
Bard was a character that should have been worked upon. He could have been given some weaknesses that either make him change or make him a hero. He could have been a glory hound for instance,  believing himself to be marked out for glory from the start. Maybe he should have been portayed as a kind of William Tell. Perhaps he was even a poacher and that is where he knows Tauriel from.

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Gold! Gold! Gold! It is the MacGuffin in this movie.

Tension
Tension between characters make for a good story. It would be obvious that Thranduil would collide with Thorin. This could have been made more complicated by a relation between Bard and Tauriel  which might be souring the relations between Bard and Thranduil, who are allies opposing Thorin initially. The master of the laketown could have been give a kind of secondary role in opposing Bard. Since Bard claims the right of rule while the master is an democratic elected ruler. This could be done with all the available characters with the need to add or change things too much. Of course it would require some additional writing and some additional acting.

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Thranduil: he should have been the real mover of things. He was bound to clash with Thorin. Have him oppose a relation between Bard and Tauriel and we have a hefty complex situation as they are both rivals and allies.

Wrap things up neatly

One thing that perhaps needed to be done is wrapping the story line up. The Hobbit feels rushed and drawn out at other times. When the battle is won, the orcs are defeated and the next moment we see Gandalf and Bilbo in a very long end scene in which Bilbo say farewell to Gandalf travels towards his house where they are selling his property because they believe him to be dead.It is a strangely long out end scene.

Instead we do not get any idea what happened to everyone else. It isn’t really wrapped up neatly.

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It might be the cgi that many hate, but it I find it marvelous nevertheless.
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Cgi. I am not actually opposed to cgi as many seem to be. It can certainly help in the story-telling.

These then are some quick notes about the movie. I hope to add some more later.

What’s on Molyneux’s mind?

Criticizing the  Bible is all to easy.
It might be  a good motivation to write for some, but I don’t find  it interesting by itself. Therefore I am rewriting a post  that I had in the make about the bible, as I want to focus on storytelling and narrative instead of what a colleague of mine called bible thumping. My aim is to try and learn about storytelling and narratives and the bible, being a source and inspiration for many (tall) tales, would be a great book to use as an angle. Perhaps too great.
A few weeks ago I started to do the rework and I decided to start You Tube because I usually have some music or documentary in the background when working on something. When it started, You Tube offers suggestions and one of these was a movie called: the end of the world.I looked at the link.
It was a podcast by Stefan Molyneux.
I did not want to watch because he upsets me, but I also wanted to give the man a fair chance.  I thought: perhaps I am biased, so let’s hear what he has to say.
He managed to annoy from the get go.
The next line is not exactly the first sentence of the podcast, but it is close and it is the sentence that sets the tone for the rest of his forty minutes podcast:

“It is hard for me[]to think of a group or a culture or a country with really divergent cultures that gets along hunky dory and integrates[].. You got Ireland, you got Kosovo and you got various places in Africa with tribal warfare. You have racial gangs in prison.”
(Stefan Molyneux, The end of the World. 12  seconds into the podcast)

And Molyneux is pretty honest about himself: he has a hard time to think. So let’s help him think:

1  Wine and water mix!

Imagine Stefan walking on a sandy beach on a balmy summer morning. The weather is pleasant so he walks barefooted into the surf. Then his big toe bumps into something. It is a flask filled with a red fluid and he picks it up. From the shape of the flask and the cork he figures that is must be wine.. He tries to pull out the cork, and with a hard twist he succeeds, but then the flask escapes his grasp and falls into the sea. He quickly grabs for it, but the waves toss the flask around and he pushes it under the water several times before he can retrieve it from the sea. Once he has the flask he tries to drink from it. But he spits out the fluid, for all he tastes is the sea water. And Stefan wonders: where is the wine?

Stefan, cultures tend to mix. If you are trying to find really divergent cultures that work together you will have hard time to find them because cultures tend to influence each other and mix and eventually flow together. It is like stating that you can not find a bottle containing a separate part of wine and a separate part of water.  You can’t Stefan, because they mix. And the sea contains a lot of salt water.. and the wine in the flask is just a tiny drop in the ocean. That is why you no longer taste it. Just so you know the next time you have a hard time thinking.

2  Sea Water is not wine!

Stefan takes his wine flask containing the seawater to a barman down the beach. He shows the flask to the barman and asks: “Is this a wine flask?”
The barman – an expert in his business – takes a close look and then nods; “That it is indeed a wine-flask. I would say – reading from the label – that it is a Pinot Noir.” (He is that good).
“Then,” Stefan concludes, “it is wine!” And Stefan takes a big swig from the flask and then spits it out again for the fluid inside still tastes like salt water.
“Sir…seawater is seawater regardless of the container that holds it,” The barman says with a suppressed smile, “seawater won’t become wine simply because a wine flask holds it!”

See Stefan, If a really divergent culture is defined as a culture that cannot abide another culture then you just made a watertight but pointless premise. For if it does tolerate another culture.. it isn’t really divergent.  And voila.. the logic is inescapable. Seawater is seawater not matter what and if it is not seawater.. it’s not seawater. Brilliant! And pointless.

3 Removing sea water from a wine flask does not make the wine appear.

“Then, ” Stefan says, “I get rid of the salt water!”  And Stefan turns the wine flask upside down and lets the water run away.
He then takes another drink, but after a moment he puts down the bottle and says, “Where is the wine?”
And the barman says, “But Stefan, removing the seawater does not make the wine appear. It just makes for an empty flask.”
“I see, ” Stefan says, “I guess I wasn’t thinking.”

Stefan, what examples do you come up with? Ireland, Kosovo and some African countries.
Let’s pick Ireland.  You mean Northern Ireland. Are we talking about really divergent cultures here? Really Stefan? Are the parties involved so really divergent culturally that it explains the conflict? Then allow me to give an example of some ‘really divergent’ cultures that do work together as you have a hard time of thinking of them.
One is called the European Union. You remember those world wars that started in Europe?  The Union exists also to avoid a war between such ‘really divergent’ cultures as say: France(mostly catholic) and Germany(mostly protestant).
You think the European Union is not a good example(and I bet you do)? Then let’s have a look at my country, the Netherlands: partly protestant, partly catholic and even partly non christian. I can not recall the last time Dutch protestants were blowing up  Dutch Catholics here.. perhaps you should remind me?  But if you are about to make your case anyway.. perhaps you could explain how it can be that the Frisians aren’t killing the rest of us, because they are defined as having their own culture and if they aren’t ‘really divergent’ culturally from the rest of the country, then I wouldn’t know who would be ‘really divergent’ culturally.
Oh wait.. not a good example either? Then your Ireland example isn’t one either. Or would you claim that the parties that oppose each-other in Northern Ireland are more divergent culturally than the Catholics and the protestants are in the Netherlands? Or the Frisians from the rest of the country?  Or France from Germany, countries that speak different languages and have their own centuries old literature?
Of course you would. The latter are not really divergent culturally because they don’t kill each other, but those in Northern Ireland are because they did once kill one another. Hence your premise remains true no matter what. If they kill people it is because they are really divergent, if they don’t, the culture isn’t really divergent.
Perhaps you might not be aware of the fact that a fragile peace exists in Northern Ireland since 2001. Maybe you forgot? You should look it up:  the troubles.
But even if they start killing each other in abundance, you should be aware that the majority of all these people live together without killing each other. Yes Stefan.. people are not so hell bend on violence as you deem them to be.

4 Are there traces of divergent cultures living together?

Well, point 1 and 2 makes it hard to find them, but let’s have a look at the biggest melting pot in the history of the world: the US of A. You know that country next to yours? If you take a look at the history of the United States you will find people and groups from diverse cultures and backgrounds work and live together without trying to blow each-other up. But then these are not really divergent cultures because they are not killing each other. Except for the gangs in prison of course, those are really divergent cultures because they kill people(mostly among their own kind of people(gangs).. so how would that fit in your picture?), while those not in prison and not killing each other are not really divergent. A water tight case: if they kill people they are really divergent, if they do not kill others, they are not.

Stefan, we are all living in various social constructions were various cultures live together. And perhaps you might have forgotten that we all live on a one planet with seven billion people of which most are not blowing up other people. Perhaps you should not only focus on the items that are in the head lines or on the front pages. These are by nature sensational and usually limited in background information. Just repeating them without thinking makes you look shallow.

But it doesn’t really matter does it?

It doesn’t, because the statement is just an angle to argue your case against state(and family and women). It is a rhetorical device. Like Cato used. You know Cato? I bet you do. And if not: you should look him up. He used the tactic you use: repeating the same thing over and over regardless of  whether it was appropriate to what was talked about:
Carthago must be destroyed.
Carthago must be destroyed!
CARTHAGO MUST BE DESTROYED!
And that is what you do: repeat the same thing over and over regardless of context or logic: the state must be destroyed!
For the state sucks! And it sucks because you claim that taxes are blackmail and gets used to line the pockets of  the parasites that use the state to enrich themselves and who mismanage everything and hinder progress.  And that is why the state should go: so you don’t need to pay them taxes. For you hate taxes. Yeah, for paying taxes sucks! Get over it.

Announcing the 2015 Spread The Love Expo!

I decided to reblog this anyway even though I have some misgivings. Specifically I wonder about this:
“Bloggers must have made two posts within the last 30 days on your blog that features fashion or decorative items from within Second Life PRIOR to registering for this event.”
Perhaps I am mistaken about the intention, but it sounds like the fundraising is second to the shopping event. Perhaps one should consider that there are blogs out there that do not specifically blog about fashion or decorative items, but might still want to promote this event.
Anyway.. I think it is better to give support, because the intention is right. Right?

SLGBT Alliance

SLGBTA Spread The Love Event 2015 Sign

This Valentine’s Day, we invite you to join us for The Second Annual SLGBT Alliance Spread the Love Expo– a FULL SIM two-week shopping event and fundraiser. This year’s event will benefit The Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Shop for a good cause this season as 25 incredible designers come together with *New* and *Exclusive* Donation items to help benefit the Human Rights Campaign!

Visit at: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Lam/121/182/23

What is the HRC Foundation?
From their website at http://www.hrc.org/the-hrc-story/hrc-foundation

“The Human Rights Campaign Foundation improves the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people by working to increase understanding and encourage the adoption of LGBT-inclusive policies and practices.”

For more information about the Human Rights Campaign, please visit their website at http://www.hrc.org/

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Story-telling: Jurassic Park 3/3: Patterns, Patterns

Welcome to the third part of my posts about Jurassic Park in which I am trying to delve into the story as to learn from it. Perhaps this is useful, or perhaps it is not.

As already mentioned there is little to no character development in this movie. It is simply not that kind of movie in the sense that it is more aimed at action and showing the dinosaurs, but also because the movie covers less than a day in full. While it is not impossible for a character development to happen in less than a day, it is not very common or realistic.
However a movie doesn’t have to be realistic in the sense that a movie might show a change of character that happens within a very short span of time simply because it can do that and does not have to stick to reality.

To discuss the changes in the movies I want to look at patterns. A pattern is used to  visual guide the watcher through the movie and make scenes  link. This is probably even more important in a movie than in a written story as a movie is a visual medium that uses imagery to convey a story or in any rate: can make use of it.
What is a pattern you might ask? A standard pattern is a chronological one in which things linked to each other happen in order of time.  In Jurassic Park we will also examine few other ones.  Let’s have a look at how Spielberg uses patterns to convey the story.

Hammond: the road from joy to sadness.

Hammond is the ceo of the company that builds Jurassic Park. As mentioned in the two earlier posts.. he is the creator. He is thus appropriately dressed in white for that seems to be the color associated with creators such as Yaweh,  the ultimate creator of the universe according to the bible.

In Jurassic Park Hammond will go from an joyful and boisterous mood to sad and downcast  mood in the course of movie, thus mirroring the downfall of his creation over which he lost control. The short of it: the human that is the creator overreaches himself because nature can not be controlled(and will not according to Malcolm who almost present nature as an entity). This is not only shown when the dinosaurs escape after the deliberate breakdown of the system, but also made clear because the dinosaurs propagate uncontrolled as Grant founds out during his trek through the park. The creators thought to control their creation by only having female dinosaurs in the park, but through something called: dna drift some females spontaneous change into males and couple.

 

This sequence is shown in a series of screenshots below.

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Grant and the kids.

Grant has problems with kids suggesting basically that he is a big kid himself.. at the end he is a man and at ease with the kids.

 

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The mosquito in the amber.

A recurring item in the movie is the mosquito in the amber. The mosquito delivers the blood that is used to retrieve dna for making the dinosaurs.

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The ever changing Sattler.

While most people in the movie do not change, not even their outfits..Sattler, being the only mature woman in the movie, changes throughout the movie. She is in fact the only person in the move who undergoes these changes.

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Nedry and food

Nedry, the computer nerd is busy with eating or drinking al lot, or surrounded or associated with food. It is the excuse he gives when he leaves the central room. He says he is going to get a soda.

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More patterns.

– The story (almost) begins with a helicopter scene and ends with it.
– Hammond is the creator and dressed in white, while his worst critic, Malcolm, is dressed in black
What is the meaning of all these patterns?
As mentioned above these patterns are guides that help you watch the movie and guide you through the story. In that way the movie becomes better watchable and better make you understand the story. My next post will be an examination of Avatar in which we will see perhaps some other patterns appear.
If I find more reasons for these patterns I will update this post.