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  • What Can it Mean to Truly Collaborate as a Photography Collective? (6670 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 11:26:00 -0500What Can it Mean to Truly Collaborate as a Photography Collective?PetaPixel

    The ability for individual photographers to have any kind of cultural impact feels diminished and diluted when you consider just how many are working towards the goal of producing meaningful work.

    Where individuals are limited in the time they can spend, the ground they can cover, and the final result they can output, a group of individuals is able to multiply that effort. When applying themselves to telling the same story, a group of photographers will find themselves much better equipped to do a deep dive into a subject than someone working alone.

    While it may be obvious that many hands make light work, it can be interesting to watch the role of the artist’s ego when collaborating on such an idea. Long-term documentary photography is a huge investment, and the classic agencies that would tackle such projects would rarely allocate more than an individual photographer to one story. Individuals can often want their account to be sacred and presented according to their own vision — not an approach that lends itself to collaborative effort. 

    I think this can be seen clearly when looking at compilations of work, compendiums of collected portfolio pieces presented in coffee-table books like Magnum Contact Sheets or The Street is Watching — both absolutely outstanding photobooks that every photographer should spend some time with, but when it comes to the presentation of work it is very much divided into presenting each artist individually, one at a time, with a clear border once that particular piece is closed.

    Truly collaborative groups, where no border or boundary exists to differentiate ownership when experiencing the work, are few and far between. Some of the most well known mainstream examples are partnerships between couples — like Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, or Narelle Autio and Trent Parke, who collaborate beyond just combining their images in sequence, but in the written copy and other aspects of presentation.  

    Another duo who I think really erase the line between individual and collective effort is Vera Torok and Robert Pap who have a very clear intention behind the way they work as one. In their own words, ?In the field we both photograph at the same time, and in the same place. We are two merged element with two cameras, four eyes, one heart, one picture.?

    When looking to work like this in a partnership of more than two there are some important hurdles that need to be navigated. To start with our goals have to be mostly aligned, shared, and understood — as these evolve over time, communication throughout is essential. The scope of the project will always extend beyond any of us, but this is an asset when working beyond the ability of an individual.

    We can truly work in more than one place at a time and trust that the other members are applying themselves just as hard to their role as we produce our own photographs. No jealousy, just support and feedback, and open, ego-free criticism really helps shape the direction we find ourselves moving in. 

    The collective I’m a part of, New Exit Group, finds itself in a healthy place, as our values are shared, and when it comes to being at odds with others we are comfortable enough to hash it out and work towards a compromise, or towards helping others to understand our position. 

    Our work complements one another?s, with the shared aesthetic of mostly short lens, black-and-white 35mm-film-based storytelling images. This means that even when I produce a detail shot with a long lens it can coexist alongside a wider scene photographed by one of the others.   

    We understand that foisting our perspective onto the final product is not the objective, but rather bringing together the best aspects of what will make that final product absolutely what it needs to be. This requires consensus on more than just whether or not individual images happen to be good, or to fit, but on how the sequence can flow effectively, bringing about an artifact that is larger than the sum of its parts. 

    When working on our collaborative projects, the photography aspect itself is almost a given. We all recognize the work put in by ourselves and one another, and are confident that we have brought our A-game images to the curation pool. Curation occurs with the finished product in mind and is not an exercise in putting forward anything other than the holistic story.

    We are not attached to our images, but instead allow the story to unfold based on how we weave together all of our work. We even find ourselves advocating more heavily for work made by someone else in the group than our own, as we will see aspects that they did not. 

    When we were curating our debut photo project, BARDO: Summer of ?20, we used over 400 6×4 postcard prints in order to make our curation session as visceral and practical as possible.

    It was essential to edit out many genuinely excellent images in service of the story we had committed ourselves to telling. While they may be standout images they simply did not fit the flow of the sequence. Similarly, images we?d overlooked at the start of the session suddenly became valuable, even irreplaceable as gaps emerged between other images, and needed that image to act as ?glue? to bond two previously disparate ideas together.

    I think that this way of working shows a really powerful way of thinking in photographic storytelling. The co-operative nature of our group is so distinct from any collective which advocates individual work, showcasing portfolios rather than any effort that was actually collaborated on by the group. I can?t think of a better way for grassroots photojournalists to approach documenting their lives and communities than by building up their own documentary co-operative with shared values and working together to achieve their goals.

    The potential for reach and impact made by multiple coexisting artists is so much greater than individuals working and advocating individually, and the creative space that can exist between respectful peers is unrivaled by anything offered through social media. 

    Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on working as a cooperative collective! You can follow us on Instagram or check out our debut zine, BARDO.

    About the author: Simon King is a London based photographer and photojournalist, currently working on a number of long-term documentary and street photography projects. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can follow his work on Instagram. Simon also teaches a short course in Street Photography at UAL, which can be read about here.

  • IS attack hits Afghan capital as Pompeo joins peace talks (266 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 10:48:00 -0500IS attack hits Afghan capital as Pompeo joins peace talksWar Zones: War News, Coverage, Analysis & More - The Washington Post

    Mortar shells have slammed into a residential area of the Afghan capital, killing eight people, hours before outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held what are likely his last meetings with the Taliban and Afghan negotiators trying to hammer out a peace deal

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  • IS attack hits Afghan capital as Pompeo joins peace talks (266 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 10:48:00 -0500IS attack hits Afghan capital as Pompeo joins peace talksWorld: World News, International News, Foreign Reporting - The Washington Post

    Mortar shells have slammed into a residential area of the Afghan capital, killing eight people, hours before outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held what are likely his last meetings with the Taliban and Afghan negotiators trying to hammer out a peace deal

    Related
    Pompeo expected to visit Israeli settlement in parting gift [War Zones: War News, Coverage, Analysis & More - The Washington Post]
    IS attack hits Afghan capital as Pompeo joins peace talks [War Zones: War News, Coverage, Analysis & More - The Washington Post]
  • Masks are Effective, Despite One Flawed Study From Denmark (3579 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 10:34:00 -0500Masks are Effective, Despite One Flawed Study From DenmarkSlashdot

    "I think the overwhelming body of evidence suggests that masks are effective," the lead author of a study recently cited by America's Center for Disease Control told the Washington Post. They were responding to another (very controversial) outlier study whose findings "conflict with those from a number of other studies," according to the New York Times, citing numerous experts. "Critics were quick to note [that] study's limitations, among them that the design depended heavily on participants reporting their own test results and behavior, at a time when both mask-wearing and infection were rare in Denmark." The Washington Post reports: In the large, randomized study published Wednesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers observed more than 6,000 people in Denmark from April to June when mask-wearing was not required in the country. Fewer people in the group that was advised to wear masks contracted the virus — or about a 14 percent reduced risk because of mask-wearing — but the difference was not statistically significant, indicating that the medical masks issued were not particularly effective at preventing the wearers from being infected. Other experts, however, argue that the study was conducted when there was relatively less community spread of the virus and that testing the participants' antibodies cannot reliably measure whether they had the virus during the time of the study. "We think you should wear a face mask at least to protect yourself, but you should also use it to protect others," lead author Henning Bundgaard told The Washington Post. "We consider that the conclusion is we should wear face masks." Bundgaard said even the small risk reduction masks offer "is very important, considering it is a life-threatening disease..." "Because the issue has become so politicized, there's a real risk — and it's already being used in this way — that studies like this will be sort of cherry-picked and presented as conclusive evidence that masks are completely ineffective," Columbia University virologist Angela Rasmussen said... In letters and blog posts, public health experts express concern about the design of the study and warn that policymakers could misinterpret the research to mean that masks are ineffective. "However, the more accurate translation is that this study is uninformative regarding the benefits (or lack thereof) of wearing masks outside of the healthcare setting," one letter states. "As such, we caution decision-makers and the media from interpreting the results of this trial as being anything other than artifacts of weak design." Even the Denmark study itself acknowledged its own limitations, citing "Inconclusive results, missing data, variable adherence, patient-reported findings on home tests, no blinding, and no assessment of whether masks could decrease disease transmission from mask wearers to others." And it also acknowledges large gaps in adherence to proper mask usage among its participants: "Based on the lowest adherence reported in the mask group during follow-up, 46% of participants wore the mask as recommended, 47% predominantly as recommended, and 7% not as recommended." The Post notes that America's Center for Disease Control reiterated that people do benefit from wearing a mask that can filter out virus-carrying droplets, and last week "cited multiple studies evaluating mechanical evidence that concluded masks can block certain respiratory particles, depending on the material of the mask..."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Time is luxury: Why all high-end hotels should follow The Peninsula in eliminating check-in/out times (4531 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 10:30:00 -0500Time is luxury: Why all high-end hotels should follow The Peninsula in eliminating check-in/out timesThe Points Guy

    The times, they are a-changin’.

    At Peninsula Hotels, one of the world’s most exclusive and luxurious hotel brands, these words from Bob Dylan ring especially true.

    The brand recently shared that beginning Jan. 1, 2021, it will eliminate rigid check-in and check-out times. The chain coined the new experience “Peninsula Time,” and said that “guests can arrange to have their room ready as early as 6 a.m. on their arrival date and check out as late as 10 p.m. on their departure date at no extra charge when they book directly or with their preferred travel advisor.”

    For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

    The chain also announced further enhancements to its customer-friendly perks, known as “The Peninsula Promise.” Among them include the ability to book guaranteed adjoining rooms if you’re traveling with a family or a larger group as well as discounts on the room rate when you book connecting rooms, daily breakfast for each guest in the connecting room and a $100 credit to be used at restaurants or the spa during the stay.

    Additionally, the chain standardized its cancellation policy, which will allow fee-free cancellation up to 3 p.m. local time the day prior to check in, as well as allowing changes to advance preferred-rate bookings up to 12 months from the original booking date.

    Finally, The Peninsula is introducing a 24-hour real-time concierge service that allows you to send messages to the concierge through existing apps on your phone, including WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, with any request a guest may have at any time of day.

    We hope other hotels follow The Peninsula’s lead

    Undoubtedly, we’re most excited about the implementation of Peninsula Time. No matter how nice your hotel looks, there’s nothing worse than being told you have to be out at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning, even if your flight doesn’t leave until the evening. And begging the hotel’s front desk for a later checkout time doesn’t scream refinement — and the most you’re likely to get is just a few extra hours.

    And, there have been several times that I’ve arrived in London or Paris on flights that landed at 7 a.m. local time, with a massive amount of jet lag, wanting nothing more than a brief nap to give me energy. However, upon arrival at the hotel — even at luxury properties — I’ve been told that a room wouldn’t be ready for several hours, forcing me to drag around town guzzling coffee just to stay awake.

    It’s time for other luxury brands to follow The Peninsula’s lead and develop similar policies. If larger hotels are worried about never having any rooms available for guests to check in to, perhaps it’d make a great perk for top-tier elite status among the major programs.

    As a Marriott Platinum and Hilton Diamond member, I’d feel better about using my hard-earned points or certificates on stays where I know that I could check in and out according to my schedule, not the hotel’s.

    While we wait for other chains to (hopefully) match this policy from Peninsula Hotels, you can take advantage of programs like American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts if you hold The Platinum Card® from American Express. It offers, among other valuable perks, noon check in when available and guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout. It’s definitely better than you’ll get at most hotels but still doesn’t match The Peninsula’s generous new standard.

    Bottom line

    These changes are all very positive and customer friendly. During the pandemic, it’s become apparent that true luxury is when a travel partner listens to its customers. The companies who are making changes that their customers want will be the companies that come out strongest on the other side of COVID-19.

    Many hotel chains have made changes to help customers who need to travel during this difficult time, including extending elite status, deep cleaning rooms and offering remote-work packages for those desperate for a chance of scenery.

    But, this enhancement from The Peninsula raises the stakes. Based on the new check-in policy alone, it’s not hard to see business travelers and those looking to get the most out of their cash considering a Peninsula over a similarly priced competitor due to the flexibility of this policy alone. Other luxe brands: It’s your move.

    Featured image courtesy of The Peninsula Hotels

  • Mystery Behind Famous ?The Valley of the Shadow of Death? Photo Solved (301 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 10:13:00 -0500Mystery Behind Famous ?The Valley of the Shadow of Death? Photo SolvedLight Stalking

    One of the most famous war photographs of all time is Roger Fenton?s Valley of the Shadow of Death, a picture showing cannonballs strewn across a valley path during the Crimean War. It is also one of...

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  • Best places for beach vacations (371 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 10:00:00 -0500Best places for beach vacationsMillion Mile Secrets

    It?s an age-old question – are you a beach bum or a ski bunny? Would you rather run outside in the winter and make a snow angel, or does the idea of spending any time in the cold make you want to immediately take a hot shower? For those who answered ?beach, all the way, […]

    The post Best places for beach vacations appeared first on Million Mile Secrets.

  • Air Force One?s classic Kennedy-era look may remain under president-elect Biden (1705 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 09:30:00 -0500Air Force One?s classic Kennedy-era look may remain under president-elect BidenThe Points Guy

    There are many changes ahead as the U.S. prepares for the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden in January.

    Top of mind will be the federal government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans and decimated the economy. Biden has said he plans to take a more centralized approach to COVID-19 than that of the outgoing administration of President Trump.

    But one big question in the minds of AvGeeks is: What will Biden do about the new look for Air Force One?

    Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

    Unveiled in 2019, Trump’s new look for Air Force One featured a rich red, white and dark blue scheme on a new 747. The new look replaced the iconic blue-forward look picked by first lady Jackie Kennedy that has adorned the presidential transport since 1962.

    “When Trump changed it, it was clearly just to resemble his own aircraft. New coats of paint are very easily applied,” Teal Group vice president Richard Aboulafia recently told Politico.

    There is also plenty of time to change the look of the next Air Force One. Boeing typically does not paint new jets for customers until several months before they are delivered, and the new 747-8is that will carry the president are not due until around 2024.

    Biden did not weigh in on the look of Air Force One during the campaign.

    Related: A first look at the new Air Force One livery


    Featured image by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

  • G-20 summit opens as leaders urge united response to virus (277 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 09:14:00 -0500G-20 summit opens as leaders urge united response to virusWorld: World News, International News, Foreign Reporting - The Washington Post

    The Group of 20 summit has begun with appeals by the world?s most powerful leaders to collectively chart a way forward as the coronavirus pandemic overshadows this year?s gathering, transforming it from in-person meetings to a virtual gathering of speeches and declarations

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  • G-20 summit opens as leaders urge united response to virus (277 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 09:14:00 -0500G-20 summit opens as leaders urge united response to virusWar Zones: War News, Coverage, Analysis & More - The Washington Post

    The Group of 20 summit has begun with appeals by the world?s most powerful leaders to collectively chart a way forward as the coronavirus pandemic overshadows this year?s gathering, transforming it from in-person meetings to a virtual gathering of speeches and declarations

    Related
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    G-20 summit opens as leaders urge united response to virus [World: World News, International News, Foreign Reporting - The Washington Post]
  • Park Hopping returns to Disney January 1 ? with a few catches (1981 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 09:00:00 -0500Park Hopping returns to Disney January 1 ? with a few catchesThe Points Guy

    Disney World reopened its doors this summer after a 117-day shutdown to a different guest experience. On top of all the safety precautions, perhaps the largest change to the guest experience was the removal of the Park Hopping option allowing you to visit multiple theme parks in a single day.

    Starting January 1, the option to visit multiple parks in a single day returns, albeit in a modified format.

    The Disney Parks Blog announced that ticketholders and annual pass holders with the Park Hopping option (read: more expensive ticket) will be allowed to visit multiple parks as long as:

    1. You make a reservation for your first park in the Park Reservation System
    2. You visit that first park
    3. You can then visit a second park after 2 p.m.
    4. No reservation is required for your second (or third or fourth) park, but parks will still be capacity controlled

    That means you could try and head from Animal Kingdom to Hollywood Studios after 2 p.m. to find Hollywood Studios (the most popular park currently thanks to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway) at capacity.

    Hopefully, Disney will have some type of monitoring and alerts set up in the Disney World App to alert you to park capacity before you try and head to a second park. Disney also said that Park Hopping hours could change away from 2 p.m. at a later date based on the park and date, so be sure to check the app during your trip.

    Park Hopping returning comes directly on the heels of Disney’s announcement they are increasing capacity from 25% to 35% and that parks are 77% booked for the holidays in the park pass reservation system.

    Related: What to expect for the 2020 holidays at Disney World 

    The news of expanded park options and increased capacity coincides with the US just shy of adding 200,000 new COVID-19 cases per day and the CDC strongly discouraging travel during Thanksgiving.

    Featured image by Mike LaRosa/Disney Park Pride

  • Earn 70,000 points on one stay and more with Choice Privileges promotions (9572 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 08:30:00 -0500Earn 70,000 points on one stay and more with Choice Privileges promotionsThe Points Guy

    Choice Privileges isn’t the most popular hotel loyalty program. After all, the elite perks are minimal and even the program’s best properties aren’t luxurious. In short, there are many ways in which Choice should improve its loyalty program.

    But, savvy travelers who love maximizing promotions can find a lot of value in the Choice Privileges program. I often choose Choice hotels for its promotions and the value I can obtain from Choice points.

    This post contains all the current Choice Privileges promotions that you should consider. Many Choice Privileges promotions are only open to U.S.-based travelers, though. So, read the terms and conditions carefully if you’re based elsewhere. Now, let’s dive into the current Choice Privileges promotions.

    Get the latest points, miles and travel news by signing up for TPG?s free daily newsletter.

    Members Only Madness

    For a limited time, Choice Privileges members can take advantage of the program’s Members Only Madness deals. This year, these deals include:

    • Earn an extra 2,500 bonus points on your next stay: Register now and receive 2,500 bonus points for your next Choice Hotels stay when you book by Nov. 22, 2020 and stay by Dec. 30, 2020. You can only receive this bonus once.
    • Save up to 30% on hotel stays: Get 20% off one night stays, get 25% off two-night stays and get 30% off stays of three nights or longer. You must book and stay between Nov. 16 and Dec. 30, 2020.
    • Earn 70,000 bonus points for a stay at an all-inclusive resort: When you make a Choice Hotels reservation between Nov. 19, 2020 and Nov. 22, 2020  to stay at select all-inclusive AMResorts locations, you can earn 70,000 bonus points. Your reservation must cost $500 or more and you must stay by Dec. 22, 2021.
    • Buy Choice points with up to a 40% bonus: Between Nov. 16 and Dec. 1, 2020, get a 20% bonus when you purchase 3,000 to 7,000 Choice points, a 30% bonus when you buy 8,000 to 19,000 points and a 40% bonus when you buy 20,000 points or more. Even with the 40% bonus, you’re still paying 0.7 cents per point. This is higher than TPG’s valuation of Choice points at 0.6 cents each, though. So, I’d avoid buying points at this rate unless you have a high-value redemption in mind.
    • Get 25% off $25 gift cards when redeeming Choice points: Between Nov. 20 and Nov. 22, 2020, you can redeem 6,000 Choice points for select $25 gift cards. This redemption provides a value of 0.41 cents per point, which is less than TPG’s valuation of Choice points at 0.6 cents each. So, I’d generally recommend avoiding this option.

    As with all promotions, it’s essential to read the promotion’s terms and conditions before booking. Specifically, some promotions may exclude some brands and rates.

    Related: 8 ways to save money on holiday travel this year

    Earn 50,000 points and perks on all-inclusive stays

    Earlier this year, I wrote about how to earn over $360 in points and perks on a $517 all-inclusive stay. Well, Choice extended this promotion for bookings through Nov. 30, 2020. Presumably, this promotion isn’t stackable with the Members Only Madness 70,000-point offer mentioned above. But, it’s still worth considering if you need a few extra days to decide.

    Specifically, when you book the Free Free free + 1 rate at Zoetry, Secrets, Breathless, Dreams, Now or Sunscape properties through Choice Hotels by Nov. 30, 2020 and complete your stay by Dec. 22, 2021, you can enjoy the following perks:

    • 50,000 bonus points when you spend $500 or more on your reservation
    • Enjoy a free night when booking (reflected in the rate you’ll see online when booking the Free Free Free + 1 rate)
      • Third night free at Huatulco, Ixtapa and Acapulco resorts
      • Fourth night free at Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta resorts
      • Fifth night free at Costa Rica, Mexico, Caribbean and Panama resorts
      • Sixth night free at Curacao, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and St. Martin resorts
    • Kids stay free at Dreams, Now and Sunscape resorts
    • Guaranteed free room upgrade to the next room category at check-in
    • Receive a voucher for a future free night when you stay for three nights or longer
      • The voucher is valid when booking a return stay of five nights or more at AMResorts in the Americas or seven nights or more at AMResorts Europe
      • You must book your return stay within 60 days of receiving the voucher, although you can travel through Dec. 22, 2022
    • Free in-room welcome gift at Zoetry, Secrets and Breathless resorts
    • $200 resort coupons per room per stay in the Americas, broken down as follows:
      • Spa treatments: One coupon worth $20 and two coupons worth $40, not combinable or valid for spa products at the Spa Boutique or 25-minute massages and treatments
      • Romantic dining: One coupon worth $20 and one coupon worth $40, combinable up to $60 per romantic dining experience but not valid for bottles of wine
      • Wine purchases: Four $10 coupons, not combinable but useable at any restaurant on property

    However, the Free Free Free + 1 rate isn’t freely cancellable or refundable. So, you’ll want to relatively confident you’ll take the trip when booking.

    Related: 19 ways to earn more Choice Privileges points

    Vacation in Paradise sweepstakes

    Through Dec. 27, 2020 Choice Hotels is running a Vacation in Paradise sweepstakes. The grand prize winner will get a four-night stay for four at a Dreams Resort & Spa destination plus a $2,000 prepaid card. Each week during the sweepstakes, a lucky winner will get a four-night stay for two at an eligible all-inclusive AMResorts location plus a $1,000 prepaid card.

    You can read more and enter to win in our full post about the Vacation in Paradise sweepstakes.

    Related: 13 mistakes to avoid at all-inclusive resorts

    Your Extras

    Your Extras is a program that provides extra perks on point-eligible stays that include a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday night. Specifically, U.S.-based travelers can current choose one of the following perks for each weeknight stay:

    • 400 Choice Privileges points (doubled at Cambria hotels)
    • 100 airline miles
    • $0.20/gallon in Fuel Rewards
    • $2.50 Amazon credit (doubled at Cambria hotels)
    • $5 Starbucks card (doubled at Cambria hotels)
    • $2.50 Uber trip discount (doubled at Cambria hotels)

    To get a perk on eligible weeknight stays, you must select the Your Extra that you want in your online Choice Privileges account. However, once you’ve chosen a Your Extras choice, this choice will apply to all future stays. Luckily, you can change your preferences at any time using your online account.

    Related: Register for and maximize Your Extras at Choice Hotels

    Diamond elite status jump

    Choice Privileges’ top-tier Diamond status doesn’t provide many elite perks. But, it does provide a significantly higher elite point bonus on paid stays. So, if you stay with Choice frequently, it may be worth using Cambria’s Diamond Elite Status Jump to boost your status.

    To boost your status, you must complete a qualifying stay at a Cambria hotel. Then, send an email to Status_Match@choicehotels.com with the following information:

    • Your Choice Privileges number
    • Proof of your elite status with another major hotel loyalty program
      • A copy/photo of your membership card showing expiration date or a copy/screenshot of your current account statement showing your elite status
    • A copy/screenshot of your Cambria folio/receipt for a stay completed within the last 12 months

    If your qualifying stay or request is between January and June, you’ll obtain Diamond Elite status for the current year. But, if your qualifying stay and request are both between July and December, you’ll get Diamond Elite status through the end of the following year. You aren’t eligible for this promotion if you received a status match or elite status upgrade in a previous calendar year.

    Related: On the hamster wheel of chasing hotel elite status? Buy it instead

    3-night Bluegreen Vacations stay for $199

    You can book select Bluegreen Vacations locations through Choice Privileges. You can even use Choice points to book Bluegreen Vacations properties. But, if you’re willing to sit through a two-hour timeshare presentation and tour, you can get a three-night Bluegreen Vacations stay, plus 20,000 Choice points or a $100 Mastercard Reward Card for $199.

    I took advantage of a previous deal to stay at Bluegreen Vacations Fountains in Orlando, Florida. The Bluegreen Vacations timeshare sales presentation wasn’t high-pressure. But, this current three-night offer isn’t the best you’re likely to see. And, I found it difficult to book a stay at the Bluegreen Vacations property I wanted.

    Finally, note that you must meet specific criteria, including income, residency and credit score requirements, to be eligible for this offer. So, carefully consider whether this is the deal for you before calling to claim this offer.

    Related: Why timeshares aren?t always a scam

    Featured image of Bluegreen Vacations Fountains in Orlando, FL by Katie Genter/The Points Guy

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  • Tom Stoppard and the Last Crusade (8437 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 08:00:00 -0500Tom Stoppard and the Last Crusadekottke.org

    Hermione Lee has written an authorized biography of playwright, screenwriter, translator, and man of letters Tom Stoppard, called Tom Stoppard: A Life. It was released in the United Kingdom on October 1st and should appear in the United States on February 23, 2021.

    Here’s an excerpt from the core of Kate Kellaway’s glowing review in The Guardian:

    “He put on Englishness like a coat,” Lee writes - and one imagines a particularly dashing coat because Stoppard compensated for his reserve by being an unretiring dresser (a recent photograph shows him, in his 80s, still modishly draped). But the English coat was possibly over-buttoned. Stoppard had an exile’s gratitude to England. He found his boarding school in 18th-century Okeover Hall “paradise”. Yet Lee qualifies the received idea - an oversimplified, dismissive slur - of Stoppard as unswervingly conservative. For a start, he is too entertaining to be stuffy…

    His championing of political causes is shown to have stemmed more from empathy with individuals than from abstract ideals. His support for Belarus Free Theatre makes particularly fascinating reading, as does the account of his friendship with Václav Havel, Czech playwright and president. Havel is presented as the person Stoppard might have been had he not become an Englishman.

    Lee’s studies of the plays are masterly - especially of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966) and Arcadia (1993) - and her book will be a formidable resource for Stoppard enthusiasts. She makes a persuasive case for the importance of emotion, challenging - even in the early work - the old complaint that Stoppard is all head and no heart. Jumpers is “a sensational exercise in mental acrobatics” but also “a play of grief and love. It carries the sadness and the guilt of living in a malfunctioning marriage with a wife who is having a breakdown and it opened two days after his divorce.”

    The British edition from Faber & Faber is 992 pages long and weighs 1.33 kilograms (about three pounds). It also retails for £30 in the UK, about 40 USD (used to be more, but the exchange rate has been low—point is, it’s an expensive book). Mercifully, Knopf’s US hardcover will be only 897 pages and cost $37.50, with weight unchanged.

    It’s a big book by a biographer known for big books about major literary figures, sadly mostly dead. Stoppard is very much alive, and although quite private, agreed to sit for hours of interviews over a course of years. Lee was also able to interview Stoppard’s friends and colleagues, including actress Felicity Kendal (who starred in multiple Stoppard plays, including in roles written for her), director Trevor Nunn (in charge of three of Stoppard’s world premieres), and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

    This last might seem like an odd choice, but Spielberg and Stoppard have multiple points of contact. Stoppard wrote the screenplay for Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, and served as an uncredited ghostwriter on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In fact, not only was Stoppard not credited, the lack of credit was actually given to a pseudonym, “Barry Watson.”

    Everything suggests that Stoppard’s contributions to the film were substantial. In a brief oral history of The Last Crusade, now lost to linkrot but still preserved by the Wayback Machine, Spielberg says, “Tom is pretty much responsible for every line of dialogue.”

    Last year, narrative analyst Mike Fitzgerald broke down in detail differences between a draft version of the screenplay by credited writer Jeffrey Boam and the published draft, including revisions by Spielberg and a heavy rewrite by Stoppard. (You can actually download both versions of the screenplay on Fitzgerald’s site.) Again, Stoppard contributed not just lines of dialogue, but new scenes, a new structure, and changes in characterization.

    Vast enhancements were made to every element of the story - character, plot, pace, humor, action, tone, clarity, dialogue. The result is a markedly more coherent, charming, and enduring script that truly belongs in a museum. I suspect that, absent the final revisions, this film would have been regarded by audiences as inferior to its antecedent sequel THE TEMPLE OF DOOM in tone, wit, and entertainment value…

    TIGHTENING: The revised draft is 15 pages shorter, though material was not arbitrarily removed just to cut pages. I found 19 instances of scenes or beats being cut, 6 superfluous characters removed, several jokes deleted, and dialogue often pared down. Each of these extractions had a clear purpose to it, whether streamlining the plot, quickening the pace, avoiding redundancies, or simply that the material in question was superfluous and distracting. Note that the revised draft has also ADDED a substantial amount of new scenes, beats, jokes, and dialogue, so in order to counterbalance the new material and cut 15 pages, an ample sum of script was removed…

    DIALOGUE: One of Stoppard’s most obvious revisions is to vastly refine the dialogue, and only by reading both drafts side by side is it possible to study those differences. I would ballpark that 80% of the lines have been substantially changed.

    HUMOR: This manifests largely in the dialogue, but also in sight gags, character actions, edit points, and streamlining moments to make the jokes land with more precision. The quality of humor is also refined, by removing coarse innuendo and making the jokes smarter and less predictable.

    Stoppard was responsible for reshaping one of my favorite scenes in the film. At one point, Henry (Sean Connery’s character) was going to use Indy’s gun (down to just one bullet) to shoot at the seagulls, who would in turn cause the plane pursuing them to crash. Stoppard had Henry chase them with his umbrella instead.

    Stoppard emphasized elements of faith and history in the story. For example, he rewrote the character of Kazim, changing him from a Nazi stooge to a protector of the grail, and invented the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword.

    Stoppard also rewrote Henry’s dialogue during the cavern collapse to have him finally call his son by his chosen name, Indiana.

    One last thing: if you watch The Last Crusade now, as opposed to thirty years ago, certain things stand out. They used a lot of projected backgrounds. Those don’t look great. More substantively, the Nazis, while generally faithful to their portrayal in Raiders of the Lost Ark, plus some updates, feel pretty… thin. They’re bad guys, evil and a little scary, but you’d be forgiven if you came away from the movie thinking the problem with the Nazis was that they liked to burn books and despoil antiquities, while good people love libraries and museums. That ain’t it.

    Stoppard was born Tomá? Straüssler, in 1937, in Zlín, Czechoslovakia. In 1939, his parents, nonpracticing Jews, fled the Nazi invasion to Singapore. His father was killed in 1942 when the Japanese Air Force bombed Singapore, and Stoppard has no memory of him; Tom, his mother Marta, and his brother succeeded in reaching India, where he lived until 1946. His new stepfather, Major Kenneth Stoppard was an antisemite; his mother hid her and her children’s Jewishness to be accepted by him and his circle, now in England.

    Three of Stoppard’s aunts, all four of his grandparents, and his great-grandmother all died in the Holocaust. And Stoppard did not know this about his extended family until 1993, four years after the release of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

    It is tempting to ask, if Stoppard had been fully aware of and fully embraced his central European and Jewish roots, as he was when he wrote his new play Leopoldstadt, whether his approach to the Nazis, or the very Christian, very English themes of the Grail legend, or even the son striving to be reconciled to his father, might have been substantively different.

    In many ways, the Grail legend was perfect for Stoppard: more English than the English, but still a little resistant, a little outside the nation’s own history. A crusade, a quest, a reclamation, a reconciliation.

    Tags: biography   Hermione Lee   Indiana Jones   Steven Spielberg   theater   Tom Stoppard
  • Deep Frozen Arctic Microbes Are Waking Up (2317 characters)

    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 08:00:00 -0500Deep Frozen Arctic Microbes Are Waking UpSlashdot

    An anonymous reader shares an opinion piece from Scientific American: Permafrost covers 24 percent of the Earth's land surface, and the soil constituents vary with local geology. Arctic lands offer unexplored microbial biodiversity and microbial feedbacks, including the release of carbon to the atmosphere. In some locations, hundreds of millions of years' worth of carbon is buried. The layers may still contain ancient frozen microbes, Pleistocene megafauna and even buried smallpox victims. As the permafrost thaws with increasing rapidity, scientists' emerging challenge is to discover and identify the microbes, bacteria and viruses that may be stirring. Some of these microbes are known to scientists. Methanogenic Archaea, for example metabolize soil carbon to release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Other permafrost microbes (methanotrophs) consume methane. The balance between these microbes plays a critical role in determining future climate warming. Others are known but have unpredictable behavior after release... It is clear that the warmer we make the Arctic, the weirder it will get, as temperatures at the surface become more extreme and thawing deepens. With the coalescence of microbes reawakening from the deep and surface conditions unprecedented in human history, it is challenging to assess risks accurately without improved Arctic microbial datasets. We should pay attention to both known unknowns, such as antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and unknown unknowns, including the potential risks from the resurrection of ancient and poorly described viral genomes from Arctic ice by synthetic biologists. For all of these reasons, we must come up with guidelines for future Arctic research. As travel through the region increases, the likelihood of pathogen export and import rises as well. The planetary protection guidelines that space agencies follow to prevent interplanetary contamination can provide a framework for how microbial investigation can safely continue. Biosurveillance measures must be put into place to protect communities in the Arctic and beyond. As the Arctic continues to transform, one thing is clear: as climate change warms this microbial repository during the 21st century, the full range of consequences is yet to be told.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 07:05:00 -0500G-20 summit opens as leaders urge united response to virusWorld: World News, International News, Foreign Reporting - The Washington Post

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    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 07:00:00 -0500Doctors and nurses want more data before championing vaccines to end the pandemicBusiness News, Financial News, Business Headlines & Analysis - The Washington Post

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    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 05:00:00 -0500T-Mobile Becomes First Carrier To Enable 988 Number For Mental Health ServicesSlashdot

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    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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    Sat, 21 Nov 2020 03:34:00 -0500She fled Ethiopia?s fighting. Now she warns of ?catastrophe?War Zones: War News, Coverage, Analysis & More - The Washington Post

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