Dracil’s BlogJournal

April 30, 2008

Florida’s anti-evolution bill

Update: The bill has died

The NCSE has some news on Florida’s anti-evolution bill. It’s clear to anyone who’s looking at this that the proponents of the bill have ulterior motives. This isn’t about academic freedom at all. They claim that the bill will not allow the teaching of intelligent design, but their words betray them.

To begin with, their wording is rather suspicious:

“As passed by the council, the bill would require teachers to provide a ‘critical analysis’ of evolution, a phrase that the Associated Press (April 28, 2008) recognized as ‘one used by intelligent design advocates,’ although noting that its sponsor claimed that it would neither require nor allow teaching ‘intelligent design.'”

Also, as the Florida Citizens for Science put it:

“What are some examples of critical analysis of evolution that have no religious connotations and are based on legitimate, up-to-date scientific ideas?”

I would certainly love to see the answers to that. But continuing with the original discussion, Representative Alan Hays also said this:

“Too many people are afraid to even mention the theory of intelligent design.”

Wait. What? Didn’t you guys just say this bill wouldn’t allow teaching intelligent design? Then why does that even matter? Also, intelligent design is not even a scientific theory. Finally, their silence to some questions is simply deafening:

“Opponents have voiced concerns that Storms’ bill will open the door to teaching religious-based theories, like intelligent design, in public school classrooms. But Storms, one of the Senate’s most conservative members, repeatedly refused to answer questions on whether that could happen.”

This whole thing stinks of “cdesign proponentsists“. But kudos to Senators Ted Deutch and Nan Rich for speaking out against the bill, in particular Deutch for the following:

“We’re talking about academic freedom … In an abstinence-only sex education program, a teacher may wish to answer a student’s question and provide additional information that may protect a life or stop an unwanted pregnancy.”

Not surprisingly, Senator Ronda Storms slippery sloped the argument:

“I’m concerned about prematurely deflowering kindergartners and first and second graders.”

Interesting, I had no idea Storms was interested in educating kindergartners, first, and second graders about sex! That certainly says a lot about her. ;)

But I think Deutch’s argument is a good one, and I’ll start employing it against the conservatives who still naively think this issue is really about “academic freedom”.

That said, all this may end up being a non-issue since they only have two more days to pass this (Senate and House versions of the bill must agree).

Anti-Defamation League denounces Expelled

It’s about time! I think it’s saying a lot when Ben Stein (who’s Jewish) has basically been called out by the Anti-Defamation League for defaming Jews.

Anyway, they issued the following statement in their press release:

The film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed misappropriates the Holocaust and its imagery as a part of its political effort to discredit the scientific community which rejects so-called intelligent design theory.

Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people and Darwin and evolutionary theory cannot explain Hitler’s genocidal madness.

Using the Holocaust in order to tarnish those who promote the theory of evolution is outrageous and trivializes the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European Jewry.

Note that this isn’t the first time they’ve spoken out against those who’ve tried to Godwin Darwin for their own agendas. They blasted Coral Ridge Ministries two years ago for doing pretty much the same thing that Expelled‘s doing now.

April 29, 2008

The Han Man’s Burden

This thought came to me while I was thinking about some things I had read about Tibet and China recently.

It really feels that China is basically going through the same motions of European Imperialism a couple centuries ago, and they even make the same sort of White Man’s Burden-type arguments to justify their actions. Note here that I am not saying that Tibet is a colony. Though the implications of having something like a host-colony relationship while not actually being a host and colony is pretty damning in itself.

One of the arguments pro-Chinese people love to bring up is how much money their government has spent on Tibet in an effort to modernize it. Oh look, their economy is all better. That’s all great and wonderful from the outside, but how many of you have actually asked a Tibetan, is this what you want? I’d hazard to guess, probably none of you. No, this is a case of, we know what’s best for you, so you better damn well accept it. Pretty much the same thing all the colonial powers said to the countries they had taken over. Your religion is poo, ditch your false idol and worship the True God (or no god). Your ancient shrines and temples are blasphemous and a tie to the past, let’s destroy them (or make them tourist attractions). Your language is unworthy, learn OUR language! Oh stop complaining. Who cares about your self identity. You are [colonial power’s people] now! Oh, fine, you can keep your traditional dancing and singing so we can show the outside world a token bit of your culture, all nicely commercialized and boxed up for the tourists and cameras.

Sound familiar?

I’m actually reminded of the movie 300 now, as Xerxes unsuccessfully tries to get Leonidas to kneel before him. “All I want is some earth and water, as a token of your submission. Kneel to us, and all will be yours.” It’s the same thing. Denounce the Dalai Lama, accept you are Chinese (though a tiny, insignificant minority) and you will have a wonderful life.

Oh, I’m sure you can find some random anecdotes from happy Tibetans. The ones who had it bad and now have it good (isn’t that always the case? Though unfair, I’m reminded of Ephialtes). But what about the majority? Only they can truly answer this question. I’d actually be interested in an anonymous poll of all the Tibetans in Tibet (excluding all the non-Tibetans) asking their views on the Dalai Lama, modernization, the preservation/destruction of their culture, etc. Why anonymous? Because I doubt they’d be able to give their honest opinion if giving a negative opinion means they will be subject to “patriotic re-education.” Seriously, what other country in the world still does that now besides China and maybe some dictatorships and theocracies?

Another thing is how a lot of pro-China people like to say, oh we have 56 ethnic groups, and we’re all Chinese!!!! Um, yeah, that’s easy to say when you are part of the 92% Han majority. It’s stupid, dishonest, and embarrassing to pretend there aren’t problems unless the minorities agree there aren’t any problems. And by that, I mean they can say that without fear of reprisal. It’s not just the Tibetans either, take the Turkic Uighurs in Xinjiang for example. I like how the top political officer of Unit 150, who I assume is Han, said it was like the “American West”. I’m not sure that’s the comparison he really wanted to be making, as the result of the “American West” wasn’t pretty for the natives. As one Uighur put it when asked about the government, “I can’t tell you the truth. It would be illegal.”

The Chinese really need to stop copying all the mistakes made by Western countries.

Public Service Announcement: Free Ice Cream!

Filed under: events — Tags: , , , , , , — dracil @ 9:07 am

Today is Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s.

Tomorrow is 31¢ Scoop Night at Baskin-Robbins between 5-10PM.

Make sure to check that the store you’re going to is participating in the promotion!

Even Creationists think Expelled is bad

First read about this over at The Dawn Treader.  Apparently, Hugh Ross‘s Reasons to Believe has the following to say about Expelled.

In Reasons To Believe’s interaction with professional scientists, scientific institutions, universities, and publishers of scientific journals we have encountered no significant evidence of censorship, blackballing, or disrespect. As we have persisted in publicly presenting our testable creation model in the context of the scientific method, we have witnessed an increasing openness on the part of unbelieving scientists to offer their honest and respectful critique.

Our main concern about EXPELLED is that it paints a distorted picture. It certainly doesn’t match our experience. Sadly, it may do more to alienate than to engage the scientific community, and that can only harm our mission.

Even though my own crevo position differs from RTB (they believe in progressive creationism), I must say my respect for Hugh Ross and RTB has greatly increased.

April 28, 2008

Expelled’s performance: Weekend 2

If you read my entry on Friday’s numbers, not too much has changed since then, but we now have the numbers to properly compare weekends.

Looks like Expelled‘s fallen into a more regular movie trend. Unlike its embarrassing revenue drop on Saturday last week, it managed to perform like other movies this Saturday and show an increase in revenue though it didn’t buck the trend to drop on Sunday.

In light of that, a possibly better explanation is that it didn’t underperform last Saturday. Rather, it performed better than it should have on its opening day, which is probably a result of all the hype that was built up over the film. Put another way, the positive hype was not warranted and people got suckered into watching a critically abysmal film. That would also explain the drop in ratings by users after one week.

But enough talk, on to the weekend-to-weekend numbers!

Number of theaters: 1041 (-11)
Weekend gross revenue: $1,394,940 (-$1,575,908)
Weekend rank: #13 (-3)
Weekend revenue/screen: $1340 (-$1484)
Rotten Tomatoes Critical Rating: 9% (3/33) (-3%)
Rotten Tomatoes Top Critics Rating: 0% (0/13) (3 more rotten tomatoes)
Rotten Tomatoes Community Rating: 50% (321 votes) (-3%)
IMDB rating: 3.7/10 (2933 votes) (-0.4)
Boxofficemojo rating: B- (316 votes) (down from B)
Yahoo movies community rating: B- (3488 votes) (down from B)
Yahoo critics rating: N/A (None!)

It’s extremely odd that Yahoo still has no ratings by critics. Last weekend, I remarked that perhaps this was because critics did not want to be associated with this film or didn’t feel like it was worth their time. But the 33 reviews by critics on Rotten Tomatoes shows that this is not the case. Instead, I now wonder if the film’s producers or someone at Yahoo asked that the critics reviews not be put up because of the incredible discrepancy between the critics’ ratings and the users’ ratings.

Speaking of ratings, looks like they removed the poll on their Myspace page asking if Intelligent Design should be taught. I guess the 98% No and <1% Yes was too much for them.

April 27, 2008

Mama’s, FLOW: Love For Water, Isobune

So the original plan for today was going to Mama’s for brunch.  Wow, talk about a long wait in the hot sun.  I was there at 10:30, Sophia arrived at 11:15.  We managed to get inside a little before 12.  I hear the line on weekdays is pretty bad as well.  She ordered the Northern Italian M’omelette while I had the Monte Cristo Sandwich though we shared our food.  The omelette was good (I love mushrooms!) and the so was the Monte Cristo, especially with the blueberry jam.  Sophia really really loves berries so she was happy.  The red potatoes were probably the worst part.  They weren’t undercooked like the other reviewers warned about, but they weren’t anything special.  We’ll probably be back to try other stuff like the French Toast Sampler or the dungeness crab omelettes.

After lunch we rushed over to the Sundance Kabuki Theaters to catch the San Francisco International Film Festival.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to watch Black Belt so we saw FLOW: Love for Water instead.  It’s a documentary about the environmental issues dealing with water.  Big culprits are Coca-Cola and Nestle.  And the pretty common knowledge that a lot of bottled water out there is just tap water, and sometimes worse.  Mainly the film was against companies taking a free, common resource and turning it into money without regards to the impact it has on the environment/other people.  I’d say more but I dozed off in the first half of the film.  I really need to get more sleep.  There was a Q&A after the movie but it wasn’t too informative.  We skipped the panel discussion.

Also, as a general note about the SF International Film Festival.  Too many of their showings are in the daytime when people need to work, and too many films have their tickets sold out to the point you need to do the “Rush Line”.  This means you start lining up an hour before the movie, and then they sell you the tickets of the people who didn’t show up, which means you’re going to get the crap, leftover seats if you can even get a ticket, which is no guarantee.

Since we were in Japantown, we looked around for a bit.  The Kinokuniya bookstore here has expanded to the bottom floor.  They moved all the anime, manga, and gaming stuff down there.  Another notable addition was this new manga cafe called Manga Cafe Mika.  We missed the free 1 hour pre-opening special but it’s still cool that a place like this has finally opened up here in SF.  I heard this sort of cafe is pretty popular in Taiwan.  I think Sophia said the drinks inside were free too.

We had dinner at Isobune since Sophia was in the mood for sushi.  It’s a sushi boat type place.  I think the best thing there was the temaki and the grilled salmon (though the salmon was a tad salty).  Other stuff was mostly standard fare.

Obama confuses Taiwan with Thailand

台灣泰國不分 歐巴馬演講出糗

Obama’s Pennsylvania primary speech

Bad Obama bad.  No cookie for you.

“We’re here because of the more than one hundred workers in Logansport, Indiana who just found out that their company has decided to move its entire factory to Taiwan.”

Except reporters from HK’s Ming Pao newspapers discovered that while they did indeed relocate their factory, it was to Thailand, not Taiwan.

April 26, 2008

Expelled’s Performance: Week 2, Friday

I must confess, I woke up this morning with a nightmare. I dreamed that Expelled had somehow made $178m yesterday, taking the #2 spot (first spot was $180m).

Thankfully, it was just a dream, and Expelled has actually been dropping like a large one. But what exactly’s dropped? Pretty much everything. Since last weekend, we have the following changes:

Number of theaters: 1041 (-11)
Friday estimated revenue: $450,000 (-$758,748 )
Friday daily rank: #13 (-5)
Friday estimated revenue/screen: $432 (-$717)
Rotten Tomatoes Critical Rating: 9% (3/32) (-3%)
Rotten Tomatoes Top Critics Rating: 0% (0/13) (3 more rotten tomatoes)
Rotten Tomatoes Community Rating: 53% (286 votes) (0%)
IMDB rating: 3.8/10 (2630 votes) (-0.3)
Boxofficemojo rating: B- (284 votes) (down from B)
Yahoo movies community rating: B- (2971 votes) (down from B)
Yahoo critics rating: N/A (None!)

I think it’s safe to say that Expelled’s a flop.

Mamma Mia!

Filed under: personal, Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — dracil @ 10:30 pm

My first musical (in an actual theater).  It actually wasn’t bad, considering the warnings we were given.  Yeah, there wasn’t much plot but it’s more about just comedy and mindless fun and listening to the music.  My favorite song was probably Money, Money, Money because of the discordant melody and general force of the song (helps with all the dancing going on).  In comparison, the Mamma Mia song was kinda uninspiring.

One line that struck me from the show was “That’s more than enough for four weddings! And a funeral!”  Confused, I remarked at the time that that would be a good name for a movie.  Of course, it’s been done.  14 years ago in fact.  I think I even saw it.  I guess the existence of the film was lingering in my subconscious but my consciousness, not understanding, came up with that explanation.  At least now I know this bit of trivia.

The best part of the show was when a kid shouted “I do, I do” near the end during the pause before the actress could say her line.  Everyone started laughing.  It’s a testament to how easy it was to get caught up in the show (there were some standing ovations after the show).

Though I have to admit I felt my consciousness slipping away a few times during the musical, but that’s due to my lack of sleep, not because the musical was bad.  We didn’t pick up anything after the show either, but I did donate $5 to their AIDS cause (there were some nice stuff available if you were willing to donate more, like aprons, or signed posters, or a unique signed poster prop).

Our balcony seats (the cheapest available) weren’t bad either and we had a nice clear view.

Before that, we had lunch at Kumako Ramen, which is ranked #23 on Joyce’s list, but we were discussing how several of the top 10 have closed down so the ranking may actually be better now.  We both had the special of the day, the hiyashi ume ramen, which was chilled plum ramen.  I picked it ’cause it was rather warm down in San Jose so I didn’t want to eat something hot.  It was decent, but if it wasn’t for the fact we were using a $10 gift certificate from restaurant.com which cost us $0.90 (use GOURMET as the coupon code right now to get 70% off) we think it would be kinda overpriced.  Her parents thought the gift certificate thing was a scam, but we can confirm now it isn’t.  :)  One thing to note about the gift certificates is that you can only use it once per party per month per restaurant.

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