Dracil’s BlogJournal

May 22, 2008

Injunction against Expelled continues

Wikinews and AP

Key points:

EMI filed its own separate lawsuit against Premise in a New York state court alleging that Premise’s usage of the song is harming EMI’s ability to license “Imagine,” which has only been licensed in one film (The Killing Fields).

In court, Judge Richard Lowe, according to the Wall Street Journal, “seemed skeptical” about Falzone’s arguments. Lowe asked Falzone why the film’s producers did not read the lyrics to the song or flash the lyrics on the screen. Lawyers also pointed out that Premise Media licensed all other music in the film except for Lennon’s song.

So, they’ll probably just make them remove that segment of the movie and/or make them pay a bunch of money.  I don’t think they’ll really prevent the film from being shown in Canada or distributed on DVD.

May 21, 2008

Chicken gives birth to gecko

Ok, that’s oversimplifying it. But imagine the surprise if you cracked open a chicken egg for dinner and found a dead gecko inside.

No no, this isn’t the holy grail that Creationists have been asking for as proof of evolution (which would actually disprove evolution if found). Nor is this the result of some mad scientist’s experiment. The truth is much more… well, not exactly mundane. The lizard crawled up the chicken’s cloaca and into the oviducts where it became an egg.

As Pharyngula puts it, “I don’t know about you, but a system that muddles excretion with reproduction and that allows random lizards to crawl up your butt and squat in your oviduct doesn’t sound like great engineering to me.”

Edit: deneb7 suggested that maybe the hen was mating, and when the cloaca inverted to suck up the sperm, it sucked up the gecko along with it.  As for why an egg hen would be with a rooster, “They did it secretly when the farmer’s asleep :p”

May 19, 2008

Expelled Weekend Performance: Week 5

This will be my last weekly update on Expelled’s theater performance. At this point, it’s like watching a gazelle with its throat ripped out bleeding to death. They should just shoot it. So the next update will probably be a post-mortem. Last week’s numbers are here.

Number of theaters: 210 (-192)
Weekend gross revenue: $102,690 (-$226,146)
Weekend rank: #30 (-9)
Weekend revenue/screen: $489 (-$329)

Week 1: $3,902,920 ($932,072 weekdays total)
Week 2: $2,032,032 ($637,092 weekdays total)
Week 3: $971,048 ($292,744 weekdays total)
Week 4: $490,439 ($161,603 weekdays total)
Week 5: $102,690 + weekdays revenue

May 11, 2008

Expelled Weekend Performance: Week 4

Edit: Updated with actual numbers.  Gross revenue went up by $26,836, but its rank dropped an additional 3 places.

It’s time for yet another update on Expelled’s number. Again, I will compare with last week using preliminary numbers first and update when the actual numbers are released on Monday.

Number of theaters: 402 (-254)
Weekend gross revenue: $328,836 (-$349,468)
Weekend rank: #21 (-6)
Weekend revenue/screen: $818 (-$283)

No changes with ratings again.  Instead, here are what it has earned by week.

Week 1: $3,902,920 ($932,072 weekdays total)
Week 2: $2,032,032 ($637,092 weekdays total)
Week 3: $971,048 ($292,744 weekdays total)
Week 4: $328,836 + weekdays revenue

At this rate, it may only reach about $8m total box office (I had estimated it reaching $9m last week)

Not a good sign considering that the judge ordered the defendants to stop distributing the film while the trial is still proceeding.

May 9, 2008

Ken Miller criticizes Expelled

Ken Miller, a Catholic biology professor at Brown University, has actually written an op-ed piece for the Boston Globe.

Much of this has already been said before, but it certainly helps to have one of the most prominent people in this debate (he was a witness for the evolution side at the Dover Trial) come out and speak out against Expelled.  Naturally, the producers of Expelled don’t like him, even before this piece:

The movie also uses interviews with avowed atheists like Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion,” to argue that scientific establishment is vehemently anti-God. Never mind that 40 percent of the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science profess belief in a personal God. Stein, avoiding these 50,000 people, tells viewers that “Darwinists” don’t allow scientists to even think of God.

Puzzled, the editors of Scientific American asked Mark Mathis, the film’s co-producer, why he and Stein didn’t interview such people, like Francis Collins (head of the Human Genome Project), Francisco Ayala, or myself. Mathis cited me by name, saying “Ken Miller would have confused the film unnecessarily.” In other words, showing a scientist who accepts both God and evolution would have confused their story line.

Fascinating how Creationist’s idea of “teaching the controversy” means not showing things that would break their entire argument, isn’t it?

Since every paragraph of the piece brings up a good point against Expelled, it would be rather pointless to try quoting them or I’d end up just pasting the entire article here, so I’ll just leave it with the last paragraph.

“Expelled” is a shoddy piece of propaganda that props up the failures of Intelligent Design by playing the victim card. It deceives its audiences, slanders the scientific community, and contributes mightily to a climate of hostility to science itself. Stein is doing nothing less than helping turn a generation of American youth away from science. If we actually come to believe that science leads to murder, then we deserve to lose world leadership in science. In that sense, the word “expelled” may have a different and more tragic connotation for our country than Stein intended.

May 7, 2008

Evolution: The Musical! premiere

I actually completely forgot about it. It wasn’t until I was cleaning out my wallet that I noticed the ticket. Oops. Of course, I also didn’t remember where it was at. Rushed back home (was almost there anyway), then rushed back out. I was 20 minutes late, which wasn’t too bad.

They were asking people from the audience to come up and demonstrate their special talents. Blah. Then they asked for someone called Gabriel because they wanted to show their earlier works, one of which was about Gabriel (as in the angel from the Bible).

The actual one they showed isn’t on Youtube, but it’s available on their main site called Angel in the Outfield. If you’re lazy and just want a quick Youtube video, here’s one.

You can check out other stuff on the their site.

After that, one of the guys dressed up as Satan and asked people to come up and answer questions about their lives and see if they’re going to Hell. I think most people decided they would and were just saying yes or coming up with stuff. Only the first person kinda told the truth and actually didn’t go to Hell. :P

Their second video was Jelly Donut which is the following two videos:

They actually had Jelly Donut go up on stage after that and do some songs. There was one audience participation song about masturbation. Say mmm-mmm if you masturbate once a month, oo-oui if you do it twice a week, He-ey! if you do it every day, and basically yell out NoNoh-NoNoNoNoNo if you don’t masturbate ever. I think only one person in the audience said No. :P Quite a few actually said something for the others and they joked about the audience telling total strangers about their masturbation habits. Aside from the topic, the song was pretty catchy. Some people were dancing to it.

Their second video was some claymation they did, which was actually kinda funny (it’s NQSFW though)

There may have been something else, but I don’t remember, but after that was the main event of the night. The 38-minute long musical wasn’t bad. Well, it sort of was, but I liked some of the songs too. Definitely very cheesy. It’s basically one of those love stories between two warring factions (The Blesseds, who descended from Adam and Eve, and the Beasties, who evolved from primates).

After that, there was some Q&A with the people involved in the film. The girl who played the leader of the Beasties sounded pretty drunk. :P

All in all… this was definitely not my normal type of crowd or place (it’s a bar!). What is it with me and bars these days? I think it’s good I went alone, as I don’t think this was something most of my friends could probably stand (I probably have the crudest humor among my friends, and even this was crude for me, so…)

May 4, 2008

Expelled’s Performance: Weekend 3

Edit: Post has been updated with actual weekend numbers

Here are preliminary changes from last week based on estimates. This post will be updated on Monday afternoon when the actual numbers are out.

Number of theaters: 656 (-385)
Weekend gross revenue: $678,304 (-$716,636)
Weekend rank: #15 (-2)
Weekend revenue/screen: $1034 (-$306)
Rotten Tomatoes Critical Rating: 9% (3/33) (no change)
Rotten Tomatoes Top Critics Rating: 0% (0/13) (no change)
Rotten Tomatoes Community Rating: 50% (366 votes) (no change)
IMDB rating: 3.7/10 (3353 votes) (no change)
Boxofficemojo rating: B- (363 votes) (no change)
Yahoo movies community rating: B- (4000 votes) (no change)
Yahoo critics rating: N/A (None!)

One of the things that should catch your attention is that it’s lost over 1/3 of its theaters, and its average weekend revenue/theater also dropped (which actually isn’t that uncommon). At this rate, it’s unlikely to reach $10m. With production cost figures between $3.5-$5m and all the ads they bought for it on TV, it’s still unknown if they will actually break even from the just the box office, especially given that theaters take a share of the revenue as well. But it’s possible they will make it back from DVD sales, assuming they don’t end up simply giving a big chunk of them away again (as they are doing with schools by bribing them with $5-$10/movie ticket)

It did worse than the estimates again, dropping from $684,000 gross to $678,304, which put it in 15th place instead of 14th, and the average/theater went down by an extra $8.

The other striking thing is that its ratings have pretty much stabilized across the board and is unlikely to change significantly in the future.

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial is a must-watch for anyone interested in learning more about Intelligent Design.  Since it’s part of PBS’s Nova series, you can watch it for free online, but it’s also available by DVD if you prefer that.

The show covers the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial from three years ago, from the the events leading up to the trial to a little afterward.  One thing to note which is interesting since Ben Stein and co. don’t mention it in Expelled is just how many anti-Intelligent Design people received death threats over just this trial, including the judge and the lead plaintiff.  And that’s not including the hate mail and other forms of hateful slander they received, nor the amount of lying done by the pro-ID people, including the regular folks.  Really makes those six people in Expelled (none of who were fired BTW) seem like nothing, and it highlights the REAL side that needs free speech in the United States.  There’s a large list of people who have been fired, forced to recant, physically assaulted, and received death threats just for teaching evolution or speaking out against Creationism/Intelligent Design.  Again, not a peep from Ben Stein about it at all.

Anyway, as far as the film goes, since cameras were not allowed at the actual trial, they had to hire actors to reenact the trial proceedings, but it catches all the major events of the trial.  From how the Discovery Institute pulled out of the trial after realizing that they were about to be crushed by the scientific evidence brought on by the plaintiff’s witnesses, to the infamous “cdesign proponentsits“, to Michael Behe admitting that under his definition of a scientific theory, even astrology would be a scientific theory.  About Behe, it’s really a shame that the Discovery Institute hung him out to dry, because he was actually quite a likable guy in Flock of Dodos, and of course, he was one of the only ones with the courage and conviction to stay and fight for his beliefs.

Again, if you’ve seen Expelled, you owe it to yourself to watch this, as well as Flock of Dodos to understand what the rest of us know about Ben Stein and co.’s motives with Expelled that you may not.

May 3, 2008

Florida anti-evolution bill dies

Evolution bills die in Legislature as session ends

But it’s like the evil dead.  We all know it’s going to crawl back from the grave, so keep those shotguns and chainsaws ready.  :)

It’s funny though.  John West of the Discovery Institute actually thinks there’s some massive conspiracy and the House intentionally voted on the version with “critical analysis” so that it would be rejected by the Senate.  He even called “critical analysis” a “poison pill“.  Now hold on a minute.  “Critical analysis” is one of Discovery Institute’s favorite terms that they gladly trumpet when it suits their purpose, such as when gloating about which states now require it in their classes when teaching evolution.  In other words, he’s advocating lying to Congress about the true motives of the Intelligent Design movement just so he can sneak some bills in.

But as we have learned from the people arguing for the bill during the proceedings, none of the people there truly believe in “academic freedom”.  Otherwise they should be all too happy to extend “academic freedom” to sex education so that alternatives to abstinence are taught.  It’s also telling that they only talk about “academic freedom” and “critical analysis” in the context of evolution.  What about the rest of science?  Don’t we deserve the “academic freedom” to teach alchemy in chemistry classes, astrology in astronomy classes, phrenology in neurology classes, and Intelligent Falling in physics class?  Shouldn’t we be “critically analyzing” all these fields as well?

Nah.  That’s because all these politically loaded terms, including “Intelligent Design”, are nothing more than a trojan horse for Creationism, which the Supreme Court ruled was unconstitutional in 1987.

May 2, 2008

Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus

Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus, by Randy Olson, came out 2 years ago.  As the title states, it explores the debate between evolution and intelligent design.  However, unlike a certain other film in theaters right now, this film is actually rather balanced and funny. It treats the people it interviews with respect, even if they’re on the other side, which again, is quite unlike that other film.  I think the following quote given by John Cashill, one of the ID supporters in his film, states it perfectly:

The good thing was that Randy did not hide his biases.  You know it wasn’t like one of these fake, neutral observers.  You know, he was part of it, and we knew where he was coming from.  But he did not, what I liked, is that he did not betray anyone’s trust. I mean, he made everyone look like they thought they looked, rather than what you could do in an editing room, and turn anyone into a monster if you wanted to.

Olson even invited the ID people to panel discussions after some film showings.  Again, something in direct contrast by what Mark Mathis of the other film did. Not only did Mathis not invite the interviewees from the other side, but he kicked PZ Meyers out just so he could generate some additional attention for his film.

Of course, the Discovery Institute hated Flock of Dodos (no surprise) and even set up a website to attack Olson and the film.  Their misunderstood (which is putting it nicely, it was quote mined) complaint about Haeckels Drawing was addressed in both the Pulled Punches: Outtakes in the DVD and by PZ Meyers.  As for their complaint about misrepresenting DI’s funding?  Someone found some of their tax returns.

Anyway, this film was not hyped up and was limited to mostly single screenings at film festivals and academic settings, which is certainly a shame.  The DVD came out the same year and contains a lot of goodies, like the Pulled Punches: Outtakes mentioned above, as well as a Top Ten Questions segment, which is probably the most educational part and lasts almost an hour.

Like Cashill said, Olson laid his bias straight out, and even wore an “Evolutionist” hat in the film.  But he was fair and treated people with respect.  He didn’t try to paint the ID supporters unfairly and he didn’t hold back on his portrayal of the scientists either.  In fact, he showed that for the most part, these ID supporters were nice, likable people you could sit with and play a game of poker.  In contrast, the scientists, while they certainly knew their stuff better, were shown to be rowdy and bad at communicating their knowledge, which is one of the main points of the film.  Scientists may have the knowledge and better evidence, but if they cannot get it out to the public, they will lose to the public relations firms and sound bites employed by places like the Discovery Institute and eventually go the way of the dodos.  It’s a good film, and I’d certainly recommend watching it.

As a bonus for the curious, the top ten questions addressed in the DVD are:

1. Why is this controversy so uniquely American?
2. Can a Christian accept biological evolution?
3. Why do people fear evolution?
4. Should the bible be taught as literally true?
5. Isn’t it only fair to “Teach the Controversy?”
6. What is the difference between creationism and intelligent design?
7. Do intelligent designers practice good science?
8. What is “irreducible complexity?”
9. What is the difference between a “law of nature” and a theory?
10. Has the media done a good job with this issues?

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