Thursday, January 28, 2010

The REAL Top Movies of All Time

Yeah, yeah, yeah -- "Avatar" is now the top-grossing movie of all time. (It hasn't gotten my $13 yet, but I expect it will this weekend.) The problem is, ticket prices don't remain constant. So it's a lot easier for more recent movies to pass classics in terms of total box office revenues.

But The Hollywood Reporter just published a list of the Top 20 movies based on number of tickets sold, not dollar revenues.

1 "Gone With the Wind" (1939) 202,044,600
2 "Star Wars" (1977) 178,119,600
3 "The Sound of Music" (1965) 142,415,400
4 "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982) 141,854,300
5 "The Ten Commandments" (1956) 131,000,000
6 "Titanic" (1997) 128,345,900
7 "Jaws" (1975) 128,078,800
8 "Doctor Zhivago" (1965) 124,135,500
9 "The Exorcist" (1973) 110,568,700
10 "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) 109,000,000
11 "101 Dalmatians" (1961) 99,917,300
12 "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) 98,180,600
13 "Ben-Hur" (1959) 98,000,000
14 "Return of the Jedi" (1983) 94,059,400
15 "The Sting" (1973) 89,142,900
16 "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) 88,141,900
17 "Jurassic Park" (1993) 86,205,800
18 "The Graduate" (1967) 85,571,400
19 "Star Wars: Episode I" (1999) 84,825,800
20 "Fantasia" (1941) 83,043,500

In case you're interested, "Avatar" would be #26 on this list.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Funny, he never says "roll over."

A woman in England has taken to recording the things her husband says while asleep. Things like:

"Just look at yourself. Yeah, now look at me. You don't stand a chance. It must suck to be you, I'm sure."

"Yeah, falling in love is WONDERFUL. Especially when it's with me."

"I like the balloons. I want one. If I don't get one, I'm gonna squeeze one out right here, right now.... I warned you!"

"You know, with you you you, it's all me me me. Well fuck fuck fuck fuck you you you."

"My badger's gonna unleash hell on your ass. Badgertastic!"

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"The Real Americans"

Wonderfully surprised last night by a new show in previews at The Marsh in San Francisco. "The Real Americans" is the story of writer/actor Dan Hoyle's attempt to bridge a connection between secular humanist intellectuals like himself (and me, for that matter) and the flyover country where millions of Americans still believe Obama is a Muslim, the Earth was created in six 24-hour days, and the reason we can't support health care reform is because all the money to pay for it already went to illegal aliens.

Hoyle spent over three months on the road, visiting Texas, Alabama, Kansas and other parts of the heartland, listening to disaffected, angry (but usually sincere) Americans talk about the political divide in this country from their point of view. He then portrays these people with real honesty and skill. He must do at least two-three dozen different characters, making their voices and mannerisms distinct -- as well as funny, touching and real. Dan succeeds at delivering what I feel is the basis for all good theater: truth. I don't know if he recorded his conversations, or if he just has incredible recall, but the voices all seem genuine and true-to-life.

He also skewers his hipster intellectual friends (and himself), which adds to the genuineness of this piece. He looks honestly at both sides of the divide. (The socially/politically-correct dialogue he gives to these characters is some of the funniest stuff in the show.)

A couple of notes to Dan and director Charlie Varon:

- When you project dialogue on the upstage wall so that we can understand what a character with a deep accent is saying, either do a literal, word-for-word transcription, even if it's not gramatically correct or always easy to understand, or do a full hillbilly-to-English translation and make it funny that way. The in-between way you did it last night just didn't work. Same thing with the projections of the words of the last song Dan did: I imagine things are still in flux since you are in previews, but the projections should match exactly what Dan is singing.

- While we're on the subject of music...Dan can't rap. Sorry to be so blunt with it, but the opening white guy rap is so the polar opposite of Eminem that it fails to rise even to the level of Vanilla Ice. Either change the rap so that it's clear that he is mocking his lack of hip-hop cred, or cut it entirely. As it is, it's a giant rotten egg at the top of the show.

- Dan's second song isn't much either. But by the time he gets to numbers three and four, he's found his rhythm. Fix the first two or cut them.

Other than that, I'm a big fan of this show, in part because I totally identify with Dan's motivations. I, too, want to be an evangelist for reason and logic and science. I, too, respect the service of those who go to Iraq and Afghanistan. I can appreciate the desire for a little "tough country wisdom." But I'm glad it was Dan who went out and did all those interviews with all those people holding on so tightly to their ignorance; I don't think I could have been as patient.

If you live in the Bay Area, make the effort to get to The Marsh and see this terrific little show. (I also suggest Range for dinner either before or after the show.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Steampunk Goes Mainstream

The steampunk aesthetic probably traces back at least as far as the 60s TV show, "The Wild Wild West. As you can see from the video, steampunk is about marrying what we think of as modern functionality with technology from the Victorian era. The effect, to me at least, has always had a cool appeal. Others seem to agree, as the art is having its first full museum show at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, England.

Here's an item or two you can buy on

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hate and Ignorance Still Going Strong

One of the issues being addressed by the Federal Court in the case to overturn Proposition 8 as unconstitutional is whether or not gay people continue to face discrimination. The pro-Prop 8 forces actually went so far as to say that "Will & Grace" airing was a sign that homosexuality has been mainstreamed and therefore discrimination is no longer an issue.

Perhaps the court ought to look in the comments section of stories on gay issues at, a right wing website. Here are a few samples:

"How can we keep allowing someone whom is a degenerate, and lacking any moral code, to run our banking system? How can we trust them to do the right thing when they have rejected the right WAY?"

"So let's call a spade a spade--homosexuals are not equal in the eye's of Nature so why are we trying to force equality where there is none. Nature discriminates, so it is natural for humans to discriminate."

"Again it is the COMMIEQRS who promise transparency like they LIE about EVERYTHING then CHEAT you behind closed doors. Closet Queens, all of them."

"The gays have warped all things good and normal in our society. The gays do now want to abstain from sex, they heavily promote sex. The sign of the rainbow has been twisted from being a sign between God and us after the flood, to a gay symbol. June has been twisted to mean gay pride month and not the month for June brides..."

"You can get legislators to make all the laws you want you freaking freaks. But nothing is ever going to stop people from looking at you with revulsion and disgust when you are in public."

"Homosexuals lead lives of the living dead. God have mercy on them."

"Our once great country is headed for the junk heap of history, driven in great part by sexual perversion. By all means let's hear it for same sex mariage, Hell ain't half full."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Thoughts as THE Trial Begins

Opening arguments were made yesterday in Federal Court in San Francisco in the trial attempting to overturn Proposition 8. There are plenty of places where you can read transcripts and reports from the proceedings. What I want to call attention to is how easy it is for people to get distracted from the core issues of the case.

Simply put, it's about equality under the law. Nothing more.

It's not about what children will be taught in school as the Alliance Defense Fund is trying to say. It's not about malice or bad intent on the part of the pro-Prop 8 team, even though their e-mails and internal communications were part of the pre-trial discovery process. I don't care if the anti-equality folks' hearts dripped with pure evil and they rubbed their hands in glee and said "exxx-cellent" as they plotted in their back rooms. It's not even about the rights of Californians to decide for ourselves what "marriage" will be.

The only question that should be at hand is, is it constitutional to deny the rights of civil marriage to any two people who are also willing to take on its responsibilities? Does the US Constitution allow you to treat one group of people differently from another?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Will Rationality Reign?

In a column in this week's Newsweek, Ted Olson, the conservative lawyer who, along with David Boies, is leading a suit brought in the federal court (ninth circuit) to overturn Proposition 8 on the grounds it violates the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

In this piece, Boies does what few on either side of the issue have done: eliminate emotion and fear-mongering and name-calling and focus strictly on rationality and legal precedent. He even uses an argument that I have been pushing for years, comparing sexuality to handedness.Read the whole piece, but here are a few highlights:

"Subsequent laws and court decisions have made clear that equality under the law extends to persons of all races, religions, and places of origin. What better way to make this national aspiration complete than to apply the same protection to men and women who differ from others only on the basis of their sexual orientation? I cannot think of a single reason—and have not heard one since I undertook this venture—for continued discrimination against decent, hardworking members of our society on that basis."

"The second argument I often hear is that traditional marriage furthers the state's interest in procreation—and that opening marriage to same-sex couples would dilute, diminish, and devalue this goal. But that is plainly not the case. Preventing lesbians and gays from marrying does not cause more heterosexuals to marry and conceive more children. Likewise, allowing gays and lesbians to marry someone of the same sex will not discourage heterosexuals from marrying a person of the opposite sex. How, then, would allowing same-sex marriages reduce the number of children that heterosexual couples conceive?" (This is another point I've made to opponents of marriage equality when they say, "every child deserves a mother and a father." I ask them, how does denying marriage equality increase or decrease the number of children growing up on mother/father homes? No one has had an answer -- because there isn't one.)

"(W)hile our Constitution guarantees the freedom to exercise our individual religious convictions, it equally prohibits us from forcing our beliefs on others. I do not believe that our society can ever live up to the promise of equality, and the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, until we stop invidious discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

"If all citizens have a constitutional right to marry, if state laws that withdraw legal protections of gays and lesbians as a class are unconstitutional, and if private, intimate sexual conduct between persons of the same sex is protected by the Constitution, there is very little left on which opponents of same-sex marriage can rely. As Justice Antonin Scalia, who dissented in the Lawrence case, pointed out, "[W]hat [remaining] justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising '[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution'?" He is right, of course. One might agree or not with these decisions, but even Justice Scalia has acknowledged that they lead in only one direction."

The case begins tomorrow. Let's hope the justices are as rational (and as committed to the Constitution's requirement for equal treatment under the law) as Mr. Olson is.

Sunday, January 03, 2010