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Posts Tagged ‘tim minchin’

– A translation of the faux-controversial phrase “Merry Christmas”: “I am offering you good will in a way I know how“.

This is a very unsettling article about the not-too-distant future, and I profoundly hope it proves to be accurate.

– Good to see Obama’s not slacking off at all after winning that Nobel Peace Prize.

– Hairy comedy music god Tim Minchin wrote and performed a new song about Jesus for the Jonathan Ross show recently. It wasn’t included when the show aired. Whether or not the reason for this, as is widely suspected, was due to some ITV exec’s utterly pifflesome and bollocksful fears about offending religious people is not entirely clear. But it’s a cracking song. And you can watch it here.

 

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Stop whatever you’re doing.

If you had an urgent appointment to get to, you now have an urgenter one.

If you’re operating heavy machinery, it’ll probably be able to look after itself unsupervised for ten minutes.

If your children find a drawer of sharp things and start playing, remind yourself that the world they would have grown up in is a cruel place which they would do well to escape.

The animated movie version of Tim Minchin’s skeptical anthem Storm has been released onto YouTube.

I first encountered Storm, if I’m not getting my chronology muddled, in December 2008, at the first of Robin Ince’s now regular godless Christmas shows at the Bloomsbury theatre. It had overrun substantially, we were all getting a bit restless, I was starting to worry about missing the last train home – and Tim, given all this, said that he thought he’d read us a nine-minute beat poem.

At the time, I thought that was a joke.

As it happens, I’m fairly sure that DC Turner and Tracy King must have been at the same event, also seeing it for the first time, and being stirred into action even more vigorously than I was. It took a while to make it all happen, but this fantastic labour of love was previewed at last year’s TAM London (in almost finished form), and now release day is finally here.

That should be ample to keep you going for now.

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– The 48th Humanist Symposium is now up, and I’m in it again, with my rant about Leo McKinstry of the Daily Mail being a twat. Though I am now feeling ashamed that I blathered so much without ever using the phrase “impermissive deontological Othering” to describe what McKinstry was doing.

– Someone I’ve never heard of is apparently a bit mental. We all know how we feel about people who think the LHC will destroy the world – just ask Brian Cox if you’ve forgotten – but I’ve not heard military action being mooted as a counter-measure before. That’s some impressive twattery right there.

– Tim Minchin’s beat poem Storm, the perennial skeptics’ favourite, is being fully animated by a bunch of totally awesome people. You can follow their progress, and see all kinds of concept art and such, on the official production blog. I mentioned in my review of TAM London that Tim’s performance had been a highlight, and the Storm animated trailer we saw there has now been released online.

Here it is then.

So cool. And as Crispian Jago mentioned on Twitter earlier, it’s going to be interesting seeing what visuals they come up with to accompany the “bollocks for ammunition” line.

Badminton tomorrow night. Might have things to say again on Thursday.

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…I’m here saying stuff.

– Even if you’re not in the UK, you can sign the national petition for libel reform. Libel law in England is hideously stifling, and is becoming a global embarrassment. Parts of the US are bringing in new legislation specifically to protect people from libel tourism. Jack of Kent explains in more detail why it’s important. Go on, it’ll only take a sec.

– Hey, guess what, turns out chiropractic is still bullshit. As Harriet Hall points out, the history of the practice is 114 years of failing to demonstrate any of the fundamental principles behind it, in any way. But I’m less optimistic than she is in calling this “The End of Chiropractic”. It’s been unfounded nonsense since day one, but the lack of evidence hasn’t put the staunch fans off for 114 years. Why will a new paper saying the same things have any more dramatic an effect?

– It’s sentimental, I know, but this is the most important campaign ever. Screw that libel reform stuff. Tim Minchin needs to be the top-selling record in the country this Christmas. This is the song that came within a lolcat’s whisker of making me cry when I saw him perform at TAM London.

– And today’s xkcd depicts what is almost certainly the cutest stick-figure baby ever drawn.

Happy weekend.

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A little background first, for those unfamiliar with what exactly is going on here.

The James Randi Educational Foundation is an organisation based out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with the intent of promoting critical thinking among the public, and trying to disseminate reliable information on subjects where credulity and irrationality abound. In January 2003, they held the first ever Amaz!ng Meeting, where 150 people gathered in Fort Lauderdale to hear a selection of prominent scientists and skeptics give lectures, and mingle with like-minded folk over several days.

The next year, it moved to Las Vegas, where it’s been an ever-growing annual event ever since. It’s expanded to include several Amaz!ng Adventures also, and this past weekend I was one of 600 attendees at the first international meeting, in London. Various awesome people spoke, lectured, mingled, answered questions, sang, danced, and fumbled comically with a number of technological hurdles.

So, the people I experienced over the weekend were as follows:

  1. Richard Wiseman compèred the whole thing, introducing each new speaker, keeping the crowd entertained with some jokes and semi-serious magic tricks while the next bit was being got ready, and covering whenever a technical hitch threatened to derail things. He did a fabulous job of being charming and (giving the illusion of) being in control throughout.
  2. Brian Cox, physicist and Supreme Allied Commander of CERN. Well, okay, he just works there. He spoke about the CERN lab, the Large Hadron Collider, and why he really believes that this kind of science is important and worth investing in. There were some great collider pics, including some of the damage caused when they broke it last year, and a more comprehensive explanation of just what went wrong than I’d heard at the time. There was also a lot of background info about particle physics, to explain exactly what it is they’re trying to do there. I’m a physics geek already, I’ve read books about string theory and quarks and extra dimensions of space-time, but I still felt like I learnt something new about the Standard Model. He’s a terrific speaker, with a real knack for making these potentially mind-mangling topics accessible and fascinating.
  3. Jon Ronson is hilarious and wonderful. In many ways, he might seem at first glance like a somewhat unlikely orator; he looks like a classic nerd, tends to hold his arms against himself a little awkwardly, and has an occasional head-nodding tic. But in actual fact, he has great stage presence and tells a hell of a story. He really knows how to make his encounters with crazy people sound touching, human, and very funny, both in print and in person, and provided some of the biggest laughs of the weekend.
  4. Simon Singh spoke about his ongoing libel case, giving some more background than we’d heard before and some interesting updates. He was also given an award by the JREF, for Outstanding Contribution To The Services Of Being A Fucking Hero. Or something like that. Seriously, I think the importance and bravery of what he’s doing, fighting for the right to speak openly and critically about scientific matters and standing as a figurehead for the campaign to change this country’s insane libel laws, is going to be looked back on with awe and amazement in years to come. He also broke the news that he and his wife are expecting their first child next year.
  5. James Randi, the man himself, who couldn’t attend the conference himself due to health issues, but appeared via a live video link-up, looking in good spirits and on fine form. He fielded some questions, and the computer equipment seemed to require mercifully little wrangling to make it happen.
  6. Ariane Sherine was an absolute delight to see in person. She seemed a little nervous at first, but not to a degree you could fault her for, given how much less often she’s done this than everyone else on the bill, and how effortlessly she was chatting with her audience within a few minutes. She told the story of the Atheist Bus Campaign, with some brilliant visual aids and musical montages. Hopeless geek crush #43729 blooms still.
  7. Mil Millington happened to be attending, and was recognisable by his hair. I love the guy’s writing, but he actually looked a little… Walter Kovacs-y. Yeah.
  8. Ben Goldacre was his usual awesome self. The bizarre details of the media’s approach to the MRSA thing in particular continues to blow my mind. I should write about that properly someday.
  9. Robin Ince hosted a comedy evening on Saturday. He chatted about Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman, as he ever does, but you could tell how thrilled he was at playing to a crowd who’ll respond with applause to names like that. The usual suspects were there: Josie Long, Christina Martin, Philip Jeays, and so forth. At times it felt pretty similar to the Night of 400 Billion Stars earlier in the year, but mostly they’re all such good company that this didn’t count against it at all.
  10. Adam Savage spoke about Mythbusters, which was fun. I’ve never really seen the show properly, but the clips I’ve been pointed to on the internet I’ve always enjoyed, and he was great to watch and listen to here. (I’ve skipped over the two acts before him on Sunday morning, because I gave myself a lie-in and didn’t get there until the start of Adam’s set. I’ve never been a huge George Hrab fan, and Glenn Hill’s name didn’t mean anything to me. He’s actually the son of one of the girls who took the Cottingley Fairies pictures, and in retrospect I would’ve quite liked to hear from him.)
  11. Tim Minchin. Holy fucking shit, Tim Minchin. Unbelievable. Highlight of the whole weekend. I mean, I knew the guy was good, but wow. He wasn’t there for long, but it was an incredible set. The awesomeness of Storm is barely diminished by the fact that I know it by heart, and the brief preview of the animated version being made looks like it’ll be fantastic when it’s finished. He did a couple of numbers I’d never heard before, which were musically brilliant and genuinely hilarious in equal measure. And his song about Christmas is perfect. Goddamn, that man is something special.
  12. Phil Plait, President of the JREF, spoke about skepticism in general, and his particular field of astronomy in particular. Much of it was a sort of preview of his latest book, Death From The Skies!, of which I picked up a copy in the foyer (along with a couple by Jon Ronson, and Bruce Hood’s Supersense).
  13. Heather and Colm, the only two people with whom I really managed any socialising. (If either of you happen to find this, say hi. I’m sorry we got separated before I could find out where to stalk you on Twitter.) I decided not to aim too high, in terms of personal expectations for social interaction. Everyone seemed nice and friendly and talkative, and I’m sure the random interruptions I would’ve loved to make to introduce myself would have been welcomed, but I’m not going to berate myself for not having the nerve to go up to any famous people off of the internet. I did fine, for me.

I guess that’s as good a link as any to some more general rumination. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting as regards the format of the evening, but from what I understand of the Vegas meetings, they’re generally in a pretty open-plan space, often with different things going on in different areas at the same time, and with various bars and other areas where it’s easy to gather and congregate when nothing big’s happening. TAM London was somewhat smaller in scale, and felt rather more regimented. Superb though all the presentations were, we did all just file in and out of the one auditorium together, and there wasn’t much going on in between except a general milling about. There were a few stalls downstairs, but nothing really conducive to natural socialisation.

In fact, Jon Ronson’s just twittered a link to this review, which makes a number of good points. I didn’t feel that everyone was being quite as isolated and monastic as it apparently seemed to Luke; I thought it was mostly just me. And I’m not sure to what extent it’s up to the organisers to get the socially awkward nerd demographic talking to people they’ve never met before, or how much it’s something we’ll just have to figure out by ourselves. But a bit more infrastructure in between the talks might be something to aim for next time. And I agree that somewhere to sit for the bangers and mash dinner would definitely have been nice, and possibly more conducive to conversation.

Anyway, that’s what I did with my weekend. I may not have been as socially interactive as some, but it got me out of the house, and I hope I’ll be able to attend an even bigger and better show next year.

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Almost finished with an article of actual substance, but I’m still not finding as much time or energy to get stuff written as I’d like.

When Tim Minchin said he’d be lightening the tone of the evening’s entertainment with a nine-minute beat poem, I thought at first it was a joke.

Nope.

The word “man-crush” kinda makes me uncomfortable, but still.

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