Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Skeptic in the Room Unplugged!

Last weekend I had the chance to perform my song The Skeptic in the Room for the Solstice/HumanLight Party here in Sacramento. The event, sponsored by the local Atheists and Other Freethinkers (AOF) group, was well attended and very upbeat. The Mockingbirds, a local singing group, performed some lively parody carols in the spirit of the (non-religious) season.  Professional dancers Roger and Pam showed off some slick dance steps.  And my son James and I performed Skeptic. This was the first live performance of the song, and, while there were a few hiccups along the way, it was a lot of fun.  

Here's a video of our performance. If you watch it, please keep a couple of things in mind:

1.  We kind of threw this together quickly, so forgive the stumbling over lyrics here and there, and...
2.  Always remember, the camera adds ten, errrrr thirty pounds! (but, oddly, only to me, not to James.  There must be some scientific explanation for that - I suspect quantum physics or nano-particles are to blame).

If you prefer to watch the original, mistake-free version, it is here:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tim Minchin is starting to piss me off!

As is true of all communities of thought, the Skeptical Community has its well known leaders and celebrities. And, as I have immersed myself in podcasts and books and skeptical conferences over the last few years, I have come to greatly admire many of the more prominent skeptics. Many of them exhibit traits I would love to possess myself:  The erudition and facility with language of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins; the commitment and productivity of Steven Novella; the joie de vivre of Richard Wiseman and Phil Plait; the charm of Rebecca Watson; the humanity of Penn Jillette.  

But there is one skeptical luminary that inspires waves of admiring envy in every fiber of my being:  Musician and comedian Tim Minchin.  While I know I’ll never be a microbiologist or a doctor or a scientist, I am a musician and a songwriter. And, like Mr. Minchin, I try to express my skeptical outlook in my music (click here to see what is unarguably my most successful attempt at this to date). But, like Antonio Salieri in Amadeus, I find myself forced to recognize and respect the brilliance and creativity of Tim Minchin while knowing that I, alas, will never match his skills.

And its really starting to piss me off!

Mr. Minchin’s latest triumph only increases my own sense of envy.  The new Musical Comedy Matilda - music and lyrics by Tim Minchin - has taken London’s West End by storm, winning rave reviews and already racking up theatre awards. You can see a promotional clip for the show here.  It is really rare to encounter something in modern musical theater that is truly new and unique, and Matilda appears to be just that - a brilliantly conceived and executed trip into a fantastical world of childlike wonder.  Of course, not having seen the show, I’m making this judgement based on the soundtrack and the clips that are online.  But I’m pretty confident, based also on the reviews I’ve read, that the show really is pretty awesome.

So why does this new Minchin triumph cause me so much grief? Because, along with my more common musical efforts, I have always dreamed of writing a Broadway musical. I’ve begun, but never completed, several such efforts - including shows based on William Tell, on President John Tyler (yeah, that would be popular!) and on famous hoaxes and hoaxers of history. But, again alas, none has amounted to anything more than a ragged collection of songs with no coherent story line.

And so, Tim Minchin, while I applaud your success and will continue to enjoy your work, you’re really starting to annoy me. Must you really be quite so good at everything?!

On the other hand, maybe I could just use Tim as inspiration to take another crack at finishing one of my own projects.  Look out world, here comes John Tyler: The Musical!