If you’ve been reading this blog since about this time last year, you’ll know that one of my personal heroes is Tim Minchin and that I love his Christmas song, White Wine in the Sun. It is my favourite Christmas song, bar none.
This year it’s been freely given to an Australian Christmas compilation CD, with proceeds due to go to the Salvation Army. Whatever your opinion of the homophobic proselytising paramilitary religious organisation, they have stunned most observers by complaining publicly that the song does not meet with their ideals. Apparently they’ve chosen to put their proselytising above their charity work. It beggars belief, if you’ll excuse the pun.
Here’s an excerpt from an interview that Tim gave recently on the matter that I thought worth sharing:
Your song “White Wine in the Sun”, which includes lyrics critical of Christianity, caused controversy last week in Australia when it was used on an album of Christmas songs sold to raise money for the Salvation Army. What’s your take on the fuss?
I think the Salvos are idiots. I didn’t know they would benefit from the CD, but by the time I found out I didn’t want to make too much of a fuss. So I gave my song free, then they turn around and say that they don’t agree with the sentiment of the song. Obviously, they are talking about how I think Jesus is not magic. Part of me is hugely outraged by what imbeciles they are, to bite the hand that feeds them and put their proselytising above charity.
It’s a terrible paradox that most charities are driven by religious belief. I believe very strongly in giving only to secular charities, because I don’t think there should be a back end to altruism. I won’t make this mistake again. I tweeted that if people want to buy my version of the song independently, I’ll give the proceeds away, as I did last year, to the Autism Trust, a non-proselytising charity.
Christmas means much to billions of people who don’t believe in Jesus, and if you think that Christmas without Jesus is not Christmas, then you’re out of touch, and if you think altruism without Jesus is not altruism, then you’re a dick.
This is the version that will be on the CD, sung by Kate Miller-Heidke:
A beautiful version, isn’t it?
Here is the tweet that Tim talks about in the interview above. From 21-Nov to 1-Jan you can buy the song from iTunes for the princely sum of 79p (or equivalent) and proceeds will go to the National Autistic Society, following this recent update.
In about twenty minutes my taxi will arrive to take me to the train station, which with then whisk me into London for the start of TAM London 2010, taking place at the London Metropole Hotel.
To say I’m excited is a bit of an understatement. Last year saw the inaugural TAM London, the first ever Amaz!ng Meeting event to take place outside of the US. It was a resounding success and was attended by people from all around Europe from all walks of life — some of whom were household names. During that weekend I made a number of friends, most of whom I have been in regular contact with ever since. Many of us have subsequently joined or started skeptic groups in our own communities and have become more active in our fields of interest.
This year the event is taking place in a bigger venue, as there are far more people attending, and I’m looking forward to seeing those same friends again this weekend, making new ones, enjoying the talks and performances — particularly the world première of Tim Minchin‘s Storm movie — as well as the chance to chat with and get to know people during the breaks.
If you’re a skeptic, atheist, humanist, secularist, or scientist, then the opportunity to commune meaningfully with like-minded people is not to be underestimated.
After all, who said only the religious get to have a social life and sense of community?
The regular reader of this blog already knows that I’m a huge fan of Tim Minchin. So for some pure, unadultered, politically-incorrect fun, enjoy the following music video (probably not recommended for little ears):
Hat tip to PodBlack Cat.
Many news outlets of the less credulous persuasion are talking about the upcoming national (UK) protest against the household name of Boots the chemists who happily sell homeopathic products even though they are aware there’s no proof they work.
As the Director of Professional Standards for Boots himself said:
There is certainly a consumer demand for these products. I have no evidence to suggest they are efficacious. It is about consumer choice…
On one level I can understand the free market, capitalist ideal of “There’s a market for it and people are willing to buy, so what’s the problem?” The problem, of course, is that some people who are seriously ill will turn to expensive tap water instead of seeking actual medical advice or treatment.
‘Natural selection,’ you may cynically retort… but now imagine that person is your grandmother.
As the legendary Tim Minchin says in his excellent beat poem, Storm:
You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine.
It’s as simple as that. Unless you’re some kind of conspiracy nut (“they are hiding the truth”), a deluded fool who thinks reading a few pseudo-scientific layman blogs qualifies you to know more than proven, peer-reviewed science (particularly meta-analyses of methodologically-reliable scientific studies), or think you have an open channel to some kind of supernatural force.
If you’re not familiar with the ‘theory’ of homeopathy, it consists of finding an agent that, when swallowed, generates symptoms that resemble the patient’s symptoms (e.g. food poisoning and Ipecac Syrup both induce nausea), dilute it to the point where there’s statistically no chance of a single molecule of the agent remaining, banging it a specified number of times to shake it up, and then believing that such super-dilution magnifies the healing properties, because it somehow remembers the life force (or something) of the original agent. Again, I refer to Storm:
Water has memory! And while its memory of a long lost drop of onion juice is infinite, it somehow forgets all the poo it’s had in it!
Homeopathy is magical thinking based on poor science, logical flaws and unsupported assumptions. It’s water. I suspect the two main reasons that homeopathy is so popular is because its methodology sounds similar to the principle behind vaccination (a small amount of an antigen is given, allowing the body to generate antibodies) and because major, trusted retailers sell it alongside actual medical treatments.
And this last point is what the 1023 Campaign in the UK is addressing:
At 10:23am on January 30th, more than 300 homeopathy sceptics nationwide will be taking part in a mass homeopathic ‘overdose’.
The closest protest to me is taking place in Oxford, and is being run by Skeptics in the Pub (Oxford). If you’re nearby and interested in attending, please visit the event’s page:
More importantly, please contact Rosie (on the above page) to let her know you’ll be attending. You’ll also need to bring along your own Boots brand 30C homeopathic remedy pills.
Let me make this perfectly clear: this is a peaceful, harmless protest against a company that has a business practice that some of us consider unethical or harmful, it is not against government or other authority. Leave your politics and Guy Fawkes masks at home.
Why 1023? How’s your middle/lower school science memory? Avogadro’s Constant! A fitting use for it, I think.
Update: It appears this campaign has gained some momentum, with various skeptical groups worldwide planning their own ‘homeopathic mass overdoses’ this coming Saturday. Check with your local skeptics group, the 1023 Campaign website, the #ten23 hashtag on Twitter, Facebook or forums such as the JREF for more information.
I’m going to assume that you don’t know who on earth Tim Minchin is. And that you’re unaware of how cool a musician, comedian and skeptic that he is. And by doing that, I’m going to assume that you’ve never heard me wax lyrical about him before.
To address that travesty, I strongly exhort you to go and watch Canvas Bags and Storm. Done? Now you know Tim.
Today Tim has released a longer studio version of a track from his Ready for This? album/DVD onto iTunes, his Christmas song called White Wine in the Sun (it’s also available online from HMV, We7, Play.com, TuneTribe and Tesco). Those of you who have grown up (or even holidayed) in a hot climate in December will know that roasts, hot eggnog, and the other trappings of the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice as celebrated for thousands of years (well before Christianity co-opted them, of course), are unimaginable most years. Instead, such locations typically go for a barbecue, cold meats, salads and cold drinks.
Hence… drinking white wine in the sun.
If you’re one of the few people reading this who don’t have the album and want to try-before-you-buy, have a listen to the live version of the song here:
Now that you’ve done that, please help make it reach the #1 position in your location’s music charts by buying the song on iTunes and if you are on Facebook, join the Tim Minchin for a Top 20 Place in the Christmas Charts! group.
So why am I shamelessly shilling one of Tim’s songs? One of the answers is two (or is it one?) words: X-Factor.
How sick are you of Simon Cowell‘s latest money-magnet protégé being pumped, pushed and manipulated through to #1 in the Christmas charts year after year? Does anyone over the age of five actually think that these airbrushed, possibly Auto-Tuned, divas are actually achieving this through hard work, songwriting, talent and skill? (If you do, then you’re banned from this blog).
For the rest of you… please consider making a stand this year. Yes, I’d like you to consider White Wine in the Sun because it’s moving and honest, but also because big business has hijacked the music industry. The pre- and early-teen market are their cash cows, but what about the rest of us? I’m 37 and am limited to Scuzz or Kerrang!, Planet Rock, ClassicFM, streaming facilities like Last.fm and Spotify, and my own music collection… commercial and popular radio seems to have become largely a minefield of poo interspersed with a few islands of goodness. There’s awesome music out there being made every day, but manufactured bands are given the most airtime.
While it’s true that manufactured bands have been around forever (The Monkees and Sex Pistols are two examples) and, while they sometimes contribute positively to music and culture, they’re not even playing the same game as their contemporaries (such as The Rolling Stones and The Clash) who built their names by raw talent, long hours and hard graft. How can a bedroom warbler get onto a talent show, spend a few weeks under the spotlight, impress a mogul and his minions, and suddenly be accelerated into super-stardom? That’s not a music industry — it’s an assembly line.
If you decide that you like Tim’s work, please also consider purchasing one of his excellent CDs or DVDs. You’ll laugh and you’ll enjoy.
Edit: Added links to the new track from various online stores.
It’s been a few years since I sat in my living room late one evening watching Paramount Stand Up! (or something) on the then Paramount Comedy channel and I saw a weird-haired, mascara-wearing comic and fellow Sandgroper singing a song about canvas bags:
I find the song clever and rather moving, and it’s what resolved me to actually do what the song says, rather than just thinking about it. Within a week or so, a friend and I had chipped in and bought 20 canvas bags from Clever Baggers for ourselves and family, and to this day we both independently take our bags to the supermarket.
That video was of course my first encounter with the brilliant, talented… and slightly eccentric Tim Minchin. Since then I’ve bought his three CDs — Darkside, So Rock and Ready For This? — and have tried to make it to his shows, but to date events have conspired against me (including the Nine Lessons & Carols for Godless People show where a twisted knee prevented me going).
And this brings me to his latest sensational piece of creativity. As he talks about his wife and friends in it, it’s entirely likely to be based on fact. But regardless of the details, it’s a great beat poem called Storm:
It sums up precisely what so many of us feel inside whenever we speak to a “true believer”. And there’s not enough beat poetry anymore…
If you like his stuff, please support him by buying his merchandise — and try to make it to a show, if you can. You won’t regret it.
What-a-sad-world disclaimer: I have no affiliation other than being from the same city, having a similar view of the world, and following him on Twitter!