A Storm has arrived

By Phil Plait | April 21, 2011 12:00 pm

If you don’t know Tim Minchin, well, you should. He is an extremely talented songwriter and performer, a major skeptic, and also very, very funny. He has a song called "Storm", what is essentially a nine-minute beat poem about an encounter at a dinner party with a woman of decidedly unskeptical thoughts. "Storm" is hilarious, and swept through the skeptic community like, well, a storm.

At the first TAM London in 2009, Tim announced that an animated short would be made to go with the song, and now it’s finally out! [NSFW language]

This is incredible work, and my hat’s off to Tim, animator DC Turner, and to UK skeptic and my pal Tracy King, who worked extremely hard to get this made. All three of them were interviewed about the work over at Mad Art Lab (NSFW language) which is well worth your time to read.

Congrats to them for getting this done, and for doing such a tremendous job on it!


Related posts:

TAM London in review
TAM London followup (links to other people’s reviews of TAM London)
– TAM London video interviews: Brian Cox, Ariane Sherine, and George Hrab

Comments (50)

  1. Not to brag or anything, I am going to see Tim Minchin in Boston on June 4th. My wife got us tickets to table #1. :)

    Forgive the bit off topic addendum. Just some news in the “it was bound to happen” category: http://vaccinesandevolution.blogspot.com/2011/04/measles-outbreak-hits-europe-most-cases.html

  2. Josie

    thank you for the lunchtime entertainment!

    The animation is spot on to the words, fantastic work.

  3. Jason

    Anyone know where a person could READ the Storm poem? Hearing loss sucks ass.

  4. Jason,

    I was about to copy/paste the words here until I remembered NSFW… Although, without the tone that goes with the words, some of the magic is lost. My condolences for your hearing loss.

    Anyway, here is a link that has the words written down: http://podblack.com/2008/12/little-kitten-lyrics-to-tim-minchins-storm/

  5. RobertC

    Bravo!!!!!!

    Excellent work.

    I intend to use the dyke holding back the NSFW (or Family) bit. I felt that, I really did.

  6. James H.

    This is fantastic. Loved every minute of it!

  7. ND

    TM is coming to Boston? Cool!

  8. Russell

    Gerrrrrraate ! post Phil !

    I am at work and my computer has no sound. Thank you #4Larian for posting the link to the words.
    I LOVE THIS!!! Don’t you just hate those “airy-fairy types” that just breeze around with complete rubbish in their heads? I meet them all the time and I will remember this post when I do.
    Although, I wish the language was nicer because I would have loved to share this with my daughter, because she loves science and logic (shes a trekie! I’m so proud! and she’s only 12 !).

  9. Russell, I wonder if she hasn’t already been subjected to worse? Granted, my daughter is nearly 15, and she loves Tim Minchin’s work.

  10. I love this guy, I wish I had the gift for words that he has. I remember his ripping Uri Geller to shreds on the show 8 out of 10 cats. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTY55BFsCDg

    Why don’t we have shows like this in the states…

  11. Quiet Desperation

    Don’t you just hate those “airy-fairy types” that just breeze around with complete rubbish in their heads?

    True, but going off on rants never works. I just ignore that crap these days. As the song says, life is longer, but as I say, it’s still too short. I have better things to do. Like Portal 2. :-)

  12. idahogie

    Great poetry.

    Tell me again why we’re not supposed to react that way to the religious.

  13. Dark Jaguar

    We’re not supposed to react that way to anyone ever around here. And yes, I’ve met a few of these annoying hippies. I don’t see why some people worship them. Their counter culture failed and they’re full of this sort of nonsense.

    That said, I haven’t met them at a fancy dinner party among socialites. Maybe things are more relaxed at those things?

  14. Jason

    Larian, +10 internets to you!

  15. Russell

    Ohh! I agree with you #12Quiet. You really cannot change their minds anyway…thay have them made up! It is soooo funny how they say “we” are closed minded because we will not go over to their way of thinking, when really “we” are so open to change !
    Scientific change that is!

  16. Naomi

    Fantastic work! I’ve been a fan of Tim’s since 2005 or so, and I love that he’s becoming a big name in the US as well as Australia and the UK :) Go Tim! Fantastic film!

  17. pingje

    The last 10s are priceless.

  18. Mike

    My wife and I are sitting here, each with a good single malt scotch in our hands, watching and listening to this.

    Logic and rational thinking, thank you.

    But the … irrational one … is a good looking wench! My wife told me I’d make a fool of myself at a party over her. She’s probably right.

    But, oh, how true, how true!

  19. Brian Too

    Worth 10.5 minutes. Don’t let the length scare you off.

  20. KyleCarm

    Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention Phil. LOVED every second of it. Great piece of work.

  21. Thomas Siefert

    I first saw Tim at TAM London 2009 and was immediately hooked. Up till that point I had pretty much dismissed sceptical/atheist/science music as being in same pathetic league as Christian rock.

    I last saw him in March where he performed in his hometown of Perth in the beautiful surroundings of the botanical garden in King’s Park.

  22. Magrathea

    I shall be brief: Wow! Yes now I feel unimportant, yet how amazing and uplifting this was!
    Great great piece of work, thank you!

  23. artbot

    That was f-ing epic.

  24. Michel

    To make “Storm” even more accessible for a wider audience, here is the standup version with spanish subtitles:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CqQvIZ_tnE

  25. Patrick

    You see I found it very good work but I have also noticed that with the same ferocity that the people who are lying or mentally ill skeptics also defend their belief. I think in a way that’s just as crazy. I mean instead of getting together because people believe in ufos they get together cause they don’t. People just gather I think for a drive to be with people of like mind

  26. Jules

    If only I could get my sisters in law to watch this!!! Tim is one top Aussie!

  27. Michel

    @Jules
    But there are ways to make them watch.
    Mindcontrol!
    Or the right crystals under their pillow.
    And you can always point a wand towards them, but that´s a last resort.

  28. Robert S-R

    My wife and I lol’ed. Thanks for sharing, Phil!

  29. artbot

    @26 – Can we officially label this the “Oprah Fallacy?” It’s the “my beliefs are just as valid as your beliefs” fallacy. No, they’re not.

    First of all, “skepticism” is not a “belief” system. It’s simply the application of scientific principles to various phenomenon. Sure, people may call themselves skeptics for many different reasons, but to equate the wrong-headedness of people who, say, think UFO=aliens from space with those who debunk odd or unusual phenomena through logic, reason & the scientific method is simply ignorant. Skeptics don’t say “there are no aliens”, they say “we don’t have enough information to make such a conclusion at this time. Bring me more data.”

    As a fairly skeptical person myself, I would like nothing more to be true than for aliens to be visiting us (or whatever fantasy you choose). For me, it’s not that I want to be right – just reasonable. Facts don’t lie, but the interpretation of facts is a pretty wide open sport for many people.

  30. Michel

    I´m always skeptical of people who say they are skeptical.
    Drives them nuts.

  31. Colin

    Why is it that those who deal in Woo are so often purveyors of more than one kind of the noxious substance? I just got done with a polite conversation with the father of one my daughter’s best friends. Due to that relationship, I had to keep the polite fiction that all ideas are acceptable. Even so, I did have to call bull on a couple easily disprovable rumors (Daddy Long Legs are the most poisonous spiders out there, but their fangs are so small they can’t pierce human skin).

  32. Michael Swanson

    Was he referring to the harvestman, which is not a spider but, in fact, an omnivorous scavenger and has no venom glands at all? Or to the squint-eyed spider, which is not a daddy long legs, though they frequently referred to as such. The squint-eye, venomous like all spiders but not dangerously so anything larger than an insect, is the only spider I almost like, since it almost never leaves its web and will eat other spiders – which all spiders deserve.

    Egad, I hate spiders! If anything could convince me of a malevolent supernatural force, the existence of spiders would be about it. Who or what, other than Darth Vader, Satan, Voldemort and antimatter-Jesus, in an orgiastic fit of meth-fueled, blackly magical savagery, could conceive of such a thing as the black widow? Other than evolution, of course, which doesn’t give half a turd whether or not something is terrifyingly evil, so long as it eats well and has lots of babies. Really, by reason of the 100 million* or so year long history of spiders, I might have to go so far as to dislike evolution itself!

    *If I look it up I might run across pictures of spiders. Not doing it.

  33. Colin

    400 million years according to my friend Wikipedia, and I don’t know which he was referring to. Either way, the rumor is bull but it was the least bull thing he had said and the easiest to contradict.

  34. Michael Swanson

    I think Minchin might be wrong, in a way, about living twice as long as his uncleses and auntses. My understanding is that the average human life span is greatly increased when measured as life expectancy at birth, as opposed to the overall life span of a relatively healthy adult who makes it out of childhood. We still live longer, but not quite as dramatically as is commonly perceived – once we live past the things that can kill us as children.

    I don’t recall where I read that, but since I read it, it must be true!

  35. Paul

    Let’s not analyse this too closely – more than anything else, Tim Minchin is all about irreverent fun. If you get the chance to see his show, do it! He is little short of a comical genius, and he comes from my home town! His music reminds me very strongly of Tom Lehrer, but I think my favourite it is “White wine in the sun” – it resonates strongly with me.

    See a selection at http://www.youtube.com/user/timminchin?blend=1&ob=5#p/u/21/fCNvZqpa-7Q

  36. ND

    and I thought it’s not a good idea to mix aspirin with alcohol.

  37. Colin

    You’d have to look at a place like Angola or Afghanistan where the average life span at birth really is half that of Australia and Great Britain. There, the likelihood of making out of childhood is an effect, but childhood and adulthood is not a binary set. The lifespan totals forms a bell curve with the central tendency hovering right around 40. In Afghanistan, there is a bump of deaths (sounds like a Seattle grunge band) in the early part of the scale, but nothing like being truly bimodal.

    The factors that are important in both of those countries are technology based, sure, but not solely health based. There is also the poor infrastructure and the violence brought on by low social equity. Looking at history, this economist named Malthus pointed out that we go through these cycles where we kill off each other for resources all the time, but that was when the resources we really cared about was real estate. Technology saved us there by making agriculture relatively easy, letting people move into the cities and stop fighting wars for property. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how great the impact of health technology was versus overall societal change wrought by urbanization because the factors are too intertwined for my poor grasp of statistics.

  38. Tribeca Mike

    Very nicely done, and deserving of sitting on the same satirical shelf as Barry Humphries’ “Barry McKenzie” movies.

    And I sure can relate to that “matrimonial warning” bit!

  39. Zucchi

    @35 — Michael, the problem is distinguishing between “life span” and “life expancy”. One is biological, the other is statistical. Even in ancient and medieval times, if you were lucky enough to survive your childhood, and didn’t get an impacted wisdom tooth, you might well live into your 80s. (In some ways, you might have a healthier lifestyle than many of us now — more exercise, less fat and sugar.)

    But child mortality and infectious disease mortality were so high that the average life expectancy was a lot lower; and the median age was a lot lower. So what modern medicine has done is that, for a theoretical average newborn baby (in the industrialized world), he or she has a much better chance to make it to that old age than an average baby a few hundred years ago (or today in the poor half of the world).

    “Storm” reminds me of a lovely hippy chick from New Zealand I met. Sweet, seemingly intelligent girl, but a believer in every kind of pseudoscientific nonsense I know of. No point in trying to argue with her.

  40. Adam

    Awesome, I’m glad he quantified his skepticism by quoting Shakespeare, referencing the Upanishads, and becoming a Buddhist in the end. But he’s right, and everyone else is stupid. Wonderful rhetoric.

  41. Tully

    I have to agree with Adam. Yes, the hippie girl is naive and annoying, but the narrator is such a holier-than-thou science blowhard that it’s difficult for me to decide which person is actually more irritating.

  42. ND

    Adam,

    Did the video hit a bit too close to home?

    Edit: Tully, well Storm started it.

  43. Tully

    Ha-ha! Very true.

    But the rabid response also makes me think of Shakespeare– and methinks he doth protest too much.

  44. Muzz

    Of course, it’d be a hilarious story if he stayed sober, bit his tongue all night and kept the evening civil while Storm spouted off. Really, all comedy shouldn’t be so confronting and opinionated, but a 50s informational film on manners.

  45. Thomas Siefert

    Tully,
    I don’t think you get it.
    The poem not so much about de-bunking hippie nonsense as about how social etiquette prevents us from speaking out against it.
    The narrator is fully aware of the negative impact he has on the people around him, even if they agree with. It’s alright to speak nonsense, it’s just not considered polite to tell people that they are completely wrong.
    How often does skeptics find themselves in a social or work situation were someone rants about the good effects of alternative medicine, ghost stories or aliens visiting us in lens flares? We really feel like going off on a rant like that.
    If it was accepted to ridicule ideas that have been de-bunked through and through, you would not have industries preying on people with silly beliefs.

  46. Paddy

    @35 – Michael, you’ve a valid point that a large share of improved life expectancy has been to do with reduced child mortality (although there has also been an increase in life expectancy over 65, over 70 etc., as well as in “senescent life expectancy”, which is the number of years you might expect to dodge the typical causes of death in old age, ignoring all causes of death which strike younger).

    However, there’s a reason he said “great-great-great-uncles and auntsies” rather than great-great grandparents. (Or however many greats it was). Because if you look at a typical and comprehensive family tree, you’ll see that quite a few great-great-great uncles and auntsies did indeed die young, and contribute to that low life expectancy. Whereas great-great-grandparents, by definition, would not have died until at least old enough to procreate.

  47. QuietDesperation

    I´m always skeptical of people who say they are skeptical.

    You should be. There are certain political ideologies that have a strong hold in skeptical circles, despite the fact that to maintain these ideologies one has to surrender their mind to complete ignorance of history and total innumeracy. It’s why I’m never really very impressed with the current main guard of the skeptical community.

    Drives them nuts.

    It’s because many know they are toeing the line of a pseudo-religion in the guise of ideology, but unless they do, *they* will get the Storm treatment at cocktail parties regardless of its validity.

  48. Synonymous

    Two issues:

    1) One of the very first impressions the author gives us of the woman is of her rear, and the very last is of her “titties.” (This is besides the “no brain, but ooh, guys, she was SMOKIN'” opening elbow in the ribs to his male listeners.)

    2) The piece in structure and tone is highly reminiscent of the following chain e-mail circulated during the Gulf War, in which a similarly picture-perfect ideological opponent is destroyed by the author at length and without objection from his target:

    http://www.snopes.com/rumors/lapelpin.asp

    No, I’m not saying it’s plagiarism; I am saying, though, that it’s calculated to hit the same knee-jerk chauvinistic receptors and, beyond its pretty animation and pat meter, isn’t much different from a dozen glurge e-mails. It’s facile, and I doubt it happened even in the broad strokes the author claims.

    This is before you add in the guy’s creepy horndog tendencies, which make it seem less like he’s disturbed by Storm’s anti-science opinions and more like needs an outlet for his apparent frustration that he won’t get to bang her. Just because I’m pro-science doesn’t mean I have to hail blindly every work expressing the viewpoint as effective rhetoric, and this is too problematic for me.

  49. Jules

    I really like Tim Minchin, but I have to agree with my predecessor here, there is just no merit to mentioning what Storm looks like other than furthering the stereotype that attractive women are stupid. I still like “Storm”, but the slight sexism bugs me.

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