© Glendon Mellow, The Flying Trilobite

Is somebody watching Tim Minchin’s cholesterol?

timminchin21109I don’t fall in love as often as I used to. When I was young, I ran into something new to love every time I turned around. Like Kurt Vonnegut, like fresh guacamole. Like sex with others, like Richard Dawkins.

Like deeelicious sentential ambiguity.

I find myself falling in love a lot less often at middle age. I need to be surprised, and it’s hard to do that to me anymore. Everything seems derivative. That’s bad, because though some of my old loves (like sex and guacamole) have staying power, most lose their luster with time. I’m still friends with some of my early loves, like David Hume and Tower of Power, but we don’t bump uglies as much as we used to. I need new meat, and I go years at a time without finding anything worth stalking.

But in 2009 alone, I fell for three very promising things: coconut red curry beef, Radiolab, and Tim Minchin.

I don’t like the fact that the things I love are finite. Peek under the religious impulse and I think you’ll find that exact thing — an answer to the human yearning that shit be mortal and the good eternal. When I first recognized Radiolab as my soulmate, I downloaded the complete podcast archive of 63 shows. A few quick calculations later, I realized that 63 was a finite number and wept. I’m now halfway through that archive, and that realization still sniffles a bit every time I finish an episode. They’re making more, but too slowly.

My wife Becca is also said to be mortal. I’ve made her promise to outlive me, something that required less arm-twisting than I would have liked.

I’m not the only one in this house who hates impermanence. I blogged last year about my youngest, Delaney, hearing that Dr. Seuss was no longer alive:

Erin (9): Is he still alive?

Dad: Who?

Erin: Dr. Seuss.

Dad: Oh. No, he died about fifteen years ago, I think. But he had a good long life first.

As I continued reading, I suddenly became aware that Delaney (6) was very quietly sobbing.

Dad: Oh, sweetie, what’s the matter?

Delaney: Is anybody taking his place?

Dad: What do you mean, punkin?

Delaney: Is anybody taking Dr. Seuss’ place to write his books? (Begins a deep cry.) Because I love them so much, I don’t want him to be all-done!

I scanned the list of Seuss books on the back cover. “Hey, you know what?” I said. “We haven’t even read half of his books yet!”

Feeble, I know. So did she.

“But we will read them all!” she said. “And then there won’t be any more!” I had only moved the target, which didn’t solve the problem in the least.

Which brings me to Tim Minchin’s cholesterol.

Tim is a British-born Australian comedian who (like most great, original comedians) makes that word look flimsy and inadequate. I found him earlier this year through his nine-minute beat poem “Storm.” I listened to it, found it unbelievably smart and funny and posted it on the blog, and then let busyness keep me from finding and having my way with everything he has ever done.

Last week I came across “Storm” again, re-swooned at it, then downloaded the whole live CD on which it appears.

Holy Shi’ite.

If a 15-track CD — music, comedy, whatever — has three good, two great, and one brilliant track, I count myself lucky. Double each of those at least and you’ve got Tim Minchin’s CD Ready for This?

Since surprise is so much of the thrill, I won’t try to describe any of them specifically. I’ll just say that his vehicle is the comedy song, that his musical chops as both composer and piano performer are insane, and that his comic sensibility and intelligence make this some of the most densely rewarding comedy I have found in a long, long time looking.

It’s not all about surprise, though. Yesterday, while listening to one of the tracks in the car for the FOURTH time, I began laughing/crying so hard that I had to hand the steering wheel over to Isaac Newton for a minute. Listen to the developing intellectual and comic curve of this thing:


(I began to lose control at 2:20 and went over the cliff at 2:36. Thanks for the cards and letters.)

It goes on and on. But here’s the thing: Tim Minchin is going to die. I now have a vested interest in preventing this, or at least delaying it until after my own exit. That way I can cultivate the idea that it will be Tim Minchin who kills me in the end — me 85, driving; he 73, singing.

I had hoped for the same lifelong gift from David Foster Wallace, my favorite writer, who was exactly my age when clinical depression hung him from a rafter in his home last year. I’ll be needing Tim Minchin to stick around longer than that — at least twice as long as his great-great-great-great uncleses and auntses, as he would put it. That’s why I hope somebody is watching Tim’s cholesterol and holding his hand to cross the street (TIP: Traffic in the U.K. goes the wrong way!)

I’m a selfish bastard for even asking these things, really. David Foster Wallace didn’t owe me anything after Infinite Jest — didn’t even “owe” me that — and if Tim Minchin never writes or performs another thing, Ready for This? is plenty.

One of the most unexpected gifts on the CD is the last full song. Titled “White Wine in the Sun,” it’s a straight, simple, moving anthem of the humanist heart — more powerful than any other musical expression of its kind that I’ve heard. And I want it played at my funeral — live would be nice — after which, and only after which, Tim Minchin has permission to die.

Download “Ready for This?” from Amazon
(Note to my brothers: You’re getting a copy for Krismas, so don’t click.)

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This was written on Sunday, 22. November 2009 at 14:58 and was filed under critical thinking, death, humor, Science, sex. You can keep up with the comments to this article by using the RSS-Feed.

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  1. Add me to those who want to make sure he’s eating his Cheerios. I’ll go for “bring your canvas bags” at my funeral, though. 😉 Chances are good I’ll outlive him, since I’m female and he’s 5 days my senior. Why does sharing a birth month and year make me feel a heightened sense of kinship? Gah, I’m such a granfallooner…

    Comment: spark – 22. November 2009 @ 5:09 pm

  2. Ten pts to Spark for the Vonnegut ref!! That’s from a book published the year I was born — granfalloon #2.

    Comment: Dale – 22. November 2009 @ 5:32 pm

  3. I so love Tim Minchin. Have you heard the “Peace Anthem for Palestine?” Great song. I do think my favorite is “If I didn’t have you”. I tell my wife all the time “You fall within a bell curve”

    Comment: ondfly123 – 22. November 2009 @ 7:58 pm

  4. The other thing is, it is entirely worth it to find and watch his videos. His facial expressions are priceless

    Comment: ondfly123 – 22. November 2009 @ 8:00 pm

  5. I followed your earlier link to the poem Storm, and had approximately the same reaction to Tim Minchin that you describe in this blog post. Thanks for turning me on to him!

    Comment: lcrowely – 22. November 2009 @ 10:37 pm

  6. Hat tip for the recommendation! Currently working my way through his “So Rock” and “Dark Side” albums — insanely brilliant.

    If you enjoy Tim, you may also be interested in the stand-up comedy shows of Ricky Gervais, him of the superb British “Office” series.

    Comment: Theo – 23. November 2009 @ 7:46 am

  7. Thanks Dale! Yet again, you have introduced my family to a true gem! Will be buying this soon for sure!

    Comment: NyssaBurks – 23. November 2009 @ 7:27 pm

  8. you turned me on to tim minchin in your last post with storm. i think my favourite (of many, many, many) is ‘not perfect’ funny, and moving. wheeeeeee!

    Comment: xianart – 25. November 2009 @ 5:15 pm

  9. Wow, I think I’m in love too. Tim Minchin is brilliant. Thanks!

    Comment: Dolciani – 25. November 2009 @ 8:44 pm

  10. […] I get distracted and forget to do so. I was reminded of this intention on my part this evening by this entry at The Meming of Life in which Dale McGowan talks about his selfish desire to not allow Tim Minchin to die until after he […]

    Pingback: Tim Minchin’s song ‘White Wine in the Sun.’ « Stupid Evil Bastard – 26. November 2009 @ 12:36 am

  11. Hilarious – had to play it for the husband, was laughing so hard. A bizarre mix of Eddie Izzard and Weird Al Yankovic. Dale- I think you’ve spawned a new set of Minchin fanatics.

    Comment: downfroggy – 29. November 2009 @ 11:26 am

  12. That’s the idea. He’s huge in the UK and Australia, but still relatively unknown in the States. I want to help pave the way for his inevitable foray into the US market. Help me by forwarding links to friends and telling them to do the same.

    Atop my Christmas/B-day lists are “Rock n Roll Nerd,” a documentary about his climb from obscurity (apparently available dammit only in Australia), and “So Fucking Rock,” his latest live DVD (available dammit only in the UK). Come on, honey, buy me fancy foreign entertainments!

    Comment: Dale – 29. November 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  13. Oh. My. Word. Listen to this.

    Comment: Dale – 30. November 2009 @ 3:15 pm

  14. I just checked Infinite Jest out of the library, and read the first 15 or so pages last night. Dale, I’m curious: how long did it take you to read it? Although I normally devour books, I can tell that this one is going to require more effort than most.

    Comment: codysmom – 03. December 2009 @ 8:26 am

  15. It took three months, reading nothing else. It does take effort. For a certain kind of reader (me), the effort is richly rewarded. For others, including many of greater intelligence and sense of humor than moi, it just isn’t worth it. You should have an inkling by page 15, which I believe is the end of the interview scene, on the floor of the restroom, yes? If you can put it down at that point, you probably should. Life is too short to read books that don’t grab you.

    Comment: Dale – 03. December 2009 @ 8:35 am

  16. That’s how I feel about you!

    Comment: KristenMary – 03. December 2009 @ 9:33 am

  17. @KristenMary: Too nice! Off to the gym I go then…

    @ondfly123: After hearing this one about 20 times, I’m convinced that I’m just saying, I don’t think you’re special / I mea…I mean I think you’re special, but you fall within a bell curve” is one of the greatest comedic moments of all time. He’s doing at least four things at once there, and so brilliantly. Don’t get me started, or I’ll spend pages and pages of Internet on this one song.

    Comment: Dale – 03. December 2009 @ 9:46 am

  18. @ Dale, re comment #15: I’ve made it to page 55 now and consider myself hooked. Judging by this book, I’m guessing that you’ve read James Joyce’s Ulysses, am I right? I’m not brave enough to tackle that one yet. Also, although I agree with your last sentence, I’m still inexplicably slogging through the bible (stuck at 1 Chronicles for awhile now . . .)

    Comment: codysmom – 03. December 2009 @ 1:55 pm

  19. @codys: Nope, haven’t read Ulysses. I actually have permission from an English prof friend of mine to skip it.

    And hey, congrats on getting to Chronicles! I give you permission to skip to Ezra and not feel too bad, since Chronicles is mostly a rehash of Samuel and Kings. On the other hand, Chronicles digs into whether or not God continues to care about his creation, so there’s that.

    Comment: Dale – 03. December 2009 @ 2:12 pm

  20. At the very least it’s good for curing insomnia . . .

    Comment: codysmom – 03. December 2009 @ 3:52 pm

  21. Wow. Freaking incredible artist! “White Wine in the Sun” brings me to tears every time and “Not Perfect” just leaves me in awe.

    Does anyone know where I can get his previous works? I can listen to them through grooveshark.com, but I want to buy a copy for the car, etc…

    Comment: Thranil – 10. December 2009 @ 10:29 am

  22. @Thranil: The entire Ready for This? album is on iTunes. The rest are so far pretty inaccessible unless you are in Australia or the UK.

    Comment: Dale – 10. December 2009 @ 10:59 am

  23. Yeah, I got the one off iTunes… pining for the rest…

    Comment: Thranil – 10. December 2009 @ 11:19 am

  24. Hey Dale — just catching up on my backlog of blog reading after giving birth to our first freethinker (woo woo!) and visiting family in the US for Xmas…

    Paul and I love another musical comedy artist from Australia (who toured with Tim at one point) — Eddie Perfect. He’s HILARIOUS! Some of his humor is decidedly more offensive, and much of his work is political in nature, but the songs we really like of his are related to religion: “God’s Apathy”, which I have yet to find online, but it’s on one of his CD albums and is worth buying it for that song alone (but the rest of the CD is good too). And the other one we really love is “Cynical” which is on his Myspace page / you tube. It’ll give you a feel of the rest of his work. He likes to generally make fun of consumerism and politics, and he’s hilariously funny while he does it. Seeing him live is a must too — if you ever randomly get the chance. His stage persona is extremely charismatic.

    Paul and I frequently lament over Eddie Perfect’s lack of new material recently… he’s been doing some musical theatre and getting engaged… great for him, bad for us poor mortals who are desperate for new work! Ha ha.

    Hope you enjoy!
    ~Erin, Paul and our newest addition, Indra
    Expat(s) in New Zealand

    Comment: expatinnewzealand – 13. January 2010 @ 3:50 pm

  25. Oh Erin, congratulations! Indra is a wonderful, musical name. (I’ll definitely look for Eddie Perfect.)

    Comment: Dale – 13. January 2010 @ 4:13 pm

  26. It was *10 foot cock* that introduced me to Tim Minchin…i hasten to add that the size of the genitalia was not the attraction, but the insight into religious stupidity. And he may be blasphemous, flippant and seemingly vapid, but is in fact a rapier of observational comedy. And youbger than me, so I am hoping he continues being insightful and entertaining until long after I’m gone.

    However, you’ve not helped this. You say

    *That’s why I hope somebody is watching Tim’s cholesterol and holding his hand to cross the street (TIP: Traffic in the U.K. goes the wrong way!)*

    If he listens to your advice, he’s doomed. He’s Australian, not a USAian. In 4Xia the traffic drives on the proper, left side of the road, as God intended!

    Comment: Gaz Hunter – 03. February 2010 @ 12:50 am

  27. You MUST see Rock n’ Roll Nerd. Do not question, just get it, get it, get it!

    And yes, let’s do our damnedest to make Tim huge in the US! YouTube is great but I want to see the man perform live. As evidenced by this post and the comments here, we Americans do “get it” — contrary to popular misconception.

    Comment: vonfancypants – 03. February 2010 @ 12:51 am

  28. Minchin comments:

    I’m going to die? WTF?! (Warning, this is a great blog, but my RT-ing it is obscenely vain): http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=3353 36 minutes ago from web

    http://twitter.com/timminchin/status/8576049367

    Comment: Brian – 03. February 2010 @ 1:01 am

  29. Dale: “Atop my Christmas/B-day lists are “Rock n Roll Nerd,” a documentary about his climb from obscurity (apparently available dammit only in Australia), and “So Fucking Rock,” his latest live DVD (available dammit only in the UK). Come on, honey, buy me fancy foreign entertainments!”

    Dale (and everyone else!) – if you’re keen on getting a copy of ‘Rock n Roll Nerd’ AND his latest live DVD (which is available here in Australia – called ‘Ready for This?’) – you can bid for it here and help out a fundraiser for a family who lost a parent at the start of the year?

    http://www.theboomeffect.org/?p=313

    SB052- Box of Skeptical Goodness – includes the DVDs and signed photos from Skeptic Zone podcasters Richard Saunders and Dr Rachael Dunlop, a kid’s book by popular scientist Dr Karl, CD of atheist-friendly music by George Hrab and more! 🙂

    Comment: Kylie Sturgess – 03. February 2010 @ 4:06 am

  30. So good to know that somebody else out there shares my obsession. Haven’t felt this way for at least two decades. I’ve exhausted everything the internet can spew forth on Minchin but that doesn’t stop me from still searching into the early hours every day. Sophistry, inter-textuality and self-hypocrisy in this measure only comes along once in a life time. I loved the comment on Richard Dawkins site that said that Minchin had clearly sold his soul to the devil to acquire that level of talent and brilliance. So maybe the devil will look after his cholesterol as well. Stells

    Comment: stelladessoy – 03. February 2010 @ 5:50 am

  31. Delighted to see Timself chiming in (#28) via Twitter, since he’s the one closest to his intake of sat-fats and salt. (Thanks Brian!)
    @Gaz: Yes. Self-aware US-centric buffoonery is one of my fave postures.
    @Kylie and @vonfancypants: I did get R&R Nerd for Christmas. It only plays on my laptop, but it’s all I did on Christmas afternoon.

    Comment: Dale – 03. February 2010 @ 6:46 am

  32. I so love Mr. Minchin. His music is therapy for me when I am at a playdate with my child and am being grilled by a fellow mom about why I don’t go to church.

    I went to the UK this fall to see Ready For This and it was worth every one of those 5,000 miles. He was amazingly friendly and genuine when I met him. He is supposed to be coming to LA for a few months this year and he did tell me that he would come to Seattle but no mention of when. Hopefully he will be in the US before too long.

    @Thranil Almost all of his DVDs and CDs can be ordered from his website. RocknRoll Nerd and a few other DVDs which he appears in can be ordered from Madman.com. You may have to set your computer to Region 2 to view some of the DVDs.

    Comment: jetcitygirl – 05. February 2010 @ 2:23 am

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