Monday, November 16, 2009

Mission Accomplished

November 16 2009


This USA tour has recently provided me with some great reminders of why the Rap Guide to Evolution is a worthy project, even if I do sometimes get accused of being an "evangelical" for Darwin or a "scientific fundamentalist" etc. Last weekend at the Concert for Darwin my performance got a standing ovation from the evolution-defenders who fought the Dover Intelligent Design trial back in 2004. I include this detail not to self-aggrandize (a doubtful disclaimer, admittedly), but to make the general point that out of more than fifty performances of the Rap Guide in the UK this summer I didn't get this response once. The last time I got a standing O was in March in central California. I attribute the difference not to British reserve, but to their acceptance of Darwin's theory as common knowledge, an open-and-shut case. In many areas of the States, on the other hand, Darwin is either the subject of outright hostility or defensive apologetic support, but rarely of exuberant celebration.

Speaking of exuberant celebration, I got the most amazing response yesterday
from a teacher in Binghamton, NY. Carolyn Wilczynski teaches a group of "at risk" 9th and 10th graders at Binghamton High School, students who were put into the program because of behavioural problems or poor academic performance. She affectionately calls them her "stray cats" and at first they were not invited to the performance at the High School on Friday afternoon, a short 30 minutes "sampler" of the Rap Guide, but she lobbied to have them included on promises of good behaviour (they were fine). The most remarkable outcome was that one of her students, a 15 year old African American girl named Kadeidra, was the only one to come to the full performance at the University that evening of her own accord, even though I pitched it to the hundred or so regular students in attendance. They were a tough-looking bunch of kids too, so I was happy just to win them over, but having one of Carolyn's bunch attend out of sheer interest felt a bit like a breakthrough.

Below is the email I just got from Carolyn, which provides me with more
steam than any ovation from any audience, standing or otherwise. Read it and try not to weep.

on 11/13/09 7:14 PM, Carolyn Wilczynski at wrote:

Hi Baba

I really enjoyed your performances today, and was especially glad
that I was able to take some of my stray cats. When I saw the math teacher that I work with right after you left, he said "I heard that the performance was great". The kids told him. He said that they were all talking about it. But that you inspired Kadeidra to want to go to the University performance is something extraordinary. She is a stray cat in the true sense of the word - she's not bad to the bone, but has never bought into school. I have struggled with getting her motivated and until recently, haven't meet very much success. But she wanted to go to the university - and so I offered to take her.

But the most amazing thing is what she told me on the way home. She
told me how much she enjoyed both performances and that she learned something too. That part is perhaps not all something that you haven't heard before. But THE most amazing part is that she said "I see science in a whole new way now - it's actually kinda fun". You accomplished that in an hour! I've been working at it for months! I wish I could buy you a beer!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Devil in Dover

November 6 2009

Science Fans,

Greetings from York Haven, Pennsylvania (about six miles from Dover). The title of this message is also the title of a book by Lauri Lebo, the journalist who reported on the Dover Intelligent Design Trial for the local papers back in 2004. I'm writing from her living room sofa right now as she prepares food for a party, the annual reunion of the plaintiffs, lawyers, and expert witnesses who joined forces to block the teaching of "intelligent design" as an alternative to Darwin's theory of natural selection in local high school science classes. For those of you unfamiliar with intelligent design as a concept, it's basically a fancy name for the biblical creation myth (tempered by some strategic deception), and likewise it has no scientific basis.

This is a remarkable story, and Lauri's book tells it better than I ever could, but here's an overview. In 2004 a group of fundamentalist Christians on the Dover school board began arguing at public meetings that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in science classes in the district. However, teaching "creation science" had already been banned by the US Supreme Court as a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution prohibiting the state establishment of religion, so under the advice of their lawyers the school board members changed their strategy (and their story) and began advocating instead for the teaching of intelligent design. They also claimed that they had never said "creationism" even though over 100 witnesses heard them and one of them was filmed by Fox News saying it. They ordered the Biology teachers to read out a statement to students that evolution is a theory and not a fact, while encouraging students to look into intelligent design as an alternative "explanation of the origins of life", so a group of parents sued the school board.

During the trial the school board continued to claim under oath that they had never said "creationism", and that their advocacy of intelligent design was motivated by scientific rigor and not religion. Evolutionary Biologists testified at the trial, outlining the evidence for Darwin's theory, and one biochemistry professor, Michael Behe, testified in support of intelligent design. However, to justify the inclusion of intelligent design within the category of "science", Behe also advocated changing the definition of science so that it would include astrology, and under cross-examination he conceded that intelligent design actually offers no alternative explanations. If you want to learn more about Behe, here's Richard Dawkins' very sharp NY Times review of his latest book (his whole career really) click here

At the end of the trial, the Bush-appointed Republican federal judge ruled that the school board had acted with "breathtaking inanity" (translation: they were total morons) and called their claims of secular purpose "disingenuous" (translation: they were lying for Jesus). Intelligent design was banned from the classroom. It was a grand slam.

So what does this have to do with me? Very little, except that one beautiful outcome of the trial was that the parents, biologists, journalists, and lawyers involved in defending evolution from this cynical religious assault all became fast friends, and they now hold an annual reunion celebrating their win. I met Lauri Lebo and Cyndi Sneath (one of the parents) in England on our Darwin Day tour back in February, and they invited me to perform at the reunion, which is now beingi re-imagined as a Darwin-themed concert featuring readings, lectures, songs, and of course the Rap Guide. The story of how these people came together is truly inspiring to me, so it's a real privilege to be part of the celebration.

This is officially stop number four on my twelve-city USA tour celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species, and the next two weeks will see me traveling all over NY, MA, PA, and CA bringing Darwin to the American masses (who, according to recent surveys, badly need it). However, you'll note that my stops are mostly in "Darwin-friendly" states (central PA being a possible exception), which is something I regret, but of course I can only go where I'm invited. So when do I get to perform "The Rap Guide to Evolution" in the American South? I repeat, all I need is an invitation...

All the best from god's country,


Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Tree Planter's Waltz

October 15 2009

Tree People,

Many of you have heard about the phenomenon of Canadian tree planting culture, but for some of you it will be a completely alien concept. For those who know it as intimately as I do, this video is for you, a little rush of nostalgia for the wilderness life. But for those of you who know nothing of the tree planting existence, this video is especially for you, because it will provide you with a window into a realm of raw experience that will surprise and enthrall you. Plus, you get to see me rapping shirtless in the woods, exciting!

The people in the opening scenes of the video (filmed in 1976, not 1977) are my parents and aunts and uncles and their circle of close friends, and the people in the scenes shot in 2009 are my brother and sister and I and our circle of close friends, so tree planting is very much in our blood. If you're curious about the company and the history of tree planting in Canada, visit check out the website of my dad's company, Brinkman & Associates Reforestation.

Smoky Tiger is the latest artist to join my Lit Fuse Records label, and his debut album "Smoky Tiger and the Seven Doors" was released in September, along with my new record "Apocalyptic Utopian Dreams in the Western Wilderness". Smoky Tiger and I worked together planting trees this Spring in my brother's camp near Merritt, BC, which is where we filmed the video for "The Tree Planter's Waltz" (Have you watched it yet? You're missing out!). Both of our records are now available from CD Baby, so please take a moment to buy them if you feel so inclined.

Here are some other platforms where you can watch the video: Facebook, Vimeo, Youtube.

Hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fringe First!

August 21 2009


Today I won a Scotsman Fringe First Award for the Rap Guide to Evolution, which is a prize given each year to the best new writing for the stage at the Edinburgh Fringe. This is literally the most coveted theatre prize at the festival (it's officially a big deal), so it really is a great acknowledgement of the show and a great boost for the rest of the run (ten more days to go!), and for life after the Fringe. Last year the Rebel Cell was nominated for a Fringe First but we didn't make it through the final round of judging. This year I guess I passed the bar, so call it a birthday present to Darwin. Click here to read the announcement.

Speaking of life after the Fringe, I am now on the lookout for gig opportunities for October (UK), November (USA) and February - April 2010 (Australia), and if you have another place or another time in mind I'm open to any possibility. Please get in touch. If you want to know about availability I put all of my confirmed gigs on my Google Calendar.

If you haven't heard the Rap Guide to Evolution yet, you can download the CD by clicking here.

And if you want to read more about my Edinburgh experience this year, check
out my "Darwin on the Fringe" blog for

Love and fecundity,


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Darwin on the Fringe

August 15 2009

Meme Pools,

The launch of the Edinburgh Fringe was one week ago, and I just finished performing my 25th show of the festival. Yes, with previews last week and both the Rap Guide to Evolution and the Rebel Cell on every single day, plus cabaret spots at night, it adds up quickly. There is so much to tell that I'm not even going to try to elaborate in an email, except to say that the highlights have been constant and consistently stimulating, and I'm blogging them regularly.

Yes, if you want to know more about the details of my experience here, I am writing a regular blog called "Darwin on the Fringe" for, a Darwinian analysis of the strange phenomenon that is the world's largest arts festival. The most recent entry about performers-cum-producers and the phenomenon of human menopause is particularly entertaining. Here's a link to read it, and catch up on the past week: Darwin on the Fringe Blog.

The other interesting development is that we've been on the telly quite a lot lately. Dizraeli and I performed live on both BBC Breakfast Television and GMTV last week, which went out to literally millions across the UK, and the BBC rap was picked up by BBC News 24 and run worldwide (!) every hour that day, so a lot of random people in Australia, Europe, etc, have written to say they saw us, quite surreal. Here's the link to the BBC feature.

And here's the link to the GMTV feature.

And the reviews? So far we have only been reviewed once for the Rebel Cell, quite positively, and I have been reviewed four times for the Rap Guide to Evolution, two three star reviews and two four star ones. The three star reviews have faulted me for speaking too fast and trying to cram too much into an hour, and for coming across too much like a lecture and not enough like theatre. The best (ie most interesting) review so far was from, and ought to be read in its entirety, since the critic really did pick up on some of the most important elements of the show. Click here to read it.

Regardless of the reviews, the crowds have been having a great time, and we've been playing to full (if not yet sold out) houses. I have also had some great responses on my Rap Guide to Evolution CD giveaway, including plugs on both and PZ Myers' legendary Pharyngula blog, which called it "not bad" (shivers!). Click here to check it out, along with some of the

Onward and upward!


Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Rap Guide to Evolution: Free Music Download!

August 1 2009

Human Tribespeople,

Tomorrow I depart for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and possibly the greatest creative adventure of my life to date (I know, I always say that). Starting next week I will be performing the Rap Guide to Evolution and the Rebel Cell (with the ever-talented MC Dizraeli), both every day until August 31st, and to get things launched I want to share my newest opus with you: The Rap Guide to Evolution LP!

This album was recorded in between rehearsals and tours over the past six weeks, in collaboration with some amazing UK artists, and one Turkish one. Infinite Potential, Tom Caruana, and Nokz from Tehdit all provide the beats, Mr. Simmonds did mixes, cuts, and the final master, Dizraeli and Noa Bodner provided chorus vocals, and my uncle Simon Kendall provided the keyboard magic to give it a powerful musical score. The whole thing can now be download from my website for free as a special Fringe promotion for August only! Click Here.

Please download it and give it a serious listen and pass it on to friends if you think they would like it (or if you think they would hate it, but need to hear it).

This album is for anyone who has ever wondered: what's the big deal about Darwin? The album explores Darwin's place in history, what he taught us, why it matters, what is being done with his theory today, what it says about the human animal and our place in the universe, why his theory is so threatening to so many people, and why it is so inspiring to so many others. Besides the philosophical aspect, the album also gives a fairly comprehensive and scientifically-accurate overview of modern evolutionary biology, which means it can also be used for educational purposes (my devious hidden agenda). And did I mention that it's also quite funny?

If any of you know of video editors or producers (students welcome) who might be interested in helping me to create video treatments for the songs, I am very keen to make this a reality.

If you want to hear what the live Fringe show sounds like, a Podcast called "The Naked Scientist" recently posted a complete recording of one of my Cambridge Darwin Festival performances, just click here to download.

And while we're on the free music tip, Dizraeli just released his first single, "Reach Out", which can be downloaded for free from his website. Give it a listen, you'll love it! Click here.

Wish us luck on the Fringe!


PS - here's a link to my Edinburgh press release, with details, if you know anyone who will be there. Click here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cambridge Darwin Festival

July 13 2009

Reciprocal Altruists,

Yesterday I returned from the Cambridge Darwin Festival, after six days of evolutionary bliss. Every day consisted of morning and afternoon sessions featuring top evolutionary biologists discussing various aspects of Darwin's legacy and contemporary evolutionary biology. And every evening consisted of entertainment events and ceremonies, including a healthy dose of Darwinian rapping. I performed "The Rap Guide to Evolution" four times over the course of the festival, including shows at both the opening night party and the closing ceremony dinner, which meant I was literally entertaining the poshest of the posh, and some of the most inspiring minds of our time.

Some highlights for me were:

1. Performing a freestyle rap on the lawn of King's College at the closing night ceremony dinner, with David Attenborough in the crowd (not to mention a few other heavyweights). Did I meet him? No I did not, since he was one of several hundred people there and was surrounded by acolytes the entire time, but he did witness the performance and I did give him a shout-out in
my verse. Here's a video ably shot by my friend Irene (if you can't see it click here):

2. Meeting Richard Dawkins and talking to him about the potential of rap to rally people and bring evolutionary ideas to a wider audience. He didn't get to see me perform, but I did give him a CD of my song "Natural Selection" which features his voice reading from the "Origin", and he was delighted by my description of the opening night ceremony, where I had all of the champagne-sipping dignitaries shouting "Creationism is dead wrong!" along with me on the chorus. You can download the song and watch a video of the performance on my website.

3. Following the fascinating debates about the intersections of evolution with culture, and especially religion. Dan Dennett argued that religion was a meme or cultural parasite similar to a lancet fluke, which high-jacks the brains of those who are infected, causing them to behave in bizarre ways that benefit only the meme and not the carrier, while others, notably David Sloan Wilson, argued that religion was an adaptation with high "secular utility", allowing people to cooperate in communities that function like beehives or like integrated organisms with a common purpose. Others argued that religion itself isn't even a valid subject of study, because it contains so many unrelated spheres of human activity, which have been promoted as a whole by institutions designed to take advantage of these evolved "modules" of human psychology. Click here to read Dennett's hilarious report of the festival's infestation by loopy "religious apologists".

4. David Sloan Wilson sitting in the front row of my performance on Tuesday night. Wilson's books "Evolution for Everyone" and "Darwin's Cathedral" were a big influence on the writing of the "Rap Guide" and although his concept of "Group Selection" was occasionally derided by nay-sayers at the festival, I didn't hear a single person explain what was logically or empirically wrong with it. I even heard Dawkins admit that Darwin's example of group selection was valid, ie the propagation of cooperative ancestral tribes over ones with severe infighting. That's pretty much the whole gist of Wilson's theory, which I personally find quite convincing, and I have a whole chapter of my show dedicated to it. Afterward I asked him for his feedback and he said the rap gave an accurate (and entertaining) account of the theory, and invited me to come and perform at Binghampton University where he teaches. Mission accomplished!

5. Sitting next to Sarah Hrdy at the celebration dinner, while listening to David Attenborough give a majestic speech on Darwin and evolution as "the most important theory and view about mankind and his place in the world that has been enunciated in historical time". Well put. Sarah is also possibly the sweetest sociobiologists I've ever met (she had lost her voice so we chatted all night with her writing on scraps of paper), and her book "Mother Nature" about the central role of the female sex in evolution and the natural world is definitely going to merit a chapter in the "Rap Guide".

6. Chatting with Dan Dennett about meme theory (or memetics), which he came very close to completely redeeming. The problem I've always had with the concept is that it lacks a clear unit of selection, treating a religion as a meme, but also a word, a song, a story, a dance craze, a style of dress, anything that can be copied (mimicked) from person to person, undergoing differential selection. But the copying is usually "analogue" and highly malleable, more Lamarckian than Darwinian, which means there is very low fidelity and no direct mechanism for the kind of adaptation that drives biological evolution. In his talk, and our conversation, Dennett emphasized "digital" memes like words, which sound different in different dialects, and look different in different fonts, but which our minds instinctively correct to a norm, much like the copying fidelity mechanisms of DNA replication. Conclusion: the theory of memetics is still alive and well, if still in its infancy.

Now I'm back in London working on recording the "Rap Guide" to a CD format, and rehearsing the Rebel Cell all week in preparation for our debut at Latitude Festival on Friday. I hope you are all having a great summer, and please take a moment to send some digital memes my way if you like.



Sunday, June 21, 2009

Apocalyptic Utopian Dreams...

June 16 2009

... in the Western Wilderness is where I've been for the past month, living in a tent and planting trees near Merritt, BC. And "Apocalyptic Utopian Dreams in the Western Wilderness" also happens to be the title of my new hip-hop album, which is now finished, mastered, and... still some time from being released. But since I have the final master in my hands, I wanted to give you all a little preview. For a limited time, you can download the whole record in Mp3 format by clinking this link.

Why am I giving it away, you ask? Because this is the modern era of music downloads, where independent artists such as myself face a conundrum. Sell it to a few people, or give it away to a lot of people? In this case you are my front lines, my ice-breakers and taste-makers, who get the record for free, for now, in the hopes that more people will hear about it through you and give it the momentum it needs t
o reach the elusive masses (and in the hopes that you will like it so much you will buy a physical copy when you see me next, or buy it online when it's available). If you want to stream songs a bit quicker, I have the entire album on my Facebook page and select songs on my Myspace page.

And what's up with that title? Well, as you will find when you listen to the record it's complex, but I have found there is something about the Pacific Northwest, something about Vancouver, BC, that inspires thoughts about the end of the world, or at least the end of civilization and technology, and about how that wouldn't be such a bad thing for everyone, perhaps ridiculous thoughts. These thoughts are not exclusive to that area, but they are rife there, perhaps because one's proximity to the geographical end of civilization inspires notions of its temporal end, or maybe for other reasons (extensive colonization by hippies and draft-dodgers etc), but it's a phenomenon I wanted to explore lyrically and musically. How ludicrous are those thoughts? How parochial and selfish? How realistic? Where do they come from and how can they be turned towards constructive ends? This has been my preoccupation for the past six months, between various tours and performances.

Sonically the record was crafted by the incomparable Lin G, who co-executive produced it with me and brought her signature quality standards and production talents to every track. Musically I have collaborated with some extremely gifted artists on this record, mostly producers from London and Brighton, and mostly singers from Vancouver or based there, Tia Brazda and Chantel Upshaw and Erica Dee and Aaron Nazrul. I also recently signed a new artist to Lit Fuse Records called "Smoky Tiger" who is featured on "The Road Northwest", which captures the album's theme perfectly. Smoky Tiger's debut album will be coming out on Lit Fuse Records before long as well, but I'll preview that one to you in another email.

As for me, I'm now in England with Dizraeli rehearsing and re-writing "The Rebel Cell," and tomorrow we visit our first music festival as Mud Sun, bringing our live hip-hop sound to the English Bacchanalia. There is a lot more to tell about this summer as well, with upcoming performances at Glastonbury, Latitude, Secret Garden, Edinburgh, and the prestigious Cambridge Darwin Festival, but I'll share those as they unfold.

In the meantime, please take the time to download the album and give it a listen and provide me with feedback. It took several months to craft and several years to formulate, and I am deeply chuffed with the result.

Good things to you all from Bristol,


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gary Goodyear, Please Come to the Rap Guide to Evolution!

March 24 2009

Open Letter to Gary Goodyear, Canada's Minister for Science and Technology

Dear Minister Goodyear,

I will be performing a show called "The Rap Guide to Evolution" as part of the Vancouver Evolution Festival in a few weeks, and I would like to invite you to come to the performance free of charge. Allow me to explain.

I have read with interest the recent articles in the Globe and Mail about your misgivings towards Charles Darwin's theory of evolution ("Science minister won't confirm belief in evolution", March 17th). The Globe and Mail interviewer was very misleading when she asked whether you "believe in evolution", a question clearly designed to misrepresent Darwin's theory as a matter of personal belief rather than a scientific fact based on solid evidence. Hence, when you answered her question by saying "I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate", you were only following her disingenuous lead.

However, your follow-up interview with CTV, ("'Of course' I believe in evolution", March 18th), suggests that the problem is a lack of comprehension rather than a lack of belief. Your chosen example of "evolution" was the ability to adapt by "walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels, of course we are evolving to our environment." By this measure, Mr. Goodyear, you are doing an excellent job of evolving your responses under the intense environmental pressure of media scrutiny. But you clearly don't understand Charles Darwin's theory.

However, I think your error is quite common and I have a simple solution: come see my show! I have spent the past few months researching and developing "The Rap Guide to Evolution", which explains and explores modern evolutionary theory through remixes, comedy storytelling, and rap poetry, making the theory simple, accessible, interesting, and fun to learn. The show was commissioned by Dr. Mark Pallen, a Microbiologist from England, who has consulted extensively on the scientific accuracy of the raps. Once you have nodded your head to the beat and laughed out loud at some of evolution's bizarre implications, you will have no reason to fear or avoid Darwin's ingenious theory any longer.

Here is what Science Magazine said about the show: "With lyrics that were sometimes sly, often hilarious, and always smart and thought-provoking, Brinkman married the fast, complex, literate delivery of Eminem with the evolutionary expertise and confrontational manner of Dawkins."
Click here to read the full review.

The Rap Guide to Evolution is presented by the Vancouver Evolution Festival (venues and details are below). I sincerely hope to see you there, both for the sake of your job security and Canada's international reputation, not to mention the reassurance of our scientific community.

Yours truly,

Baba Brinkman

Vancouver Evolution Festival Presents:

"The Rap Guide to Evolution" by Baba Brinkman

Public Performances
Friday 10th & Saturday 11th April, 8pm, Aisle 45 in Gastown (45 W Hastings at Abbott), doors at 7:30pm, running time 1hr.
Tickets $10 ($5 concession)

UBC Student Show
Thursday 9th April, 4pm, The Norm Theatre, SUB (Student Union Building)
Free entry

SFU Student Show
Monday 30th March, 2:30pm, IRMACS Theatre, SFU (Burnaby Mountain Campus)
Free entry

Click Here for Facebook Event Listing

Click Here for Additional Information

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hate It or Love It

March 7 2009


Greetings from the Fresno Rogue Festival. I have now performed "The Rap Guide to Evolution" a total of nine times, and the results are in: people love/hate it! No parent could be prouder than I am of the amounts of kudos and vehemence this show has already generated in equal measure.

The love started early, at the premier performance of the Rap Guide at Cambridge University on February 9th, part of a four-city UK tour to celebrate Darwin’s birthday. The performance was a double-header featuring myself and Lauri Lebo, author of a book called “The Devil in Dover” which chronicles the recent creationism-in-schools court battle in Dover, Pennsylvania. Science Magazine wrote a glowing review of the show complete with extensive quotations and video links, and even published an excerpt in the “Newsmakers” section of their print edition! Please click here to have a read.

By the way, the quotes are mostly from my song “Natural Selection” featuring Richard Dawkins, which can be downloaded from this link: Natural_Selection.mp3

So there’s the love, but as for the hate, my second show here in Fresno is where it all went down. First, the show was very nearly sold out (over a hundred in attendance), so there was a good buzz in the crowd. Second, the lights blew about ten minutes into the show, so the house lights had to be brought up, which means the show was very intimate, lit kind of like a living room. Third, the show got its first standing ovation, which was very overwhelming and humbling, since I’ve been pouring my heart into it for months and wasn’t sure how it would be received. Finally, I have a section in the show where I encourage the audience to give me feedback afterward, so that I can continue to revise and adapt it like an evolving organism.

The feedback was mostly very positive, but at one point I was accosted by two women who said they were very offended by the show, which they found deeply misogynist; they suggested I focus on the “long view” of evolutionary history instead of trying to apply evolution to “short term” subjects like understanding human mating strategies. They said they thought my take on evolutionary psychology was “the equivalent of social darwinism”, and used the example of breast augmentation, which evolutionary psychologists might designate an attention-getting strategy rather than a sad example of female objectification. To this I responded that un-augmented breasts themselves were already an attention-getting strategy, since all other primates have flat breasts that only swell during lactation, whereas human female breasts (and buttocks) have evolved through sexual selection to store fat deposits, making them a prominent mechanism for appraising the fitness (ie youth & fertility) of mates, which was not a popular answer (although technically it was an answer from comparative anatomy rather than evolutionary psych). I found out later that I was speaking to a professor of Women’s Studies from the local university.

Well the whole time we were having this conversation in the lobby after the show, a man was standing nearby listening in, and he finally stepped forward and introduced himself as Dr. Rick Zechman, the head of the Biology Department of CSU Fresno, the same university as my detractors (where the Biology and Women’s Studies Departments are apparently sometimes at odds). When I asked if he had any feedback to add to their feedback, he said “My feedback is that I don’t agree with their feedback”. He then invited me to perform at the university, which I did today, co-sponsored by the Biology Department and the Psychology Department. The Dean of Science was in attendance at the show, as well as about a hundred and forty students, and once again some were very enthusiastic and some not so much, but the response from the scientific community so far has been amazing.

I should add that part of the deal when Dr. Pallen commissioned this show for the Darwin Tour was that he had to vet the script for scientific rigor. So all through January I sent him drafts of the lyrics and he sent me back amendments to ensure that the content was based on the current state of evolutionary biology, and to ensure that I didn’t misrepresent any of the core concepts of his discipline (the part about breast evolution is from The Mating Mind by Geoffrey Miller). This of course gives me a solid foundation when it comes to answering critics, since the show and current evolutionary science supposedly speak with one voice (although I try to represent both sides of certain controversies within evolutionary biology, such as the question of group selection). One reviewer who posted on the Rogue Festival website was unimpressed with my claims of scientific rigor; apparently the show made her feel “disgusted” and “sick to her stomach”, and she found it “racist, sexist, and offensive”. I disagree with this review, but it’s definitely interesting to experience such a range of responses.

In other news, I will be back in Vancouver soon to work on my next solo rap CD, due out in May or June. I am also working with the Vancouver Evolution Festival to get a venue for the Rap Guide in early April, possibly over Easter weekend. How sweet would that be? Darwin rises from the dead and busts a rhyme!

Yours, once again, from the trenches,


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Descending from Darwin

February 7 2009

H. Sapiens,

Hello from Cambridge! I've just returned from the Sanger Institute, and one
of the most inspiring conferences I've ever been privileged to attend, so I thought I'd share. The conference, "Evolving Words" brought together performance poets and evolutionary biologists to exchange ideas and expertise, in order to increase public appreciation of Darwin's work and legacy. The poets were each paired with a scientist, and we each had to learn the other's bio and interests and introduce them to the group. My counterpart for that exercise was none other than Randal Keynes, Charles Darwin's great-great-grandson!

In the evening we were p
rivy to performances from the other poets, including the legendary beat poet Michael Horovitz, and I even previewed a few scenes from the "Rap Guide to Evolution" which one biologist described as "surprisingly accurate, for a rap". Later we had a chance to participate in a roundtable discussion with the institute's leading geneticists and experts in human evolution, such as Dr. Chris Tyler-Smith, who talked about the current state of scientific knowledge on the questions of whence, wherefore, and whither. Later we were taken on a tour of the DNA sequencing labs and supercomputers used to process the information (ever heard of a petabyte?). Here's a link to their website if you want to learn more: click here.

The Sanger Institute, by the way, is where approximately 40% of the Human
Genome Project was completed, in a race to map the human genetic code and put it into public domain on the web before private interests had a chance to copyright and trademark (!) the code for commercial purposes. It was a great triumph of the public good over narrow profit-motives, and now the institute is on the cutting edge of genetic medicine. It was mind-boggling to hear of the progress made in the past fifteen years in terms of sheer capacity. For instance, it originally took twelve years to map the genome of a single person. Now they process the equivalent of 40 full genomes per day!

So now I'm spending the weekend in Cambridge preparing for the first full
performance of the "Rap Guide to Evolution" on Monday. The show was recently thrown for a loop when the other rapper, Greydon Square, discovered he couldn't travel due to parole restrictions. It was supposed to be a two-man, one-hour production, but suddenly I now find it's all on me. It's a shame, because Greydon is a pretty fascinating guy and I was looking forward to the collaboration. If you want to check out some of his stuff and imagine what could have been, here's the link: click here.

And if any of you are in the UK and want to catch the show in its current primitive form, the tour schedule is posted on my website (but please do RSVP because space is limited): In the meantime, don't forget to raise a toast to Charles Darwin on Thursday (his birthday). I don't think anyone in history has taught us more about who we are and where we come from collectively.

Yours in appreciation,


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Perfect Storm

January 20 2009

The Perfect Storm

A Fond Farewell to the 43rd President of the United States

This is truth and reconciliation day
I got up to watch the inauguration at eight
This morning and felt the tension of eight years of anxious
Worry evaporate from my neural matrix storage
Eight years of wasted wars, eight years of official
Statements distorting the truth, and hastily-awarded
Contracts, and secret compacts, and danger-courting
And total incompetence, coupled with amazing sources
Of confidence, such as the conservative base supporting
This is a day for healing and faith-restoring
Obama even commissioned an award-winning scholar
A poet of great worth, to perform that ancient service
Of composing a piece of occasional verse
To celebrate his inauguration with ornate words
Now there’s an honest day’s work
But this? I can’t even say his name – it hurts!
I guess now I know my place on this earth
Not the herald of great heroes who deserve our respect
No, more like the chronicler of regret
The reminder of those we’d prefer to forget
Is there no alcoholic remedy to erase
Recovered alcoholics from your memory banks?
No cure for bitterness in a time for giving thanks?
Guilty tyrant, thy offense is rank!
It stinks to high heaven! And yet this blank
Expression on your face betrays no hint of angst
Placid incomprehension instead of dripping fangs
Or at least contrition for the dead civilian ranks
It takes a big man to admit mistakes
Well, he still stands on midget legs
But at least we saw growth in all fifty states
When they picked his replacement on election day
Obama’s already been embraced by every nation
His inauguration is finished, and the last administration
Has nothing left for it but victim impact statements

And rest assured, there’s plenty of eloquent critics
Ready and willing to give them hell every minute
And never let them settle into a quiet
Respectable retirement; certain individuals
In the legal profession believe there’s sufficient evidence
To see them imprisoned in the federal penal system
For deliberate breeches of the Geneva Convention
Not to even mention the fact that their people listened
In on civilians without judicially seeking permission
But hey, that’s strictly a legal decision
Nothing to do with me; my specialty is lyricism
I would’ve cheered when the impeachment was issued
Sure, but I prefer not to give these people attention
Unless that attention will get them neatly arrested
Or at least convince the electorate to completely reject them
I mean, they certainly don’t need me to accept them
Besides, I’d rather keep it effervescent
The USA has an incredible president
A sensible man, conscientious and intelligent
A person with principles and effortless eloquence
So why am I wasting my intricate syllables
Protesting the criminal offenses of a pathetic
Ex-president, a Crawford, Texas resident
Instead of just adding him to a list of irrelevant
Idiots, and forgetting him, period?

Why? Because my benevolent ex-professor requested it
Better yet, my friend requested it
And when I’m ‘friend requested’ I tend to accept it
Even when it leads to endless unsolicited messages
Such as the ones you’re presently getting peppered with
Not every job is empty of unpleasantness
Someone’s job is to collect effluence
From the sewer system and test it for potential infections
In order to prevent the spread of pestilence
My job is to catalogue the thick-headedness
Of the former Commander-in-Chief of speech impediments
And despite his recent attempts to claim the best intentions
My ambition is to ensure that his name is never mentioned
Again, at least not in the same breath as
Anything inspiring, hopeful, or progressive
Only as a cautionary tale, a haunting presence
For future generations learning important lessons
I can’t imagine a more impressive example
Of how oppression leads directly to rebellion
Or how to weaken a nation’s defenses
And subjugate their safety to political interests
And sell out the public good to private business
I don’t know how he gets 20% in the census
Except to say that some people really are senseless
That’s why I called him a ‘symptom’

But I won’t call him evil; even though
He caused the unnecessary deaths of a lot of people
And his powers of perception were often feeble
(Which isn’t a problem unless you happen to be in control
Of launching rockets and watching the economy grow)
I simply see it as the unchecked growth of the common ego
Bad decisions? We’ve all made them before
Sometimes responsibilities get laid at your door
And there’s even justifications for the waging of war
In certain cases, as a last resort
When your safety is at stake, and for staying the course
And making tough decisions and taking calculated risks
Even if your kids may end up paying for it
What’s the metaphor I’m searching for?
When it comes to personal shortcomings, intelligence
Deficits, hubris, etc, he wasn’t just dirt poor
He was the perfect storm

And now, with the storm clouds lifted
After being pushed to the outer limits by a White House
Filled with cowards and nitwits pretending to represent
The national interest while devouring endless resources
And burning thousands of bridges; after listening
To the countless insipid pronouncements issuing
From beneath those beady eyes and prominent brow ridges
After cringing as they trotted out false witnesses
In support of ever more twisted selfishness
Their military prowess directed at houses and villages
With rushing limbic systems defending their callousness
Driven by apocalyptic visions that sound religious
When really they were just out for riches
Now, with the storm clouds lifted
With the hurricane passed and the base of power shifted
We have to get up off the ground and shake out the splinters
And let go of the anger and the feeling of helplessness
It’s time to finally get down to business
And deal with this world as it is, without bitterness

This isn’t to say that it wasn’t outrageous
We may indeed be at the end of a dark age
In a time of salvation, or just an about-face
But I’m done with foul language, no sour grapes
Let them take him away to pay for his proud ways
Or just leave him alone to live out his days
Either way, he’s nothing without his job title
Except a mascot, a neo-con pop idol
As for the rest of us, let’s just feel the buzz
Like this is Endor after the Death Star self-destructs
Into clouds of dust; give the cowboy his open range
Today my attention is focused on hope and change
On the present path, and on the future instead of the past
Let’s change what we can, and accept what we can’t
And direct our energy into the next president’s tasks

© Baba Brinkman, January 20th 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Week in Rap

January 12 2009

For the past year or so I've been working with a company called Flocabulary based in New York, a very creative group of people who produce educational hip-hop content for schools. I've written songs for their teaching projects, and more recently recorded an episode of their weekly hip-hop newscast: "The Week in Rap". If you want to check out Flocabulary, you can find them online at

Here's the video for my rap newscast:

The Week in Rap 01-09-09 from Week in Rap on Vimeo.

You can check out more episodes of The Week in Rap at:

2009: The Illusion of Design

January 8 2009

Friends and Naysayers,

New year's resolutions are the personal equivalent of financial projections and business plans for companies, forever subject to the unpredictable crashes and booms of outrageous fortune. I will not succumb to anything as delusional as a resolution, but I will project my year as clearly as I can see it from here, and perhaps the illusion of design will adapt it to the projection, or at least provide some entertainment value in retrospect.

Why would I burden you with a year in preview? Because I would like to solicit input on new projects I am undertaking, and solicit gigs from those of you who are interested in my projects, be they Chaucerian, Orwellian, or Darwinian.

January I will spend here in Vancouver working on my new show, "The Rap Guide to Evolution", which was commissioned recently by the Bioscience Department of the University of Birmingham. One of the professors there, Dr. Mark Pallen (a bacterial geneticist), asked me if I would be willing to "do for Darwin what I did for Chaucer" and I responded that it would be an honour.

So in February I will travel to England for a ten day tour of Darwin-related events and venues organized by Dr. Pallen and his team. February marks the Charles Darwin Bicentennial and universities and natural history museums around the world will be celebrating the patron saint of biology. The show is currently undergoing the murky embryological process by which compositions are formed, so if any of you have any thoughts on the subject of evolution, I'm all ears (for the next three weeks or so). I'm currently trying to make sense of it from as many angles as possible.

March and April will consist of school touring in the USA, mostly with the Rap Canterbury Tales, but also with the North American debut of the Rap Guide at the Fresno Rogue Festival. If any of you know of a college, high school, or any venue at all where I could spin a yarn or two in the States in March or April, my RCT program information is online, just click here.

Oh yes, and in late April I will travel to Hong Kong for the Hong Kong Microfest (a theatre festival), my first trip to the far East!

May and early June will about one thing and one thing only: treeplanting. Nuff said.

Then in June I will return to the UK to reunite with Dizraeli for another season of performing "The Rebel Cell" (think 8-Mile meets 1984). A production company from London, SPL Productions, is taking on the show for 2009, re-working it for a larger audience, and orchestrating a tour of UK
festivals, a return to the Edinburgh Fringe in August, and finally a West End run at a theatre in London in September/October. The details have yet to be worked out, but the tour is confirmed and we are very excited to be working with these guys to resurrect our Orwellian hip-hop parable.

Since nothing is finalized for the post-August portion of 2009 I will stop there for now, and reveal more only as it is revealed to me.

And what else is new? Aaron Nazrul's song "When the Night" will be featured on the new Beverly Hills 90210 airing on CBS network TV on January 13th. He and the band are currently on tour in Central America, and have been creating video blogs along the way, so if you're curious to see what's up with them check the Myspace page.

Looking forward to hopefully seeing many of you during my travels in 2009, and a happy and prosperous new year to you all,