WritingEssays, articles, and blogs about rap, literature, and science. Baba's first book of poetry "The Rap Canterbury Tales" was published by Talon Books in 2006.
PublicationsPublications The Rap Canterbury Tales (Talon Books 2006).
Illustrated facing-page paperback featuring Baba's rap lyrics and the original Middle English source, with illustrations by Erik Brinkman (Baba's brother).
Darwin on the FringeBaba's entertaining blog written for Whatsonstage.com, interpreting the Edinburgh Fringe through the lens of evolutionary theory. 2009 – The Rap Guide to Evolution and The Rebel Cell
2010 – The Rap Guide to Human Nature and Rapconteur
Monthly Archives: September 2008
I’m excited to announce the world’s first-ever hip-hop theatre cycle, running off-Broadway May 31st to June 23rd. “Evolutionary Tales” combines three original shows that each celebrate the evolutionary view of life in its endless forms.
Visit www.evolutionarytales.com for info and tickets.
Rap Guide to Evolution, Canterbury Tales Remixed, and Ingenious Nature have all had their off-Broadway premieres as separate productions, and now they will transfer to the Player’s Theatre to run in rotation for a month, a hip-hop science and storytelling extravaganza!
My hope is that we can extend the run past June 23rd, but that will depend entirely on audience response. This is a never-before-tried experiment, and my hope is that running the three shows back to back will create a synergy with cross-pollination effects that spill over in unexpected ways. My hope is also that I can keep the three scripts separate in my head.
Another exciting bit of news is that the World Science Festival will be presenting The Rap Guide to Evolution as part of their official programming on opening weekend, at a discounted rate.
I’d like to say a special thanks to the 250 crowdfunders who helped to make this vision come to reality. Looking forward to being back in action with Mr. Simmonds on the turntables, rocking off-Broadway soon!
Soho Playhouse Inc in Association with Thinking Animals Inc
The Science of Rhyme: An Evening of Neuro-Lyricism
April 16th, 7-9pm
218 E 25th Street
In an exciting merging of science and stagecraft, hip-hop playwright Baba Brinkman and Cognitive Neuroscientist Dr. Heather Berlin will explore together how our brains are wired for “improvisational creativity”.
Dr. Berlin will present exciting new research on the neural basis of both musical and lyrical improvisation. Drama Desk Award Nominee and off-Broadway sensation Baba Brinkman, creator of The Canterbury Tales Remixed and The Rap Guide to Evolution, will perform excerpts of his work and take suggestions from attendees for on-the-spot improvisation.
With accompanying turntablism (improvised recombination of pre-recorded sounds) by DJ Jamie Simmonds, this will be an evening of entertainment and erudition, fabulous food and drink, and unscripted merrymaking.
Monies raised will go to support Brinkman and Simmonds’ “Darwin Meets Chaucer Off-Broadway” production, the first-ever hip-hop theatre cycle in New York!
Darwin Was Right
Only seven days left to help me spread the word!
I wrote the Rap Guide to Evolution to help people achieve a better understanding of Darwin’s theory, including how it works and what it means in terms of our past, our future, and our sense of purpose in the present. When I perform the show with Jamie Simmonds on the turntables, we make audiences laugh, make them shout, and make them think. Here’s some pics from a performance we did at Williams College, MA a few weeks ago.
Right now we’re raising the funds to continue celebrating Darwin off-Broadway in New York, as part of a cycle including The Canterbury Tales Remixed and Ingenious Nature. The other two shows have their own mission statements: to share the greatest stories ever told, and to apply the science of psychology to my personal quest for a mate.
Please help support our crowdfunding campaign in its final week! Here’s the link: http://www.indiegogo.com/DarwinChaucer
Rewards for donating range from digital downloads, signed CDs, freestyle phone messages, “Don’t Sleep With Mean People” T-shirts, and VIP tickets to the show, and even original rap recordings and private gigs. Claim yours!
By the way, in case you’re wondering how my quest for a mate is going, I seem to have succeeded against the odds. I was looking for someone with whom I could share chemistry while agreeing it’s literally caused by chemistry, a woman I could romance with all my soul, and with a shared understanding that the soul is made of neurons. In accordance with my show’s ethos, I was looking for someone who didn’t consider my naturalistic leanings “mean”. Well, I met her just over six months ago, and Florida’s Palm Beach New Times recently outed us in an article that concludes: “Brinkman did finally find a soul-mate with enough brain power to match his own.”
Yes, Spring is in the air, filled with the blossomings of geek love. Now if I can just get this next production funded…
Here are five reasons to support Joyce Murray for Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada:
- She is the only candidate with a strong track record of success across multiple domains: getting elected, running a business, raising a family, and protecting the environment.
- She has taken the problem of global warming seriously for longer than any other candidate – from her 1992 Masters Thesis onward it has been one of her main areas of expertise and focus. That’s one of the reasons David Suzuki supports her.
- She understands good government policy better than any other candidate, and better than most politicians. You can see this principle across her platform, from specifics like legalizing and taxing cannabis to the grand vision of a “sustainable society”.
- She is the only candidate with a clear path to victory, through her plan to cooperate with the other parties against the Harper conservatives. Every other candidate will leave the left split and the conservatives in power longer.
- She’s just a wonderful person, full of intelligence, positivity, and integrity, a person whose whole life has been about service to others. I should know, she’s my mom.
Conclusion: Joyce is the right choice! I believe this so strongly that I put my limited hip-hop street cred on the line (again) to record her a mama’s boy rap song, check it out:
Convinced? Here are five actions you can take to make politics in Canada something to be proud of:
- Most important! Sign up as a “Supporter” for free on Joyce’s website. This will give you a vote in the leadership election in April, but hurry, the signup deadline is March 3rd!
- Donate! Political campaigns are run with dollars, not just good vibes. Plus, because of the tax refunds, you’ll get most of your money back. Donating $100 will only cost you $25. I donated $1,200 and I’m a self-employed artist.
- Volunteer! You can join Joyce’s team and help with events and social media outreach. It’s easy and fun and you’ll make new friends.
- Tell your friends and family. For many of us, the only advertisements we’ll listen to anymore are personal recommendations. So tell a few of your friends what you like about Joyce’s vision and ask for their support.
- Spread my video. This one is less important than any of the above, but sometimes a cheeky bit of fun is the best way to break the ice.
Politics can be tedious, but we should all agree that our environment is worth protecting and our friends shouldn’t be locked up for smoking a joint. The real question is, what are we going to do about it? Supporting Joyce is one thing you can do. So do it!
Tree planting skeptics really get under my skin. In general I’m in favour of skepticism, but only the well-informed, intellectually curious kind, not the knee-jerk “it doesn’t sound intuitively realistic so I’ll disbelieve it without bothering to check” kind. That’s also the key difference between skeptics of divine intervention and skeptics of climate change, but for now let’s stick to tree planting.
For the record, I have planted more than a million trees, and so has my brother and several of my close friends. My mom, Joyce Murray, who is currently running for Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, has planted more than half a million. Don’t believe me? Read on.
Yesterday I got a cheerful email from a couple of mathematics professors at University of Massachusetts, Boston, informing me that they were using me as a case study for teaching “Quantitative Reasoning” and applied mathematics to undergraduates, and that I was even referenced in a math problem in their textbook. I felt so proud! You can view the full problem here (page 8), but I’ll just quote from the opening lines:
On May 4, 2010 Olivia Judson wrote in The New York Times that
[Baba] Brinkman, a burly Canadian from Vancouver, is a latter-day wandering minstrel, [and] according to his Web site, he has personally planted more than one million trees.
How long would it take to personally plant a million trees? Is Brinkman’s claim reasonable?
To answer that question you need two estimates – the time it takes takes to plant one tree, and the time Brinkman may have spent planting.
To plant a tree you have to dig a hole, put in a seedling and fill in around the root ball. It’s hard to imagine you can do that in less than half an hour.
At first I kept my cool and wrote back:
Here’s a video of me and my friends planting trees:
Now here’s an assignment for you: have your students watch the video and identify the flaw in your analysis… Hint: planting a tree takes ten seconds.
But upon re-reading the textbook entry I started to feel that familiar flush of agitation creeping up my neck, that feeling evolution has endowed us with to fiercely protect our precious reputations when they are publicly questioned, especially (but not exclusively) when the threatened acclaim happens to be hard fought and well deserved. The concluding sentences of the textbook read:
On balance we believe he’s planted lots of trees, but not “personally . . . more than one million.”
It’s the “personally” that makes this very unlikely. We can believe the million trees if he organized tree-planting parties, perhaps with people manning power diggers of some kind. Or if planting acorns counted as planting trees.
Acorns?! The message was emasculating enough without the added iconography, so I hastily composed a second email, the intellectual equivalent of “Are you callin’ me a liar?!?”
This is a perfect example of how applied mathematics can be rendered useless by faulty assumptions…
My question is: did you write that math problem without doing any research whatsoever into the parameters of the job you were describing, or did you do research in a way that was designed to confirm your existing (false) assumptions about the job? Either way, what lesson does your error offer to students of applied mathematics for whom relevance to reality is a high priority?
Feel free to quote any of the above in your next edition.
Even if there is no second edition, I would appreciate an amendment, as the current edition is clearly insulting not just to me but to everyone who works hard at tree planting only to be questioned by the sheltered and clueless.
In retrospect my response was probably a bit hot-headed, but this wasn’t my first encounter with the “sheltered and clueless”, and I know other tree planters often meet with the same aggravating disbelief. For instance, commenters on the original NY Times article made the same pronouncements, and now they are questioning my mom as well. At any rate, the professors were far more temperate than me. Here’s Charles Wibiralske, the adjunct professor who first initiated contact:
We are on the case. Your stern tone is appropriate. Part of my lesson with my students will be to demonstrate that if we are not careful, we can easily make errors. Our exchange will make the class better. In addition, I hope to model that when I suspected there could be a problem, I wrote to you right away. Then I hope to show that as academics we are open to making errors, questioning our assumptions, reaching out to get the best material we can, learning new things and making corrections.
His response showed that I too was open to making errors based on faulty assumptions, in this case about the social skills of math professors. The response of Ethan Bolker, the author of the textbook, was no less graceful:
I had no intention whatsoever of insulting you. I am well aware of the fact that faulty assumptions can lead to faulty conclusions – one of the things I try to teach my students is to be sure that whatever assumptions they make are explicit, so that they can be checked – or refuted by people who know better. I admit that in this case I didn’t check, for which I apologize.
With your permission, we’ll rewrite Section 1.5 and tell the whole story in the text (from wrong assumptions to correct ones, with quotes from you and links to your video), and show you the new version.
Hurray! In the end it’s a classic example of academic best practices and the drunkard’s walk towards knowledge. When our views are self-correcting and open to revision based on new evidence, they will continue to hone in on increasingly accurate representations of the real world. That’s good honest skepticism, and when it wins over bad, knee-jerk, “it’s hard to imagine” skepticism, that’s a beautiful thing.
I recently recorded a rap song for my mother Joyce Murray’s campaign for Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. If you don’t know what she’s about, go to her website and encounter the awesomeness (just today she was endorsed by David Suzuki!). If you know and you’re already a fan (and a Canadian), I need your help to make a music video for the song!
Here are the instructions for the videos I need. Please forward widely and quickly!
1. Download or stream the song from here: http://bababrinkman.bandcamp.com/album/cooperation-time
2. Play the song on any speakers, and film yourself on a camera phone singing along with the chorus only (it starts at 0:57). Frame the video head and shoulders, the same as the generic Facebook Icon, in a well-lit place. The sound doesn’t matter since this is a music video. What matters is lip-syncing in time with the music!
Here are the lyrics:
Politicians have got to know
We want cooperation
Stephen Harper has got to go
Together we can make him
Politicians have got to know
We want cooperation
Stephen Harper has got to go
Tell a fellow Canadian
3. Do a little funny/happy dance for ten seconds on camera after the chorus ends. Video length: about 30 seconds.
4. Repeat this process with three friends, one video each. The more diversity in age, ethnicity, gender, and personal style the better.
5. Upload the videos to dropbox.com (free to join), put it in a folder, and share it with me at info(at)babasword(dot)com
6. Wait 2-3 days for the video to be released on YouTube, featuring you and many others, all supporting Joyce.
Hurry please! The supporter signup deadline is on March 3rd and I want to make this video go viral at least a week in advance!
I’m writing this from a tour bus, en route from Williamstown, MA to Providence, RI, sloughing through Nemo’s wake on a national tour of the Rap Guide to Evolution. In a few days we’ll take the show to where it gets interesting: the American South.
But for now I’m writing because Jamie and I have a brand new live comedy hip-hop album, Ingenious Nature, recorded at the Soho Playhouse January 6th 2013. Click on the album artwork to preview it.
This album is not available for streaming or download anywhere else, and it’s not on iTunes. Instead, it’s only available to my actual supporters, of which I hope you are one!
The album can only be downloaded as a reward for funding our IndieGogo campaign to get all three of off-Broadway shows, Rap Guide to Evolution, Canterbury Tales Remixed, and Ingenious Nature, running in rotation at the Players Theatre in New York this Spring. The three shows work as a cycle, an intellectual hip-hop theatre triptych, and if we succeed we’ll be doing something never-before-tried!
If you’re able to contribute something to the campaign, I would be eternally grateful, and will shower you with delightful personalized rewards! The digital download is just the beginning. Go to the campaign homepage to see what I mean.
Either way, I hope you will help me spread the word. We only have 14 days left to raise the money!
I normally use this blog to talk about my own projects and events, but this one isn’t about me, it’s about my mother, Joyce Murray.
She’s running for leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and has a bold plan to cooperate with the other left-leaning parties (the NDP and Green Party) on a one-time basis for the singular purpose of ending Stephen Harper’s slimy grip on Canadian politics and passing electoral reform so that no party can ever again hold a “majority” with only 38% of the vote.
Details of her plan are below, but the key thing is that anyone can participate, as long as they are Canadian and not a card-carrying member of another political party. You can sign up for free on her website as a “supporter” and have your say in Canada’s future.
Joyce is also championing some other great initiatives such as pricing carbon to get Canada’s greenhouse gas output under control, legalizing and taxing cannabis, and better representation for women in public appointments.
If you’re sick of Harper’s divisive, authoritarian, anti-science, environmentally irresponsible policies, this one is a no-brainer. Sign up!
Okay, over to you mom…
Febuary 5, 2013
It’s an exciting time to be a Liberal Member or Supporter! We are rebuilding our party to be the party Canadians look to for leadership in 2015. And you’ve been clear: inspiring Canadians to vote again is a priority for our party.Renewing democracy and making our political system fair and representative is a goal I share. But it simply won’t happen as long as Stephen Harper remains Prime Minister. I am the only leadership candidate with a plan to defeat Stephen Harper and use the principle of proportional representation to reboot our broken electoral system.In 2011 we lost in 57 ridings where Conservatives won with less than 50% of the vote. I propose that in those ridings, we cooperate with other parties to run a single progressive candidate who can take the seat from Stephen Harper. Let’s give local riding associations the power to cooperate with other parties and figure out how, riding by riding, we can defeat the Conservatives.This plan will only work if people outside our Party, and those who have turned away from politics entirely, become interested and decide to help. That’s why I made this video - a call to action – inviting them to become Supporters and join us to defeat Stephen Harper. Please pass it on to your friends, Liberal and non-Liberal alike!
Naturally, people are worried by the idea of doing things differently. I’d say that doing things the same these past years got us where we are now. It’s time to be brave and take initiative, putting Canada’s interests first. We are Canadians. Principled cooperation is what we do! In fact, the Liberal minority governments of the 60s and 70s left the legacy they did because they were prepared to cooperate with different parties to better the lives of all Canadians.
Cooperation is not a coalition or merger. We would still nominate a Liberal in every riding. Cooperation is simply a plan for a primary-type runoff to choose the strongest progressive candidate who can defeat a Conservative in select ridings.
Cooperation would be democratic, transparent and voluntary, with local Liberal riding associations making the decision whether or not to participate.
Cooperation would be a one-time deal, followed by real electoral reform to ensure future elections respect the votes of every Canadian.
Cooperation is a win-win solution. We’re not sacrificing Liberal values, we’re ensuring a future for the full spectrum of political choice in Canada. At the same time, we will have nothing to lose by cooperating because we are rebuilding the Liberal Party into an option Canadians can feel proud to support. My plan simply gives us a safety net that ensures Stephen Harper is defeated in the next election.
Let’s continue the momentum that began when Liberal Party members decided to open up our party and build a strong, diverse Liberal movement, reinforced by brand-new Supporters.
Please join me in sharing the video widely and help change the course of Canadian political history in 2015. Let’s build a Canada that is economically, environmentally and democratically sustainable.
C’est excitant d’être un membre ou un sympathisant du Parti libéral par les temps qui courent. Nous rebâtissons notre parti pour que les Canadiennes et les Canadiens reconnaissent notre leadership en 2015. Vous avez été clairs : Inspirer les Canadiens pour qu’ils retournent aux urnes est une priorité pour notre parti.
Le renouvellement de notre démocratie pour que notre système politique soit équitable et représentatif est un but que je partage. Mais nous n’y arriverons pas tant que Stephen Harper est premier ministre. Je suis la seule candidate à la chefferie qui a un plan pour remettre notre système électoral sur la bonne voie.
En 2011, nous avons perdu 57comtés où des conservateurs ont gagné avec moins de 50 % des voix. Je propose que dans ces comtés nous coopérions avec les autres partis progressistes et qu’un seul candidat soit présenté afin de déloger le candidat de Harper. Donnons aux associations de comtés le pouvoir de déterminer le moyen de coopérer à cette fin avec les autres partis. Comté par comté, nous pouvons assurer la défaite des conservateurs.
Ce plan ne peut réussir que si des personnes qui ne sont pas de notre Parti ou qui se sont entièrement détournées de la politique deviennent intéressées et décident d’aider.Voilà pourquoi j’ai fait ce vidéo - un appel à l’action – les invitant à devenir sympathisants et à se joindre à nous pour sonner la défaite de Harper.
Transmettez- le donc à vos amis, qu’ils soient libéraux ou non!
Il est naturel que l’idée de faire les choses autrement déstabilise les gens. Je vous dirais que c’est d’avoir fait la même chose pendant des années qui nous a mis dans le pétrin où nous sommes. Il est grand temps d’être brave et de prendre l’initiative pour le bien de notre pays!
La coopération n’est pas une coalition ni une fusion. Chaque comté nommerait un candidat libéral. Ceci est simplement un plan pour un scrutin de ballottage du type des primaires américaines pour choisir le candidat progressiste le plus apte à défaire le candidat conservateur dans des comtés ciblés.
La coopération serait démocratique, transparente et volontaire. Chaque association de comté serait libre de participer ou non.
La coopération serait une action ponctuelle, qui serait suivie par une vraie réforme électorale pour qu’à l’avenir les élections respectent le vote de chaque Canadien.
La coopération est une solution gagnante. Nous ne sacrifions pas nos valeurs libérales. Nous faisons en sorte qu’à l’avenir nous ayons accès au spectre complet de choix politiques au Canada. Nous n’avons rien à perdre à coopérer. Parce que nous rebâtissons le Parti libéral afin qu’il soit une option à laquelle les Canadiens seront fiers d’adhérer. Mon plan de coopération nous assure un moyen efficace pour défaire Harper aux prochaines élections.
Profitons de l’impulsion qui nous a été donnée par les membres qui ont décidé d’ouvrir notre parti pour bâtir un mouvement fort, diversifié et revigoré par de tout nouveaux sympathisants.
Je vous prie de vous joindre à moi et de partager ce vidéo le plus largement possible pour aider à changer le cours de l’histoire du Canada en 2015. Bâtissons un Canada dont l’économie, l’environnement et la démocratie seront durables.
Crowdfunding An Extension, and A Unique Experiment
Three weeks ago we finished up the initial run of Ingenious Nature, and immediately an offer came up to extend not just that show but all three of my shows, at a better-located theatre right on NYU’s main campus in the heart of Greenwich Village. The producers of Rap Guide to Evolution, Canterbury Tales Remixed, and Ingenious Nature would have to combine forces to make this happen, and they are now ready to partner on the project, but we have to raise the funds first.
So I’m starting a crowdfunder drive with IndieGogo to get this never-before-tried theatre experiment launched. If successful, we’ll run all three productions in rotation for one month off-Broadway, with two performances of The Rap Guide to Evolution and one each of the other two shows every week. And if that month goes well, we can extend this run indefinitely.
Take a moment to check out the perks on the campaign homepage: Darwin Meets Chaucer Off-Broadway
In return for your contribution to the crowdfunder drive, you can claim all kinds of rewards, including exclusive Evolution T-Shirts, a digital download of our new live Ingenious Nature CD, VIP tickets to the shows, even exclusive performances and original raps written on a theme of your choice!
If you’ve been meaning to book me for an event, but thought you didn’t have the budget, check out the live performance options. Or, if you just like the idea of promoting the works of Darwin and Chaucer to a wider audience, contribute what you can. And either way please tweet and share the link with your friends!
I’ll keep you posted on how it goes, and look forward to seeing what kind of response we get.
Thanks in advance for your support!
Yes, I’ve been focussing on science a lot lately, but I’m still a Chaucerian. Two days ago Jamie and I performed The Canterbury Tales Remixed for a group of Juniors at a High School about half an hour’s drive North of NYC. The English teacher currently introducing them to the British Literature syllabus sent me this message earlier today, which I feel the need to share, because it reminded me why I got into this business in the first place:
Once again, thanks for a terrific show Tuesday. The kids’ reactions have been unanimously positive, in many cases effusively so. More importantly, they got it. Several of my students discussed how “Chaucerian” your approach is, not only do you adapt the tales, but you do so through an art form that mirrors what Chaucer himself did in his creation of the tales, by creating personae and manipulating your voice. (This is them, not me! I didn’t say much at all in class yesterday, and their understanding is a testament to your clarity and artistry!)
Best of luck for your Spring Rep show—I hope to see you and Jamie perform again in NYC.