Frivolous Friday: Reuniting the Beatles

The Beatles

Short tale about weird kid things.

I was eight when the Beatles broke up, and I was devastated. I mean, DEVASTATED. They weren’t just my favorite band: I’d grown up with the Beatles, I’d never lived in a world without the Beatles, and it had never occurred to me that they might not always be together.

So for a while after they broke up, I had daily fantasies in which I reunited the Beatles. With the help of Batman. The Beatles, Batman, and I would save the world in some way — usually by fighting some villain who was trying to destroy it — and in the process of saving the world, the Beatles would realize that they should get back together.

I’m tempted to write something schmaltzy and deep here, about how this showed some sort of character truth about me. Something like, “In a way, I think I’m still trying to reunite the Beatles and save the world, with Batman’s help.” But I think I was just a weird kid. Although maybe not so weird: I’m reminded of the bit in Amy Poehler’s memoir Yes, Please, where she describes her childhood game of pretending she was being chased by Russians. “I would pretend to wait until they were gone and then jump out of the leaves to get to the business of delivering the microchip into the hands of Pat Benatar.”

What was some of your weird kid stuff? Did you imagine saving the world with the help of celebrities and fictional characters?

Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Check out what some of the other Orbiters are doing!

Frivolous Friday: Reuniting the Beatles

Creepy Exes and Colonialism: Hamilton’s “You’ll Be Back”

Hamilton album cover
Content note: domestic abuse, imperialist oppression, mild Hamilton spoilers

It’s such a catchy, peppy tune. A classic in the “sad spurned ex-lover” genre, in the sub-genre of “denial about the romance being over.” The character singing the song has no self-awareness about this, but the songwriter clearly does, and the song is written with a wink to the audience. How funny and clever — to frame King George III reacting to the American colonies’ independence as if he were a bitter ex-lover, certain that his ex will miss him terribly, and determined to get them back.

Then it gets to the line about “I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.” And everything comes into sharp focus — through a completely different lens.

If you haven’t been evangelized yet by frenetic fans: Hamilton is the enormously successful, critically-acclaimed, totally-fucking-brilliant Broadway musical, mostly in hip-hop, rap, and R&B, about the life and death of Alexander Hamilton. “You’ll Be Back” is sung by King George III in response to the colonies’ increasing shows of independence: it’s one of the few songs that’s sung by a white actor, and it’s in a different musical genre — the genre of British Invasion pop. (Lyrics; audio.)

Here’s the genius thing about “You’ll Be Back” (well, one of the genius things): It uses the pop-song trope of the creepy ex-lover as an analogy for colonialism. It uses colonialism as an analogy for creepy ex-lovers. And it uses both to critique the entire trope, to take down pop songs that show lovers or ex-lovers being creepy, controlling, patronizing, unwilling to accept breakups, stalkerish, even threatening or violent — and that present all of it as romantic. Continue reading “Creepy Exes and Colonialism: Hamilton’s “You’ll Be Back””

Creepy Exes and Colonialism: Hamilton’s “You’ll Be Back”

Steven Universe Theme Song Parody, Cat Edition

So I’ve written a song parody of the Steven Universe theme song, based on our cats. Because of course I have.

Are the tabby cats
We’ll lie around all day
And if you make the bed
We’ll both get in the way

That’s why the mamas of this world
Believe in
Comet, Talisker, and purrrrrr

Comet and Talisker snuggling asleep on bed 1000

(For those who aren’t Steven Universe fans, here’s the theme song, and the extended opening with the extended theme song.)

If you enjoyed this cat-themed song parody, you may also enjoy:

Saturday Night’s Alright For Biting
Love Me, Love Me, Love Me — I’m A Kittycat!
Everyone Knows It’s Comet!
The Comet Song: Theme from “Cat Over the Fridge Up High,” by ReasJack

Steven Universe Theme Song Parody, Cat Edition

The Great Gruesome Christmas Carols

I’m reposting some of my previous holiday posts, as part of my holiday tradition thing. Enjoy!

christmas carols book
And now for something completely different.

I’m one of those freakish people who actually likes Christmas carols. Not the gloppy, cutesy, “Suzy Snowflake” modern variety so much (although I do have a soft spot for “Silver Bells”), but the soaring, haunting, gorgeous classic ones. “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “The Holly and the Ivy,” “The Angel Gabriel,” that sort of thing.

And one of the things I like about them is how totally freaky some of them are.

There’s this annual Christmas party I go to every year, at which the singing of Christmas carols and other seasonal and not- so- seasonal music is a centerpiece. A few years back, I went on the Internet and pulled together a lyric sheet, so we could actually sing all the songs all the way through instead of tapering off pathetically after the first verse.And you know what I found? Some Christmas carols are truly gruesome. Startlingly gruesome. Freakishly and hilariously gruesome.

So I thought I should share with the rest of the class. Continue reading “The Great Gruesome Christmas Carols”

The Great Gruesome Christmas Carols

White Wine in the Sun

For the 5% of you who aren’t familiar with it, here is Tim Minchin’s lovely and touching atheist/ humanist Christmas song, “White Wine in the Sun.” I repost this every year, as part of my holiday tradition thing.

Okay, yes, these days I personally would much rather break bread with Desmond Tutu than Dawkins. But I love the song anyway. This is the animated version of the video, which I’m very fond of. For those who celebrate it — have a happy Christmas! And for those who don’t — have a happy End of December!

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPG
Coming Out Atheist
why are you atheists so angry
Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

White Wine in the Sun

Baby, It’s Consensual Outside

I’m reposting some of my previous holiday posts, as part of my holiday tradition thing. Enjoy!

I’ve been seeing discussion about the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” It’s unsurprising, what with (a) it being the winter holiday season, and (b) there being a lot of discussion of rape culture. Yes, the song is troubling at best and rapey at worst (more on that after the video). And I don’t care that Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt reversed the gender roles: men deserve to have their sexual boundaries respected just as much as women, ignoring boundaries and treating it like a flirtatious game is fucked-up no matter what the genders are. But the main thing I want to say right now is this:

Have you heard the consensual version?

There’s a really cute, sweet, funny parody version of the song on YouTube by Chase Gregory, titled “Baby It’s Consensual Outside,” in which the guy respects the woman’s boundaries. I thought some of you might enjoy it.

I’ve transcribed the lyrics, for the deaf and hard of hearing (below the jump). Continue reading “Baby, It’s Consensual Outside”

Baby, It’s Consensual Outside

A Modern Over-thinking of the Sexual and Relationship Ethics of “The Cherry Tree Carol”

Cherry Tree Carol Jacket 200
Okay. Ever since I heard this song, this has bugged me. I know I’m over-thinking this, but I’m being entertained by my over-thinking, so I decided to share.

Do you know “The Cherry Tree Carol”? There are different versions, what with it being a folk song and all (here’s an MP3 of a pretty one), but here’s the basic storyline.

Joseph and Mary are walking in a cherry orchard, and Mary asks Joseph to pick her some cherries, because she’s pregnant.

Joseph gets angry, since he knows the baby isn’t his (they haven’t had sex — in most versions of the song they’re not yet married). He says to Mary, “Let the baby’s father pick the cherries for you.” (Some versions of the song call his words unkind; others say they’re angry.)

Jesus then speaks from out of Mary’s womb, and commands the cherry tree to bend down and give her cherries. Which, of course, it does.

Mary says to Joseph, “See? I have cherries at command.” (In other words: “The baby’s father is God, and I didn’t cheat on you.”)

In some versions, Joseph then begs forgiveness, says he’s not worthy, wallows in guilt, hopes God won’t smite him, etc. In other versions, Mary’s “In your face, douchebag” is left as an implication. (In some versions, Mary then asks the baby Jesus to predict the future, either after he’s born or from inside her womb — which he does. Damn, theology is weird. That’s not relevant to this particular story, though.)

Okay. So here’s the thing:

It is entirely reasonable for Joseph to be pissed.

How on Earth was Joseph supposed to know that the baby was the supernaturally-conceived son of God? Why would he imagine that, even for a second? Think of Joseph’s arc in this song. “Gee, I was such an unkind jerk for not considering the possibility that your pregnancy was supernatural, rather than the result of perfectly ordinary human sex. I mean, that’s only been the case in EVERY SINGLE PREGNANCY THROUGHOUT HISTORY.”

Assuming you accept that monogamy is a reasonable relationship arrangement (which I do, although I certainly don’t think it’s the only one), it’s reasonable to be pissed off when your partner breaks that agreement. It’s especially reasonable to be pissed off when your partner breaks their monogamy agreement, gets pregnant with someone else’s kid, and then just assumes that you’re going to parent this kid.

Okay, yes. “I’m ticked off, I don’t feel like picking cherries for you right now, let the baby’s father do that” isn’t the best response to this. It’s definitely on the sarcastic side. But as responses to “I cheated on you and got pregnant” go (which, again, is the entirely reasonable conclusion for Joseph to come to), it’s pretty mild. And Mary didn’t exactly tell him in the most sensitive way, either. “Hey Joseph, can you get me something to eat? I’m hungry — because I’m pregnant, with a baby that you know perfectly well isn’t yours. Now, make with the cherries.”

In fact, I would argue that in this story, Mary is being a total drama queen. If she can talk to the baby Jesus in her womb and get him to do telekinesis, couldn’t she have done that before this little incident? “So, Joseph, you’re probably not going to believe this, but I’m pregnant with God’s baby. I know, you have every reason to think that’s bullshit — but here, I’ll show you. Baby — bend that tree!” Instead, she manufactures this passive-aggressive little drama, where she gets to be the martyr. “Oh, Joseph, I’m so hungry, because I’m pregnant with someone else’s kid. What? You’re angry? You don’t trust that I kept our monogamy agreement? Oh, I’m so hurt. But I’ll prove it. Baby — bend that tree! See, Joseph? The baby’s father is GOD! In your face, douchebag!”


A Modern Over-thinking of the Sexual and Relationship Ethics of “The Cherry Tree Carol”

10 Christmas Carols Even An Atheist Could Love

This piece was originally published on AlterNet in 2010. I’m dragging it out again for the holidays.

carol singing
What do you do if you’re an atheist who likes Christmas carols?

It’s widely assumed that atheists, by definition, hate Christmas. And it’s an assumption I’m baffled by. I like Christmas. Lots of atheists I know like Christmas. Plenty of atheists recognize the need for rituals that strengthen social bonds and mark the passing of the seasons. Especially when the season in question is dark and wet and freezing cold. Add in a culturally- sanctioned excuse to spend a month of Saturdays eating, drinking, flirting, and showing off our most festive shoes, and we’re totally there. And we find our own ways to adapt/ create/ subvert the holiday traditions to our own godless ends.

Sure, most of us would like for our governments to not be sponsoring religious displays at the holidays. Or any other time. What with the whole “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” thing. And some of us do rather resent the cultural hegemony of one particular religious tradition being crammed down everybody’s throat, in a grotesque, mutant mating of homogenized consumerism and saccharine piety. But many of us are very fond of Christmas. Some atheists even like Christmas carols. I’m one of them.

It is, however, definitely the case that, since I’ve become an atheist activist, my pleasure in many Christmas carols has been somewhat diminished. It’s harder for me to sing out lustily about angels and magic stars and the miracle of the virgin birth, without rolling my eyes just a little. And I do notice the more screwed-up content of many Christmas songs more than I used to: the guilty self-loathing, the fixation on the blood sacrifice, the not- so- subtle anti-Semitism. I’m content to sing most of these songs anyway (except “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” which always makes me cringe). But for some time now, I’ve been on the lookout for Christmas songs that I can sing entirely happily, without getting into annoying theological debates in my head.

So, with the help of my Facebook friends, I’ve compiled a list of Christmas songs that atheists can love unreservedly.

The rules, made up entirely by me (you can make up your own rules for your own list):

mary and baby jesus
Songs cannot have any mention of God, Jesus, angels, saints, or miracles. Not even in Latin. This is the key, the raison d’etre of this whole silly game. I’m not going to start making exceptions just so I can sneak in the “Boar’s Head Carol.” And yes, this rules out “Good King Wenceslas.” Hey, I like it too, it’s pretty and has a nice (if somewhat politically complicated) message about how rich kings should help poor people. But come on, people. It’s about a Christian saint with magical powers. No can do. (I will, however, grant a “saints with magical powers” exemption to Santa.)

Songs must be reasonably well-known. Yes, this rules out some truly excellent stuff. Many of my favorite Christmas songs, atheist or otherwise, are on the obscure side: from the grisly, gothy, paganesque “Corpus Christi Carol” (I do love me some gruesome Christmas songs), to the simultaneously haunting and peppy “Patapan,” to Tim Minchin’s funny, touching, pointedly godless “White Wine in the Sun.” But it’s no fun singing Christmas songs by yourself. For a song to make my list, a reasonable number of people at your holiday party should be able to sing it… or at least chime in on the first verse before trailing off into awkward pauses and “La la la”s.

No song parodies. It hurts like major surgery for me to make this rule. Some of my very favorite Christmas songs of all time are song parodies: my friend Tim’s hilariously on-target Christmas-themed parody of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Christmas Rhapsody”; the entire “Very Scary Solstice” songbook from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society; every Mad Magazine Christmas carol parody ever written. Song parodies are an excellent way to redeem a pretty Christmas tune from cringe-inducing lyrics, and many are just excellent songs on their own. But the idea here is that atheists can have a completely heartfelt, non-snarky love for Christmas music. So to make it onto my list, songs must be entirely sincere. (I will, however, give bonus points to classic Christmas songs that have spawned good parodies.)

Songs have to be good songs. A subjective judgment, I realize. And for the purposes of this game, one that is to be made entirely by me. Deal with it. I don’t care how secular it is: “Suzy Snowflake” is not making it onto my freaking Christmas song list.

Bonus points: A song gets bonus points for not mentioning the word “Christmas.” It’s okay if it does — I don’t think the word has to mean “Christ’s Mass,” any more than “goodbye” has to mean “God be with you” or “Thursday” has to mean “Thor’s day.” But songs that have become widely accepted Christmas carols without even mentioning the concept get bonus points: for chutzpah, if nothing else.

And songs get bonus points for being written more than 100 years ago. I’m not a reflexive hater of modern Christmas songs; in fact, some of them I quite like. But some of the best stuff about Christmas music is the old, old, tunes: the soaring, haunting melodies and harmonies that resonate back through the centuries. If a song can do that and still not mention the baby Jesus, I’m sold.

So with these rules in mind, here are my Top Ten Christmas Carols Even An Atheist Could Love. Continue reading “10 Christmas Carols Even An Atheist Could Love”

10 Christmas Carols Even An Atheist Could Love

Christmas Rhapsody: My Favorite Holiday Song Parody Evar

I’m reposting some of my previous holiday posts, as part of my holiday tradition thing. Enjoy!

queen bohemian rhapsody
Is this the Yuletide?
It’s such a mystery
Will I be denied
Or will there be gifts for me?

Come down the stairs
Look under the tree and see…

And it’s time, once again, for my annual plug for my candidate for the Best Christmas Song Parody Evar: Christmas Rhapsody, Pledge Drive’s Christmas-themed parody of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” written by my friend Tim Walters and his friend Steve Rosenthal.

Alas, there’s no good video. Which is a shame, since I think this thing has potential to go seriously viral some year if there were a good video to go with it. Interested videographers should contact Tim through his Website. In the meantime — enjoy the song!

And if you like that, Tim has even more holiday music on his site. My fave: Down in the Forest, described as “A dark and slightly confused Yuletide nightmare. It has something to do with the Fisher King. Maybe.” Have fun!

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPG
Coming Out Atheist
why are you atheists so angry
Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Christmas Rhapsody: My Favorite Holiday Song Parody Evar

Godless Perverts Social Club Thursday 3/19: Sex and Music


The next Godless Perverts Social Club is this Thursday, March 19! On our third Thursday meetups, we pick a discussion topic ahead of time — and for this meetup, the topic is Sex and Music. Rebecca will co-moderate a discussion of kink in popular music and other media. Was your sexuality influenced by the songs and movies of your youth? Are the explicit — and often kinky — lyrics in current hip-hop sex-positive or appropriative? Are bad representations of kink in pop culture better or worse than invisibility? Come discuss these questions and more. If you’d like to listen to some examples, check out the YouTube playlist below:

The Godless Perverts Social Club meets on the first Tuesday and the third Thursday of every month, 7-9 pm, at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). We do slightly different formats for the two clubs. Our Third Thursday Social Clubs are Topical Thursdays — we pick a topic ahead of time, have a moderator/ host who leads the discussion, maybe even get special guests to guide discussions on particular topics. The first Tuesday Social Clubs are more loosely-structured casual affairs, where we mostly just nosh and sit around schmoozing about whatever topics happen to come up. (Our next First Tuesday Social Club will be Tuesday, April 7.) Admission is free, but we ask that you buy food and/or drink at the cafe: they have beverages, light snacks, full meals, and killer milkshakes.

Godless Perverts presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion, by and for sex-positive atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers, through performance events, panel discussions, social gatherings, media productions, and other appropriate outlets. Our events and media productions present depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities — including positive, traumatic, and complex experiences — focusing on the intersections of sexuality with atheism, materialism, skepticism, and science, as well as critical, questioning, mocking, or blasphemous views of sex and religion.

Godless Perverts is committed to feminism, diversity, inclusivity, and social justice. We seek to create safe and welcoming environments for all non-believers and believing allies who are respectful of the mission, and are committed to taking positive action to achieve this. Please let the moderators or other people in charge of any event know if you encounter harassment, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or other problems at our events.

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, or follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including the Godless Perverts. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, Hope to see you soon!

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPG
Coming Out Atheist
why are you atheists so angry
Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Godless Perverts Social Club Thursday 3/19: Sex and Music