Special feature: Crommunist goes to Montreal

Last Monday, work took me to Toronto for the annual meeting of one of my projects. The following Monday was a conference held by the team I work for in Montreal, which meant that I was facing a week-long gap between events. Given how friggin’ expensive it is to fly across Canada, I figured it would be easier for me to take a few vacation days and spend the time on some rest & relaxation than try to cross the distance twice. And so it was that I found myself at Toronto’s Union station on the 11:30 train bound for Montreal with my good friend Nate.

A picture of my friend Nathan and I [Read more...]

Imagine No Religion 2: parte the seconde

Aside from the piss-poor performance by the theists during the debate, there were a couple of low points for me during the conference.

Some of y’all are intense

At the risk of sounding completely bigoted and neuronormative, I gained a lot of appreciation for the stereotyped image of atheist conference-goers as a bunch of oddballs. I’m sure any group of people who have a passionate interest in a specific topic will produce its share of wackies, but I don’t go to conferences (except things that are work-related, which is a whole different thing to tackle) – I don’t think this is an ‘atheist problem’ per se, I think it is a problem inherent to human interaction. That being said, there were some things that were kind of offputting for me.

First of all, as pugnacious as I am about a wide variety of topics, I know better than to turn every verbal misstep into an opportunity to mount a soapbox. Part of human interaction involves putting others at ease, in order to allow trust and emotional intimacy to build. If your objective is to cultivate that kind of interaction, then jumping up and down any time anyone says something incorrect or insensitive is counter-productive. There were a number of times when I found myself sitting and chatting pleasantly enough with folks I didn’t know, only to have the conversation jerk wildly into a combat situation with no real warning. I didn’t want to be around those people. [Read more...]

Imagine No Religion 2: parte the firste

As many of you are aware, this year I attended the Imagine No Religion 2 conference in Kamloops, BC. What you may not have been aware of is the fact that this was my first ever atheist conference. I’ve only been ‘out’ for a couple of years, and because nearly all of the atheist meetups I’ve ever seen are in the eastern United States, I haven’t really had much motivation to go. While it would be cool to meet some new athie folk, the fact is that I can think of quite a number of things I’d rather spend $1200 on.

This year, however, I was asked by members of CFI Vancouver and Okanogan to attend the function in Kamloops. At the time they asked, they were concerned about not being able to recoup their expenses. Seeing as I owe a great deal of my public profile to the hard work done by my fellow CFIers, and that I genuinely like them and am happy to help out when I can, I decided to pop my conference cherry and attend INR2. Overall, I am incredibly glad that I did. Not only was it a wonderful chance for me to hang out with a group of (largely) like-minded people and have fun for a weekend, but I also got a chance to meet some folks that I’ve been looking forward to crossing paths with for some time. [Read more...]

So here’s what’s happening

Tomorrow afternoon I am going to be heading to Kamloops, BC for the Imagine No Religion 2 conference. I am looking forward to getting a chance to meet some of my fellow FTBorg, as well as soak in some godless goodness up in the mountains. This is pretty much the perfect time of year to go to Kamloops, because it will be sunny and pleasant.

On Sunday I am flying to Toronto for work, and will be shortly thereafter heading to Montreal. I’m there for another conference, and also because it’s Montreal and Montreal is amazing. I will be returning from my work/vacation on the 29th.

What this means for y’all is that I will be in vacation mode – fewer posts and shorter posts. Less activity on Twitter, and the comment moderation is going to be super-slow for those of you who are first-timers (or use a lot of links). I’d apologize, but I’m not sorry – between working full-time, blogging part-time, and trying to manage a rock band (on top of, y’know, having a social life), I feel like a couple of weeks of relative down time is not too much to ask.

It usually takes me a few days to bounce back following a trip like this, so expect normal functioning to resume starting at the beginning of June.

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Movie Friday: Even Handed Odds

Some of you may know that I play in a band called CROWN. What you may not know is that I don’t play in a band called CROWN anymore. We changed our name back in April to Even Handed Odds, reflecting not only a change in our lineup (we added a drummer), but the fact that there are a million things out there called “Crown”, which made us really tough to find on the internet. Since the name change, we played our first show as a 5-piece at The Backstage Lounge, a restaurant/live music venue on Vancouver’s beautiful Granville Island.

We shot this video at the gig:

Anyway, more shameless self-promotion.

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Because I am an atheist…

Those who wish to demonize or denigrate atheists are rather fond of telling us what we believe as a consequence of our atheism. You’ve undoubtedly heard the shrieking refrain of “you’re an atheist? That means you believe in nothing!” Who can argue with that kind of airtight logic? Or the similarly bulletproof “atheists just say they don’t believe so they can be sinful!” Thanks, Mr. Comfort – any other gems you want to lay on us? “Atheists have no moral centre – if there are no gods, any depraved act is permitted!”

The accusations are as tedious as they are false. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that people who lack a god belief are less moral than those who have one. Indeed, one could make the argument that the association between the most vile behaviours humankind struggles with – anti-gay hatred, suicide bombing, tribalist racism – and fervent religious expression suggests the exact opposite: that god-belief provides a convenient excuse for those who wish to do evil. Whatever the truth is, theist apologists are perhaps the least qualified to tell the world what atheists do as a consequence of their atheism.

Many of you have undoubtedly seen PZ Myers’ “why I am an atheist” series on Pharyngula. His purpose is to provide a variety of answers to the question “why are you an atheist” that go beyond the simplistic tautology of “because I lack a god belief”. In a similar vein, I thought I would share some of the specific ways that acknowledging my atheism has changed my life: [Read more...]

Certainly uncertain

I’ve been using Twitter a lot recently. I was deeply cynical about the platform when I first learned about it. To be certain, some of my cynicism was justified: there are a lot of people who do seriously just post whatever pops into their heads. I am sad to say that I am quickly becoming one of ‘those people’ in a sense, especially when I spend my Sundays on quiet introspection and wandering around. The funny thing is, whether by coincidence or as a function of how people use social media, my number of subscribers has increased since I have become a more frequent Tweeter

If you look at my description, I describe myself as (among other things) an “anti-racist”. I came across that term rather recently. Before I began seriously delving into issues of race and trying to engage with other people, I didn’t bother with trying to classify what was going on inside my head. Racism was, like history and psychology and philosophy and any number of other things, something that I was interested in thinking about. Of course, it had the added component about being relevant to my own day-to-day experiences.

It wasn’t until I started talking about racism that I began to cast about for useful ways of cementing my scattered thoughts on race into relatable, recognizable forms. Such forms required terminology, and the people who I found whose viewpoints were close to my own called themselves “anti-racist”, so I decided to run with it. Due to the diversity of approaches I’ve seen with this label, I have given little thought to what that term “actually” means beyond a very superficial definition. Generally, it is a critical stance on race and racism… and it doesn’t approve. [Read more...]

Movie Friday: Bonus self-promotion

So this week I “rediscovered” the joys of performing at open mic nights. Back in my grad school days, solo open mic performance was one of my favourite leisure activities. Since moving to Vancouver, it has been a much more rare occasion to see me perform without the aid of my band-mates (even before Even Handed Odds formed, Stu and I used to hold down open mics as a duo). In an effort to boost the band, however, I went to a open mic this past Monday and was once again bitten by the bug. While I definitely prefer to play music with other people, there really is something about being up on that stage by yourself.

Anyway, this Wednesday I picked up my guitar and tromped to a local spot that does open mic. I had a buddy there, who filmed this song for me:

I was a little rusty – I’ll probably take a run at this again sometime. Once again, apologies for the sound quality. Here’s the original if you’ve been trapped under a rock for the past 15 or so years and haven’t heard it. Also, one of the greatest music videos of all time:

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Movie Friday: Clint Eastwood

So last week I mentioned that my band does a cover of ‘Clint Eastwood’ by the Gorillaz. The cool thing about this song is that it features the rhyming of Del tha Funkee Homosapien, so covering it gives me a chance to rap, and provides the audience with something you don’t often see at a pub night. I said I’d get a recording for ya, so here it is:

I wish I could do something about the sound, but the microphone on my mobile doesn’t handle noise too well. If anyone knows a ‘fix’ for that I’d greatly appreciate it. If you’d like to contrast my performance with the original, here it is:

The self-aggrandizement continues!

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