The Great Gruesome Christmas Carols

I’m doing a full court press in December to finish my new book, “Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why.” Deadline for going to the typesetter is January 2. So for most of December, I’ll be posting retreads traditional holiday posts, as well as a few cat pictures. Enjoy!

Christmas carols
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.

We start with a classic: the fourth verse of “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

I love that one. It rings out so lustily — especially when a room full of eggnog- tiddly heathens is belting it out.

Then we have this gem: two little lines from the 1865 “Greensleeves” parody rewrite, “What Child Is This”:

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.

Well, it definitely reminds you of the reason for the season. You can’t deny that.

Then we have the lesser- known, but haunting and really quite lovely “Coventry Carol” (here’s the tune, in case you don’t know it). With this charming third verse:

Slaughter of the innocents
Herod the king in his raging,
Charged he hath this day,
His men of night, in his own sight,
All children young to stay.

The fourth verse is a charmer, too, although somewhat lacking in the vivid “dead children” imagery:

Then woe is me, poor child, for thee,
And ever mourn and say,
For thy parting not say, nor sing,
By, by, lullay, lullay.

But the best — the very, very best, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords of gruesome Christmas carols — has got to be the “Corpus Christi Carol,” a.k.a. “Down In Yon Forest.” There are different versions of it, but the one I found when I was putting together the songbook goes like this:

Dead knights
Down in yon forest there stands a hall
(The bells of paradise I heard them ring)
It’s covered all over with purple and pall
(And I love my Lord Jesus above anything)

In that hall there stands a bed
It’s covered all over with scarlet so red

Under the bed there runs a flood
One half runs water, the other runs blood

On the bed there lies a knight
Whose wounds do drip down both by day and by night

By the bed there lies a hound
Who laps at the blood as it daily drips down

At the bed’s foot there grows a thorn
Which ever so blossomed since Jesus was born

(Here’s a nifty folk-Goth version of it by my friend Tim Walters and his occasional project Conjure Wife; here’s a YouTube video with a slightly more conventional rendition, although for some reason it’s lacking the verse about the vampire dog.)

So Merry Christmas, everybody! And in the midst of this terrible, disrespectful, heathenistic War on Christmas, let’s all remember the reason for the season: a life of gathering gloom, flesh pierced through with nails and a spear, children slaughtered by a raging king, and — merriest of all — a half-blood, half-water river, blood dripping from a wounded knight, and a dog licking up the blood. Let me know if there’s any I’ve forgotten, or any I haven’t heard of yet. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

10 Christmas Carols Even An Atheist Could Love

I’m doing a full court press in December to finish my new book, “Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why.” Deadline for going to the typesetter is January 2. So for most of December, I’ll be posting retreads traditional holiday posts, as well as a few cat pictures. Enjoy! This piece was originally published on AlterNet in 2010.

Christmascarols 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. Heck, even Richard Dawkins likes 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 it’s not like all atheists are Grinchy McScrooges. 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:

Vierge_au_Chapelet_1 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.)

Gay_Mens_Chorus_of_Washington_DC 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.

Weird al 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.)

Thumbs up 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.

White-Christmas 10: White Christmas. This is a funny one. I don’t even particularly like this song: it’s kind of drippy, and it lends itself far too well to unctuous lounge singers. But come on, people. It was written by a freaking agnostic. A Jewish agnostic at that. And it’s become one of the most classic, wildly popular entries in the Christmas music canon. How can you not love an entirely secular Christmas classic written by a Jewish agnostic?

Jingle_Bells 9: Jingle Bells. A bit overplayed, I’ll grant you. But it’s cheery, and it’s old, and it’s fun to sing. The second through fourth verses (you know, the ones nobody sings or has even heard of) are all about courting girls, racing horses, and getting into accidents, so that’s entertaining. And the thing doesn’t mention the word “Christmas” once. Heck, it wasn’t even written as a Christmas song; it was written as a Thanksgiving song. You can happily teach it to your kids without worrying that you’re indoctrinating them into a death cult. Plus it’s spawned a burgeoning cottage industry of children’s song parodies, in the time-honored “Jingle bells, Batman smells” oeuvre. (Tangent: Do kids still sing that even though “Batman” isn’t on TV anymore?)

Sleigh ride 8: Sleigh Ride. For those who like jingling bells, but are a bit sick of “Jingle Bells” after all these years. Relentlessly cheerful. Lots of fun to sing, except for the weirdly tuneless bridge about Farmer Gray’s birthday party…. but then you get back into the sleigh bells jingling, ring- ting- tingling too, and you’re back in business. And no God, or Jesus, or even Christmas. Just snow, and singing, and pumpkin pie, and friends calling “Yoo hoo!” A trifle saccharine, I’ll grant you — a bit too nostalgic for a Norman Rockwell America that never really existed — but still good, clean, secular fun.

Silver bells 7: Silver Bells. I’m sure I’m going to get roundly hated on for this one. Lots of people truly loathe modern Christmas songs, especially the ones in the drippy lounge- singer category. (See “White Christmas” above.) But I have a genuine soft spot for this one, for a very specific reason: It’s one of the few Christmas songs that celebrates the urban Christmas. Most Christmas songs sing the bucolic joys of sleigh rides and forests and holly and whatnot… joys that are entirely outside of my own experience of Christmas. My own experience of Christmas is shopping and crowded streets and lavish decorations and electric light displays that could power a goat farm for a year. The very joys that “Silver Bells” is celebrating. And the tune is really pretty. Also it’s in 3/4 time, which means you can waltz to it. So thumbs-up from me. If you sing it in a peppy, up-tempo beat, you can avoid the whole lounge-singer vibe pretty easily.

We wish you a marry christmas6: We Wish You a Merry Christmas. I was going to include at least one wassailing song in this list. Wassailing songs are among the finest secular Christmas traditions, and the general concept is familiar to a lot of people, even if the specific examples of it aren’t. But alas, every single one of them either (a) is entirely obscure outside folk-nerd circles, or (b) mentions God at least once. Even if it’s just in an “And God bless you and send you a happy New Year” context. I couldn’t find even one completely secular wassailing song that’d be familiar to anyone who doesn’t go to Renaissance Faires. So I’m letting “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” stand in for the “going from door to door singing and begging for food” wassailing genre. It’s reasonably pretty, it’s fun to sing, a lot of people who don’t go to Renaissance Faires know it. And it celebrates two great Christmas traditions: pestering the neighbors, and eating yourself sick.

Let it snow 5: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Another in the “Christmas songs that are really about the entirely secular joys of snow and winter” oeuvre. I like this one because it’s not about mucking around in the actual snow, so much as it is about staying the hell out of it. Canoodling in front of the fire where it’s warm and dry — there’s a Christmas song for me! Plus it’s about being in love at Christmas, which is a lovely theme… and one that, like the urban Christmas, is sadly under-represented. And it’s another classic Christmas song written by Jewish songwriters, which always tickles me. Thumbs up.

SantaBabyEarthaKitt 4: Santa Baby. Yeah, yeah. Everyone loves to gripe about the commercialization of Christmas. I griped about it myself, just a few paragraphs ago. But it’s hard not to love a song that revels in it so blatantly, and with such sensual. erotic joy. Cars, yachts, fur coats, platinum mines, real estates, jewelry, and cold hard cash, with the not- so- subtle implication of sexual favors being offered in return — the reason for the season! Plus it has the class to get the name of the jewelry company right. (It’s Tiffany, people, not Tiffany’s!) And the only magical being it recognizes is an increasingly secular gift-giving saint with an apparent weakness for sultry, husky- voiced cabaret singers. (And who can blame him? Faced with Eartha Kitt batting her metaphorical eyes at me, I’d be pulling out my checkbook, too.)

Carol of the bells 3: Carol of the Bells. A trifle hard to sing in parts. But it’s awfully darned pretty. No, strike that. It is stunning. It is lavishly, thrillingly beautiful. It has that quality of being both eerie and festive that’s so central to so much great Christmas music… and it has it in trumps. It is freaking old — the original Ukrainian folk tune it’s based on may even be prehistoric — and it sounds it. In the best possible way. It is richly evocative of ancient mysteries, conveying both the joy and the peace that so many Christmas carols are gassing on about. And it does it without a single mention of God or Jesus or any other mythological beings. Just a “Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas.” I’m down with that.

Winter wonderland 2: Winter Wonderland. Yes, I know. Another modern one. Hey, what do you expect? Christmas got a whole lot more secular in the last century. But I unabashedly love this song, and I don’t care who knows it. It has a lovely lilting saunter to it, a melody and rhythm that makes you physically feel like you’re taking a brisk, slightly slippery winter walk with the snow crunching under your boots. It gets bonus points for being a ubiquitous, entirely non-controversial Christmas classic that doesn’t mention the word “Christmas” even once. And it’s another Christmas love song, which always makes me happy. I get all goopy and sentimental whenever I hear the lines, “To face unafraid/The plans that we’ve made.” Sniff.

And finally, the hands-down runaway winner, the no-question-in-my-mind Best Atheist Christmas Song of All Time:

DeckTheHalls200 1: Deck the Halls. It’s totally gorgeous. It’s unrepentantly cheerful — jolly, one might even say — with just a hint of that haunting spookiness that makes for the best Christmas songs. It celebrates all the very best parts of Christmas: singing, playing music, decorating, dressing up, telling stories, hanging around fires, and generally being festive with the people we love. It’s old as the hills: the lyrics are well over 100 years old, and the tune dates back to at least the 16th century, if not earlier. Absolutely everybody knows the thing, and even the folks who don’t can chime in cheerfully on the “Fa la la la la” part. It’s ridiculously easy to sing without being boring. Plus it’s spawned one of the finest song parodies ever: “Deck Us All with Boston Charlie,” from Walt Kelly’s Pogo, a parody that’s almost as beloved as the original song.

And it doesn’t mention God, or Jesus, or angels, or virgin births, or magical talking animals, or redemption of guilt through blood sacrifice, or any supernatural anything. Not even once. Heck, it doesn’t even mention Christmas. This is a Yule song, dammit — and proud of it! If there are any gods at all who inspired this song, they are entirely pagan pre-Christian ones. Totally, 100% made of atheist Christmas win.

Honorable mentions. The 12 Days of Christmas. It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Up on the Housetop. Over the River and Through the Woods. Jolly Old St. Nicholas. The Christmas Song (a.k.a. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire). I’ll Be Home For Christmas. Frosty the Snowman. Jingle Bell Rock. O Christmas Tree. All these fit all my criteria, and would be perfectly reasonable additions to your secular Christmas songbook. They just didn’t quite make my Top Ten.

Axial tilt is the reason for the season So Merry Christmas, to everybody who likes to celebrate it! Enjoy your decked halls, your ringing bells, your food, your hooch, your snow, your staying the hell out of the snow and fooling around, your sleigh rides, your expensive jewelry, your neighbors who you’re pestering with endless Christmas carols… and above all else, the people you love. There’s probably no God — so stop worrying, and enjoy Christmas!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fish-men

I’m doing a full court press in December to finish my new book, “Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why.” Deadline for going to the typesetter is January 2. So for most of December, I’ll be posting retreads traditional holiday posts, as well as a few cat pictures. Enjoy!

It’s beginning to look a lot like fish-men
Everywhere I go;
From the minute I got to town
And started to look around
I thought these ill-bred people’s gill-slits showed…

I still think that Christmas Rhapsody is the best Christmas song parody ever. But this is a damn close second. My only problem is that I find myself humming or whistling it jauntily, and people think I’m whistling the Christmas song, and they have no idea that what I’m humming to myself is, “As I try to escape in fright/ To the moonlit Innsmouth night/ I can hear some more.”

Courtesy of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Enjoy!

Christmas Rhapsody – My Favorite Christmas Parody Song Evar

I’m doing a full court press in December to finish my new book, “Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why.” Deadline for going to the typesetter is January 2. So for most of December, I’ll be posting retreads traditional holiday posts, as well as a few cat pictures. Enjoy!

queen bohemian rhapsodyIs 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!

Baby, It’s Consensual Outside (Updated)

I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion in the last few days about the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Unsurprising, what with (a) it being the winter holiday season, and (b) there being a lot of discussion of rape culture lately. I don’t have a huge amount to add to the conversation, other than, “Yup, the song is troubling at best and rapey at worst,” 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.” The main thing I want to say 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:

by Chase Gregory

I really can’t stay
Baby it’s cold outside
I’ve got to go ‘way
Remember, it’s cold outside
This evening has been
Thanks, baby, for stopping in
So very nice
Was wonderful, to be precise
My mother will start to worry
Oh, then you’d better hurry
My father will be pacing the floor
Let me walk you out to the door
So really, I’d better scurry
That’s okay, please don’t worry
Well, maybe just a half a drink more
Only if you’re really quite sure

The neighbors might think
Baby, it’s bad out there
Say, what’s in this drink?
I’ll pay for your taxi fare
I wish I knew how
Your eyes are like starlight now
To break the spell
And here’s your hat, your hair looks swell
I ought to say no, no, no sir
Say it, we’ll end up closer
At least I’m gonna say that I tried
It’s okay, I’ll take it in stride
I really can’t stay
Baby I’ll hold out
And it’s cold outside/and it’s cold outside

I simply must go
Baby, it’s cold outside
The answer is no
Oh good, I think that’s your ride
This welcome has been
I’m lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm
Look out the window at that storm
My sister will be suspicious
Don’t want to seem malicious
My brother will be there at the door
Waiting for the girl I adore
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious
Man, this feels repetitious
Well, maybe just a half a drink more
Say “when,” so I know what to pour

I’ve got to go home
Baby, don’t freeze out there
Say, lend me your comb
It’s up to your knees out there
You’ve really been grand
I totally understand
But don’t you see
I know it isn’t up to me
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow
Here’s some gloves you can borrow
At least there will be plenty implied
It’s not really mine to decide
I really can’t stay
I trust you, there’s no doubt [may be mangling the transcription of this line a bit – GC]
And it’s cold outside/and it’s cold outside


UPDATE: In response to the commonly-voiced objection that the woman in the song doesn’t really mean No, that she wants to say Yes but is worried about social disapproval (voiced here in these comments as well as many other places), I have this to say:

1: When women want to say say No (or indeed are saying No and not having it accepted), they often place the blame on others. We’ve been socialized to think that saying No to what other people want is rude and mean and selfish — so we place the blame for the No on others, “I’d love to stay at the party, but I have work tomorrow.” Etc. As A. Noyd said @ #7, “If a guy is pressuring a woman for sex/companionship and she doesn’t want to stay with him, she often has to bring up other reasons, such as disapproval from family members making her life difficult, when her wishes alone aren’t being listened to.”

2: It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference what the reasons for her objections are. No means no. If she were saying No because she thinks sex will make her nose turn blue or that space aliens will invade if she says Yes — she’s still saying No. Over and over and over again.

3a: Yes, there probably are some women — and some men — who say No as part of a flirtatious game, to get their pursuers to pursue them. That is also part of rape culture. The idea that you really know someone wants you when they ignore your boundaries and keep pushing past your objections… this is also part of rape culture. (It’s also really sex-negative, reinforcing the idea that it’s bad and wrong to enthusiastically say Yes to sex when you want it.) I don’t like it when pop culture encourages, celebrates, and reinforces this idea.

3b: When pop culture reinforces the idea that ignoring boundaries is part of a flirtatious game, it doesn’t just encourage the recipients of attention to say No when they really mean Yes, and to think that if someone takes No for an answer it means they really don’t like them. It encourages pursuers to think that No means Yes, or that it means Maybe, or that it means “I want you to keep trying.” And that makes them more likely to push past someone else’s boundaries.

The Buffalo Game

buffaloI’m going to be at Skepticon for the next few days, and I know from experience that I pretty much never blog during a conference. So let’s play a game! Let’s play the Buffalo Game.

The Buffalo Game is simple: You replace one (or sometimes more than one) word or name in a band name with the word “Buffalo,” to comic effect.

The genesis of the Buffalo game: We were at a concert at the Fillmore, which is plastered with classic poster art from old Fillmore shows. Someone noticed posters for Buffalo Springfield and Buffalo Tom, and asked, “Why do so many band names have the word ‘Buffalo’ in them?” When pressed to give more examples, they (I don’t remember who) said, “You know… um… the Rolling Buffaloes.” And it went from there.

Some of my favorites, to get the ball rolling: Sonic Buffalo. Public Buffalo. 10,000 Buffaloes. The Backstreet Buffaloes. Daft Buffalo. Rage Against the Buffalo. Buffalo (Not Buffalo). Buffalo Wuffalo Wuffalo. In some cases, you have to decide which word to replace. Is it Death Buffalo for Cutie, or Death Cab for Buffalo?


(This has nothing to do with the topic of the post, but I’m going to keep mentioning it in every post I write for a little while: The news from the Philippines in the wake of Haiyan is getting worse and worse. The death toll is rising, and thousands are without shelter, food and medicine. The Foundation Beyond Belief’s Crisis Response is supporting the relief and recovery efforts of Citizens’ Disaster Response Center. Please help if you can. Even small amounts add up.)

Saturday Night’s Alright For Biting

My brain does weird things sometimes. When I’m engaged in a project, it will often find itself an irrelevant little side project — often musically-themed — and get very fixated on it. A list of songs that can be sung to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas”; a list of songs in which the word “heart” can be replaced with the word “head” to comic effect; a cat-themed song parody. And the more important the main project is, and the more deeply immersed I am in it, the more obsessively fixated my brain gets on the side project.

Thus far, during the writing of “Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why,” I have written two — not one, but two — cat-themed song parodies. I’ve already posted the lyrics to “Love Me, Love Me, Love Me — I’m A Kittycat!” Today, in honor of Comet, I bring you Saturday Night’s Alright For Biting. To the tune of Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting. (If you need an explanation of what Comet is like for context, you can find it in Hell’s Kitten: Learning to Love Our Play-Aggressive Cat. And yes, the cats eat venison. Special novel-protein diet.)

Saturday Night’s Alright For Biting

Comet yawning with teethIt’s getting late and my teeth can’t wait
Mom, bring my favorite chew toy here
It’s eleven o’clock and I wanna rock
Gonna bite your ankles and your ears

My mama Ingrid’s nose and my mama Greta’s toes
Are begging to be chewed on here
My sister looks cute in her little white boots
And lots of my spit in her fur

Now give me some of your cheese and yogurt
I’ve had it with your venison
‘Cause Saturday night’s alright for biting
Get a little chomping in

Gonna do some dangling with my dangle toys
Gonna chase a beam of light
‘Cause Saturday night’s the night I bite
Saturday night’s alright to bite
To bite
Meow, meow, meow, meow

Comet and Talisker on swivel chairWell, my sisters look like they wanna play tonight
I’m looking for a kitty who will tussle and fight
I can chase them down the hallway in a wild stampede
I can leap up in the air and then I’ll claw your knees

A couple of the things that I like to bite
Are shoelaces and fingers and a bug in flight
I’m a juvenile delinquent of the feline class
And if it’s full of water I’ll knock over your glass


Saturday, Saturday, Saturday
Saturday, Saturday, Saturday
Saturday, Saturday, Saturday night I’ll bite

So Love Me, Love Me, Love Me — I’m A Kittycat!

So we were crooning to our cats the other day, as is our wont, and the line, “So love me, love me, love me — I’m a kittycat!” jumped into my head. At which point, of course, I couldn’t rest until the whole song was written.

So here it is. To the tune of Phil Ochs’ “Love Me, I’m A Liberal.” And don’t worry, this didn’t cut into book writing time — I wrote it in the shower.

comet_on_fridgeI jump to the top of the mantle
And then try to climb even higher,
I jump to the top of the stovetop
“Cuz cat hair won’t burn in a fire,
But it wasn’t me stealing your butter
Whoever said that is a liar,
So love me, love me, love me — I’m a kittycat!

Houdini staringI hide in the springs of the sofa
And oftentimes under the bed,
That noise could have been a coyote,
Or demons, or Erik the Red,
But I think you’ve forgotten my dinner
So I’ll walk up and down on your head,
So love me, love me, love me — I’m a kittycat!

Talisker looking smugI’ll plonk on your lap when I want to,
Demand that you sit there and stay,
I’ll act like I want to be petted
Then fidget and wander away,
But I have such cute whiskers and muzzle
So worship me all night and day,
And love me, love me, love me — I’m a kittycat!

Oh, for those of you who don’t know the original tune that this goes to: Here’s the original by Phil Ochs:

And here’s the updated version by Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon:

But my kittycat one definitely has the deepest social commentary. Very relevant to the burning issues of today.

Blogathon for SSA Week: My Atheist Music Mix

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This post continues my leg of the Blogathon for SSA Week… now! From now until 9pm PDT, I will write one new blog post every hour. Plus, for every $100 raised during that time, I will post one new picture of our cats! And all donations will be matched by SSA Supporters Jeff Hawkins and Janet Strauss — so whatever you donate, it will be doubled!

As of 1:01 PDT: 431 Donors, $69,948.02
As of 2:01 PDT: 433 Donors, $70,118.02

I put together an atheist/ humanist/ skeptical/ irreligious mix CD a little while back, and thought I’d share it with all y’all. Songs being listed here is no indication that the singer or songwriter is an atheist. Links to YouTube videos when available.

The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing, The Persuasions (covering Frank Zappa)
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Neutral Milk Hotel
Into My Arms, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam, The Vaselines
Marshmallows and a Holy Bible, Circus Contraption
Science Is Real, They Might Be Giants
Superstition, Stevie Wonder
Hard To Be, David Bazan
Dear God, XTC
God, John Lennon
And When I Die, Laura Nyro
It Ain’t Necessarily So, Aretha Franklin
Are You Ready, Freakwater (live version — couldn’t find the studio version on YouTube)
Jesus Loves Me (But He Can’t Stand You), Austin Lounge Lizards (weird irrelevant fan video)
All Things Dull And Ugly, Monty Python
Part Man, Part Monkey, Bruce Springsteen
Stealing, Tackhead
When I’m Gone, Phil Ochs
Heaven, Talking Heads
By & By, Chumbawamba
What a Wonderful World, Joey Ramone

By the way, I’m getting it on the record now: I want “By & By” played at my funeral.

What are your favorite atheist/ humanist/ skeptical/ irreligious songs?

If you like this post — or indeed, if you don’t — please donate to the Secular Student Alliance!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fish-men

It’s beginning to look a lot like fish-men
Everywhere I go;
From the minute I got to town
And started to look around
I thought these ill-bred people’s gill-slits showed…

I still think that Christmas Rhapsody is the best Christmas song parody ever. But this is a damn close second. My only problem is that I find myself humming or whistling it jauntily, and people think I’m whistling the Christmas song, and they have no idea that what I’m humming to myself is, “As I try to escape in fright/ To the moonlit Innsmouth night/ I can hear some more.”

Courtesy of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Enjoy!