Blogathon for SSA: America’s Best Dance Crew, and the Great New American Art Form

I am of the opinion that hip-hop dancing is America’s great new art form.

I like the music fine, although it interests me somewhat less than it used to. (I liked it better when it was more political and less commercial.) But the dancing… the dancing is another story.

We started watching “America’s Best Dance Crew” almost by accident. We were staying overnight with some folk dance friends, and we watched an episode because our hostess was. But we got hooked immediately. We went very quickly from “America’s best what now?” to “We must never ever miss an episode of this show, no matter what happens.” Within a couple/ few episodes.

I love how it blends artistry and athleticism. I love how it is taking what is essentially a folk art form and, through time and attention and discipline and community, is transforming it into high art. I love that, no matter how high the art gets, or how wide-ranging its influences are, or how diverse its practitioners become, it never seems to lose touch with its urban street roots. I love how it blends serious-as-a-heart-attack discipline with playful, exuberant joy.

This is, in my opinion, the great new American art form. Like jazz, or abstract expressionism, or rock and roll. If you’re not paying attention, you’re missing out.

This post is part of my blogathon for the Secular Student Alliance. Donate today!

I’ve posted some quotes talking about why the Secular Student Alliance is so awesome, and why they deserve your support. If you have a story or a comment about why the Secular Student Alliance is so awesome — post it in the comments, and I’ll post it in the blog! Along with kitten photos, of course. Support the SSA!

Blogathon for SSA: The Fun of Badness

The song “Hit ‘em Up Style” — the version by the Carolina Chocolate Drops — came up on my shuffle at the gym the other day. Here’s video:

And I started thinking about why imagining wickedness can be so much fun. Why is it that this song — a song whose lyrics are entirely antithetical to so many values that I hold dear — has become one of my very favorites, a song that I’ll hit “Replay” on over and over again?

It’s not like the song is expressing resistance to cultural values that I tolerate but resent, and I enjoy the fantasy of rebellion. The song is antithetical to my very own values. Why is it so much fun?

Of course, part of it is that the Carolina Chocolate Drops just freaking rock the house. And their own fun with it is so very contagious. Still. This one is puzzling me. I’m not overly concerned about it, I’m happy to enjoy it. It’s just odd.

This post is part of my blogathon for the Secular Student Alliance. Donate today!

I’ve posted some quotes talking about why the Secular Student Alliance is so awesome, and why they deserve your support. If you have a story or a comment about why the Secular Student Alliance is so awesome — post it in the comments, and I’ll post it in the blog! Along with kitten photos, of course. Support the SSA!

SSA Blogathon Relay Continues — With Song Requests From Crommunist!

And the Secular Student Alliance Blogathon Relay continues!

All this week, different bloggers all around the atheist blogosphere are committing to an extended stretch of hyperactive blogging, in some cases pledging to blog every hour or even every half hour for a full 24-hour period. All to raise money for the Secular Student Alliance. Our goal: Raise $100,000 by Sunday, June 17. (We’re over halfway there already!)

Ian Cromwell at The Crommunist Manifesto is rocking the house right now — literally. If you go to his blog and make a $10 donation to the SSA, he’ll do song requests. Videos are going up thick and fast, even as we speak. Go check it out — and make your donations today!

This Is Not Okay, JT

This is not okay, JT.

I’ve known JT Eberhard for close to two years. We met at the Secular Student Alliance conference in 2010, and he immediately impressed me with his passion, his joy, his bulldog determination, his fearlessness about other people’s opinions of him, his willingness to throw himself headfirst into the projects he cared about — and most of all, his ferocious defense of the truth. (His talk at that conference about how Skepticon got started should be required watching for anyone who thinks they don’t have the know-how to do organizing and activism.) He’s become one of my most trusted colleagues and allies in the atheist movement — and he’s become one of my closest friends.

I want to support my friends in doing what they most want to do with their lives. So when JT began talking about the possibility of quitting atheist blogging — of quitting professional atheism altogether — and going back to pursuing a professional singing career, I tried to swallow my disappointment. I knew it would be a huge loss to atheism to lose such a hard-working and extraordinarily skillful voice, and his absence at conferences and events would be a great personal loss to me… but I know we have to follow our dreams, and I tried to support him as whole-heartedly as I could.

But this is not okay.

When JT first started talking about getting back into music, his idea was to pursue a career as an atheist musician. He loves atheism more than almost anyone I know, and he wanted to stay in the movement and support it with this new direction. But he quickly began to get discouraged about whether he could ever earn a living as an atheist musician. I tried to be encouraging — Tim Minchin! Roy Zimmerman! Thousands at the Reason Rally! Hundreds of new atheists every day! — but he floated a few test baloons on Twitter, and he just didn’t think it would fly.

So he dropped the bombshell.

JT Eberhard is becoming a Christian musician.

He is departing Freethought Blogs, and is forming his new Christian Rock Band, Heart of Glory, beginning tomorrow, April 2.

I am baffled, and appalled. Especially since JT has acknowledged to me that he hasn’t, in fact, converted to Christianity. He’s as much of an atheist as he ever was. In a moment of honesty — something I always used to be able to count on from JT — he acknowledged that this was entirely a business decision. “Christian rock bands clean our clocks,” he said. “And they’ll eat up the ex-atheist angle.”

So overnight, the ferocious defender of the truth has changed his tune. And not just singing five-chord power ballads. “Does it really matter what people believe?” he asked me. “As long as people are happy, isn’t that the important thing?

“I just want to sing, Greta,” he said, tears in his eyes. “Is that okay?”

I feel like a bad friend saying this. I want to support my friends in pursuing their dreams. But no, JT. That is not okay.

UPDATE: If you want to talk to JT and try to persuade him out of this disastrous move, please go comment on his blog.

SECOND UPDATE: Happy April Fool’s Day!

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Fishmen…

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!

A Very Special Christmas Song — No, Really

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 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!

Catgroove

I am correcting a terrible, terrible mistake.

I posted a piece the other day, Letting the World Surprise You: Secular Transcendence and, Once Again, Morris Dancing. In it, I said this:

And since I now think that this life is the only one I’m ever going to have, I feel much more driven to experience it as fully and as richly as I possibly can. It is sometimes intensely frustrating to know that there are restaurants I’m never going to eat at, movies I’m never going to see, books I’m never going to read, people I’m never going to meet. But that makes me feel that much more passionate about really experiencing the restaurants and movies and books and people that are part of my life. It makes me feel that much more driven to stay present with them, to not space out and drift into my own little world, to connect with them and see what surprises they might have in store. Sometimes it’s a big, obvious, dramatic surprise: like seeing Scotland for the first time, or speaking to a crowd of 1,000 people, or meeting someone out of the blue who within a year would become one of my best friends. And sometimes it’s a small, subtle surprise of everyday life: like the taste of the scones from the new bakery, or some silly and wonderful video of a guy dancing in his rec room, or an afternoon with friends in a generic conference hotel room laughing ourselves into insensibility.

At the “silly and wonderful video of a guy dancing in his rec room,” I meant to link to this video. But I was in a hurry, and I totally spaced. For which I abjectly apologize. Okay, it’s not like this guy needs my help, the video has gone viral and it has 6,096,244 views as of this writing and you’ve probably all seen it before and are rolling your eyes about how I’m the last one to get on the clue train. But it’s been making me smile for days, and I wanted to share. The guy is so loose and cool, so extraordinarily good and so casual about it. And I love that some guy dancing in his rec room and shooting video of it has been seen by millions. I’m in love with the modern world.

Catgroove, by takesomecrime. Enjoy!

I have my archives!

I have my archives from my old blog! They’re here! With comments and everything! They’re even in the right categories!

Images and videos didn’t make it over, and there are a handful of posts that didn’t make it and that I’ll have to put in by hand. (For some reason, it didn’t like my posts about alternative medicine, speaking at Stanford, making atheism a safe place to land, atheists having morality, and my recipe for chocolate pie. Make of that what you will.) But I can live with that. The archives are here. Years of my old work — all finally in one place. This has been driving me up a tree, and I can now finally relax about it. (A little.)

If you want to see them, scroll down in the sidebar to where it says “Recent Posts/ Comments/ Archives.” Click Archives. There they are! You can also search for posts in the archives with the handy Search box at the top right of the blog. Which works waaaay better than the search box at my old blog.

When I’m back from my Minnesota trip, I’m going to start working on (a) getting the old blog to redirect to the new one, and (b) getting the best and hottest posts listed in my sidebar, so newcomers to the blog can browse them more easily. And I’ll probably start linking to the cool stuff from the archives, so newcomers to this blog can become familiar with it. For now, I’m just going to sit back and cry tears of happiness and relief. I can haz archives! Yay!

I have to express my intense gratitude to fellow Freethought Blogger Jason Thibeault, at Lousy Canuck, for making this happen. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that atheists have no sense of community or compassion. I owe him big time. Go visit his blog, and tell him Thank You.

Bad Religion to Play at Reason Rally!

Big news! The band Bad Religion will be playing at the Reason Rally for a one-hour performance immediately before the closing remarks!

The Reason Rally, for those of you who aren’t yet familiar, is the upcoming atheist/ humanist/ skeptic/ secular March on Washington, scheduled for March 24, 2012. It’s expected to be the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history. Having Bad Religion play there will go a long way to making this expectation a reality.

Scheduled speakers include Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Jamila Bey, James Randi… and, oh yeah. Me. I’m speaking there, too. I am bursting with pride and excitement at the prospect of getting to be on that stage, in this company, at this historic event. And it’s going to rock even hard, now that Bad Religion’s playing!

This is going to be super-fun. It is going to be made of 100% pure awesomenium. You do not want to miss it. Make your plans now! March 24, 2012. Put it in your calendar, and make it happen!

I’m on Twitter! Follow me at @GretaChristina .

“Evolved This Way”: My Atheist Evolution-Themed Lady Gaga “Born This Way” Song Parody

Carl Sagan told me when I was young
We are all made of stars
And Darwin said all life’s descended from
Ancient common ancestors…

*

Lady-gaga-born-this-way-single-album-cover Don’t get me wrong. I like Lady Gaga. I respect Lady Gaga. I’m even reasonably fond of “Born This Way” (although I do think it’s awfully goddamn close to “Express Yourself” — there is a line between “homage” and “ripoff”, people!).

But the lyrics kind of get up my nose. They got up my nose the first time I heard it; they get up my nose more and more on every subsequent listening. The whole “God makes no mistakes” bull keeps making me want to scream, “There is no god! And if you believe in a god who created the world and is responsible for how it’s turning out, how can you not think that he makes mistakes all the freaking time! Sinuses! Knees! Too-narrow birth canals! Pediatric cancer! Have you read anything about evolution? Do you even know how it works? Rrrrrr!”

If it were just a couple of passing mentions, it wouldn’t bug me so much. But religion is all over the freaking song. “‘Cause he made you perfect, babe”; “God makes no mistakes”; “Believe capital H-i-m”… it’s all over the song like a cheap suit. Indeed, the whole bloody theme of the song — “I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way,” in the context of “God makes no mistakes,” smacks strongly of deistic theistic predestination. Not to mention a piss-poor understanding of evolution, and how life came into being, and why we are the way we are.

And I want no part of it. I don’t think we should love ourselves because God made us the way we are. I think we should love ourselves because we’re awesome and lucky to be alive, and because our lives and the lives of the people around us improve vastly when we love ourselves. And the teleological fallacy seriously gets my goat. There is no reason to think that we were “born this way” because some invisible all-powerful supernatural entity shaped us into being on purpose to make him happy, or even because evolution proceeds in a specific direction towards some supposedly “higher” state of being. We’re not on “the right track” — there is no track. We were “born this way” because of natural selection, coupled with random chance. Period.

Okay. Deep breath. I am clearly taking this waaaaaay too seriously.

Pride 4 Ingrid So anyway. When Ingrid and I marched with the atheist contingent in the LGBT Pride Parade this year, Ingrid really, really wanted to make a sign that was an atheist riff on “Born This Way.” (She assumed — rightly so, as it turns out — that “Born This Way” would be getting played to death at this year’s parade.) And at almost the very last minute, the night before the parade, she came up with her totally brilliant sign concept: “Evolved This Way.” We jokingly started coming up with parody song lyrics on our way to the parade… and I got the bug in my brain, and couldn’t stop until I had the whole thing done. (And can I just say: Some of the best lines are the ones lifted wholesale from the original song. “In the religion of the insecure”? I couldn’t have done better.) Enjoy!

*

Evolved This Way

It doesn’t matter if you sing hymns,
There’s no capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
‘Cause you evolved this way, baby

Carl Sagan told me when I was young
We are all made of stars
And Darwin said all life’s descended from
Ancient common ancestors

“There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are,”
They said, “‘Cause we’re all imperfect, babe
Our knees and sinuses don’t work for shit
But we’re alive — so celebrate!”

Lucky to be here today
There’s no god making mistakes
I’m on the tree of life, baby
I evolved this way

Humans and seaweed and cats
Mushrooms and beetles and rats
You know there’s no track, baby
We evolved this way

Could have gone another way
Thank your mutant DNA
Baby, we evolved this way

Could have gone another way
If that asteroid had strayed
No track, baby, we evolved this way

There’s killer sharks, there’s killer bees
There’s viruses, there’s willow trees
There’s elephants, there’s tiny fleas
And me.

It’s sometimes hard to see this scary world
With life in our own puny hands
In the religion of the insecure
They think it’s all a master plan.

It might be pretty to believe that lie
But it’s all an S-H-A-M
I love myself, I love my friends, and I
Accept that it’s all going to end.

Lucky to be here today
There’s no god making mistakes
I’m a primate, baby
I evolved this way

Gorillas, roses and dogs
Amoebas, algae and frogs
You know there’s no track, baby
We evolved this way

Could have gone another way
Thank your mutant DNA
Baby, we evolved this way

Could have gone another way
If mammals hadn’t made the grade
No track, baby, we evolved this way

If you survive, you’ll make the scene
Then reproduce, pass on your genes
Random mutations roll the dice
Change every species, moss or mice
Forget your teleology
There’s no track on life’s gorgeous tree
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby you evolved this way

No matter huge or small fry
Whether you swim or you fly
You know there’s no track, baby
We evolved to survive

No matter feathers or fur
Whether you bark or you purr
You know there’s no track, baby
We were shaped by this world

Lucky to be here today
There’s no god making mistakes
I’m on the tree of life, baby
I evolved this way

Mosquitos, plankton and pigs
Canaries, leeches and figs
You know there’s no track, baby
We evolved this way

Could have gone another way
Thank your mutant DNA
Baby, we evolved this way

Could have gone another way
If grandma hadn’t gotten laid
No track, baby, we evolved this way

We evolved this way-hey
We evolved this way-hey
You know there’s no track, baby
We evolved this way-hey

We evolved this way-hey
We evolved this way-hey
You know there’s no track, baby
We evolved this way-hey

Note: I would love, love, LOVE to make a YouTube video of this. I don’t have the singing chops or video-making skills to do it on my own… but if someone out there wants to collaborate, please let me know. It doesn’t have to be a fancy video; I’d be totally happy with one of those “sequence of still images” numbers, and will even find the images. If you can sing ([cough] JT [cough]), and/ or if you have video-making skills, drop me a line at greta (at) gretachristina (dot) com.