Singing Classical Music and Being a Hardass Atheist

 and also rambling about waah me and my feelings about

Principles vs Relationships

(all while using too many parentheses (like this))

I am an atheist.  The hardass kind.  I believe not only that no deities or other supernatural entities exist, but also that behaving as if the non-existent really exists (the practice of religion being one example), causes significant harm both to believers and also the world at large*.  

I also love to sing.  And a lot of beautiful vocal, and especially choral, music is religious in nature.  It’s a bit of a conundrum.  I’ve rationalized my way through some, but not all, of it.  I’m quite comfortable singing religious music where the purpose is clearly just artistic.  I’ll happily sing all the old Christian carols, because let’s face it, they beat the hell out of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  I’m very glad it hasn’t happened, but if somebody important to me died and wanted me to sing a religious song at their religious funeral, I’d do it – as long as they didn’t want (don’t click, it’s both disturbing and an earworm)  Our God is an Awesome God Or if somebody important to me got married and wanted me to sing a religious song at their religious wedding, I would, as long as they didn’t want Our God is an Awesome God or something loaded with husband:wife::Jesus:church fuckery. 

I can make these kinds of hypothetical decisions as a soloist because my singing will always be strictly for pleasure, even if it’s one of those pleasures that sometimes makes me want to scream and tear my hair out when the going gets rough.  I have absolutely zero interest in monetizing it and anyway I don’t expect to ever get good enough (let alone connected enough) that I would be asked to perform except at student recitals or for people with whom I already have a close personal relationship.  

It’s harder to figure out where to draw the line as a member of a choir.  My choir, which I love, is a secular choir but is occasionally invited to sing at church services.  I’ve only felt mildly uncomfortable about it so far, because our participation has generally felt like an add-on, a special treat, but not really involved in the delivery of the worship service itself, if that makes any sense.  (Kindof how singing at a hospital isn’t delivering healthcare.)  They invite us, we sing whatever we have that’s vaguely spiritual or at least uplifting, regardless what the service is going to be about, and they feed us cookies after and tell us how great we are and how much they enjoyed us.  As a beginner choir, it’s a great chance to get up in front of a supportive audience.

The trouble (if you want to call it that) is, even though we’re still technically a beginner choir – we take anybody, no auditions, and we specifically welcome people who believe they can’t sing – we sound pretty good (I’ll write the paean to our director in another entry).  And the women’s section has been invited to participate in the service for the Feast of the Annunciation in our city’s big, old Anglican cathedral.  It’s going to be a beautiful service.  The music we’re singing – all about Mary, from Gregorian chant to present-day – is gorgeous.  The acoustics in there make anybody sound good.  And the use of all women’s voices strikes me as a fitting artistic choice.

BUT, here’s where the trouble is for me: Continue reading

Posted in Atheist/Skeptical, Me! Me! Me!, Music, The Politics of the Personal | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Yum! Vegetarian (and easily veganizable) Enchiladas

I was feeling creative the other day and got busy in the kitchen with some flavours I’ve been really enjoying.  One of the rotating specials at the cafeteria at work is enchiladas with yam and black beans, and some kind of meat.  Yams and black beans are a match made in heaven, regardless whether heaven exists.  And I’m having a bit of a love affair with quinoa.  So chewy and satisfying and packed with protein!  So here’s what I did:

Yam, Black Bean, and Quinoa Enchiladas (totally not authentic, just tasty)

Ingredients:
1 small to medium yam
butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, chili powder to taste. lots of cumin!
1/3 cup quinoa
1 can black beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained
1 can seasoned diced tomatoes (spicy red pepper flavour) (let some of the juice drain off)
1 package (12) corn tortillas (6″ size)
Salsa or Enchilada Sauce
grated cheese
sour cream

How to:

  1. Boil up the quinoa with 2/3 cup water and a pinch of salt. (Takes about 15 min, get everything else ready while it boils)
  2. Boil or nuke and mash the yam, blending in the seasonings, then mix in the quinoa.
  3. Smear each tortilla with a good dollop of the yam mixture, then roll it up around a spoonful of beans and a spoonful of tomatoes. Smearing the yam around protects the tortilla from getting soggy from the tomatoes. Don’t worry if the tortillas crack or split.
  4. Arrange all the rolls in a lightly-oiled 9×13 baking dish – the fit should be tight. This will keep filling from spilling out too much from the tortillas that broke.
  5. Top with any leftover tomatoes and beans, pour salsa over top of everything, and sprinkle with grated cheese.
  6. Cover with foil and bake at 375 about half an hour, then take off the foil and turn on the broiler so the cheese gets bubbly. 
  7. Serve with sour cream and more salsa.
  8. Veganizable by subbing out the dairy. 

Very filling. Good for six servings.  More if you weren’t as hungry as we were, or if there’s more to the meal than this and a tossed salad.

Posted in Making Stuff | Tagged | 3 Comments

Cat Rules

(with gratitude to Suzy Becker’s Dog Rules)

  1. The cats are not allowed on the kitchen table.
  2. The cats may get up on the kitchen table, but not when we are eating.
  3. The cats may get up on the kitchen table when we are eating, but only for snacks and solitary quick munchies, not when we’re having a sit-down dinner with proper dishes and everything.
  4. The cats are allowed on the kitchen table whenever they like, but they have to stay on their side and not mess with our food.
  5. The cats can have some of our food if we offer, but they can’t beg.
  6. The cats can have some of our food if they ask nicely.
  7. The cats can eat off our plates.
  8. I’m afraid of #8.

I was talking about this with a family member, and got as far as #4 when he interrupted, incredulously, “Wait – their side?!

I think I may have a problem.

Posted in Kittehs! | 2 Comments

Current Singing Project: “Complainte de la Seine”

Kurt Weill wrote “Complainte de la Seine” in Paris in 1934, which may have been the darkest time of his life. Just divorced from Lotte Lenya, the love of his life, and driven from Berlin by the Nazis, who hated his politics (actually socialist) as much as his ethnicity (Jewish), he stayed in Paris for a year or so before fleeing Europe entirely.

Considering the circumstances, it’s not at all surprising that he would choose a poem like Maurice Magre’s “Complainte de la Seine” for a song. The poem starts out lighthearted enough, mining Paris’s reputation and history for interesting things that might be found at the bottom of the Seine, and then waxes increasingly morbid, pondering the myriad corpses that have wound up in it over the centuries. Weill sets the poem to a melody that initially comes across as cheerful, frivolous even, but the rhythm in the accompaniment recalls Chopin’s famous funeral march. Continue reading

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Aquarium Maintenance Note

It is occasionally necessary to disassemble your aquarium filter, dump out excess sludge accumulation (a little bit is good, that’s your friendly bacteria), clean the motor, that kind of thing.  Do keep in mind that there is sludge is not only in the filter, but also in the filter hoses, especially the intake hose.  And that water runs downhill.

If you’ve already sprayed your living room carpet with sludge once, don’t assume that was all the sludge in the hose.  This also applies after spraying sludge around twice.

I should have quit after sliming the carpet the third time.  Instead I reassembled the filter.  Apparently I installed the outlet at too high an angle, because when I turned the thing on, it sprayed me in the face.  Just because you dislodged the sludge in the intake hose, doesn’t mean there’s none left in the outlet hose.

All of this is especially less fun if you’re doing it at 1AM.

Posted in Aquarium | Tagged | 2 Comments

Natural Remedies from the Grocery Store

Being a curmudgeon, the first thing I wonder when I see a Health Food Store is, where the hell is the food?

I haven’t gone into one of these places in years, because the woo-vibrations might interact with my critical thinking chakra and make me spontaneously combust. Or – this actually did happen to me – some nineteen year old kid with a scraggly goatee who calls himself  The Sage might follow me around begging me to let him read my Tarot. But from what I can tell on the outside looking in, there are shelves and shelves of pills and potions and powders and tinctures and lotions, but not much you could make a meal from.

In general, so-called alternative medicine pisses me off to no end.  There are treatments with evidence supporting their effectiveness, and there are only two alternatives to that: treatments with no evidence to support their effectiveness, and treatments with evidence against their effectiveness.  I really don’t think the latter two should be called medicine at all.  Also, the description “natural” for a health or beauty product drives me up a wall, especially when it’s used to imply that it’s gentle or safe or has fewer side effects or is otherwise better for you than an “artificial” “chemical”.  Go take some straight willow bark extract for your headache, and then get back to me about how natural products are so gentle.

On the other hand, for minor irritations and the afflictions of the worried well, bringing in modern medicine can be a bit like this: Continue reading

Posted in Atheist/Skeptical | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Why it had to be rats in 1984

Don’t do it to Julia!  Do it to me!

from our friends at ihasahotdog.com

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