My Old Kentucky Homesite

Earworm Saturday #2

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 02/20/2010

Be careful how you choose your adjectives. If you’re unthinking, as I was a few days ago, you can wind up with an earworm.

Here’s the story in brief: Because the citizens of Kentucky (an aggregate that now includes me) are constantly besieged by god-pushers, I found myself doing something that’s antithetical to my nature. Looking for like-minded people who are as fed up with our would-be theocracy as I am, I recently attended a few meetings of freethinkers’ organizations. At the last one I went to, the subject of a stupidly innocuous Humanist billboard (e.g., “Are You Good Without God? Millions Are.”) came up. A coalition of Lexington skeptics is planning to erect such a sign, ostensibly to energize the ungodly community in a nice way. I suggested that, if we had to put up a touchy-feely message at all, we should do everything we could to make the unveiling a big media event: knock on doors to collect friends and acquaintances for a gigantic photo op or even a parade, light a fire under the media’s collective ass to get them to show up, and make sure that everyone who attends is prepared to answer questions if a microphone is shoved under his or her nose. The only problem is: some of the people involved in Lexington’s so-called freethinking community are closet atheists, afraid to be seen on TV without their metaphorical crucifixes. Naturally, the expression of that fear sent me into a diatribe about how useless a dumb sign is when there are self-defined atheists who are unwilling to identify themselves as being among the millions referred to on the billboard. I guess that here in the Bluegrass state, it’s bad luck to come out openly against superstition.

One of the sharpest members of the group responded with a resigned smile: “This is not New York; it’s Kentucky.” Most of the others agreed that “we have to go slowly.” And maybe they’re right, assuming that the total of recorded time so far hasn’t been long enough. Perhaps if we freethinkers are patient and accommodating, we’ll have to wait only two or three measly millenia more before we can have a small say in public policy.

Later that night, when my wife asked me how the meeting was, I said — without pausing to notice any warning lights — “It was a little too Kumbaya-ish for my taste.”

Augggggh. The word was scarcely out before that goddamned tune was urging the various parts of my brain to form a circle and hold hands. Talk about a headache.

But why should I reserve this experience strictly for myself. “Kumbaya” must be shared, because it’s the godmother of all earworms, the sine qua non of gaggiosity.

If you don’t know what I mean, check out the song’s true essence, flawlessly captured here.

In this peppy version, the mere singing of the song by a Great White Father magically creates peace and dancing — and the sudden appearance of bikini-clad women — among warring African tribes.

Who could resist a bunch of Polish women in funny hats? Not me! The group doesn’t seem to have learned the exact tune, but it’s close enough to still be annoying.

Christians can co-opt anything and make it specifically about Jesus. This video takes the song, usually interpreted as a plea for universal unity, and turns it into an evangelical message: In the beginning was the word, and the word was “Kumbaya.”

At about this point, you’re probably asking yourself: “Hey, how would that flatulent ditty sound as an instrumental?”

Yes, that shitty song is heard everywhere.

All that Kumbaya-ing may make you worried about having nightmares. Perhaps you’re afraid that the minute you get into bed, the monsters under your mattress will get all New-Agey on you. But that could happen anyplace you try to relax, as this poor victim found out.

Still, I’m not the only person who finds the number offensive. The German chick in this extravaganza definitely has the right idea.

I wish happy psycho-listening to all my readers. But don’t forget: Someone’s retching, my Lord.

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31 Responses to “Earworm Saturday #2”

  1. That was all horrible. I actually listened to every single one, despite knowing that I would need a brain-bleaching afterwards. For some reason, I am completely immune to Kumbaya. Even as I type, I can barely remember the tune. This, on the other hand…

    Sorry about your meeting. Freethinkers could never be monolithic like a religious group. We have an unfortunate habit of calling bullshit on others’ pet projects.

  2. Des:
    That video was hilarious. But I’ll have to wait until tomorrow before I can determine whether that Youtuber ferments into a Youvodka earworm. My gut feeling is to say nyet, because the grooves of my mind hardly ever get stuck on a tune I enjoy.

    We have an unfortunate habit of calling bullshit on others’ pet projects.
    I never call “bullshit” unless someone’s reasoning stinks.

  3. It seems there are always pussies who will encourage going slowly, afraid to ruffle the feathers of the powers that be. It’s too bad you’ve found yourself amongst such people.

    I would suggest an edit for the billboard:
    “Are You Good Without God? Millions Are”
    (But you’ll never know because most of us are too afraid to admit it openly)

    As a compromise, they could print that last bit real small, like when new meds list side effects like anal bleeding and wanting to kill yourself in microscopic type. :)

  4. Philly:
    How about:

    If your skepticism lasts longer than four hours, consult a witch doctor immediately.

  5. Thank you so very much. I come home and read the interesting comments on my latest post. After wading through Reggie and Marcus, I pop over to My Old Kentucky Homesite for a pleasant read and now I CAN’T GET THE TUNE OUT OF MY HEAD. I watching a Red Lobster commercial and my mind is telling me, “Lobster and butter, lord, Kumbaya. Lobster and butter lord, Kumbaya.” Darn you to the poor lit portions of heck!

  6. yunshui said

    Having learned from the last Earworm you foisted on us, I dutifully followed all your links… with the sound turned off. The African stick-fighting was good (at least until that weird elderly E-monkey showed up and started howling at the sky), and one can glean ample entertainment from watching a fat man play the tuba in total silence.

    Incidentally, the word-phrase “Kumbaya” actually means something – it’s Gulla pidgin for, “Oi! Get your arse over ‘ere!”

  7. (((Billy))):
    Someone’s ranting, my Lord, Kumbaya.

    yunshui:
    I was under the impression that Kumbaya was the name of my Lord, the god of repetititous melodies.

  8. I always thought Kumbaya meant “punch me in the stomach.”

  9. Des:
    Actually, it’s “Feel the love — then punch me in the stomach.”

  10. the chaplain said

    After wading through all those videos, I’m embarrassed to complain about my earworm, but I’ll do it anyway. Ever since the Olympic pair skating finals last week, I’ve had the theme from Love Story stuck in my head. Some couple (European, I think) did a terrible program to it (awful arrangement, terrible choreography and mediocre execution), presumably trying to re-create Sale & Pelletier’s gorgeous 2002 program. All things considered, I’d rather have my earworm than yours.

  11. Chappy:

    Taken note for note, “Love Story” is probably even more nauseating than “Kumbaya.” But the former isn’t burdened by the oh-wow, religious factor attached to the latter. So in terms of earworms, I agree: yours is slightly more bearable than mine.

    I did do a YouTube search to see if I could find any ice-dancers chilling out to “someone’s skating, my Lord,” but I came up cold. I guess if there were figure-skating octets, instead of pairs, one group could all join hands and jump together to “Kumbaya.” I wonder if there’s a Gullah word for “triple lutz.”

  12. Postman said

    You utter bastard.

    I knew better than to follow the links, but that didn’t save me. Before I was through reading I was already in the unhappy position of urging myself not to think about that song. I couldn’t even stop myself from thinking, “Don’t think about that song,”. Now all I can hear is that fucking song.

  13. Postman:
    Yep, it’s the ol’ “don’t think about an elephant wearing love beads” trick.

  14. Postman said

    Dammit! Now there’s a hippy pachyderm doing a slow and stately Hokey-Pokey to that song! In my head!

  15. the chaplain said

    Any animal that can do the Hokey-Pokey in a stately manner deserves a reward. Or, at the very least, a spot on Dancing With the Stars.

  16. Postie:
    Just be glad that your imaginary elephants aren’t pink!
    Someone’s overimbibing, my Lord. Kumba-hic.

    Chappy:
    How about Elephantidae’s Got Talent.

  17. Clay said

    Minor point of clarification: I don’t know if I’m one of the ones that Larry is referring to in this post about the Humanist Forum, but I was certainly there and I specifically requested to not be the public face of the group in the event that it came up. In person, I’m completely open about being an atheist… I do not shy away from it in conversation in any way. I do *not* advocate going slowly with this whole thing… I’d much rather get it out in the open. With that said, the reason I asked to not be the representative of the group is because I own a business and, sadly enough, I believe that the business (and therefor my family) would be negatively impacted.

    So, does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so… or, at least, not more than any other person that has a separate business life from personal life.

  18. I don’t think so… or, at least, not more than any other person that has a separate business life from personal life.

    Right, it’s ok if others do it too. Is that what you’re teaching your family? Fabulous! Let’s see, wrong isn’t wrong if others do it too, and don’t stand up openly for who you are and what you believe. Yup, you’re father of the year, pal.

    Nice use of the family to try and shield yourself. Wonderful place you moved to, Larry. I hope they at least have a decent wine shop. Christ!

  19. Clay:
    Thanks for commenting. Neither the subtle dig at pushy New Yawkers nor the “go slowly” crack was made at the Humanist Forum. Rather, they were both expressed at a specifically atheist meeting which you didn’t attend. So I wasn’t referring to you in particular.

    However, I do think that a person’s business life is inseparable from the rest of his/her existence. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to reveal everything about yourself to casual coworkers and clients. But you definitely shouldn’t have to pretend that you believe in something that you find ridiculous. You seem like a pretty good guy, and I’m guessing you’re damn good at what you do. It might actually be eye-opening to those you work with if they discovered that not all atheists are evil or weird, that even Clay is an unbeliever. So, in a way, you’re selling yourself short. And, unfortunately, by doing so, you’re selling the rest of us atheists short, as well. (See my post on The Atheist Out Campaign.)

    If you’re doing a good job for your clients, why the fuck should it matter to them whether you believe in any gods or not? I’m not saying you should go out of your way to collar those people and announce, out of the blue, that you’re an atheist. But if your not being an atheist is a requirement for them, you may want to re-examine whether or not you want to aid and abet their prejudice by bowing to it.

    You also may want to put yourself in the place of “Olaf,” about whom e.e. cummings wrote admiringly. In “i sing of Olaf,” cummings has his hero say: there is some shit i will not eat. I’m hoping that you, too, Clay, have a quota on ingesting crap, particularly the religious kind.

    Philly:
    Well, there is a decent wine shop here, but I haven’t checked whether they carry a varietal that goes well with manure.

  20. Clay said

    PhillyChief: Take a leap. Personal insults aren’t the best way to establish a dialogue. You’re extremely judgmental and condescending about what you perceive my actions to be considering you don’t even know me. You appear to have discarded my first paragraph solely so you could respond negatively to my comment about having a separate business and personal life. You ignored that I said that I am very open about being an atheist one-on-one. People don’t call my company based on my philosophical viewpoints, they call us based on our ability to solve their other problems, but, in Kentucky, they will choose to not call us. Side note: if they don’t call us, how can I be a good representative?

    If you call a plumber, for example, and they show up and try to preach to you, what does that have to do with plumbing? If they called their business God’s Plumber, would you call them? Now, what if they showed up and your established a relationship with them and you established a relationship with them and *then* asked them their personal belief system?

    In my case, if people want to discuss religion, I don’t shy away from it, but I don’t bludgeon them with it, either. A central aspect of your character might be that you’re an atheist, but I’m not defined by what I’m not (religious).

  21. Clay:
    … in Kentucky, they will choose to not call us.

    Yeah, I’ve discovered, sadly, that you’re probably right. But the best, maybe even the only, way to fight that kind of attitude is to refuse to sanction it. There may be financial repercussions, but if we all don’t do something immediately about the ever-growing theocracy, the punishments for atheism will soon extend well beyond our wallets. Is that the kind of world you’d like our kids and grandkids to inherit?

    Again, I’m not saying that you should just blurt out, apropos of nothing: “Oh, by the way, I’m an atheist.” But if we’re gonna take the trouble to put up a sign claiming that millions are good without god, I think we’ve all got to be willing to count ourselves publicly among that number. Otherwise, it’s just a meaningless, unverifiable — and ultimately laughable — statistic.

    Although my post was definitely not aimed at you, you seem to have taken it personally. Maybe that’s your subconscious guilt at work. If the consensus of Lexington freethinkers is that you’d be one of the most effective spokespersons for the good-without-god community in the area, I think you have to summon up the courage to stand for what you believe in.

  22. Clay: Your first paragraph was mostly meaningless since you eventually contradict it, so why should I waste time with it if you don’t consider it worthy?

    Look, if you were really concerned about repercussions, then I don’t see how you could be completely open in person. Is that with an asterisk, as in completely open in person when you know the person before you is safe? I mean, if you’re open about it in person, couldn’t a customer or potential customer be within earshot? Couldn’t those who are pass the scandalous info on to those others? So you don’t make any sense, and that completely undermines the whole ‘I gotta protect the family’ crap since you’re potentially putting them at risk every time you’re completely open in person.

    Now I don’t know wtf your plumber analogy is all about, because I don’t think anyone is telling you to proselytize on the job. Would I hire the plumber I saw on tv or read about who put up a Christian billboard? Well for me, that depends on how good a plumber he is. Am I having religious conversations with my plumber or anyone I contract or deal with in work? No, because my work has nothing to do with religion. Now if you’re a Christian bible salesman or a church repairman, well, that’s different (and maybe you should consider different work).

    A central aspect of your character might be that you’re an atheist, but I’m not defined by what I’m not (religious).

    1) Yes you are, by the religious every day you stay silent and allow them to define what an atheist is like.
    2) You’re not open, not honest, and not being a good role model. I’d say you most certainly can be defined by nots.

    And finally, they will continue to not call as long as people like you continue to hide. You’re an enabler, and that’s not good, so essentially your billboard is bullshit because none of you are being very good, are you?

  23. Clay said

    Larry:
    I have no guilt about being an atheist or about how I handle my business life. I am already publicly an atheist. I make no bones about it and have had many discussions with friends and clients about it. What I do not want to do is have someone’s first professional encounter with me be about anything other than my business and my ability to solve their problems. That’s just good business sense. I do not believe that the majority of my clients would stop using my company because I’m an atheist, but that’s not the same thing as people who don’t use my company yet.

    As for your point of not sanctioning their behavior, I agree, but how, exactly, do you argue against someone that doesn’t call you in the first place? You can certainly refuse to support or publicly argue against bad policies, boycott religious-only events, etc., but you cannot fight a nonspecific non-action. You cannot sue a business for refusing to do business with you, even if they’re stupid enough to say that they’re doing it for religious reasons.

    (The reason I suspected that you might be partially talking about me was simply because we had a similar conversation… it sounds like you’ve had several of them in the last couple of weeks. Certainly, I didn’t take offense at your post, but I did want to clarify my position just in case.)

  24. Clay said

    Philly:
    Just move along. I couldn’t care less about your opinions because you obviously haven’t thought them through. Personal conversations with people about any topic are not even remotely the same as being a public spokesperson on the TV or radio. Even if every single person I talked to walked away with a negative impression and told 5 people that I was an atheist, it would be a drop in the bucket compared to the tens or hundreds of thousands that listen to any given radio show or watch a given news cast.

    As for hiding, you don’t even post your name on here (or on your own blog) and you have your domain registered with a private registration? Why? Practice what you preach.

  25. My name is on my site. It’s customary in my profession to use creative monikers despite everyone already knowing what your actual name is. It’s part fun, part necessity to insure a unique identity easily remembered and not confused with the dozens of others who might happen to have the same real name. Private registration is to avoid unwanted real world solicitation (still trying to figure out how to keep the spam away, though).

    I’ve thought all this through pal, and I’ve seen plenty of guys like you over the years. You’re not thinking, and mostly trying to childishly lash out at me because I’m calling you on your bull. Get your own house in order first before trying to take shots at me. The more you try and deflect, the more foolish you look. Hey, at least in trying to hit me you show you’re not totally ball-less, so now try using them where it counts. Be a role model for people like your kid(s). Show that integrity isn’t conditional.

  26. Clay said

    Ah, I see. You’re one of those people that thinks that they know everything, have seen it all, and completely understands the deficiencies you think you perceive in everyone else. All you’ve done so far is try to insult me, but somehow you think that makes me look bad? Are you even capable of making an actual discussion point, or are also someone that just tries to browbeat people into submission?

    Be honest with yourself: if a random religious person was to read this comment thread, they’d see you as being an “angry atheist bully” and me as trying very hard to come across as reasonable. Way to go man, you’re really doing a bang-up job of representing atheists in a positive light.

    By the way: spam is easily solved, you just have to be willing to spend a couple bucks. If you need help in that regard, I’ll be happy to help you.

  27. Clay:
    … how, exactly, do you argue against someone that doesn’t call you in the first place?

    Obviously, you don’t. But there are dozens of reasons why someone may not call you, and probably only a small portion of them are based on prejudices. You can’t please all the potential clients out there, and — the fact is — not all of them will please you. I think you’re imbuing your atheism with too much power as a factor in whether or not you get hired for a job. But in those cases where it really is a reason for your losing work, and I have no doubt that it will be in certain instances here in Kentucky, you have to ask yourself: Would you have wanted to sell your talents to a company that considered your religious beliefs as a criterion in contracting with you?

    Unlike some others of us atheists, you don’t seem to be a confrontational or aggressive guy. Maybe that’s because you’re young enough not to have reached your boiling point at having to put up with constant foolishness. Perhaps you’re not yet angered by the frequent violations of our Constitutional right not to have Christianity shoved up our ass. But whatever the reason, your soft-spoken “man next-door” personality is exactly what would make you such an effective speaker on behalf of people who are faith-free. So let me ask you this: Do you want to work for bigots who would be turned off to you merely because they saw you on TV supporting humanist causes? I don’t know you well, but, from the little bit of discussion we had, I’d guess that your answer would be a firm “no.” Am I right?

    But we’ve gone far afield from my original post here. To pull us back, I’ll pose one more question. Should Lexington’s skeptics adopt “Kumbaya” as our signature song? If you say “yes,” I hope you know somebody who can play it for us on the Sousaphone.

  28. Philly:
    I’m beginning to think that we might have made a mistake when we named you as Miss Congeniality.

  29. No, you insult yourself Clay. I’m just trying to get you to stop. And if by “reasonable” you mean be a hypocrite, yeah, I think that’s what people would think of you reading this. You see, there’s no friendly or angry qualifier for truth. Truth just is, so playing the ad hominem game of ‘I’m a nice guy and he’s so angry so I win’ is intellectually dishonest, indicative of a weak position, and EXACTLY what the religious always do, so nice going. Put the shovel down and try climbing out of that hole, ok? You could do yourself and others a bit of good.

  30. Clay said

    Larry:
    To answer clearly, no, I would not want to do work for someone that used a religious test as a criterion for their employees or contractors. With that being said, companies are not individuals. The owners/management of a company might not have any problems with me, but the person that is in charge of getting bids or finding vendors might. In any event, I would rather make the decision myself whether or not to turn down work than to have someone else do it for me.

    I appreciate your comments though, and I’ll give it some thought.

    As for “Kumbaya”, I certainly hope not. Personally, I’d vote for “I Ain’t Afraid” by Holly Near. You can hear it here.

  31. Clay:

    A good pick for an anthem, and sufficiently in-your-face. But we might supplement it by occasionally singing this.

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