I’m feeling pretty darn good. In tomorrow’s mail, Spare the Rock Records is:
- Sending the Haitian People’s Support Project another $10,000 from Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti.
- Sending Girls Inc. $8,803 from Science Fair.
- Sending the Woody Guthrie Foundation $2,177.70 from Keep Hoping Machine Running.
By the end of 2013, the label will hit a cumulative total of $100,000 in donations.
Thanks to Dean Jones, Molly Ledford, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Jeff Giles — producers on the albums — and the over 50 amazing artists who have contributed songs. Huge thanks also to Stephanie Mayers for her remarkable PR work and all the folks at Virtual Label for making it all work.
Visit the label’s page for more information about the releases.
A few weeks ago we had The Doubleclicks on the show (you can see a video here) in support of their kids’ record Worst Superpower Ever. Prior to their visit, I’d listened to that a few times, along with their non-kids’ stuff, and enjoyed it all plenty. And the in-studio was super fun — the songs were of course witty and a nice change of pace in the kids’ world, as were the band members (sisters Aubrey and Angela), but what was maybe the best was watching them talk with Ella off-air. Grownups who spoke her language.
A week or so later, the band was kind enough to send an advance download of their new (not-for-kids) record, Lasers and Feelings. And it is, well, pretty great, and it made me pay closer attention.
Easy stuff to talk about first: They’ve added way more instrumentation to their guitar-and-cello core setup, and it sounds great. (As usual, I think many sax solos would be improved with trombone, but the sax solos on here largely work, and clarinets are great.) That’s not to say I don’t like the usual setup — it highlights their voices and lyrics nicely, and is certainly a nice change of pace from your standard band lineup — but it’s fun to hear some other instruments in the mix too.
Like I said, that’s the obvious stuff, and that — along with their usual witty lyrics and a growing nerd fanbase — is presumably why they just announced that they hit the Billboard Top Ten for comedy albums.
Here’s the thing though: Lasers and Feelings is not just a comedy album. I think it’s a (very funny) feminist album. (And putting it in the “comedy” category tends to distract from the fact that they’re excellent songwriters, both lyrically and melodically. This is not a novelty act.)
Sure, the album is funny — very funny at times — and there are certainly songs that are primarily for laughs (“The Guy Who Yelled Freebird,” “Rock Star Life,” etc.). And every song has humor at its creamy nougat center.
But I like to think of Lasers and Feelings as the sequel to Science Fair. (Granted, Angela and Aubrey didn’t have Science Fair until I handed it to them, and I’ve no idea if they’ve listened to it. Presumably they didn’t listen to it, travel back in time, and make Lasers and Feelings intending it to be a sequel. But stay with me here.)
Science Fair was (for me, and for I think all of the producers and artists) about giving girls power, to emphasize that there is no part of society where they don’t belong — about being themselves without being mocked, about feeling not just okay but awesome with being smart. That basic idea — everybody gets to be in every room — is what a lot of Lasers and Feelings is about too, albeit at a slight angle.
Consider the core song representing that idea, “Nothing to Prove.” (The video for it, featuring clips from fans all over, is supposed to be up soon.) In it, the band sings about finding their way into the nerd community — on much the same path that Ella is on right now — only to run into the notion of “fake geek girl tests”:
I know it feels good to have a contest you win; it would feel better if I wanted in. So women aren’t geeks, is that your conclusion? That this is some secret club based on exclusion? Twelve-year-old dorks would say that you’re being selfish, and then go and write in their journals in Elvish. * * * I’ve got cred but honestly I shouldn’t need it; this world needs all kinds of folks to complete it. You’ve got gamers and aritsts and comic subscribers, cosplayers, crafters, and fan fiction writers. You can stop – never say ‘fake geek’ again. Our club needs no bouncers; all who want can get in. But go ahead, if you want to own that role fully – I’ve got nothing to prove to a bully.
That is, I submit, the next step from Science Fair, especially the Nields’ song “Butterfly” and Rachel Loshak’s lovely “Oh Girl.” The former acknowledges how much it can suck out loud to be a smart (nerdy?) girl:
I know metamorphosis means you have to go to pieces first; things will not get better, ’til they get a whole lot worse. They are laughing in the girls’ room — they think they’re tearing down the sky. When I come out, finally find me, you’ll see a gold flight as we fly by, as I fly by…
And it’s not just The Doubleclicks’ “Nothing to Prove.” ”Oh, Mr. Darcy” provides a nice reminder not to get distracted by a British accent (“If a boy treats you with tasteful indifference, if he is handsome but bristly and cold, don’t be intrigued just because he’s ignoring you — not every asshole has a heart of gold.”). ”The Mystery’s Gone” points out how much one’s online presence can differ from their reality.
My point? Here, I’ve got one: If you’ve been listening to the show since we started (eight years in a couple of weeks!), you may well have a kid (boy or girl) who could use some of what’s on this album. (You’d probably like it too.)
It would be easy to get distracted by the plentiful laughs on Lasers and Feelings, and then you’d miss what is a really strong record with a resonant message. I cannot wait for Ella to get back from camp to hear it. I am positive it’s going to hit the spot for her. It is not a kids’ record — as you can see above, it has some language you might not love and some themes that aren’t aimed at the younger kids.
But it absolutely reflects much of how I want my kids to grow up: smart, funny, and — most importantly — being who they are.
(Also: writing in Elvish.)
P.S. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my brother and sister-in-law Mike & Jenn for introducing me to the band. They saw (if I remember right) their first public gig!
Bill asked me to write something about our parents “as science education advocates and feminists.” That’s a little bit sweeping, of course, and, as usual, I put this in the important, but not urgent, quadrant of the Eisenhower matrix. That was June 1, and here it is, umm, later, and I’m gathering, from the notes I see on Facebook, that I should move it to the “important/urgent” quadrant.
I can remember road trips where Daddy would make up word problems for us to solve when the alphabet game grew tiresome, and my parents quietly worrying about a particularly bad geometry teacher (who was particularly mean to girls), and getting to skip third grade one day to lobby Oklahoma legislators to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, and a trip to the International Science & Engineering Fair my first go (and state science fairs, one of which was chaperoned by both grandmothers when my folks had commitments elsewhere), and statewide math competitions, and the famous chalkboard in the dining room. [i]
And I can remember my Granddaddy Hartrick taking me to spend the day checking on ‘his’ trees and showing me where a pileated woodpecker made its nest, and my Poppaw Childs taking me out to check on his cows and quizzing me about P:N:K ratios in fertilizer, and when he started worrying about the farm girls getting to college about as much as he did about the farm boys.
And I remember my Gralma Hartrick paying me a penny for every two planaria I transferred for her biological supply company, and how our first pets were planaria she sent my brother Mike for his birthday. (My mother had a deep-seated phobia of dogs, and my father was allergic to cats and birds, which didn’t leave much left over in those days.)
And my Granny Childs showing me how to can or sew, and applying her home economics and teaching degrees in feeding the five thousand, and Poppaw acknowledging that it was her algebra skills that got him his master’s degree in animal science.
And how proud we were to know that some of our immigrant relatives were sanctioned for going to door to door, politicking back when Flushing, Queens, New York was still Dutch.
And I remember stories of my brother Bill (or was it Mike?) running into the house, yelling, “Spider! Spider! We need to look it up!”
And I remember my mother telling me every year on my birthday (as part of my birth story), how she conspired with her doctor to lie about her due date so she could work at Phillips 66 into her third trimester.
And I remember the stories of our great-greats who were on the Underground Railroad, and were abolitionists in Ripley, Ohio (the same area where Eliza crossed the Ohio River in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is a really easy read – there’s a reason Abraham Lincoln described its author as “the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!”), and then moved to Illinois to carry on the tradition. In fact, our great-great Rev. James Gilliland (photo here) pastored the Red Oak Presbyterian Church, and is credited with making it the center of the anti-slavery movement in Ohio. The Ripley, Ohio anti-slavery society there was founded in the 1830s.
And I remember how irritated Daddy would get at the Scientific Method, because that’s not how scientists do science. And when the press would describe the beginning of the universe as an explosion. And how proud he was of the Bartlesville schools introducing a gifted and talented program before they were common – the first high school graduates from that program featured a bumper crop of National Merit Semi-Finalists (including my brother Mike), and Daddy saw a causal relationship there. (My mom has told me that she thought Mike would have dropped out in 5th grade if that program hadn’t been there.)
And I remember being told by some high school girl as we were leaving AP English, “You’re liberal?! But, I thought you were smart!”
And I remember when the help wanted ads in the newspaper were sorted by gender. And when my high school counselor responded to my conceding that I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, by telling me that I should go to a state school in western Oklahoma, which had the 4th best pharmacy program in the US. Why? Because my skillset would be more portable, and I could go where my husband went for his job. (Not that it matters, much, now, but I wasn’t dating anybody at the time, and she left unexplained how I would meet somebody at this school who wasn’t a pharmacist.) And how concerned Eagle Forum was that men and women might have to share a bathroom, although I guess it was all right for them to share a bathroom at home.
And I remember my brother Bill taking on his third grade teacher on evolution, and her telling him that he was d—ned for believing in it. And him coming into the living room after his bedtime to kiss all the women goodnight who were working to do something about women’s rights.
And my mother talking about the work she did to abet integration in Fayetteville when she was in college, involving pie and coffee. (Fortunately, there was a reimbursement since she didn’t really have two nickels to rub together.)
So, it’s hard for me to write about science education advocates and feminists because, for me, that was what our family did and always has done. We think it important to work at making the world a better place, and one way to do that is to make sure that everyone in it has a voice, and that we don’t leave out half the world in any career – especially science. I’m glad that this CD is being used to further that ambition.
[i] An aside about the chalkboard: my mother’s folks also had unusual things in their dining room. They had a sawfish nose and a set of arrows tipped with curare that my great-grandfather brought back from a trip he had taken to Venezuela. As I heard the story from my uncle last week: after my great-grandmother died, he went down, more than once, to Venezuela to visit two of his children, who were missionaries there, working his way on boats. (In fact, my grandmother’s three siblings all made missionaries, in one way or another.) At some point, he fixed a motor for somebody, who gave him a very large sawfish in exchange. He couldn’t take the whole fish home, so he sawed off the nose.
So, maybe I can be excused for not realizing that our chalkboard décor was well outside the normal range of dining rooms.
You can watch the Mates of State video for their contribution to Science Fair here:
You can check out the video for Mates of State’s “I Am a Scientist” cover today at Paste Magazine. Whoo-hoo!
Thank you to: Lindsay Van Dyke for conceiving of and directing the video, Bob Pollard (Needmore Music) for permission for doing the video, Smith College for the fantastic location, our great volunteer cast and crew, and Mates of State for a terrific performance!
Early in the planning for Science Fair, Molly Ledford was considering writing a song called “Raised By Scientists” for Lunch Money to perform. That didn’t happen (yet?), but I really like the idea of it — it is a very specific way to be raised. To give one hint of what it was like, at least in the Childs household, I’ll direct you to a piece I wrote three years ago about having a chalkboard in our dining room. (Incidentally, I just repaired that chalkboard, so it will again have a place of prominence after our move to Austin.)
But for the song of my childhood to be complete, it’d have to be “Raised By Scientists and Feminists.” To give a hint of that, as I’ve also mentioned, and as the Deedle Deedle Dees memorialized in song, I chose Susan B. Anthony as the subject of a book report, and then dressed up as her to present it — that, along with the fact that I am reliably informed that my first question to potential preschool friends was, “Are you for the ERA?,” should give you a sense of that side of our childhood.
Thus came Science Fair. The CD, as the liner notes indicate, was inspired by the lives of my parents, Ves and Holly Childs. My dad (an electrochemist and feminist) died three years ago today — on the summer solstice, which, that year, was also Father’s Day. I chose today for the Paste Magazine-hosted premiere of the video for Mates of State‘s contribution to the record in part to honor the date. And then I also asked my mom, whose background you can read about below, to write a little about being a feminist in science and engineering. Here’s what she wrote:
I was slow in coming to the realization that I was drastically underpaid and disrespected compared to my male coworkers. It was 1964 and I was in my second year of my first off-campus job, at Phillips Petroleum Company. I was using the company’s new IBM 7094 mainframe computer to model and optimize nonlinear systems like gasoline plants, a somewhat harder group of problems than those most of my coworkers were working on.
I knew that my job title (engineering aide) was different from those of my peers (research scientist, computer analyst), though my job was similar; I thought that was because I had been hired more recently than everyone else. I was grateful to have been hired at all, though I had a solid BS degree with a double major in math and chemistry and had done better on the pre-interview tests than anyone else who had ever taken them. The matrix algebra courses I had taken, expecting them to remain entertaining but useless, had actually given me a head start on understanding the project I was hired for.
Two things happened about the same time to open my eyes. First, the project my boss and I had been working on was ready to be written about and published. Second, the company hired another “engineering aide” in my department.
I learned that my boss was hiring another person to work on our project, primarily by writing a journal article; he and my boss would coauthor the article, and I would not. I got to figure out most of the computer coding and engineering simulations and to draw the illustrations for the paper. The article was so long that there was no room even to express thanks to me.
The new engineering aide was a young man with a high school diploma and a drafting class. His job was more clerical than technical. He was paid slightly more than I was.
Because I was a woman, I was classified as a low-paid, low-prestige employee and I was not eligible to publish technical work that I had done. I was enraged. But there was nothing to be done. Sex discrimination was perfectly legal, and, indeed, expected, by everyone except me.
Starting in college, I had worked on “desegregation,” as civil rights activities were then known. I hadn’t realized that women needed protection for their civil rights too. I knew that women in the sciences were regarded as “cute” or as interlopers; a physics professor referred in a class I was in (50 men, two women) to “girls in college looking for their M.R.S. degrees.” I knew that not many women actually worked in science or engineering. But my parents had encouraged me to pursue chemistry, though my high school had offered no science at all – my mother always told me that I could do anything I wanted, and that the women in my family were strong achievers. It had never occurred to me that I might be underpaid or disrespected at a fairly won job that I was doing exceedingly well.
Partly in reaction to my own experiences, soon after our third (and last) child was born, I started working for the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have forbidden having different laws for men and women (excepting obvious areas like privacy and wet nurses). I spent ten years as a full time volunteer; another woman and I ran the field organization in Oklahoma. We lost the last legislative vote by one vote (that of a legislator who told our lobbyists he was going to vote yes, walked onto the floor, and voted no). I believe that, even though we lost, our ERA work made gender discrimination less socially acceptable.
Women still do not have constitutional protection, and job and educational discrimination continue, albeit in more subtle ways. I would really like to know for sure that my children and grandchildren will be treated fairly in school and on the job, regardless of their gender. I would particularly like to be sure that any of my beautiful little granddaughters who wanted to be a scientist or engineer, like me, would have a full opportunity to do so, and to be published when deserved and to be paid equitably. Perhaps this record will contribute toward that end.
- Holly H. Childs
You can pre-order Science Fair now, if you don’t have a local retailer that will be carrying it on its release on July 3. Proceeds will benefit Girls Inc.’s science education programming.
Family Music Release to Support Girls’ Science & Engineering Education
On July 3, Spare the Rock Records will release Science Fair, eighteen exclusive tracks themed around and benefiting science and engineering education for girls. The album will feature new and exclusive music from artists including Mates of State, Laura Veirs, Moona Luna (Pistolera‘s kids’ music incarnation), Elizabeth Mitchell, Frances England,Wunmi, Babe the Blue Ox, and many more. (The track listing is below.)
Extensive research shows that girls, from rural areas to the suburbs to the inner cities, aren’t getting the foundational education they need to get into science fields when they grow up, and so women are significantly underrepresented in science-related fields. The same research shows that girls are persistently given the message — explicitly or implicitly — that they can’t do science. Science Fair will be part of changing that, both through the message of the record itself and through the financial contributions it will generate, supporting Girls Inc.’s programs improving girls’ science education.
Science Fair will be the second release from Spare the Rock Records. In 2010, in response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the label released Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti, a benefit for the Haitian People’s Support Project. Many Hands brought together nearly two dozen artists, including Dan Zanes, Pete Seeger, They Might Be Giants,Elizabeth Mitchell, Jonathan Coulton, Lunch Money, and many more. Many Hands, named the best family music release of 2010 by Amazon and other sources, has raised $50,000 for Haitian relief.
Science Fair has as producers Elizabeth Mitchell, Molly Ledford (Lunch Money), Dean Jones (Dog on Fleas), and Bill Childs (owner of Spare the Rock Records). Cover art was donated by El Lohse (http://artbyel.com). Songs cover myriad subjects, from Marie Curie to butterflies to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
As with Many Hands, after-tax profits will be donated, with Girls Inc.’s science education program the beneficiary. The release will be available in physical form (distributed by E1) and digitally (at all the usual places).
Tracks (final sequence)
- Babe the Blue Ox – Surfin’ Minnesota
- Moona Luna – H2O
- The Deedle Deedle Dees and IMPACT Repertory Theatre – Time Machine
- Frances England – Goldilocks Zone
- The Nields – Butterfly Zone
- Laura Veirs – Little Black Rock
- Elizabeth Mitchell – Phytoplankton
- Mates of State – I Am a Scientist
- Wunmi – Rainbow
- Cat & a Bird – Constellation Bound
- Lunch Money – To Be a Fossil
- MC Fireworks (with Secret Agent 23 Skidoo) – Rocket Science
- Renee & Jeremy – (I Wanna Be Like) Madam Curie
- Rachel Loshak – Oh Girl (with John Munson)
- Alison Faith Levy & Rudy Trubitt – Deja Vu
- Lori Henriques – Heisenberg’s Aha!
- Barbara Brousal – I Wonder
- Ashley Albert – The Science Fair.
Filed under: Guest DJ Sets, New music, Spare the Rock Records
First, I’m thrilled to announce that Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti has now raised over $35,000 for the Haitian People’s Support Project! Wow!
Second, you have another chance to help out and get some great music for your family. Todd McHatton is guest DJing this week on Spare the Rock and he’s offered to donate every penny he gets from digital sales of his new record this week to the Haitian People’s Support Project. Go get it at his BandCamp page and buy it for any amount — and all of it will go help HPSP! That’s awesome.
(And the CD is really good, too!)
We can all agree that selling a t-shirt for girls ages 7 to 16 emblazoned with “Too Pretty to Do Homework, so my brother has to do it for me” is a terrible, terrible idea, right? (With the caption “Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Bieber album out? She’ll love this tee that’s just as cute and sassy as she is.”) The problems with that shirt (setting aside its awful design) are many — tying appearance to the need to do homework, suggesting getting a boy to do it for you. Just terrible.
If you’ve been following the show on Facebook, you might have guessed that the next release from Spare the Rock Records will be connected to girls’ education (not yet ready to fully announce it, but soon), and this is exactly the sort of message that is damaging. And gets me really, really angry. I intend for this shirt to be a prime example of exactly what we need to do better in messages to our daughters.
JC Penney won’t be getting our back-to-school shopping. Or any other shopping.
You can contact JC Penney here. I did already.
Update: It looks like they’ve taken it down. Good on them as a first step. How about an acknowledgment that it was a terrible, terrible idea? Publicly? Screenshot of what it was is above; click on it for a full-sized view.
Update 2: They’ve apologized, and in a pretty straightforward, non-”we-apologize-if-you-were-offended” way. Good on them.
I occasionally forget that the Many Hands CD has had real impact, not just in funds raised for relief, but also for listeners. Then I get an e-mail like this (posted with permission):
I’m sitting on a hammock listening to Many Hands, watching the twilight sky darken, about to make my fifth trip to Haiti, overwhelmed once again by the promise and challenge ahead of me as I head to the place of greatest need.
I work with teachers and children all over the country, bringing laptops and creativity and hope and freedom of a sort. This trip I’ll be reaching another hundred, most of them in Cité Soleil. I’ll also be glad-handing a bunch of so-serious types, all with power to help so many more, and most who completely miss the point … that we need to free hearts, free minds … that it’s about children being children, that they need a childhood, they need a friend.
Please pass the word to the artists that they’ve given strength to at least one steely-surfaced marshmellow man spending way too much time & money for the kids of Haiti, who listens to the songs along with his 5 year old daughter, over and over and over.
And that one beautiful twilight night in a moment of considerable doubt, Frances England made me cry the shaking kind of sob with the simplicity and truth of “What Friends Are For.” I wish I could airdrop your CD all across Haiti so the kids there could hear what the kids here are jamming out to in the backseat on the way to their happy, healthy home. Those kids and these kids . . . there aren’t words.
Anyway, thanks again.
As you can guess from his signature lines, Tim works with the Waveplace Foundation; he also sent along a link to a video that describes some of their innovative work in Haiti. Check it out:
And here’s Frances (with Elizabeth Mitchell and Daniel Littleton helping out) doing the song he mentions: