Steve Denyes and 20 Kindie Artists Write 20 Kindie Songs in 20 Days

 Steve Denyes with guitar

Steve Denyes with guitar

Sounds like a logic problem, right?  "If Steve Denyes and 20 kindie artists write 20 kindie songs in 20 days, how many days would it take Steve Denyes and 1 kindie artist to write 1 kindie song?"

The answer -- contrary to what logic would tell you -- is one day.

Or, to be more specific -- today.  That goes for whenever you read this, because for the next 20 days, Denyes (best known as the main guy in San Diego's Hullabaloo) and a guest artist will pick a song title out of a hat and, by 5:00 PM daily, write, record a post a song based on that title.  Actually, both Denyes and the guest will each write a song, so it's actually 40 songs in 20 days, but Denyes' title was already set.  (Logic is tough, y'all.)

Why would Denyes do such a thing?  I'm sure there are many intrinsic motivations, but an external one would be to raise money for Happy Star Melodies, a San Diego-based charity that brings musical instruments and performances to kids facing long hospital stays.   Denyes has already raised a nice sum of money, and although the time to suggest songs is long past, I'm sure the group could use whatever you can spare via the donation page.

I could list some of the guest artists, but then I'd be afraid of leaving some out, and, really, there's no good way to handle the issue other than to say the guest artist for the first day, February 1, is Jason Didner, and there's plenty more good stuff coming.

Denyes' plan is to post the song(s) by 5 PM Pacific time daily, and my plan is to update this post -- hopefully daily -- with all the songs.

So, again, visit that donation page and give a little bit if you can.  And enjoy the music!


"My Best Friend Riley" - Steve Denyes / "My Best Friend Riley (Is a Dog)" - Jason Didner

"Ant and Bee Went Looking for a Cookie" - Steve Denyes / "Mr. Ant and Mrs. B" - KB Whirly

"My Trip to Paris" - Steve Denyes / Ashli Christoval (aka Jazzy Ash)

"Hugs for My Family, High Fives for My Friends" - Steve Denyes / Randy Kaplan

"Help!" A Snake Is Gonna Eat Me" - Steve Denyes / Jim Cosgrove (aka Mr. Stinky Feet)

Stories, Memes, and Fans: A Review of NerdCon: Stories 2015

I'll begin with a story.

Last year, in September 2014, I went to Portland, Oregon for XOXO, a conference and festival designed for people who make a living with the internet, either because they make the internet go in some way, or they use the tools and social structures the internet enables.  Silicon Valley folks, musicians, and... me.  (It was a lot more diverse than that sentence implies, but it's safe to say I was more the exception than the rule.)

It was only after I got to Portland and started focusing on the speaker's list for the conference portion that I realized that the speaker Hank Green was the Hank Green, that guy who's one-half of the Vlogbrothers, a founder of VidCon, and -- this is the important part -- somebody who my daughter, Miss Mary Mack, by now a teenager, is a huuuuuuuge fan of.  (She is an avid Nerdfighter, as some of Vlogbrothers' fans call themselves.)  In other words, if it had been my daughter there in Portland, and not me, the entire conference would have been leading up to Green's talk instead of his talk being an "oh!" moment, as it was for me.  (His talk, by the way, is really good.  I recommend it.)

Having said that, my daughter took the news that I saw Hank Green in stride.  Had I met Green in person, as Nick Disabato did, it's possible that her reaction would have been more along the lines of the author's teenaged nephew, who, after hearing that Disabato had casually chatted with Green in the food truck lines for a half hour, yelled at him in anger, "Hank Green was wasted on you!"

All of that -- hearing Green speak, my daughter's Nerdfighteria, the fact that I get myself to conferences I'm not entirely sure I'm the target market for -- helps to explain why I found myself in a large convention center ballroom in Minneapolis a couple weeks watching a squid answer questions.

 Rapid-fire question and answer with famous people and a squid at NerdCon: Stories

Rapid-fire question and answer with famous people and a squid at NerdCon: Stories

We were in Minneapolis for NerdCon: Stories, the first NerdCon from Green and the folks who put on VidCon in Anaheim every year.  VidCon is a huge affair, bringing nearly 20,000 fans to a convention center across the street from Disneyland to meet and maybe learn from the biggest names in online video, names that I, for the most part, would not recognize at all, but would be stunned to find out would have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of fans on YouTube, Vine, Snapchat, etc. etc.

In related news: I'm old.

But in late March, John Moe of the great radio program and podcast Wits noted that he was going to be participating in this thing called NerdCon: Stories, a conference which billed itself as a celebration of story-telling featuring authors, podcasters, musicians, and others.  The conference was being run by Hank Green's VidCon folks.  The conference would be held in Minneapolis, where I have many friends.  In other words, not only did this sound interesting, it also sounded like it had a much better chance than most first-year conferences of being well-attended, and even if it wasn't, we could visit friends.  It was actually doable... so we went ahead and did it.

I guess I should explain the squid.  The squid was -- and I hope I'm not revealing any secrets here -- a guy in a giant squid costume.  To be more specific, The Giant Squidstravaganza is the brainchild of Paul and Joe DeGeorge, who are also the folks behind Harry and the Potters (more on them anon).  The squid has a podcast -- the Cephalopodcastof course -- and why wouldn't he be answering rapid-fire questions about himself with the likes of Rainbow Rowell, the aforementioned John Moe, Mara Wilson, and Joseph Fink (Welcome to Night Vale)?  It could have gone over very poorly, but it (both the squid in particular and the panel in general) was, like much of the conference, very, very funny.

In looking back at the conference agenda, I realize just how dry it all sounds, how... conference-like.  Panels, mainstage things, breaks for meals.  "We will learn about the importance of stories and how to produce stories, and the technical components of making a living sharing stories..." [/boring teacher voice].  But in execution, the weekend was was way more of a festival or what a "con" might entail.  Of course, I've never attended a "con" before.

In related news: not only am I old, I don't play RPG games, rarely read fantasy or sci-fi, don't watch much TV, and am generally, it would appear after reading this, a stick-in-the-mud.

But do I enjoy watching authors and podcasters get into arguments that devolve into (exaggerated fisticuffs) over whether someone would rather fight against 100 duck-sized horses or one giant horse-sized duck.  Thank you, John Scalzi and Kevin B. Free (again, from Welcome to Night Vale among other things) for taking the absurdity of that particular debate to its logical conclusion -- headlocks.

 A spirited debate at NerdCon: Stories 2015

A spirited debate at NerdCon: Stories 2015

NerdCon: Stories was probably the funniest conference I've ever been to, and that includes not only the occasional day-job conferences (very dry) but also XOXO, Kindiefest, and even MaxFunCon, which is from a podcast network that features comedians.  I laughed a lot.  Not only that, the absurd nature of some of the discussions led to some amusing in-conference viral memes, like how an answer in a mainstage game of Superfight about the Illuminati, but made of guacamole, led to the creation of The Guacanati (and, of course, the accompanying Twitter account) and its own hand sign (two hands forming a triangular tortilla chip shape). 

I also thought quite a bit about stories and narratives and who tells those narratives and the importance of hearing those narratives from a wide range of perspectives.  Some of the panels were more focused than others, but I viewed the process of picking what panel to see when multiple panels were taking place akin to that of picking classes in college -- pick the professor (i.e., panelist) you want to hear, not the class title you think you want.  So while the topic of the challenges of adapting a work into another medium didn't interest me at all, the fact that John Green (Hank's brother, an author, perhaps you've heard of him?) was speaking on that panel very much did.

But as someone for whom "fandom" is not a particularly pleasant state of being, I felt somewhat at a remove from the guests.  I sympathized with author Patrick Rothfuss, who recounted a story of politely declining to take a selfie with a fan led to a somewhat dismissive public response on Twitter, without the fan knowing that Rothfuss was in the middle of trying to make funeral plans for a recently and suddenly deceased friend of his.  Believe me, as a Kindiefest guest, I get where Rothfuss was coming from -- even on the waaaaaay smaller scale of Kindiefest, I would get exhausted from talking to folks who wanted to talk to me about Kids Music Stuff when I would have been happier just talking about random things like the weather or the awesomeness of the taco truck down the street.  I can only imagine how taxing that must feel for Rothfuss let alone John Green, who didn't do a signing session.

Miss Mary Mack was all about trying to meet Hank Green (his two signing sessions filled up incredibly quickly in advance and she wasn't able to do so), while I sat to get books autographed by John Scalzi (for our hosts) and John Moe (because I really like his stuff), and aside from 10 seconds of chit-chat, that was all I needed.  But both of them are funny people -- I feel like if I spent time interacting with them that wasn't creator-fan but two middle-aged guys talking about something random, that would be more my speed.  It was those opportunities that I wished there'd been more of, because I'm used to those opportunities at the smaller conferences like those I mentioned above.  With well more than 2,000 fans in attendance at NerdCon, that probably wasn't going to happen.

So it was the youngster -- i.e., Miss Mary Mack -- who found herself in the middle of a circle of fans around Harry and the Potters as they finished up a party for the Harry Potter Alliance, singing the band's lovely singalong "The Weapon."  She was the one getting Nerdfighter pins, meeting fellow fans, getting us to go to a Nerdfighter meetup Sunday afternoon after the conference had ended.  I had a lovely time, but I hope for her it meant even more.

OK, some final comments in case there are any NerdCon folks (producers, attendees) who've read this far:

1) I wish there were more structured opportunities for attendees to interact with each other (and, to the extent possible, with the guests as well).  I kept watching the guests have fun interacting on stage and wishing there were similar opportunities for the attendees.  Now those interaction opportunities could be as simple as a game room, or an ongoing open-mike or storytelling session (they had those, but they were limited in time, and because the open-mike session was on the mainstage, it may have scared off some folks who might not have wanted to share their talents in front of hundreds of people).  But I think one of the great things about MaxFunCon is that there's little distinction between guests and attendees.  Obviously its size (less than 200) makes that possible.  XOXO is larger (close to 1,000) but by having a smaller conference and including a festival component that includes gaming and music, it provides more of those attendee interaction opportunities.  I'm not suggesting that there be a ton of public-facing performances for attendees.  I'm struck in reading Fangirl, a YA novel I picked up at NerdCon, written by guest Rainbow Rowell, how the impulse in writing fanfic (another thing I've never had any interest) can be primarily that of community, not of performance (let alone fame).

2) I wish there had been a closing session.  The last session Saturday night was a performance of "Too Might Light Makes the Baby Go Blind" performed by the Neo-Futurists (i.e., the folks behind Welcome to Night Vale), which was really enjoyable, but it was odd that a conference dedicated to the story didn't provide one of the most important things almost all good stories provide: closure.

3) I also had a small sense of confusion over what the conference was trying to be -- a conference, a "con," or a festival -- but its good humor and diverse guest list overcame that confusion.  Maybe rather than giving it a "Stories" focus, they could have called it NerdCon: Hank, or "HankCon," or "HankAndPatrickCon" (because Patrick Rothfuss was a major contributor in the planning of the weekend).  XOXO has always essentially been a weekend of the two Andys who are its founders indulging their own tech and culture whims, and it always seems to work out.  Hopefully they'll figure out what worked and tweak next year's event accordingly.

4) Mary Robinette Kowal should teach courses on how to run a good conference panel.  Her method -- take questions first, before the panel starts -- should be, well, mandatory for any conference that isn't taking questions solely via Twitter.  (OK, I hate to mandate anything.  But I loved that approach.)

If you're interested in other perspectives on the conference, I recommend John Scalzi's and Hank Green's comments.  Having said all this, I haven't said all I want to say, but it's time to wrap this up and press "publish" on this post.  I'd like to think that Hank Green wasn't wasted on me this time around.  I (and Miss Mary Mack) had a blast and look forward attending another NerdCon (Stories or otherwise) in the future.

Happy Birthday to Me

Well, not me personally.  This site.

That's right, exactly ten years ago today I burst forth onto the kids music scene with these words (actually, these words, but whatevs):

Welcome to Zooglobble! It's my hope that this blog/website will become a reference site for great kids' music that parents can enjoy as well. If you like Ralph's World, Laurie Berkner, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Justin Roberts, among others, stop by on a regular basis for news, reviews, and goodness knows what else. It might take some time, but we'll build this up to something worth your time.

Thanks in advance for your time and patience.

Those 75 words launched a million more -- probably two million more.  Over the past ten years I've reviewed well over 600 albums, listened to probably close to 3,000 albums, featured hundreds if not thousands of videos, interviewed dozens of artists, and done lots of other things I can't count.

My life is different now than it was in 2004, and one such way is that I'm busier to the extent that I'm not going to try to count those things, my math-nerd tendencies notwithstanding.

Of course, the most important things that have happened over the past ten years as a direct (and indirect) result of my work on this site are difficult if not impossible to quantify -- bonds shared with family, friends made across the country, communities supported, joy felt.  Through luck and hard work I've had the opportunity to meet some great people, learn new skills, and have some amazing experiences.

Thanks to everyone who's made their way here over the past decade -- there are far too many of them to pick any one of them out except for my wife and kids who have indulged me in this hobby.  Thanks to musicians, readers, and all of you in this world who are supporting the creation of art for kids and families.  To paraphrase Richard Scarry, there are all kinds of musicians.  The best musicians record kids' albums.

Thanks, y'all, for coming to the party, don't be stranger 'round these parts, and don't forget your goodie bag on the way out.

MaxFunCon 2014: Enthusiastic About Enthusiasm

There was a point, while I was dancing along to Dan Deacon in an Oxford shirt and tie, that I thought, "I have never seen so many people taking 'Bohemian Rhapsody' quite so seriously and joyfully."

Also, "I'm surprised I'm still wearing this tie."

***

I'm not entirely sure what drew me to MaxFunCon 2014.  It was a question I asked myself several times before going, and, failing to find an answer that made sense to me, or to my family, I asked fellow attendees.

Their response was mostly: the podcasts.  And not just the podcasts generally.  Most of the attendees had specific favorites that they listened to regularly -- Stop Podcasting Yourself, for example, or Jordan, Jesse Go!

They were enthusiasts.

As am I -- I've been writing a website about an often-marginalized and still niche music genre for nearly a decade -- but they were at a conference that actually included things they were enthusiastic about.

Me, I'm just enthusiastic generally.  So if there was anything I had in common with the other attendees, it was this: we were enthusiastic about enthusiasm.

***

At this point, I think I should backtrack a bit and explain what MaxFunCon actually is.  The Maximum Fun (the "MaxFun" part) network is a collection of shows primarily distributed as podcasts, though what I consider to be the flagship show, the pop culture interview and review show "Bullseye," is also distributed on NPR stations.

(Perhaps my characterization of that show as the network's flagship, however, is shaded by my own biases, as "Bullseye" is one of just two shows I listen to on a regular basis, and as much as I enjoy podcasts, I still tend to defer to shows that air on actual radio as being more "important," even though for all I know "Bullseye" doesn't get as many listeners as some of the podcast-only shows.  Also, NPR pays me to review stuff.  In any case, I got the impression that I was in the minority of attendees for whom "Bullseye" was at the top of their MaxFun list.)

"Bullseye" is hosted by, and the MaxFun network run by, Jesse Thorn, who in addition to hosting radio shows and running podcast networks also runs a men's fashion website, Put This On.  (Not to mention the Atlantic Ocean Comedy and Music Festival, a cruise which grew out of a one-time MaxFunCon East.)  As you can tell, the man, too, is an enthusiast and he has diverse interests that mix in often harmonious ways.  ("All Things Scottish… and Pizza," this is not.)

Several years ago, Thorn thought it would be interesting (or maybe just make a little money for his non-profit network) to put on a convention -- a "Con" -- that drew together Thorn's podcasters and talented friends and his fans and listeners. Or, as it's described now, a "gathering of creative people who wish to be more awesome."

"MaxFun" + "Con" = "MaxFunCon"

UCLALakeArrowheadConferenceCenter.JPG

So for several years, Thorn and his Maximum Fun colleagues have hosted MaxFunCon at UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center, a gorgeous facility along Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino mountains northeast of Los Angeles.

I heard the phrases "Shangri-La" and "Brigadoon" thrown around to describe MaxFunCon.  They're not inappropriate.

***

OK, but what did you actually do?

I got there shortly before 6 pm on Friday evening after driving from Phoenix (5 1/2 hours door-to-door).  Needing to check in and unpack in the condolet (a fancy word for chalet-style hotel room), I missed the welcome happy hour, but slid into a back-row seat amidst the 200 or so attendees in a conference room-as-mountain chalet as we were formally introduced to MaxFunCon by Jesse Thorn.  He outlined the basic ground rules, which I'd summarize as be welcoming, seek consent (kids, ask your parents), and don't be too weird to the teachers/comedians.  With that, John Hodgman (host of the other MaxFun podcast I regularly listen to, Judge John Hodgman) came out and welcomed us all by providing a flask of artisanal bad spirits (following up on a bit he did last year) and singing one of his favorite songs, Cynthia Hopkins' "Surrounded by Friendship," which he has done repeatedly at MaxFunCons and other shows of his.

[Note: this is the only explicitly kindie-related link of the conference.  Long-time kids music listeners will recognize Hopkins' name and that song as Dan Zanes and Hopkins performed it on his House Party album.  (Hear Hodgman, Hopkins, and Jonathan Coulton perform it live back in 2011 here.)  </kids music nerdery>]

And at some point -- I can't remember if it was before or after Hodgman played "Surrounded by Friendship" -- he brought out John Roderick to join him on a few songs (I remember Jonathan Richman's "Roadrunner" being one of them).  From my corner-room vantage point, it was all a little surreal: six hours before I was sitting in my dining room in a blazes-hot Phoenix having a lunch of leftovers with my wife and Little Boy Blue, and now I was in some high-altitude lakeside resort with musicians and comedians and people who were very excited to be there laughing at inside jokes.  It was like the plot of every great middle-school novel -- outsider gets transported to an entirely different world with fantastic rituals and secrets.  ("Harry Potter and the Slithery Stand-Up")

But lest you think that it was a clique-y crowd, I think my favorite thing about the conference was that it was decidedly not.  From my first meal that Friday night right after the Hodgman benediction to the lunch on Sunday afternoon, there was an openness to conversation and discovery that was quite unlike any convention I've been to.  Kindiefest had some of that, but that was aided by everybody having the same particular interest, and the level of excitement -- enthusiastic about enthusiasm, remember -- was off the charts here.

It was that first dinner where I found out that a lot of the people there were there because they were big fans of a particular podcast, or had been on the first Atlantic Ocean Comedy & Music Festival last fall and wanted a more "MaxFun" experience (since the attendees only made up a small percentage of the cruise boat).  Given that I wasn't entirely sure why I was there (that's why I kept asking everyone else why they were there, in what might have been a useful conversational gambit but was probably a lousy way to try to answer my own question) and my (slightly) older age, I could've been an outsider.  But I never, not once, felt like one.

***

The sessions themselves ranged in entertainment value from "hey, not bad!" to "that was worth the drive from Phoenix."  The RISK! show on Friday night featured 4 "true-life" confessional stories.  That style of storytelling is generally not my cup of tea, but the tales were well-told, and that's 90% of the battle there.  My classes on Saturday -- "Introduction to Clown and Physical Comedy" with Stephen Simon of the troupe Ten West and "Making Good Satire" with Joe Randazzo (who used to hold creative leadership positions at places you might have heard of called The Onion and Adult Swim) -- were classes in topic areas I typically would not consider.  But that was intentional on my part -- I wanted to get out and learn new things .  Some workshops were even more frivolous, perhaps (making disco balls) and some were less so (specific writing feedback), so the conference could have been more or less "serious" depending on your workshop choices.

As a general rule, the more interactive the session, the better -- the clowning workshop, which was essentially an introduction to movement you might find in an improv class, worked better than the satire class, which was more lecture-y.  I had just as much fun playing a game -- Coup, The Resistance, a fast and fast-paced bluffing game, in case you were wondering -- in the impromptu gaming session scheduled during one of the few moments of downtime.  ("Remember," we were told multiple times, "MaxFunCon is a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself."  Truer words were never spoken, even if they weren't completely adhered to.)

The comedy was great.  I laughed quite a bit at the live tapings of podcasts Throwing Shade and Stop Podcasting Yourself, but it was the Saturday night comedy showcase featuring Ricky Carmona, Graham Clark, Ian Edwards, Shelby Fero, Kumail Nanjiani (battling illness), and Brent Weinbach (whose absurdist comedy was definitely my favorite set of the evening) that was the most laugh-filled session.  (It also introduced MaxFunCon's buzzword, "Doubt," courtesy of Weinbach, who was trying to pitch it as a word meaning "Definitely."  You had to be there.)

***

I've been to my share of conventions, and none of my memories of those conventions revolve around the topical things I've supposedly learned there, the conventions' ostensible subject.  Rather, they all pertain to the people and the interactions, both during the sessions as well as before and after the official events.  Part of that is probably due to the sequential and cumulative nature of learning a topic area as opposed to the individual nature of specific memories.  I'm not saying that conventions for work-related reasons aren't worthwhile (and there could be some fields in which the topic area knowledge gained is worth the trip), but the attendee (or payee) needs to be clear on what they're likely to gain and whether that is worth the cost.

MaxFunCon was worth it.  I met some great people, learned a bit, laughed a lot, and had tons of fun.

While MaxFunCon has the structure of a convention, it's only the barest of scaffoldings upon which the useful function of conventions is hung -- the building of bonds with, and learning about, individual people rather than things.  It set up a place where naturally enthusiastic people could gather and then got the hell out of the way. 

I'm not saying anything that hasn't been noted before, and I understood it in some way intellectually before the weekend, but MaxFunCon clarified it in some essential way for me -- invest in time with others above all else.  That can be with your family, with friends, or with strangers -- and really, it should be all three at various points -- and it should be doing things you're enthusiastic about.

***

Which brings us back to me and my salmon-colored Oxford shirt and tie, tired and happy, dancing to a DJ set from Dan Deacon.  Deacon gave a talk midday Saturday that thoroughly entertained me.  He talked about trying to figure out how participatory art would change in the 21st century with people with smartphones at their side in the audience.  He pleaded for a more interactive experience from both artists, arguing that the hushed audience at, say, a 20th century symphony orchestra concert was more the exception than the rule if one were to look back over history.  Again, the idea that live musical performances are a product not just of the artist but also of the audience is not new, but Deacon made the point more convincingly than I'd previously heard.  Or maybe I was just more receptive.  In any case, audiences should participate.

This is a useful argument to make when you're going to DJ a party later that evening.  All that day, Thorn reminded us that the party started at 10 pm and we needed to get there on time because it was going to have to shut down at midnight.  (Don't worry, there were after-parties.)  Deacon did everything he could to get us out on the dancefloor -- Beyonce, classic '90s hip-hop, stuff I'd never heard of (but would find out later had like 80 million views on YouTube.  It was great -- now that I'm of friends-generally-too-old-to-get-married, friends'-kids-generally-too-young age, I don't get invited to weddings, and so my opportunities to dance are great circumscribed.  (In fact, this was the part of the weekend my wife was most sad to miss.)  Eventually -- we only have 2 hours, people! -- the dance floor was packed and by the time Deacon concluded with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," he made a convincing case for the viability of real-life interaction.  (There's a whole bunch of joy in this picture.)  Why was I still wearing the tie?  Because I was having too much fun to think about things like removing a tie.

If you've read this far, thanks.  I would also suggest that MaxFunCon 2015 is for you.  But even if you're just an interested family musician who read this far (and isn't secretly seething that the time I spent writing this could've been spent writing two or three album reviews), the (obvious) lessons here -- escape your comfort zone, engage with people, your performances are two-way streets -- are worth repeating, even if you've heard them hundreds of times before.  Going to a conference in the mountains above Los Angeles might help you remember those things -- the tricky part is not forgetting them when you come back down from the mountain.

"Felt Around the World" - "We Are the World" for a New Generation

Felt Around the World coverBig news in the kindie world today as more than a dozen kindie puppets officially released a new song, "Felt Around the World," designed to raise awareness of puppet rights.  Accompanied by a video and a brand new organization -- Hand Aid -- the song is designed to make listeners aware of the inherent dignity of sock-, felt-, and cotton-based puppets both inside and outside the kindie music world.

The song is the brainchild of puppet songwriter Marion Aeder, who's written for such puppet music luminaries as Kermit the Frog, the Von Trapp Family puppets, and the version of Punch and Judy currently being performed by Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas.  "I was tired of seeing my puppet friends treated like mere toys," and wanted to give voice to the feelings all puppets have," says Aeder.

So he contacted his friend, the puppet impressario Mayor Monkey.  MayMo is best known, perhaps, as the excitable hand puppet band manager of Seattle kids music band Recess Monkey, but he also has served stints as a Public Interest Research Group organizer, and it turns out MayMo had been hearing many of the same concerns Aeder had.

West Ginger Liberty

The two puppets banded together -- Aeder providing the music and lyrics, and Mayor Monkey contacting his many compatriots in the kindie world.  For example, Socrates Monk, sock puppet manager of Australian-American kindie band The Mudcakes, was happy to join in.  Likewise, West Ginger Liberty, Princess Katie's right hand-er, puppet, also immediately said yes -- her performance on "Felt Around the World" is her first on-record singing performance.

Aeder and MayMo -- like Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, or Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, and Quincy Jones before them -- merged an anthemic song with a cast of stars.  Unlike "Do They Know It's Christmas?" or "We Are the World," however, they didn't need to all gather in one place.  Technological advances of the past 25 years meant that they could all record in the comfort of their own... homes, and send their work into Mayor Monkey, who by this time had also managed to corral (hound? badger?) Recess Monkey into playing backup and Jarrett J. Krosoczka into contributing album art.

Enthusiasm among the kindie puppets ran high for the project, with many new kindie puppets joining in, sometimes for very personal reasons.  "Felt" participants Macho Nacho and Mouth Trumpet from Musical Stew met after being placed in Time Out after a peaceful 2004 demonstration in Medford, Oregon as the "Puppet Movement" was gaining momentum. Others, like Yosi's super-exuberant Eugene (he of the instantly memorable adlibs during the song's bridge) or Todd McHatton's Marvy had no personal tie to the project, but found themselves instantly drawn in.  (Marvy is rumored to be working on a solo record, in fact.)  And clearly it gave some puppets like The Wolf, best known for his demolition business, an opportunity to share skills he's honing with Debbie and Friends.

Felt Around the World co-mastermind Mayor MonkeyWhile the primary purpose of Hand Aid and "Felt Around the World" is to raise awareness of puppet rights, it's also going to raise money for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.  (All net proceeds after mixing, mastering, and Mayor Monkey's new megaphone he bought to keep everyone in line will go to St. Jude's.)  Listeners got a sneak peak of the song yesterday at Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, Ages 3 and Up!, Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl, and Hilltown Families.  But you can purchase the song today at iTunes, Amazon (affiliate link), and CD Baby.

Or enjoy the video right here.  Remember, folks, puppets are people, too.  OK, they're puppets.  But they deserve our respect.

Monday Morning Smile: "Me and Paul Revere" - Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers originally released "Me and Paul Revere" as a single for the 4th of July 2011 -- an apropos date given the song's subject -- Paul Revere's ride told from the perspective of his horse. The song is a model of historical storytelling through song. This video from Rolling Stone feels a little odd, watching Brooklyn twenty-somethings nod appreciatively as Martin and the band hurtle appropriately through the story, but there's a definite energy to the performance that makes it worth watching. Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers - "Me and Paul Revere" [Rolling Stone]