Amanda (Fucking) Palmer, An ode in progess.

Originally posted in 2015, updated in 2023

I was never good at asking. I’d rather fall flat on my face several times before asking anyone for help. I still suffer from this affliction to some extent. But I’ve learned asking or receiving it is not something disgraceful. It is helpful. It creates a positive energy that you in turn can pay forward. Without help from our parents, we wouldn’t have a decent car or the house we live in. Should I be ashamed of this? No! I should however be very thankful of the help received.

I’ve only come to this realisation recently, when I started reading The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. I’m only halfway through this already fantastic book, so please don’t expect an elaborate review.

2023 note: I have read this book countless times since then and wormed its way again onto my ever growing to (re)read pile.)

This is my written ode to Amanda Fucking Palmer: musician, singer, writer, artist, poet and all-round voice of so many people that don’t get, or dare to yell out themselves.

AFP and Julie 2016 DIe Kantine - Cologne
Getting The Art of Asking signed after the Amanda Palmer gig at Die Kantine in Cologne in 2016. Receiving a big hug after telling her how much it meant to me.

In the book, she describes beautifully how she felt like a beggar while working as The Bride at first, a living statue she took on the road.

How she tried her hardest to connect with people, all without uttering one word. And how it felt when she broke through the shell of one of the busy commuters.

How she made her eyes speak “I SEE you”. She recalls the thankful looks of recognition. I’ll never look at a living statue the same way again.

2023 note: Having met her, I can tell you this is not a gimmick. She SEES and FEELS her fans, her people. They are both her driving force and safety blanket.

Her music and lyrics inspire me. They break me when I feel fragile, and kick my ass when I need a boost. I keep discovering more and more layers within the songs. In the words and the notes. In the silences in between. I fall in love all over again, with every note and snippet of lyric, every time I put any of her music on.

The beautiful lyrics she writes down represent full honesty and fragility. When she whispers or screams them out on stage, only then do you understand them fully. They are what you want them to be. They can be everything and nothing in between. On a road-rage-fueled morning commute, they can be a release for that anger. On a quiet drive in the fields, it can be a lovely friend who tells you how beautiful the world is.

The beautiful lyrics she writes down represent full honesty and fragility. And then when she screams them out or whispers them on stage, only then do you understand them fully. They are what you want them to be. They can be everything and nothing in between. On a road-rage-fueled morning commute, they can be a release for that anger. On a quiet drive in the fields, it can be a lovely friend who tells you how beautiful the world is.

Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra at Botanique BXL -2 november 2013
Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra at Botanique BXL -November 2nd 2013 (Potato quality courtesy of crappy iphone)

Her shows, both with The Dresden Dolls, solo or with one of her many side-projects always radiate an energy that every fan takes home and treasures for years. I’m still talking about a Dolls show in 2006 like it was yesterday. She & Brian shook the AB venue in Brussels on its foundations. Just the two of them, an electric piano, a drum set and a set of lungs. Oh and his guitar, which he smashed. I still have to small part of it I managed to get a hold of!

  • Pre-show selfie with bestie Hilary!
  • During-show picture by bestie Hilary
  • Hanson was at Trix too
  • Post-show-hug-selfie
  • Me and Edward Ka-Spell
  • creeper view of the post-show-hug-selfie
  • How AFP inspires: Hilary turned me into art

The love she shows her fans and opening acts is astonishing. The pure brutal force with which she brings her music is borderline maniacal. She lives her stories and music on stage. She leaves behind a breathless, satisfied audience that can forget about using their voice the morning after. If you’re not hoarse as a barmaid the day after a DD or AFP show, you’re doing it wrong.

The fire with which she storms the world head on makes her my most appreciated female artist of all time. She isn’t afraid to give out her opinion, but isn’t afraid to retract if she feels she was wrong. She tackles misogynists and uses wit and art to make her point. She does not back down. She isn’t afraid to ask (for help).

The way she reacted to the Daily Mail article about her Nip-Slip on stage during a festival. No. I’m not quoting the source. I am however quoting Amanda on the matter of this type of journalism:

“Anything that seems to exist just to taunt, denigrate, bully, bemoan or demean others (especially if it is wrapped in a shroud of self-righteousness) is click-bait. Instead? Fuck it! Share something actually useful and wonderful! We need more of that, always. Preferably something deep, profound, mind-blowing and enlightening, but seriously…. sloths n’ kittens are still vastly better than yet another article shit-click-baiting.“

Here’s the video. Warning NSFW!

Not only is the song pretty fucking hilarious, she dares to fight the misleading media. In this case she refused to be reduced to a nipple. Deceptive journalism is a dangerous and slippery slope. Because of what is not written, a lot of important points aren’t made. In Amanda’s case, it was about her music and how it should speak for her, and not a silly wardrobe malfunction. But it is bigger than that too. It is about some stories being reported on profusely, while others die on the metaphorical editorial floor. And it’s mostly the stories that matter, that don’t make the cut.

Amanda isn’t afraid to speak her fears, as well as her mind. She evens the path for people who have something they fear or are anxious about, to speak their mind about it.

To let them be heard, so they can start to heal. She lends her ear to fans in need in the signing queue. In turn she has a shoulder to cry on when she doesn’t feel her best.

This is how she connects with her fans. Through laying it all bare. Through showing that it’s okay to talk about it, however much it hurts. However much people might reject you. She encourages you to grow from and empower yourself with this rejection. You cannot please everyone. Deal with it.

I feel she brings a healthy and much needed voice to femininity. She posts pictures to instagram & facebook without make up and her signature painted on eyebrows. She tells girls, young and old alike, that it is okay to be yourself. That we’re all flawed. That we all have bags under our eyes on most days. That real women have pores. And taches de beauté. And that that is okay.

Someone should write a book about this woman’s life. Oh wait. That’s right, she already did. It is called “The Art of Asking” and you should read it now. (Also, this post is turning into my version of her biography: ‘My life with Amanda Palmer.’ I’m only slightly kidding. Hyperfixation much?) Then start asking, stop worrying and let people help if you can’t do it alone.

Editors note: Originally posted on February 7th, 2015

So much has happened to Amanda, me and the world (both good and bad) in the 8 years since I originally wrote this post in February 2015. Hence me feeling I have to add this rather long addendum and instead of just reposting the original from the depths of the Way Back Machine. (If it wasn’t for that site by the way, I’d have lost all my content since I started DownSideUp originally.)

Between the original post and now, I have met this beautiful person after shows on several occasions and even got to spend a day with her and her entourage.

(Biggest and only regret of the day is not telling Neil Gaiman what a fucking fantastic author he is. Instead I kept gushing about my love for his co-author to Good Omens, the wonderful Terry Pratchett. (Sorry, Neil, I LOVE YOU but I google other authors!) BUT, as you can tell from the autograph pic, he understands the love people feel for Terry Pratchett. Neil commemorated his (sadly deceased) friend and author of the Discworld Novels with a winged gravestone. So, so fitting, but I digress.)

  • AFP and Neil Gaiman at Speelgoedmuseum
  • AFP and Neil Gaiman at Speelgoedmuseum
  • AFP and Julie and youngest fan
  • AFP and Neil Gaiman browsing for a new kitchen
  • Good Omens signed by Neil Gaiman
  • Rolemodels we needed growing up - Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer
  • Driving Neil & Amanda back to Borgerhout
  • Pre-show selfie with bestie Hilary
Attachment to the gallery: We lost Neil Gaiman somewhere around the creepy old dolls and he started a cryptic play by play thread of trying to find us again in the maze full of oddities that is the Toy Museum.

Another sidenote from the gallery above. AFP inspires people to create unabashedly, like how Hilary made her beautiful painting from my picture and I got to go wild in my Dresden Dolls inspired Photoshoot. (Plus countless other fan art I am not mentioning because this article is already TOO DAMN LONG.)

Anyway, since that first The Dresden Dolls gig, I have seen her most every time she’s been in Europe. Every iteration has been completely different, from the loud punk-esque sound with The Grand Theft Orchestra, to the haunting tour with Edward Ka-Spel, and her various (solo) projects.

She released at ton of music in the past decade, fueled by her Patrons. There were the collaborations with with the extremely talented Jason Webley for Evelyn Evelyn and Sketches For the Musical JIB. She brought her family along for the ride with ‘An Evening With Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer’ and the album You Got Me Singing she made with her dad Jack Palmer. Her last tour de force was There will be no Intermission with musician Jherek Bischoff on which you already know my opinion. There is just too much to mention everything individually, so just check the full discography on her website. Do note though, that The Dresden Dolls have started hitting the stage again as of this year.

Volg The Dresden Dolls

On the road with Jack Kerouac

As a 36 year old, I finally understand why my younger self gravitated towards this sentence. Which is why I finally visualised it.

I was so rattled, entranced and inspired by this one line when I first read it, I may have completely forgotten to read the rest of the book. (#adhdproblems)

Then again, it has been with me now for over 20 years, wandering in and out of my consciousness. It acquired new meanings along the way but was always a beacon of recognition.

Anyway. Understanding yourself and your place in the world is so important. Just paying it forward. To whom it may inspire ❤️

I used Canva and Snapseed, but don’t ask me to repeat this proces.

Circle in a Square Puzzle

Living with Neurodivergence

I am a person. But not like the others. I don’t fit the mold. I’m a circle in a square puzzle.

Yes this sounds dramatic. I’m too old to care. It feels like I am not the same shape as other people. I myself am coming to terms with that. A part of me LOVES being neurodivergent. I see SO much so many other people can’t see. But I also FEEL so much other people don’t feel as deeply. Which can be both amazing and awful, even at the same time.

Because everything is too much all at once and the world doesn’t fit my circular mold. I have to mold myself into a square to fit. And I cannot. I can tell the odd fib, though I’m admittedly bad at it.

But it is impossible for me to hide my true self, however much I may want to be the mysterious person at the back people are intrigued about. I just leak out. As soon as I feel I find my people, I stop putting on that mask.

And sometimes it is okay and I find understanding and it’s like magic. Other times, it places me so much outside of things, I forget where I’m supposed to be. And it takes me a while to notice that ‘my people’ are just ‘tolerating my presence’, not so much as actually accepting me. And when my brain does finally come to that realisation, it fucking hurts. Physically as well as mentally.

People see neurodivergents mostly as ‘unfeeling’. Autistic people don’t have emotion or empathy. They’re an AI like ChatGPT that just reasearches and mimics human behaviour. Fuck ALL of that. All the ASS people I have encountered, interacted with and read about were the exact opposite. They FEEL SO MUCH they don’t have the words to articulate just how much goes on inside.

Not necessarily because autistic people are inherently stupid as is often a stereotype. Far from it, more like. We see and feel the world differently. It is why ASS is often misdiagnosed as hypersensitivity. (Hello, my name is Julie and I am one of those misdiagnoses.) Yes, we are hypersensitive to our surroundings (combine that with ADHD and you might just feel like you just dropped acid and the world is all COLOURS and DISTRACTIONS, but anyway.) which means our brains take a LOT of time and effort to take in a random sequence of events.

A neurotypical brain will ignore all the bits are usually deemed unnecessary/not relevant. An ASS/ADHD brain (talking from experience, possibly other types of neurodivergence et al as well.) processes everything all at once. It is LOUD. It is messy. It is confusing. We get scared and overwhelmed.

Temple Grandin referred to it best in ‘Animals in Translation: The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow.’ (Review incoming!) She states that she feels people with autism (or maybe even neurodiversity in general), in her experience, seem to relate well to animals. In the sense that they both get overstimulated by a world that feels unfamiliar and in response react erratically to it, when seen from the vantage point of the people whose world they ‘inhabit’. I understand the woman who thinks like a cow and both adores and understands cows. (See: my Google Photos archives for reference. So. Many. Cows. And you don’t even know how many cow accounts I follow on all the socials. Cows are THE SHIT. They deserve their own post. Anyway.)

So, I feel that I am cattle. Not in the conspiracy theorist ‘You’re all sheep man!’, but in the sense that I am in a world that isn’t familiar to me. And that it doesn’t react the way I anticipate it to react (to me). I sometimes feel like a scared cow, driven from (what I at least assume was) my herd, anxious because someone also left a glaring yellow glove on the fence and I don’t recognise it. You’d have to really read the book to get the full comparison.

In short, cows in one of her facilities reacted frenziedly to some stimulus that in the end turned out to be a yellow glove on a fence, because the yellow makes it look different and scary to their dichromatic eyes. Another story was about the contrast between the bright sunlight versus the perceived darkness in an entryway when trying to get them in for shots for instance. Combined with her recommendation for people with autism (I believe it was in ‘Thinking in Pictures: my life with autism) to try rose tinted glasses for better reading/viewing, it made me draw the comparison. (By the way, I also now wear rose tinted sunglasses and it has seriously been a gamechanger. I kept having the issue that my sunglasses were too dark to see properly in most cases, but if I didn’t wear them I would be blinded, even by limited sunlight. Now I can wear them all the time without being visually impeded. I also no longer have any issue going from the sunny garden into the darker house, huzzah!)

To any other person, it is a stupid yellow glove they ignore because it is not important in the grand scheme of things. But to me it is an eyesore that starts infiltrating my every being. It is out of place, it is wrong. MOO MOO! And the herd manager, or whoever is in charge of the cows, will say, ‘oh that cow is unruly, don’t mind her, she’s the worst of the herd’. Whereas the poor creature is just scared of the unknown. The glove. That bright yellow thing on the fence is moving in the wind and taunting her.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last year since my ‘half’diagnosis. For fucks sake, I read a book by Peter Vermeulen on autism that felt like my own instruction manual I had somehow always lost. How are you, with you dumb ASS test still designed for (probably cis, white male) kids, going to tell me that I am not on the fucking spectrum. Mostly because I mask so well my own partner saw me as a different person I truly was inside because I didn’t know just HOW much I was masking. I thought I took it all the way off for the people I felt safe with. Apparently I could not even manage that.

What I learned most is that I can THRIVE. If allowed. If encouraged. If understood. I had a few mentors that subconsciously tapped into that. I could be the best person, employee, friend, whateverthefuck, if they just understood. Or not necessarily understood, but at least understood that that force inside is so great, it only needs nurturing and safety.

I leave you with a quote from Peter Vermeulen. ‘You are not difficult. You are just having a difficult time.’

Small note concerning the image. That line popped into my head while working on my series ‘Rounding off the Edges”. This series and at least on of its subseries will be highlighted on here soon. You can find bits and pieces of it on the clumsy crane studio Instagram account if you’re curious.

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