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The Virginia Monologues: madonna, sex and seattle.

This blog was originally posted to The Dresden Dolls Diary.



on the plane from boston to LA.
i just read a long spread about britney spears (“an american tragedy”) in rolling stone magazine. dammit, man. i feel terrible for her, poor baby. never got a shot to be human.
however, all the bullshit surrounding this chick is so indicative of EVERYTHING THATS WRONG AROUND HERE.

however again, fuck me. i bought the magazine. i always do, i allow myself at least 2 magazines of my choice per plane trip. i gave up my “teen people” phase two years ago. it got boring.

i looked out the window and wondered.

when i find myself sucked into reading this sort of trash/trainwreck stuff i always think i’m doing it as cultural research. following the movements of the masses, reading with my heavy media filter and bullshit detector, always trying to find the story behind the story behind the story behind the story our our cultural downward spiral.

but come on. i could just as well be sitting at the airport gate reading proust or hegel. i could!!!!!!!! i don’t.
what makes me really wonder is how we all seem to approach the celebrity hype ironically, yet we’re still there, flipping through the magazines, chatting about the trainwrecks….the most intelligent young people i know. i travel the country tirelessly and we have two things in common everywhere: the local weather and britney spears. village mentality, something to talk about, something to have an opinion about, something to chat mindlessly about with no danger. who is going to blame you for having an opinion about the snow or brit-brit? seriously? harmless. mindless, indicative. here we is.


What kind of yoga do you recommend? Should I use classes or DVDs, or what? I was actually planning on trying it before all of this happened, but I didn’t know where to start.
You are the best. Thanks again.

i recommend any kind of yoga that touches on the idea of being present and mindful in the moment. some yoga is treated like aerobics. i would stay away from that kind.
i practice baptiste yoga, also called power vinyasa (i know, it sounds pretty embarrassing). there’s a link of affiliate studios here.
bikram is good for people who want an ass-kicking jumpstart. it’s not quite as mindfulness-oriented as baptiste but it’s decent. there’s a list of international studios here.
try going to a few studios until you find a good one. sometimes there’s only a couple studios in your area and you have to hunt to find cool teachers. don’t give up. they ARE out there.
if you can’t find a class in your area, i’ve heard that there are some great feeds online. just hunt. but it’s not the same as being in a class full o people, obviously. try to find someone who might know something about and see if they are willing to teach you. chances are if they’re into yoga, they’ll be psyched to transmit.
when i travel, i just plug “yoga near xxx” into google maps and look for places that have lots of classes and aren’t cheesed out.



i just got back from seattle.
it was a great, hard-in-the-best-way trip, jason and i worked tirelessly with the conjoined twins Evelyn Evelyn on their debut record….all of the songs are recorded but not mixed.
the record is 100% awesome. what raw talent. it will most likely feature 11 songs and possibly one bonus track.

we worked days and into the nights (and mostly slept at) estradasphere’s studio and also held one show there featuring the twins….they were really nervous but they pulled through.
some night we stayed at jason’s houseboat, which is approximately 11×11 feet, and i’m not joking. there was room for a bed and a desk and a bookshelf. miraculously, there was cell service and wireless internet.

i spent most mornings at the ballard yoga studio and then jason and i would meet up at mr. spots chai house. we would sit there, plugging away at our email for a few hours and then one of us would say: “well, i guess we should go work on the record.” jason made a comment about how we were obvious representatives of the glamorous rock star lifestyle. toiling away at and sucked into our macs. DIY has it’s price, and i’m not even DIY. i have a fucking manager, a label, a lawyer, a business manager and publicist and the whole nine yards. the point? work is endless and i communicate and project beyond my means. This Is Not New. it’s Life.

we made it away from our macs and our recording project long enough to go see st.vincent play at neumo’s one night, she ROCKED as usual….we sang with her on “marry me” and i still recommend if you haven’t checked out her last disc, marry me, do yo’self a favor and grab it,. if you’re going to coachella, go see her there. she’s just amazing live and her record is sublime.

….she’s also in boston TONIGHT (3/1) at the middle east, if you get this in time. i’ll probably be there, not sure, depends how my day goeses.

in the recommending department:
baby dee. baby dee. baby dee. she signs and plays the piano and the accordion and the harp and is devastating.
baby dee was first introduced to me a few years ago by sxip, who featured her at one of his variety show sin new york. she is hard to explain, but impossible to miss and totally in her own world.
instead of doing a lot of explaining, i urge you to just go to her myspace or site and listen to just about anything up there.
hymns for the broken. where antony and johnsons meets kurt weill meets bach.
she’s on tour with a full band for the next long while….please, please go. it will be an experience you will not forget, so bring a loved one with an open heart and mind and prepare to weep a few times and also laugh your ass off. yes, it’s that good. she’s playing europe too….dates are up on her page. if you see her, and you probably will since the clubs are small and she hangs out, send her hugs & love and greetings from amanda.


i ordered the infamous 1992 madonna “sex” book while i was on the road. i enjoy ordering books from amazon when i’m on the road and then seeing them waiting patiently for me in yellowy packages on my kitchen table when i come home. i actually ebay-ed it. the best part was when paypal got all effed up and i had to email my business manager’s assistant, to help me out with my payment for the madonna sex book, since all of my credit card and check billing goes through their new york office. i was like: IT’S RESEARCH, NOT PORN. truly spoken. (btw: it was $51.00. AMANDA PALMER, YOU HAVE WON,,,,,!).
it’s not actually porn. unless you’re into…god, who can say what…it’s not a turn-on. my business mind can’t get off topic. madonna is so madonna.

why research?
i’m trying to mentally put together two books right now: one companion for “yes., virginia” and “no, virginia” and one for my solo record.
when i first got the idea for “the dresden dolls companion”, which is the sheet-muisc-lyrics-photo book that came out about a year after our first record, the content seemed obvious. band history, stories of the songs, all of our awesome back-logged photos and artwork that had no home. with these books, i wanted to get away from an obvious formula.

don’t start thinking that these books will feature pretentious photos of me and brian fucking each other, fucking goats, fucking lesbians, or fucking ANYTHING for that matter.

i don’t know a hell of a lot about madonna. i was certainly as obsessed as the next 12-15-yr old with “like a virgin”, “true blue” and “like a prayer”. she was not to be defined, i had no opinions other than: she is MADONNA.
she simply exists, is a Rock Star, and that’s it. we loved her. we dressed up like her. it was the way things were done, fingerless gloves & crucifxes and all, no argument. it was 1985. them was the rules.

i remember being in high school, actually, probably college when i think about it, far out of my madonna phase and well into coil, nick cave, death in june, current 93, the legendary pink dots and swans. madonna was by then way in the guilty pleasure category along with the thompson twins, the cocktail soundtrack and wham!. i was at a random friend’s house and i saw the madonna sex book on his coffee table. i remember thumbing through it and thinking, eh. i remember loving her naked hitchhiking picture,


which is AWESOME, and lots of soft-to-medium-core art-porn…but thinking…good idea, madonna.
but what seriously gives? who is this for? what’s the deal? shocking? personal? media whore? demons out? just cause?
c’mon, madge, gimme some truth.

tonight, i opened the book up and flipped through, having not seen it since then (which indeed must have been around 1993 or 1994).

i am Torn, the way i am always Torn about madonna. and not natalie imbgrulia Torn. the other kind.

on the one hand, my inner critic sees the whole thing as so stylized, so manufactured and so calculated that even the raciest photos seem transparent.
madonna kissing two women. madonna getting ass-fingered. madonna whacking off suggestively with a dog. madonna tied up and getting eating out, madonna smoking another cigarette. madonna getting humped by vanilla ice….etc. tons of confessional-down-dirty scribblings, not quite turning me on. would they if i were turn-onable by this stuff? real? fantasy? for you to decide. in my cynicism: it seems like she sat down in a boardroom with the photographer and gave them a checklist of taboos. the insertion of faux-fantasy letters between her (or, as the book would have it, her alter-ego “dita”) and a fictional lover just seem….i dunno. bland? i attempt to imagine the impact it must have had at the time. i try to imagine, as i’m sure everyone must have imagined at the time, how madonna’s dad reacted to his daughter putting out a book of totally r+ rated naughty fetish (….no penises, lots of boobs and LOTS of baginas.).

on the other hand, somewhere in me is like: YAY! go madonna!!! YAR!!! show your bagina and get all fetishy and leathery and kinky and let us all make what we want out of it for Whatever Reason. why not?
i mean, you must have been paving the way for SOMETHING, loads of shit, who knows, for gad’s sake. or if not, at least you pissed off a bunch of critics and sold books and records and probably put soft-to-medium core porn into homes that might not have otherwise had it in the (if perhaps thinly veiled) name of Art. what would camille paglia say?

the sex question is hard. beyond just the obvious: sex and porn are good/healthy/shouldn’t be demonized, there’s that other question of how you deal with yourself (ok, how I deal with Myself) as a woman in The Market. like it or not, you are out there and your tits must be dealt with. you can play it up like madonna, play it down like fucking, i don’t know, ani difranco, or play it sideways like bjork, but they’re under there, being assessed in all their glorious absence or flagrant blingy-blang.

this begs the question that rustles around my head and probably the heads of many women, the post-feminist question that haunts us all in the post-sexual-revolution age: women still wield all this sexual power but what do they do with it? to use what, where, to what ends? when to feel guilty and when to feel proud? can you do it without relying on it? can you glam up one night in heels and false eyelashes and go out the next night to the same restaurant with hairy legs, shorts and combat boots and feel the same amount of self-confidence? should you need to? is that where empowerment really lies? does it lie in being able to expose yourself like madge? not need to expose yourself like madge? wtf? camille, help.

i think the thing that consistently disappoints me about madonna is that i want to find out the truth behind the madonna and i never do. i remember watching “truth or dare” about 5 years ago and being totally fascinated by her willingness to live on camera but totally dismayed at the lack of actual truth or dare, lack of humanity. then again, this is coming from me. madonna, to be fair, offers more than what 95% of god-fearing citizens can handle. but on what level? what does this say about me?

here, i pour another glass of elderflower cordial and start to reflect.

why did i order this fucking book anyway? who am i to judge madonna? madonna job is to get us discussing this, right? she’s not a pop icon, she’s a cultural fulcrum. i said fulcrum!
fuck. i’ll never know how much she/it/The Thing shaped me, and how much she shaped girl/rock/culture in general.
i have to leave that one up to camille. it’s an endless chicken-egg battle. madonna as pseudo-sociological processing plant.
madonna as post-modern cuisinart.

one difference for sure: the thing that’s interesting about these books that i’m about to compile (especially in the case of the virginia companion) is that i’m peddling wares to a pre-existing audience,
i don’t plan to cross-over onto the NY times best-seller list or get any press attention or prove to the fetish/alternative/gay/fill-in-the-blank community that i’m down in the trenches with them. it’s all me and blank canvas and not much to prove. i am preaching to the choir, writing for an audience that already has (we hope) some connection with me, my band, the songs. so why am i even doing it? here we go.

the only thing i can learn from this situation is what i already know: the closer the note is to it’s neighboring string without being perfectly in pitch, the more discordant it sounds. why is anyone doing any of this shit?
i have been reading a bunch of rock biographies in the past few years hoping to either find out my answer, their answer or any answer and the only thing i can come up with is that i’d like to answer my own personal challenge of displaying some kind of truth that’s profound but not shock-valuizing, meaningful without being pretentious, self-inspecting without being egotistical, and relatable without being stock and cornball. this is hard.

i don’t think about these questions when i go to make a record, not as much.
i have some sort of instinctive song-making auto-pilot that doesn’t question WHY. i don’t feel that way about blank paper when it comes to book-making.

all this being rambled, any comments on upcoming content are heavily welcome.

i know this much: i have plenty to say about where the songs came from (though those stories are usually short and probably not necessarily exciting), there will be plenty of fan art and unused submissions from the yes, virginia booklet, and there will be lots of bizarre band pictures, studio and non.

we are saving all the naked band pictures (which number in the hundreds by now) for the dresden dolls sex book which will be issued at some point long after this blog has been forgotten so that i do not feel post-modernly self-conscious.

what else can i put in two dimensions? surgery is tuesday, i have plenty of time to sort through the boxes of crap in my bedroom to come up with something interesting.
perhaps i will watercolor. madonna doesn’t watercolor. shit, wait, does she? what about that children’s book? fuck fuck fuck.


on that note, here’s a clip of me singing a madonna cover song last saturday night in seattle. it’s barely recognizable from the original, it’s called “i know it” and off her first record.
i arranged it, along with estradasphere, as a big band number because…it just had to be done.

the sound is shite and it cuts off at the end, but it’s still kind of awesome. please admire the glue-gun jean-jacket i bought at the goodwill across the street the day before.


hey amanda,
i would like to know, do you have a middle name?
(i may or may not want to call my kid after you, in the hopes that they will be excellent at life)

Posted by HANNAH on Sunday, February 17, 2008 at 7:33 PM

i do indeed. it’s MacKinnon, my scottish family name.

my alternate middle name is Fucking, which will upset my mother so don’t tell her.



p.s. our good friend and genius-director-filmer-putter-togetherer of girl a, coin-operated boy, paradise, and sing, Michael Pope is up for “Best Visual Artist” in the Boston Phoenix “Best 08″ poll. Please vote here. Also, feel free to write him in for “Best Filmmaker” here. just to be clear- you need to click the “skip to finish” button and fill in an email address and name for your vote to count. long live the pope!!!!!!!!!!!

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