“Sometimes, Up on the Box…” (an animation from “the art of asking” audiobook) {official Thing}

(public post – OFFICIAL THING)

hello my loves…..

the holiday madness is upon us. i have a THING for you, ta da, just in time for the holiday crush. i think it’ll make you really happy. i showed it to neil yesterday and it made him cry. that’s always a nice litmus test.

TL;DR: i collaborated with some INSANELY TALENTED UK artists on a beautiful 5-minute animation….pulled from a clip of my narration in “art of asking” audiobook. it’s HERE on youtube, free for all. watch, enjoy, share, the end. go back to your day. get out of here.

**$3+ patrons, you will have a download link of this (and the soundtrack music i recorded as an extra little tidbit) coming after the holidays!…we needed a few more days to work with the engineer and get the download together…and everybody’s off for the break. wait for it, it’s comin.**


if you have time….read on.

greetings from my desk in woodstock…assorted family is assembled, the food is stuffing the fridge, everyone is powering down. tonight we are heading to woodstock center to see santa “arrive”. it’s a tradition here in woodstock that santa arrives in a different manner every year: once her came by helicopter, one year he rappelled down the side of a church steeple, last year he came via flatbed truck. i’ll let you know. water-skis?

neil took this picture of ash, yesterday, holding his little 5-month-old niece, myra (the brand-new bundle of neil’s middle daughter from his first batch). they both look like they’re staring off into the path back to their home planet, planet faerie. it’s been pretty damn cute around here. MYRA. her name is MYRA! it doesn’t get much goddamn cuter than that….i feel like she’s already running a library wearing reading glasses with chains and grumpily reaching for a green straw bag with some pall malls in it.



to the Thing.

i’ve been working on this animation for almost a year, and i’m overjoyed to be sharing it with you now, because i think the content is particularly fitting for the season.

this is a story about something that happened to me when i was 23 and working as a street performer.

almost twenty years ago, sweet jesus almighty.

but the story resonates. that’s why i picked this particular one to be animated. animation like this takes MONTHS and MONTHS to draw and create.

i didn’t want to pick the wrong excerpt.



the holidays – for pretty much everybody i know – are so full of crass commercialism, business, stress, and (for many of us) the anxiety of family, expectation, misunderstandings, exhaustion….the whole nine.

even for my friends whose families AREN’T fragmented and refracted….the holidays are still a general bitch. we get fully lost in the to-do list. we dredge up old pain and trauma.

christmas-times were always, for me, insanely exciting when i was a child. the family slowed down, everybody got attention, everything felt connected, the house filled with comfort and magic. everybody seemed to be, well, considering one another. as i grew older, everything changed and aged and fell apart, and i found that the holidays became a thing to simply get through instead of a thing to look forward to.

almost exactly a year ago today, i found out i was having a miscarriage, and i wound up miscarrying on christmas day. i wasn’t exactly sure how i would feel with the approach of this christmas season….i waited to see.

so many of my close friends and relatives are going through their own harrowing experiences this year, from divorce and child-support battles to depression and estrangements from their own families. i’m feeling my own melancholy callback to the searing pain of last christmas, but, while it’s so easy to focus on what we don’t have…i’m feeling pretty doused in the gratitude for what i do have.

i have so much.

it puts this animation through a particularly metaphoric-filter to release it at christmas. it’s a season of giving and receiving, of course, but it’s also a season to go deeper, i think, and consider where we are in the circle. we’re never in the same place twice. sometimes it’s our turn to give more, sometimes it’s our turn to throw our hands up and let generosity reign down on us…if we need it. sometimes it can feel easy to give, not so easy to receive.

last year, as i was going through the miscarriage, i found myself unexpectedly surrounded by love in the strangest places, touched and healed by the most unexpected people.

women i barely knew came to my house, unbidden, with tinctures, hands-on care and remedies. care and consideration was showered on me from all sorts of mysterious corners…i found myself in the caring arms of so many surprising (and brand-new) people. i felt like the universe just swooped in and took care of me, and not in ways i was remotely anticipating.


i’m not in such a dark place this year. i have been called upon this past year to try to give back –  in the sloppy, messy ways i can – to a universe which has treated me very, very kindly in my own times of need. i don’t consider giving back a chore. i consider a kind of a gift in itself when i actually feel strong enough to help my fellow flailing human beings…especially, lately, the women around me who are going through their own pregnancies and complications.

in a way, it’s not at all unlike the lessons i learned up on the box.


this patreon has been a part of this journey. i want to write more at length next year about the profound impact this patreon, this system, and this community has had on my life’s work…on my art, on my songwriting, on my general understanding of the world and how exchange really can happen without a lot of corporate bullshit sullying the organic ardens of artistic creation.

this animation is a perfect example.

i saw the work of this team of animators, creative connection from the UK, because they hit me up with an animation clip they’d made about female genital mutilation, to spread awareness about the reality of the problems women face: the physical side-effects, the shame, the path forward.

how do you make a youtube video about that?

they nailed it. they managed to make an animation – based on a first-person story – that was so touching and so haunting that it stuck with me for a long, long time. i reached out to them and asked if they might want to collaborate. their animation went so beautifully with storytelling that i suggested the art of asking audiobook as a place to start.

here’s the thing: there’s just no easy CAPITAL for work like this. animation is SO DAMN EXPENSIVE…it take hundreds of hours of artistic labor to create the little clip you’re about to watch. you need to imagine the work that goes into it: every moment you’re watching is a drawing that has to be drawn…then moved…filmed….it’s painstaking. anyone here who’s worked on even a rudimentary animation knows how laborious it is. it’s also so rewarding when it works. but where does the money for this kind of stuff come from?

not from my publisher (are you kidding).

not from some government grant (those things takes years and rarely happen to people like me, plus i don’t want to spend my life writing grants to convince some government agency to give me 20% of the budget for an animation that costs many thousands of dollars and serves no “direct purpose” for some “direct cause”).

certainly not – at least if you’re me, with my ethics – from dove soap or some other commercial entity that wants it’s brand attached with your art. i just won’t go that route, call me old-fashioned, but i want to keep my art as far away from corporate interests as i possibly can.

what’s left?



14,000 people contributed a few bucks each to pay for this project to happen, and now:

….it just exists.

it’s free on youtube for anyone who wants to watch it.

you did that.

we did that.


i hope you love it, and i hope you share it forward:




and here is the original excerpt from “the art of asking”:

Sometimes, up on the box, I would fall in love with people. Pretty often, come to think of it. It was easy, given how safe and swaddled I was up there in my cloud of pretty, white, untouchable stillness. No commitment. Just this, just now, just us.

Occasionally one of the more broken-looking homeless people of Harvard Square would approach me, drop a dollar in, and I would offer my flower. We’d look at each other, and sometimes their faces would crumple and the tears would come.


I see you there.

I can’t believe you just gave me a dollar.

You probably need it more than me.

I’ve been watching you circle the plaza all day asking people for money and I hope to god you

know that you and I are, in this moment, exactly the same.

I never felt guilty about those dollars, though, because there was such a beauty and humanity in the fact that these homeless people were, right along with the rich tourists, stopping to connect with me. They saw value in what I was doing. They saw the power and necessity of the human connection.

Was it fair? It felt fair.

There was something conspiratorial about it; their money felt symbolically valuable to me in a way that made me swell with pride—they approved of me, and their approval somehow meant more to me than anybody else’s.

And I started to realize there was a subterranean financial ecosystem in Harvard Square involving all of us street freaks. I found it impossible to pass the other street performers– a revolving cast of puppeteers and musicians to jugglers and magicians–or the homeless folk, without giving them my own dollars, sometimes dollars that I’d been given just minutes before. The gift circulated.

One day a really old, raggedy-looking Japanese guy watched me for a very long time.

He made himself a little perch on one of the cement benches across the sidewalk, surrounded by rolled-up sleeping-bags and a colorless, tattered collection of garbage sacks, and sat there, looking at me with his weathered face. I watched him out of the corner of my eye. After about an hour, he dug into his pocket and fished out a dollar, and he shuffled over to me, put the dollar in my hat, and looked up.

Here’s your flower.

I see you.

His eyes narrowed, and he looked at my face, like he was looking for the answer to a question that I couldn’t hear him asking, and I just stared right back. And then he nodded slightly, took the flower, and shuffled away.

The next day he came back and left a note in the hat.

He wanted to know if I would marry him.

I don’t know how he expected me to answer.

I never saw him again.


and, because it feels ultra-relevant to the holiday season, i’d like to include this little graph as well:

Lewis Hyde published a beautiful dot-connecting book in 1983 called The Gift, which tackles the elusive subject of what Hyde calls “the commerce of the creative spirit.”

He explains the term “Indian Giver”, which most people consider an insult: someone who offers a gift and then wants to take it back. But the origin of the term – coined by the Puritans – speaks volumes.

A Native American tribal chief would welcome an Englishman into his lodge, and, as a friendly gesture, share a pipe of tobacco with his guest, then offer the pipe itself as a gift. The pipe, a valuable little object, is – to the chief – a symbolic peace offering that is continually re-gifted from tribe to tribe, never really “belonging” to anybody. The Englishman doesn’t understand this, is simply delighted with his new property, and is therefore totally confused when the next tribal leader comes to his house, and, after they share the pipe, looks expectantly at his host to pass along the pipe. The Englishman can’t understand why anyone would be so rude to expect to be given this thing that belongs to him.

Hyde concludes: The opposite of ‘Indian giver’ would be something like ‘white man keeper,’ that is, a person whose instinct is to remove property from circulation . . . The Indian giver (or the original one, at any rate) understood a cardinal property of the gift: whatever we have been given is supposed to be given away, not kept. The essential thing is this:

The gift must always move.






here’s a note from alexandra becker, the producer of the animation:

Our first ‘collaboration’ with Amanda happened at one of the London Kickstarter parties, when I basically volunteered Dann to make a ‘Happy Birthday’ video for Amanda to send to Neil. It may still be out there somewhere – it has a Lou Reed soundtrack and is NSFW.

Roll forward several years and we find ourselves with our very own animation company, making lots of internal coms videos and with an itch to make something more truly creative….

Dann still had Amanda’s email…. what could it hurt to ask?

He sent her examples of what we’d been making, specifically work by Caroline Rudge – one of our best artists and favorite people, and after some nervous waiting Amanda said ‘Yes! Let’s make something!’ Cue me jumping up and down a lot.

Having Amanda as a client is exactly as cool as you think it is.

In our first meeting she convinced Caroline (heavily pregnant at the time) that it would actually be fine for her to lie on her back for a bit, so we all lay on the floor talking pregnancy and babies and art. (Our second meeting ended in her procuring foot rubs for Caroline in a secret hidden back-stage boudoir)

It was decided we would put pictures to the wonderful words from The Art of Asking audio book.

We storyboarded, we skyped, Caroline had a baby. Then post-maternity leave she hit the studio.

As an artist and mum of a now-toddler myself, I have taken enormous inspiration, hope and comfort from seeing Amanda do her thing with Ash alongside. When I first tried to cut my daughter’s fingernails, and snipped her tiny finger by accident, I don’t think I have ever felt so bad in my life. I went and listened to A Mothers Confession, and read all the comments from this amazing community, and cried and felt better.

Watching Caroline make this animation, baby in tow has just blown me away. I feel like we need more visible examples of people creating art and parenting hand in hand, and I’m so happy I know some truly amazing people who do just that.

The artwork for this animation is all hand painted watercolour, which is then stop motion animated. The attention to detail Caroline puts in is amazing. If you ever want beautifully realistic dollar bill origami painted, she is your gal.  (You can see more of Rudge’s painting at and follow her on Instagram at @rudgeoriginals . If you want to see some weird cropped portraiture and a lot of drawings of bears, I’m @alexandrabeckerart )…


(Dann, with our daughter December and John with Baby Oriana)


(me and December, Caroline and Oriana)

I have to give a shout out here too to Caroline’s partner John, for without his long baby wearing walks this would not have been possible.

Filming was finished. Dann did his editing wizardry and made origami fly.

We sent the animation and waited nervously for feedback… and waited… and got more nervous. Amanda is insanely busy because she is Making All the Things.

Feedback arrived, and it was good! It was better than good because Amanda decided that what it really needed was music that she would compose. Amanda Fucking Palmer is making music for an animation I helped create. Hell yes.

The finished result is here for you, the Patrons, without whom none of this would have happened.

Thank you for helping Amanda, and through her, us, Make All The Things. 

Here are some behind the scenes images from the work-in-progress:










a couple last notes from me:

1) the animation team that worked on this was exceptional, and we even stopped work for a few months because the lead animator (caroline) was pregnant with her first child and needed to pause work in order to give birth and recover.

i cannot tell you what IMMENSE pleasure it gave me – especially given what’s happening to women’s rights and maternity leave in our crumbling country (just take a look at this series in the guardian about paid maternal leave and mothers’ general working conditions) – to tell alexandra to pause our project for a few months and return to it whenever she felt ready to draw again.

2) if you haven’t read the art of asking (it really is a book! i wrote a whole book! it’s good!) yet, you can get the book in paperback HERE, the audiobook HERE, and if you’re a weirdo completionist or a weirdo who wants to listen to emotional pieces audiobook on vinyl, YOU CAN, it’s here. (and here if you’re in the uk/europe)

3) if you’re a fan of the dresden dolls, you’ll notice that the music from the animation is an instrumental (ish) version of “the perfect fit” from our first record. this is another thing i love about patreon and owning my own music. I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT. that song was inspired by my work as a street performer, so it felt karmically fitting to re-purpose it here for this project. i looped parts of it and wrote new little parts, and i played the mini-score that i composed along to the animation to make the timing perfect. it was quite a project, but i really enjoyed it.

here i am, doing the thing on piano, toy piano, and (what’s that weird noise at the beginning?) SHRUTI BOX. i borrowed it from my local yoga studio that’s right bitches, i really am living in woodstock now.





and here’s a little video clip of me in the recording studio, working at the piano to the animated picture…

(all this footage taken by my engineer, christopher bittner).

4) one last thing….if you guys love this clip, WE CAN MAKE MORE. this whole project took – seriously, almost a year from top to tail. BUT now that we have a system, say the word. if you want to see more animations based on the book (or whatever), these animators are up for the work (they’d prefer it so much to the commercial stuff they mostly do) and i’d be super happy to put out 2-3 animations a year based on excerpts from the book.

maybe if we do this again, i can come to you guys for your input…i’d love to know which parts of the audiobook (or something else?) you’d like to see animated. it really does bring the stories and ideas to life in a way that almost nothing else can. and at the rate we’re going, we will have the whole book animated by the time i’m about 73.

but for real, if you’re game, comment below, i’m reading. i’d also love to hear your thoughts on the animation and the ideas. exchange and fairness is endless, it’s part of all of our lives. speak to me, to each other.

it’s also nice to know we have so many new patron-voices here in the mix. talk to us.and to all of you: thank you for being my patrons and making this all possible. it’s everything.

i’ll be back at you for the end-of-the-year round-up and December Althing around the 30th or 31st. enjoy the holiday. i love you all. so much.

survive the holidays, and don’t worry about your place n the circle.

give when you can, take when you need.

it’ll all come around.






Animation by Creative Connection Animation Studio, Bristol UK

Art by Caroline Rudge, Produced by Alexandra Becker, Editing by Dann Casswell

“Sometimes, Up On The Box” excerpt from The Art of Asking audiobook written and read by Amanda Palmer (

Music “The Perfect Fit” composed and performed by Amanda Palmer, based around an original recording her band, The Dresden Dolls. (stream the original song here: ).

Music recorded/engineered by Christopher Bittner at Applehead Studios, Woodstock, NY

special thanks to Team AFP: Jordan Verzar, Hayley Rosenblum, Michael McComiskey, Alex Knight and the team at Fame House: Nick Rizzuto, Brittney Bomberger and Braxton Carter



1. if you’re a patron, please click through to comment on this post. at the very least, if you’ve read it, indicate that by using the heart symbol.

2. see All the Things i’ve made so far on patreon:

3. join the official AFP-patron facebook group:

4. new to my music and TOTALLY OVERWHELMED? TAKE A WALK THROUGH AMANDALANDA….we made a basic list of my greatest hits n stuff on this lovely page:

5. general AFP/patreon-related questions? ask away, someone will answer:

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