The art of asking for help with Amanda Palmer

Last month, I shared the wise words of musician/writer Patti Smith, whose advice to young artists was to keep a good name and do your work because you love it (but also not to denounce success when your or others’ work reaches beyond the “cool” crowd).

Musician Amanda Palmer (with success both solo and with the band The Dresden Dolls) offers similarly thoughtful yet simple advice in her TED Talk below, which is to ask for help when you need it. Why? “You don’t get what you deserve. You get what you ask for.”

This is controversial advice coming from someone who’s been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism for this very thing. Last year, Amanda’s Kickstarter campaign requesting $100,000 to fund her album/tour became Kickstarter’s most successful ever after receiving $1.2 million. (So yeah, if you’ve never heard of her, the lady with the eyebrows has a lot of loyal fans.) So when Amanda later put out a request for local musicians to play onstage in exchange for beer and hugs, not cash, some people got pissed.

This is no longer news (and it’s not the focus of this post), but it provides a little back story for the above video. Is Amanda in the wrong here? Is she hurting or exploiting her fellow musicians and fans? And why does everybody hate Amanda Palmer so much?

Well, actually, not everybody does. The Kickstarter campaign funders, for example, are obviously touched by what Amanda offers them in return for their money. And as Amanda points out, their contributions are voluntary, sparked simply by their desire to give support to a musician whom they love when she asks for it. Another takeaway from her TED Talk: “Don’t make people pay for music… let them.”

A personal note: When John and I move to California in July, we’ll be asking for a lot of help. Luckily, we have supportive families here and friends there that we can go to when we need it. Like Ms. Palmer, I will not apologize for asking, but I will thank my helpers profusely and hopefully pay them back (or pay it forward) in some meaningful way. I also won’t hold a grudge against anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to help us. This is our move, and no one is obligated to support us. But it sure will be nice (and appreciated) if and when they do.

Controversy aside, Amanda admits it is a difficult and vulnerable thing to ask for help. It puts you in a position where others may laugh, say no, or worse, ignore you. But it also puts others in a position to do good and feel good, in which case you both benefit from the interaction. It’s not weak to ask for help. It’s brave. And I applaud Amanda Palmer for making it seem just a little less daunting. Between that and her badass music, I’ve got a total girl crush.

The dream becomes reality

I have seriously been digging music heavy on the California vibes even more than usual.

So yeah. I’m moving to California. Last night, I looked in my closet to see how many pairs of shoes I’d take and how many I could get rid of. I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Packing up our lives is going to be interesting.

With our impending move just shy of two months away, there’s a lot to be done: deciding what to keep and donate, eventually selling one of our two cars (mine), searching for jobs and a place to live, GETTING THERE, and maintaining our sanity in the process. No biggie.

Last month, before I told my employers I’d be leaving (um, hi y’all!), I had a mini panic attack about all of this… while sitting at my desk at work. I miiiight’ve hyperventilated just a tad. It’s a lot of change all at once, and I haven’t always been the best at dealing with transitions. But I also crave change, so it was necessary to keep my panicky feelings in check and think rationally. Breathing exercises helped (as did sending crazy text messages to John until he talked me down).

Venice Beach

Now—and this could change any time over the next two months!—I feel the opposite of panicky. I feel oddly calm, actually. Like everything will work itself out. Everything will work itself out, because goddamnit, I’ll see to it. We’re taking on a lot of new challenges and responsibilities, and I feel more motivated than ever to take it on. I swear, my high school self would be shocked at the more confident, more ambitious older me. She’d also be psyched that I’m actually following the dream and not still just talking about it like a thing that could happen some day.

But my dream is, in fact, becoming a reality, and despite the visions of my life resembling a Free People catalog (if only!), it means I’ll need to really toughen up and get into decision-making mode. This will not be easy. But, for the most part, it will be fun. Shit. Like, a lot of fun. GOD, YOU GUYS, I’M EXCITED.

So anyway, thanks for all your wonderful comments on my last post. I was so anxious to get the news out there, and it made my insides glow knowing I had your support and shared enthusiasm.

And a note: I’m on the lookout for L.A. transplants (particularly bloggers) who’d like to join in for a collaborative Q&A post to talk about their experiences with moving to the Golden State. If you or someone you know has moved to Los Angeles from out-of-state, either leave a comment or shoot me an email at wittycassiehere (at) gmail (dot) com. Let’s make beautiful things together.

Happy Friday!

The biggest news

Guys. I want to be honest with you about something. There’s a pretty major thing I’ve been wanting to share for quite some time that I’ve had to keep quiet for a number of reasons. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding this big change. I had to be sure it was the real deal, but it’s made for months of agony. (Keeping secrets is hard, as it turns out.)

You see, I’ve been thinking a lot about the direction in which I want to take not just this blog, but my life. And the direction I’ve decided on? West. As in westward. As in California, motherfuckers.

I’m not going on vacation, friends. Simply put, John and I are paring down our belongings, mapping out our cross-country route, and moving to Los Angeles. In precisely two months.

Sounds dreamy, right? Yeah, it’s still pretty surreal to me. But there’s more.

Aside from the year-round balmy temperatures and Pacific Ocean sunsets, there’s another source of motivation for this journey. Not only will I be moving in with my boyfriend of four years (and driving 2,600 miles to do so), but I’ll also begin a graduate program in journalism at the University of Southern California.

And here I am. Freaking out in the best possible way.

Witty Title Here is moving to Los Angeles!

Do I sound calm? It’s because it’s still only just now hitting me. Researching and applying to graduate programs, waiting for their responses, and scouring Craigslist apartment listings have all consumed my energy and brain space for months. But telling you guys, here, today (oh, and also my employers)? THAT’S what makes it feel real. And I am so. damn. excited. You guys—I’m MOVING to CALIFORNIA!!! (See?! Totally not calm!)

So that’s my news! It’s big. I’m elated. The next few months (plus, of course, the two years it takes to complete the journalism program) will be some of the toughest, scariest, and most exciting months of my life. And I cannot wait to share them with you. I’ll be busy as hell. But at least I’ll never have a shortage of blogging material. (As I like to remind myself: Live a life worth blogging about!)

So I hope you’re along for the ride. Because Witty Title Here is going west.


A celebrity and a confidence check

Clinton Kelly at Macy's in Towson

Wise words from What Not to Wear TV show co-host, Oh No She Didn’t author, and women’s fashion designer Clinton Kelly on the difference between a shirt and the fancier term “blouse.” Which, as Clinton points out, is not an old-fashioned or stuffy word. It just means boobs are an integral part of the design. As God intended.

I had the chance to hear Clinton speak first-hand at a fashion event at Macy’s over the weekend, which featured a small runway and a packed house. The models ranged in age and size, and Clinton offered his style commentary as they strutted. Only having seen What Not to Wear a handful of times, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. I’d been asked to attend and blog about the event, and I worried about the possibility of not enjoying myself. If I didn’t, how could I possibly write about it favorably? “I WON’T COMPROMISE MY CONTENT,” I shrieked internally. Luckily, my fears were unwarranted. Turns out Clinton Kelly is a class act, and he had the crowd (including myself) cracking up the whole time. For some reason, I just love when a funny gay man talks about boobs. I mean that in the most respectable way possible.

Clinton Kelly at Macy's

The most valuable takeaway of the experience for me was Clinton’s closing comments during the Q&A session. As one would expect, the issue of a lack of confidence in women came up. He pointed out the stark contrast between the way women and men talk about their bodies (which is to say, in general, men hardly do, and certainly not as critically as women tend to). He reminded the audience of just how constructed the images we see in the media really are. Even he has been affected by Photoshopped images of himself reminding us that he is not, in fact, 29. Despite “faux”-tographic evidence suggesting otherwise.

As a young girl of about 10 or so looked on from the front row, Clinton also reminded the mostly female audience to check ourselves and the way we talk about bodies around young, impressionable girls. What woman hasn’t been affected by something stupid or inconsiderate someone else said – either about our bodies, someone else’s body, or their own? We carry those comments around for years until or unless we can let them go and love ourselves. Clinton had something to say about those people, too:

“You have to forgive people for being stupid because you just can’t argue with stupid people. They’re too stupid to know how stupid they are.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


Disclaimer: I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere provided me with compensation for attending the Macy’s Clinton Kelly event. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.

7 useful (and not-so-useful) things I’d like to learn


Here’s a fun game: I’ll list a few things I’ve always wanted to learn how to do, and you do the same in the comments. They can be useless, mundane, or strangely obscure and might range anywhere from this is something I could actually learn starting today to it’s cool in theory, but I probably won’t ever do it.

So here are just a few of mine. I’d love to learn…

How to play the drums. Or piano. Or  both. And the mandolin, primarily so I can play along as I belt out the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris”: And I DON’T want the wo-orld to see me /’cause I DON’T think that they’d understaaand /when EVERYTHING’S MADE to be broken /I just waaa-ant you to kno-ow who I am. Oh, 9th grade angst!

Web and graphic design. I say this with hesitation because customizing this layout here was a royal pain in the ass. But the reward (my pretty blog!) felt so so so good that I might just be masochistic enough to keep learning.

How to speak Spanish with some level of coherence. I mean, you’d think after eight years of Spanish classes I’d have some grasp on the language. And yet, it’s all I can do to correctly recall the conjugations for simple present tense verbs. Also, knowing the difference between the words sopa and jabón.

How to hula hoop. Seriously, I can’t hold that shit up for more than five seconds.

How to write using calligraphy. Guys, my handwriting is atrocious. You should see my 5 Year Diary! You may say the art of calligraphy is antiquated, and I would say that you are NO FUN. I’d love to have a signature that actually looks pretty. As opposed to one that looks different every time I sign a credit card slip. (My dad says this is a sign I might be a sociopath? Okay, dad.)

How to develop film. Another dying, outdated art? WRONG. Film photography is still going strong, and I’d love to be able to navigate a dark room and blow up my own photos.

Self-defense. For obvious reasons. My weak punch could use a little work, and literally no one (including babies) would be intimidated by my skinny arms. But we all know a woman’s physical strength is primarily in the legs, and I’d love to learn how to flip a potential attacker on his ass using lower body strength and pure adrenaline. (Kinda like this.) Don’t. Mess. With this.


All right, it’s your turn. What random practical or impractical things have you always wanted to learn? These days, with so many free resources available online, there’s kind of no excuse for not learning stuff you’re interested in. So I’ll be up in my room on YouTube learning the best way to kick a groin if you need me.