Mar 2020 15

It’s with heavy hearts that we learned that the inimitable Genesis P-Orridge died on March 14, 2020, after being diagnosed with leukemia in October, 2017. In 2008, while promoting his new CD, Mr Alien Brain vs The Skinwalk, he spoke with SG contributor Tamara Palmer. His comments on the U.S. healthcare system seem particularly prescient at this time:

Most of the countries in Europe have had universal health care for decades and they’ve survived very healthily in the economy. When you want to know what’s going on, look for the vested interests. And it’s clear that pharmaceutical companies, the doctors’ associations, the hospitals, the health insurance companies none of them want universal health care. They’re able to just blackmail and extort huge sums of money out of the current situation, why would they want it to change?

The Clintons tried to bring in universal health care and they were shot down almost immediately. There’s this huge inertia from these lobbyists and the corporations who just think in terms of their own profits and not the wellbeing of the nation. And that’s going to be a real problem in the United States. It shocks me that when people talk about having health insurance for everyone, a lot of people that you wouldn’t expect go, “Well, that’s communism! That’s socialism!” What? That’s humanism! That’s a precious gift that a government can give to its people, housing and health care. There has to be a huge rethink.

– Genesis P-Orridge


Oct 2018 12

Join us this coming Monday, October 15, for the Los Angeles premiere of For Your Consideration Movie, a short film documentary which tells the story behind Plastic Jesus and Ginger’s “Casting Couch” installation.

"For Your Consideration" Trailer from Patrick Green on Vimeo.

The life-sized statue, which appeared on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in time for the 90th Academy Awards earlier this year, took aim at Harvey Weinstein and the culture of cover up that allowed sexually predatory and abusive behavior — as brought to task by the #MeToo movement — to permeate Tinsel Town on a massive scale.

“Casting Couch” by Plastic Jesus and Ginger

The event, which runs from 7.30 til 9.30 PM at LA’s Downtown Independent, and will include a panel discussion after the screening with artists Plastic Jesus and Ginger, #MeToo activist Dawn Dunning, and filmmaker Patrick Green. The panel will be moderated by journalist, activist, and SGR host Nicole Powers. The event is FREE. Reserve your tickets HERE.


Aug 2017 11

By Blogbot

Cory Doctorow reads an excerpt from his “optimistic disaster novel” Walkaway at the Buena Vista Branch Library in Burbank, CA on Thursday, August 10, 2017.

For more on Cory and Walkaway, read our interview here.


Aug 2017 07

By Blogbot

This Wednesday, Aug 9 on SuicideGirls Radio, hosts Nicole Powers and Bradley Suicide will be joined by painter, photographer and spoken word artist Sage Gallon.

You can listen – and watch – SuicideGirls Radio live on Wednesday nights from 8 til 9 PM at our state-of-the-art, all digital home on


Watch our show with Sage Gallen here or via the player below.

NB: Due to a technical issue, the first 10 minutes of the show are missing.

For updates on all things SG Radio-related, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

About Sage Gallon

Sage Gallon is a painter, photographer and spoken word artist from New York, living and working in Los Angeles. Born in Long Island, Sage started drawing before he could write and acting before he could spell. His art emulates from his unique ability to see beauty in everything.

Sage Gallon was born in Long Island. He spent his formative years living in a Commune in Northern California. In ’79 he and his mother moved to Harlem where his mother enrolled him in a Catholic school… That didn’t turn out well. They then moved to Hempstead, NY in the spring of ’79 where he grew up.

Everyone has challenges and dark times — and Sage is no different. Sage spent 10 years living on the streets, park benches, subway and train stations of NY, DC and LA battling an addiction much stronger than he, and doing unspeakable things to feed it. But he never begged and he never robbed anyone. That experience taught Sage love for those who save and for those who suffer, strength, how to see beauty in the ugly crevices, and empathy — tools that are vital to his approach to photography, poetry and art as well as how he endeavors to live.

“I started shooting because I inherited a very expensive camera in 2012 that I didn’t know how to turn on. I fell in love with this art form instantly. I have not attended any of the prestigious film schools or expensive classes, I’m a ‘hit that button and see what happens’ kinda guy. Besides I’m an artist and the prospect of student loans suck,” says Sage.

In December of 2013 Sage picked up his paint brushes again and went to work. His paintings have been hung by private collectors from Tasha Smith, Mattie Lawson to Terez Thorp, and Monifah to Robert Downy Jr. Sage’s work has also been seen in galleries across the country including Art Basel in 2015. Sage is currently Artist in Residence at the Los Angeles Dysonna City Art Gallery.

In January of 2014, Sage was named as one of the 40 Black Artist to watch by NBC. He was interviewed by Huffington Post the same month about his “Crack(s)” series… Not bad for a guy who was once homeless — right?

Sage self-published a book of poetry, Naked Under My Clothes. His debut CD, which shared the same name, was released in 2015. The album is a heart-retaking, erotic, sensual, and honest journey that takes the listener through childhood pains to addiction, from love to self-realization and spiritual evolution. He is currently developing a one man stage performance, based around the book and album, which is due to premiere this year.

“I Can’t say that I have won any awards, YET, but I do have the gift of life — shooting, painting, creating, sharing and loving what I do. Art, in all its forms, is a spiritual experience a communion between a higher power and artist, artist and audience, and all back to the higher power. I am happy to share me with you and hope you enjoy. Peace.”

For more on Sage Gallon visit:

Related Posts

SuicideGirls Radio feat. Sage Gallon — Sept 15, 2015


Jul 2017 25

By Blogbot

This Wednesday, July 26 on SuicideGirls Radio, hosts Bradley Suicide and Nicole Powers will be joined by two LA-based artists who share common roots in journalism: Abby Martin of The Empire Files and Plastic Jesus of…well we can’t say because he’s elusive like that 😉

The duo will be sharing gallery space next month at The Hive Gallery in Downtown LA for “TAWDRY” — a show curated by Art With Teeth which aims to highlight disruptive artistic talent. The show is about: “the brave, new lows dredged up with this latest fetid parade of disaster capitalism.” The opening night reception is on August 5th from 8 til 11 PM. (Entry: suggested $5 donation.) For more info visit the Facebook event pages posted by Art With Teeth and The Hive.


Watch last night’s show featuring Abby Martin and Plastic Jesus here or via the player below:

For updates on all things SG Radio-related, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

About Abby Martin

After graduating from San Diego State University, Abby Martin founded Media Roots, a platform for citizen journalists, in 2009. While working as a citizen journalist covering Occupy, her fearless reports from the front lines of the embattled occupation in Oakland brought her to the attention of RT News, where she began working as a correspondent.

Her reports for the station offered a perspective on the movement that was all but censored by the mainstream media, who were threatened both by the anti-capitalist sentiment of Occupy Wall Street and by the rise of the citizen journalists it brought to the fore. A year after Occupy began, in September 2012, Abby began hosting her own highly respected show, Breaking The Set. In 2015, she left RT to focus on investigative journalism, launching The Empire Files which can been seen via TeleSUR.

When she’s not risking her life in far flung corners of the globe to speak truth to power and shed light on that which the powers-that-be would rather remain in the shadows, Abby works as an artist — a practice which she views as a “way to interpret the ugly truths in the world and reflect a better future.”

For more on Abby Martin visit:

About Plastic Jesus

Plastic Jesus is a Los Angeles based street artist that specialises in bold stencil and installation work, inspired by world news events, society, the urban environment, culture, and politics. His critically acclaimed work combines humor, irony, criticism and unique opinion to create art that engages on many levels.

Often questioning the norms in society, Plastic Jesus confronts our compliance of culture and current affairs. The artist uses scale and contradiction as a means to highlight issues and opinions that often go unquestioned. The aesthetic appeal of his work combined with the engagement produces an addictive mix that challenges our acceptance.

Plastic Jesus is not about revolution, he is not an anarchist but would like to see some changes around the place. His work is more about shining a small light into some of those dark corners of society. Prior to his commitment to produce provocative street art Plastic Jesus has worked for over two decades as a photographer and photojournalist.

For more on Plastic Jesus visit:


The World’s Leading BYOB Radio Show Is Sponsored By Mangria

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SuicideGirls Radio / Carolla Drinks Offer

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May 2017 19

by Nicole Powers

The action in Cory Doctorow’s new novel, Walkaway, takes place in — and outside of — a dystopian society where the resistance, instead of fighting to change it, have decided to walk away from it. Plagued by inequality gone wild and the ravages of climate change, the “default” society is divided into the elite “zotta” have-everything class and the proletariat for whom — in an extreme gig economy — even an honest day’s work is a luxury.

With no hope of even getting on the first rung of success’s ladder, leaving default to occupy abandoned spaces outside of the fortified cities and create a new society based on community-forward ideals is not only the ultimate act of defiance for the disaffected, it just makes plain sense for those who see through the shared fiction that currency is the preeminent measure of value. Thus the ever-morphing domain of the walkaways attracts some of the brightest young minds who, in a post-scarcity world, can 3D print almost everything they need using discarded recyclables as raw material.

The success of the walkaway encampments challenges the capitalist foundations of default, and the resulting brain-drain brings about an even greater threat to the zottas’ position as society’s self-appointed gods. As drone-delivered bombs explode above them, the geniuses of the subterranean Walkaway U unlock the key to humanity’s Holy Grail: immortality. Having always assumed their wealth would entitle them — and them alone — to eternal life, the threat to the elites’ institutionalized deification leads to a very uncivil war. But when the path to immortality is open source — allowing anyone who cares to get their brain scanned a chance of life after meat-death — bullets and bombs can’t kill a beyond-material world whose time has come.

I caught up with bestselling sci-fi author, activist, and BoingBoing co-editor, Doctorow by phone to discuss some of Walkaway’s themes and ideas, which serve both as cautionary parables and inspiration for dealing with many of the online and meat-space existential crises we face today.

“What about walkaways?” Hubert, Etc said. “Seems to me that they’re doing something that makes a difference. No money, no pretending money matters, and they’re doing it right now.”

Nicole Powers: We both walked away from London. I left because of the poll tax and I know you left more recently because of the Tories. Obviously, the concept of Walkaway very much mirrors what you’ve done in your own life. How much were you thinking about that as you were writing the book?

Cory Doctorow: I don’t remember the exact timing, but I was either mostly done or done with Walkaway when we left London. So it wasn’t exactly that the one inspired the other very much. I think that the thing that I was mostly inspired by… well, a couple of things. One was the idea that if Atlas Shrugged and the one percenters decide they can secede from the human race, the human race might shrug back. They might say, good riddance, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out. The thing that I hope I got at here is that, if civilization decides that you are irrelevant, that you have nothing to contribute economically, that maybe with technology and the ability to find other people who feel the same way you do, you can just decide not to petition civilization for the right to exist, but rather to strike out on your own and stake out your own place.

Maybe I was inspired by the success of Occupy in that regard. I was, more than anything, just totally amazed that Occupy lasted as long and worked as well as it did. I know that it’s fashionable now to look back on it and say, well, wasn’t that a giant waste everyone’s time. But if there’s one thing Occupy showed us, it’s that people were able to assert their right to these spaces — literally, physically, parts of their cities. And that they could assert it and they could hold it in a way, that in our very private property-centric world, it’s hard to imagine could have happened. Like, St. Paul’s Cathedral — how was it that it lasted as long as it did? That’s an amazing thing and I think that there are people who will have been radicalized by that. People who, in retrospect, will think back on that and go, you know, if that worked, what can we do next?

The walkaway net had high-speed zones, and this had been one of them, but the major hard-line links had been destroyed in the blaze and they’d dropped back to stupid meshing wireless and there was only so much electromagnetic spectrum in the universe.

NP: Walkaway very much exists in a post-net neutrality world. They’ve worked away from the World Wide Web to an extent and created their own mesh net. You talk about the mesh net a lot, and the way it’s supported via drones and blimps. I know a lot of geeks are already working on mesh nets. Do you think, given the threats to the web that we’re seeing, it’s time for activists to invest in a mesh outside of the World Wide Web?

CD: I don’t think that it needs to be outside of the World Wide Web, or even outside of the telecom companies. I think it needs to interpret them as damage and route around them. Actually, someone asked me the other day whether or not we’re going to have multiple internets. It was a similar version to this question. Are we going to have more than one internet? Are we going to separate off? Are we going to balkanize out into multiple internets?

There’s this technical element of it that works against that, where the internet is really good at tunneling protocols through each other. People who attempt to separate one network from another using things like packet filtering but leaving them electrically connected so that there’s a way for one to talk to the other one — they tend to be very surprised by how easy it is and how thoroughly they end up being reconnected. There are lots of people who try very hard to air gap networks and to build networks that are electrically separated —sometimes for very good reasons — in order to preserve data integrity, to stop randos from hacking into the MRI machine and crashing.

Inevitably — and I got this from Genevieve Bell who is an anthropologist at Intel who did a study of this — she said that inevitably those networks are cross-connected. The value of cross-connecting two networks is so high that no matter how risky it is to connect one network to another, people always end up doing it. Whether that’s the spy network that is supposed to be totally air-gapped because it’s where all your cyber weapons are, or the finance network, or the hospital network — all of those sensitive networks inevitably get reconnected to the internet by someone. You just literally walk the perimeter and you find that someone has taken a patch cable to the two patch panels in the wiring closet and cross-connected one to the other. Or they’ve brought in a DSL modem. Or they’ve brought in a USB dongle connected to a hot spot. Or something. Those networks always end up reconnected. I think that it’s probably a fool’s errant to say, well we’re going to disconnect our web from their web. I think it’s better to say, we are going to build a web that subsumes their web.

NP: In the UK, police are getting new powers to remotely disable phones, and it seems at the point where your government can switch off your phone, or spy on it, then you need a failsafe you can flip to.

CD: Yeah. I think that this is a place where our abstractions collide with reality. Because there isn’t a way to give governments the power to switch your phone off. There’s only a way to give governments the power to reconfigure a phone to do all of the things or not do any of the things that phones can do. Once you give a government the power to reach in and run code on your phone that turns it off, that you don’t want run, you’re also giving them the power to run other arbitrary code on your phone. And not just the government, but anyone who successfully impersonates the government to your phone…

Even much more benign versions of this, like the California law that says that carriers need to be able to brick a phone if it’s reported stolen in order to reduce phone theft. That’s, I think, passed with the best of intentions, but there is no such thing as something that just allows carriers to brick phones. What that is, is it’s a way to brick phones that anyone who knows the secret can use against any phone that they want. And if we haven’t seen that exploited in the wild yet, we should expect it to be exploited in the wild soon.

“Science may be resistant to power, but it’s not immune. It’s a race: either the walkaways release immortality to the world, or the zottas install themselves as permanent god-emperors.”

NP: I watched your New York Public Library Q&A with Edward Snowden two days ago. You both spoke about immorality being used as a MacGuffin in the book. However, I read an article recently about a surgeon that successfully transplanted a head on to a rat. That same surgeon says he’s going to do that on a human within the year. Then you have Mark Zuckerberg working on his mind-reading project. We’re already heading in the direction that you describe in the book. And, if that comes to pass, there’s going to be this horrific situation where — if it’s left in the hands of the elite — the one percenters are going to get to decide who donates their body and whose brains get to live on.

CD: Ha,ha!

NP: Is this really a MacGuffin or is the idea that it’s a MacGuffin wishful thinking on your part given what’s actually going on in the real world?

CD: No, I seriously think it’s a MacGuffin. Just because Zuck thinks that he knows about neuroscience doesn’t mean that he knows about neuroscience. Dunning-Kruger is alive and well. The reason that con artists targeted successful, intelligent people is they always overestimated their ability to spot a con in domains other than the one that they knew something about. You find a stock broker and you would hook them with a horse race con because stock brokers would assume that understanding a stock market very well also made them really good at understanding horse races — and they were horribly wrong and got taken for every penny. So I wouldn’t say that Zuck’s enthusiasm is any indication of anything except his hubris.

In terms of the transplantation of a rat head, we can’t interrogate the rat to know whether or not that was a successful operation, right? We have only external factors to evaluate the quality of the experimental outcome. It may be that, if you could talk to the rat, you’d find out that the head transplant was not nearly so successful as we thought… So in my view, anyway, it’s a very metaphorical thing.

Where it does touch with reality is in what James Hughes calls ‘transhumanism.’ He wrote a very good book about this called Citizen Cyborg that’s more generally about the ways that technologies give us longer lives of higher quality, and how the uneven distribution of technology in that domain — where that inequality is a function of economic inequality — that it magnifies economic inequality very, very terribly.

Jim, in particular, is worried and interested about the way that maybe we might alter our germplasm, which does seem to me to be well within reach. I mean, we have parts of our genome that at least there’s burgeoning consensus if they’re expressed in certain ways, they probably only do bad things and not good things. And we can, in theory, eliminate those parts of our genome from fertilized zygotes, at least in vitro. So it may be that there are people who are wealthy enough to have IVF and to have CRISPR surgery on the IVF before implantation whose germplasm is permanently altered to remove things that are potentially very harmful. That to me feels like something that it is a little bit like speciation. So if there’s a thing in Walkaway that resonates with you, the place where I would say you should be taking that resonance and trying to apply it to the real-world is not in the hypothetical life extension technologies, but in very non-hypothetical and very real stuff that we’re doing right now.

NP: I see it in the vote that was taken yesterday in which the House passed the American Healthcare Act. That’s very much saying, these people have a right to live because they have money, and these people don’t because they don’t.

CD: Yeah. I think that’s absolutely right.

“Of course I’m talking about economists! I think you have to be a mathematician to appreciate how full of shit economists are, how astrological their equations are. No offense to your egalitarian soul, but you lack the training to understand how deeply bogus those neat equations are.”

NP: Continuing on with the theme of the delusions of grand people, like Zuckerberg… I loved the line in your book where you talk about how economics is the astrology of math, and how it’s often just used to justify terrible things. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

CD: This is actually a thing that mainstream economists have observed and that Thomas Piketty delves into at some length in Capital in the Twenty-First Century. That economics exists in a marketplace in which the fitness factor that gets you funded, and gets you pricey consultation gigs and makes your life very good, is not being accurate but saying things that make rich people happy — because they give politicians reasons to make rich people richer.

NP: The fallacy of trickle-down economics, etc.

CD: Right. I mean, basically, governments that do things that benefit the donor class at the expense of everyone else need to be able to explain why they shouldn’t be sent to the guillotines. And the way that they explain it is by having very articulate and respected economists describe why it’s better for you and me that our interests are not being served by the government.

NP: I just love that you even float that idea… because economics is considered a hallowed science by so many.

CD: I’ve written more than one book about heterodox economics. I wrote For The Win and it got a very good write-up in The Financial Times. I hope that this will also get thought well of in those circles. I think that the idea that laissez-faire market orthodoxy is overly simplistic, doesn’t accord with realities, is observed and so on. It is actually a pretty mainstream idea within economics — it’s just not a mainstream idea within the economists who are incredibly well paid.

One of the B&B’s game-changing tools was “lovedaresnot” … The core idea was that radical or difficult ideas were held back by the thought that no one else had them. That fear of isolation led people to stay “in the closet” about their ideas, making them the “love that dares not speak its name.” So lovedaresnot (shortened to “Dare Snot”) gave you a way to find out if anyone else felt the same, without forcing you to out yourself.

Anyone could put a question — a Snot Dare — up, like “Do you think we should turf that sexist asshole?” People who secretly agreed signed the question with a one-time key that they didn’t have to reveal unless a pre-specified number of votes were on the record. Then the system broadcast a message telling signers to come back with their signing keys and de-anonymize themselves, escrowing the results until a critical mass of signers had de-cloaked. Quick as you could say “I am Spartacus,” a consensus plopped out of the system.

NP: You have a wonderful description of a post-Occupy form of consensus, which is very appealing to me. Politics and the media can often combine to produce a society where the vocal minority rule. I think that’s very much what we saw in the last election cycle, where there was a silent majority that was scared to voice opinions. As a woman, this can be especially frustrating when making an argument in mixed company where there’s always going to be people that are able to shout louder. So I liked the concept of lovedaresnot. Can you explain a little about that idea and where it came from?

CD: It’s one of the many ways in which we use networks to break the collective action problem, which is one of the great old problems of our species — figuring out how to work together when we need a lot of people together to make something happen. And when having any less than the threshold for action means that everyone ends up wasting their time or worse. It can be very, very hard to organize those. It’s actually a thing laissez-faire economists spend a lot of time worrying about. They worry about free riders because that’s the situation in which free-riding is really dangerous; it can convince all of the people, who might otherwise pitch in and help reach the threshold, to just not bother.

In some ways, it’s an extension of what we’ve seen happen with Kickstarter and crowdfunding projects which are all about trying to figure out how to overcome these deadlocks… Bruce Schneier originally proposed something called the Street Performer Protocol, which draws its inspiration from the practices of some street performers of doing an act for free. They might play a bunch of songs or they might be a juggler and they’ll do a bunch of juggling, then, when they get to the end of the act, they say, all right, I have a finale, and you’ve seen what I have on offer, so the finale is going to be amazing. They’ll talk it up and they’ll say, I’ll do the finale once there’s $50 in my hat. I don’t care who puts the $50 in the hat, and I don’t care who watches afterwards, but until there’s $50 in the hat, the show does not go on. You sometimes get this with NPR fundraisers too, we don’t do anything until there’s X dollars.

The Street Performer Protocol, historically when people have tried to make it into a web thing for say a musician to put out a new album, the way that it’s worked is you have some escrow authority, a third-party, a platform who takes all the money for the musician and holds on to it, and when the musician delivers the album, then they get the money. That way, they don’t just do a runner with it. The thing that Kickstarter did that was amazing was they said musicians have a hard time making albums unless they have the money in the first place. They don’t have access to credit that would allow them to make the album, deliver the album, and then collect the money from all the backers and use it to pay back the creditors who loaned them the money to keep going in the studio. If they had access to that credit, they wouldn’t need the crowdfunder… So Kickstarter was like, what if we just made a thing where sometimes people get ripped off or disappointed. They give the money to the musician, the musician goes into the studio, comes out six months later and says, you know what, I tried, no, there’s no record, sorry. If you did that, you would enable all the musicians who could produce an album but for the lack of capital to produce something — and they would be the majority… They would swamp the disappointment effect that arose from the musicians who just never came out of the studio with anything viable or just spent it all on beer or whatever. And it turned out they were right.

Now you have people trying versions of Kickstarter where they are removing one thing at a time to see what the minimum viable crowdfunder is. You have Indiegogo, where you get the money even if you don’t reach the threshold… You have GoFundMe, where you don’t have to set a threshold. It’s just an open platform. People are trying to see how much you can omit before you cease to have a viable crowdfunding platform… It’s like a game of Jenga for behavioral economics, where you see how much you can remove before it all falls over.

Daresnot, this idea that you can have a cryptographically secret place where you cast votes and, until the vote reaches the threshold, the votes are never disclosed — no one knows how it’s going, but once it reaches the threshold, then all of a sudden some action is triggered — is really just a metaphorical way of talking about these other collective action beaters and where they might go.

I’ve talked for years about something I call the Magnificent Seven Business Model. In the Magnificent Seven, you have a village that every year the bandits ride into and take all their stuff. One year they decide instead of paying the bandits, they will go and hire mercenaries to kill the bandits, because they only have to pay the mercenaries once where they have to pay the bandits every year.

In the world of patent and copyright trolling, you have things like the “Happy Birthday” people who charge you a license fee that’s less than it would cost you to fight the copyright claim for the song “Happy Birthday” — even though you’re pretty sure that if you did fight the copyright claim, you would win. Collectively, all the people paying license fees to the “Happy Birthday” copyright trolls were paying much more than it would cost to litigate the copyright, but individually they weren’t. So you could imagine a thing where you said, once 1,000 other people promise not to pay any more money to the “Happy Birthday” people, then I won’t either and we will all divert our funds to pay a lawyer to defend anyone who gets sued by the “Happy Birthday” people — once we reach that critical threshold.

That actually would probably work. It could fight a lot of trolling business models. We could fight patent trolling business models and it’d be really interesting. The more people you had who were in the pool, the more desperate the trolls would be to find new people to shore up their revenues, the more aggressive their claims would be, the more people would find the pool and join it, and eventually they’d drive themselves out of business. The harder they push, the harder the pushback would be.

NP: That sounds like a business model and a platform that needs to happen.

CD: If I were a class action lawyer with a little extra money looking to create a platform, I would make that platform as a way of drumming up business. Because the other thing that it does is once you invalidate the copyright, then you get a class action to sue them for falsely asserting it.

The people who use this place decided they would rather be robbed than surveilled. Stuff is just stuff, but being recorded all the time is creepy. As for lockers, you’re free to put some in, but I don’t think they’d last. Once you’ve got lockers, you’re implicitly saying that anything that’s not in a locker is ‘unprotected’—”

“Which it was,” Etcetera pointed out.

“Yeah,” she said. “That’s a perfectly valid point. But you won’t win the argument with it.”

NP: You and Snowden talked about a full-Orwell future, which we’re very much hurtling towards… What I love with your novels is that you’re actually creating a demand elasticity for crypto and privacy rights to fight that. People come to your novels because they’re great stories, but leave with a greater understanding of the need for crypto and privacy.

CD: At the very least, I hope I’m helping people think through some of the more abstract elements of why this stuff matters. A lot of public health problems involve very abstract harms that are a long time in the future. This is one of the problems of climate change, understanding climate change and really viscerally feeling the risks associated with it. It’s a difficult enterprise because climate change is a long way off and the explanation for it, and the specifics of it, are extremely technical. That’s been one of the problems we’ve had in doing something about climate change. And climate oriented science fiction, like the stuff Kim Stanley Robinson is writing, that does yeoman service because it helps us understand, in a very visceral way, what’s going on with climate change and what the problems are. It helps us live through it in advance. That is definitely one of the things fiction can do.

One of the most gratifying things in my life these years is that I frequently meet adults who read Little Brother as kids, and they have gone into computer science, information security, entrepreneurship, and public policy as a result. They are like my botnet, right? They are people whose practice in this technical trade that’s very important, and that is really dominated by money, and they bring into their practice non-financial considerations about ethics. And that’s really important.

Engineering and ethics have always had an important relationship to one another. Where engineering and ethics have become too far divorced, we’ve had really ghastly things. Engineers made every weapon of mass destruction. Engineers made all of the great killing machines. Engineers provided the data processing that allowed every modern genocidal system to run. So engineering ethics often arises as a reaction to these awful outcomes where we create situations where engineers look at themselves in the mirror and realize that their profession, which they got into for the technical challenges or to make the world a better place, has become an existential threat to the species. That it has become a way to allow people to magnify their worse impulses to the great detriment of many, many, many millions of people — sometimes with mass graves to boot. So getting people involved and inspired to think about the ethical dimension of technology, and then to do something about it, is a very gratifying thing indeed.

“What’s a ‘covered dish’ person?”

“Oh. If there’s a disaster, do you go over to your neighbor’s house with: a) a covered dish or b) a shotgun? It’s game theory. If you believe your neighbor is coming over with a shotgun, you’d be an idiot to pick a); if she believes the same thing about you, you can bet she’s not going to choose a) either. The way to get to a) is to do a) even if you think your neighbor will pick b). Sometimes she’ll point her gun at you and tell you to get off her land, but if she was only holding the gun because she thought you’d have one, then she’ll put on the safety and you can have a potluck.”

NP: A lot of the systems that governments have in place depend on a government seeing the population as an adversarial force. In Walkaway, you introduced this idea of ‘covered dish people.’ We’ve seen in real life that when disasters happen — be it 9/11 or a hurricane — that the vast majority of people are covered dish people. Yet, we’re still functioning with a government that doesn’t even believe that the covered dish mentality can exist. How do we change the way we fundamentally run things so that we’re actually running things for the benefit of the 99% covered dish people, rather than the 1% that would shoot you for a casserole?

CD: This is a collective action problem again. I think that what kind of person you are is partly temperamental. There’s some people who think more about an alliance to a wider polity, and some people who are more inclined to think about their allegiance to the people around them and to draw the border much closer to home. But, with few exceptions, I don’t think anyone is born an absolute. I think what happens is that our social system causes one or the other to emerge from us in the same way that our personal circumstances cause either our resilient, understanding self or our temper-prone, angry self to rise to the surface. You know that when you’re tired and grumpy, and maybe you had a glass of wine, you’re more likely to snap than when you are well rested and happy, then you can roll with the punches.

I think that we have built a system that encourages people to be tired and grumpy, to let their worst selves come to the fore. Building a system where your best self can come to the fore involves, in part, figuring out how to overcome the people who benefit from this worst system. This market doctrine system where the very rich have everything accrued to them and where the economists that they pay to give them intellectual cover explain that being greedy is the best way to organize a society.

Figuring out how to break that deadlock is going to involve doing things like small money fundraising and political activism of the sort that we’ve seen actually since the Trump election. You know, the collapse of the first round of the Obamacare repeal, and whatever is going to happen as a result of this one, that’s an example of exactly how people who don’t have the same amount of money but who have the support from networks and the ability to organize themselves to work collectively can outmaneuver these big top-down, very wealthy systems of power.

Walkaway is available now via Tor Publishing. For more on Cory Doctorow visit

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity, and is published here under Creative Commons License 4.0. It may be reposted freely with attribution to the author, Nicole Powers, and this notice.

Apr 2017 28

by Nicole Powers

Amanda Palmer is in the process of redefining the nature of artistic freedom. Having escaped the gilded shackles of her major record label, she famously made her 2012 album, Theatre Is Evil, with the help of 24,883 fans who crowdfunded the recording via Kickstarter to the tune of $1,192,793.00. However, the hype surrounding the record-breaking fundraiser almost suffocated the album, as the media focused on the money rather than the artistic merits of the music — a huge shame given that it’s undoubtably one of her best.

Seeking a less transient form of funding that would embrace one of Palmer’s greatest assets, her relationship with her fans, in March, 2015 she joined Patreon. The alternative crowdfunding platform helps creators fund their work via a subscriber base of patrons who are either charged monthly or per item created (Palmer chooses to charge per “thing”, since it allows her to take time off guilt-free). In the two years since she joined, Palmer’s incredibly loyal fanbase have helped her become one of the top 3 content creators on Patreon by number of patrons. At the time of writing, Palmer has 9,386 patrons who give her a total of $36,598 per thing.

This has bought Palmer an incredible amount of freedom to create what she wants, when she wants. But with it comes a new set of constraints and responsibilities — many of them self-imposed. Because this form of artistic funding is so new (albeit that it’s based on a concept that’s as old as the ages), Palmer is still in the process of creating her own rules.

On May 5, 2017, her latest Patreon-funded project, I Can Spin A Rainbow, will be released into the ether. The haunting and heartbreakingly beautiful, atmospheric and melancholy album is a collaboration with one of her heroes, Edward Ka-Spel, the co-founder and frontman of The Legendary Pink Dots. The record was recorded in the UK at the Essex home studio of Palmer’s friend Imogen Heap.

I caught up with Palmer by phone to talk about the creative process and the challenges that come with the freedom of patronage.

Nicole Powers: I first saw you on June 30, 2007 at the Greek Theater with the Dresden Dolls on Cindy Lauper’s True Colors tour. It’s a very special year for us. We’re celebrating our ten-year anniversary.

AP: Oh. Awesome… I remember that tour very well. It was a total hodgepodge of amazingness and weirdness.

NP: You’ve had a fascinating journey since then. I was just watching a 2005 documentary on the Cloud Club [a residential artist commune based out of a brownstone in Boston where Palmer lives and where her band The Dresden Dolls was nurtured]. Do you miss those days?

AP: I still have that apartment. It hasn’t changed a bit. Actually, I’m driving there on Sunday… I mean, the days have definitely changed. I have a child and a husband and a house out in the country now, in addition to my bohemian apartment. Philosophically, I think it’s important not to spend a lot of time missing things. There’s too much going on right now for me to think that it’s a good idea to spend energy on those things. I loved my free-wheeling, bohemian existence, but I also wouldn’t want to be stuck in it forever. It would get stale.

NP: When I last spoke to you, in 2009, it was just after “Oasis” had been released. The song was based on very disturbing events in your life that happened when you were 17, and you spoke about how you sought solace in your favorite band, The Pink Dots. It’s wonderful that things have come full circle and you actually get to work with your hero. How did that come about?

AP: Its original seeds were planted ten years ago, probably. I’ve been in touch with the band ever since I was a teenager. When I was 20 I went out on the road and did merch for them in Germany for a couple of days. I knew them and they knew me, as people. They did a tour opening up for the Dresden Dolls in Germany in the mid-2000s — it was probably 2006. During that tour I floated the idea that it was on my fantasy list to someday collaborate on a record with him. He said, absolutely, someday, let’s do it.

In the list of projects that I wanted to do before I died, it was up there towards the top, along with making a record with my dad. I actually knocked off two Bucket List records in one year — I’m really proud of myself. And they couldn’t be more different. I made this super sweet, sincere, fancy guitar and piano record with my dad, and this album with Edward is completely different — a completely different mood, much more electronic. Maybe there’s also something important in my life; having a child and recognizing my various fathers in various incarnations.

NP: I was reading an interview that you did a while back where you spoke about the internal battle that you have between musical inspiration and meditation, and how often very complete ideas came to you when you’re alone during your practice. How does that work when there’s another person in the room? How did the actual creative process work between you and Edward?

AP: It’s a fantastic question, because I didn’t know how it was going to work when I went into making this record with Edward. Because I’m not a co-writer. I’ve always been a real lone wolf as a songwriter, mostly by choice. Because, for me, songwriting is such an incredibly intimate, personal act that the idea of doing it with someone else doesn’t make any sense to me — as much as it would make sense to do anything. So I was nervous because I just didn’t feel like a seasoned co-writer and collaborator, whereas Edward has made records with tons of people.

For that reason, I just showed up completely open-minded and ready to work — ready to write and ready to do anything. I brought old pieces of things, and I brought little bits of text, and I brought voice memos, you know, sung to myself on walks five years ago. I just brought a junk box of interesting bits. Edward had a similar pile of thoughts and fragments and we just played a game of creative ping pong. Sometimes he would start the ball rolling and he would give me a piece of text and I would try to fit it into some kind of arrangement with the piano. Sometimes I would just sit and play something and he would dream up and imagine a story to go on top of it.

As I imagined — as I feared even — it was incredibly intimate, personal co-processing. You have to have an immense amount of trust and respect for someone to sit around and go to your vulnerable, creative place. But Edward and I had such an immense amount of respect for each other that it worked. He really taught me to be a lot braver about doing my process in front of another person. I may be not afraid to walk around naked in public, but I’m actually very afraid to write songs in front of people.

It just feels so incredibly emotionally naked, to sit there writing lyrics, and chucking them out, and futzing with melodies, and playing wrong chords. It’s just something that I’m really only used to doing alone in a room by myself, so to do it in front of someone else felt scary and thrilling — and ultimately really rewarding because what we got out the other side was a record that we’re both so, so proud of.

NP: I imagine too, when you’re working with another person, it’s hard to hide behind abstraction. When you’re working on something that’s difficult for you to deal with in a song, you can be abstract about it — you know what it means, but you leave the world to interpret it. But, when you’re bringing an idea in a room to share with another human being and you’re going to work on it together, I guess you actually have to explain what the abstraction means.

AP: Either that or you have to not question the other’s poetic motives. We didn’t have to discuss and dissect every single lyric and every single adjective. We didn’t always question each other’s dressings, you know? We wrote in a way that made sense, and made sense for that particular song.

One of the things that I loved so much about writing with Edward is he actually rewound me back to a songwriting space that I was in more in my 20s where I had a lot more dressings and opaqueness in my lyrics… The first Dresden Dolls record, there are some songs on that that are just impossible to understand unless you’re me — and even if you are me. Fast-forward 20 years from the writing of some of those songs and the material that I’m writing now, some of it is so incredibly literal and soapy, which is wonderful. It is its own skill to write a good, easily digestible, literal song, but I’ve really strayed away from my more loose, poetic songwriting. It was almost like working with Edward gave me a hall pass to go straight back to 19 and write the way I used to write, especially when I was under a heavier Pink Dots influence. It was always better to say things in a way that could be interpreted six different ways than directly.

NP: How long did it take you to find your groove working together? And what song did you find that groove on?

AP: Funnily enough, it took us five fucking minutes to get comfortable with each other. There was just so much love in the room — especially since our first attempt to make the record, actually our first couple of attempts to get together, were torn apart by acts of god. Our second real legit try to get together involved me showing up at Edward’s place and on day two getting a phone call that I had fly back to the States to be at a friend’s deathbed. It was very ill-starred. By the time we actually were sitting in a room together, having tried for so many years and having such a close call, we were just so excited to finally get to work after so much had already gone down — we were already really emotionally attached. The interesting thing about our first day of work is that the day before that had actually been a year before that and I was eight-months pregnant and sobbing in Edward’s arms at a train station that I had to go watch my friend die. So we had become quite close and we just slipped into a groove very easily. Edward’s really easy to work with.

I’ve luckily never been in a nightmare collaboration. I’ve been blessed with really delightful, easy to work with collaborators, from Jherek Bischoff to Jason Webley and all of the other people that I have arranged with and co-written with in the last ten years or so. But, with Edward, there is an incredible sweetness about him. He is really not self-conscious about his process and he has no ego whatsoever. The two of us just got to amuse, and impress and delight each other. Why else would you create a record together?

The older I get, and the more projects I do, the more concerned I am about the process itself being enjoyable. When you’re a professional musician you realize that that’s actually the content of your life. The desire to work with good, compassionate collaborators starts to take importance over whatever is going to come out the other end of the tube. That starts to matter less and whether or not you want to sit down and have dinner with this person starts to matter more — because this is your life. You’re like, oh right, if I don’t like the people I’m working with, my life is going to be miserable.

NP: You once said, “A perfect song is a captured moment of inspiration barely touched.” On this album, what song would you say most embodies that?

AP: Probably “The Clock At The Back Of The Cage,” which is far and away my favorite track on the record. I had the general idea for it brewing the entire time Edward and I were working on the record. I even mentioned to Edward that I wanted to write a song like it. It was just an unformed, fetal-being just bouncing around in my brain as we worked. Then Imogen had this beautiful glockenspiel in her studio, and it was like the song was just waiting there to come out one night. I grabbed the glockenspiel and wrote the opening part on the glockenspiel thinking that that would just be a cute introduction and it would probably be a piano song, and it would probably have Edward’s looping, and it would probably sound a lot like the rest of the record. But it was such an emotionally painful song that it just wanted to stay sounding small. So we left it that way. But then we put that really foreboding underbelly of sound beneath it. Sometimes you finish a song and you just know that you have a completed, perfect piece of work — and that’s the way I felt after that one.

NP: What was the nugget of inspiration that kept visiting your head and not leaving you?

AP: I’m not sure I can discuss that one… Let’s just say that it is a very, very personal song and leave it at that.

NP: Fair enough. When we last spoke, you were looking ahead to life beyond a major label. Since then, that philosophy has come fruition, first with your blockbuster Kickstarter, and now with Patreon, and your TED Talk, The Art of Asking, which you’ve expanded into a book. How do you think your process has changed from making a record for a label versus making a record for your fans?

AP: It’s actually quite an easy answer, which is, being on a label never changed my process. If anything, getting off the label gave me an immense amount of freedom — maybe too much freedom, because I was just following every last whim for so many years. I was just drunk on my ability to create music and put it out, especially given the digital free-for-all of the internet. Knowing that I could make music and literally put it out that day was so delicious after being in the golden handcuffs of a major label.

Sometimes I look back on my musical track record post-Dresden Dolls and it just looks like an insane patchwork, a random-ass shit show with no forethought. And that’s exactly what it was. But I was so fucking happy. I was just like, I want to make a record of Radiohead covers, I want to make a fucking weird-ass musical concept record about conjoined twins, I want to do this, I want to do that — and then I would just do it.

It was so delicious to be able to do what I wanted that I didn’t care. Then I sort of set all of my serious songwriting in one box and I collected it all together for Theater Is Evil, which is the Kickstarter record, which I still think is far and away one of the best records that I’ve ever made. I am just so, so proud of it. Then, you get this interesting twist in the story; I was convinced that because I captured everybody’s attention because of the Kickstarter that everyone would also pay attention to the record. But, mostly, all the media discussed when they discussed me was money. That was really disheartening. That was a shitty year.

NP: I can see that that must have been incredibly frustrating.

AP: Well, amen. So, yeah, that’s one of the things that I feel is a really hard won lesson. My dialogue with my hardcore listeners, and my dialogue with the mass media and the mass internet, they are parallel conversations but they’re different conversations. And you wait six months and the landscape changes right before you, especially in terms of how things are coming out.

It’s why I am so grateful to have this group of 10,000 people who just trust me. They trust me not to screw them. They trust the fact that I’m an authentic artist and that my heart is in the right place and I just want to make work that I believe in. And that relationship is a hard won relationship. Just like the Kickstarter. It’s not something that just happens overnight because you have a hit single. It’s something that happens because you toured for years and years, and you hang out with everybody, and you prove that you’re a lifer.

I’m really proud of this space that I built where all of those people want to support me. Sometimes I can’t even really believe that it’s real — and it’s been going on for two years. In a sense, nothing has freed me up artistically as that security — of knowing that I don’t have to, all of a sudden, hop on a tour bus and tour in order to pay for a project. I will never need corporate sponsorship. I will never need to compromise because I have enough. I have enough support. It’s such a wonderful feeling as an artist to know that there are enough people there to easily float your ability to create. It’s awesome.

NP: It has also broken the mold that you have to have an album, with three singles for the label to market, to have a “thing” that someone will buy. One of the lovely examples of that is your “Angel Gabriel” recording and video that you released over Christmas. I could imagine that if that had been in the context of a major label, they would have wanted you to do a whole album of schmaltzy Christmas songs and you would have lost the entire point of it. That song and video is so much more of a statement on its own than it would be if it was buried amidst ten other songs that you were forced to throw together to make a thing that a major label would accept.

AP: Yeah. Exactly. It’s really wonderful deciding what to do with everybody’s money as well, and just challenging myself to be as ethical as possible. Because on the one hand I have this wonderful freedom to know that I can sit down at the piano at any time, make arrangements anytime, write music anytime, and know that I have a guaranteed audience, not only to listen to it, but to pay for it. But on the other hand, I feel this mighty responsibility that I don’t want to let people down and I want to spend their money ethically, you know? Because there I am, basically doing a bunch of artistic curating. I’m deciding who to hire, and who to engineer, and who is going to photograph, and who is going to video, who is going to design the sets. There is something really nice knowing that that’s not the label’s money, but it’s the people’s money. As I’m hiring a whole bunch of artists in Cuba, who are really grateful for the work, I love that that money is coming from my fans and not from some corporate boss in the sky. It just feels really good.

NP: You spoke earlier about the parallel conversations you have between your fans and the mass media. Obviously you have a very special relationship with your fans, and sometimes a comment that you make, that is completely understandable within the context of your fanbase, will get completely taken out of context by the mainstream media. For example, the whole “Trump will make punk rock great again” thing. I absolutely know what you’re trying to say, but seeing it taken out of context for clickbait was kind of offensive. I imagine you don’t want to self-censor, so how do you deal with that?

AP: I just work on the running assumption that people are going to misunderstand me and I try not to give a shit, honestly. And as far as Donald Trump making punk rock great again — we should be so lucky. That was more of a call to my fellow artists that we need to up our game in the face of this insanity. I hope we all do.

NP: It’s so hard to live in a world where we’re seeing hard won rights being taken away from us and society regressing rather than progressing. Do you feel more of a sense of urgency now that you’re a mother to try to shift things in the right direction?

AP: No. I have always felt a sense of urgency for change. In fact, if anything, having a child has forced me to slow down and be more mindful and smell more flowers with my baby. Because his childhood feels incredibly precious to me. He’s not going to appreciate a mother who is spending too much time trying to be a warrior hero. I mean, I will do what I can do, but I also sometimes feel like the biggest gift I can give to the world right now is being a good mother to my child. As hokey as that may sound, it’s how I feel.

Amada Palmer — Theater Is Evil Tour, New York (Photo: Nicole Powers)

Catch Palmer and Ka-Spel on tour in the United States and Europe from May 17 thru June 18, 2017.

Photos taken by Nicole Powers at Webster Hall in NYC on September 11, 2012.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity, and is published here under Creative Commons License 4.0. It may be reposted freely with attribution to the author, Nicole Powers, and this notice.