The Business of Writing

Yeah, so the last blog post I did in these parts that wasn’t about Phish was over a year ago. Not that I’m complaining. I like writing about Phish and their music and if this is more Kaufmak’s Lazy Phish Blog, then so be it. Might be a little more accurate these days. Of course, then I want to write about other things.

More to the point, I want to write more, but that just is about impossible these days. There are a lot of reasons, family, job, social life, video games, television, simple exhaustion, you get the idea.

But, I don’t want to just write more, I want to write…for a living? Yeah, I’m really not sure how that works. A big change needs to occur, one that I’ve been slowly circling like the water going down the worst drain ever. That change is a one of identity. I need to see myself as a writer, at least as part of my identity. I just can’t seem to mentally pull that trigger.

It’s not like getting a Ph. D. Someone told me, now I’m a historian. All you fuckers need to call me doctor. Some people have told me a I’m a good writer (some have said I suck.) But writer validation doesn’t work that way, at least not for me. I’m so glad my writing gets out to others, even if the numbers are small. I’ve even won a couple of “posts of the month” deals at the other blog. But I haven’t been paid to be a writer. Production is great, but production for free just doesn’t work in my head.

This is my hang up, by the way. I’m not say if you write a blog and aren’t getting paid for it you’re not a writer. However you define your “writer-ness” is entirely up to you. I’ve got this annoying notion about pay and validation, not you, you’re a sane, rationale person. Good on you! You writer!

What’s more, I’m seriously stuck in two places. It seems like the people who strike out and make a go of it, get further opportunities, and get to make a living at this stuff seem to have three things in common. They write, or started to write, about one thing, did it well and did it frequently. I’m not sure if I’m 0-3 in that last sentence, but in the light of optimism, let’s say 0-2. Time just needs to happen, either make it or not. It’s that other part, that “one thing and stick to it” thing that just doesn’t work. But if I don’t do that, then I’m just some dude with a blog writing about stuff. Why read it? I mean, I’m a nice guy and all, but yeah, why else? What makes me so damn special?

It’s the one thing, that niche that I can’t seem to find. I like to write about certain things more than others, but I get bored or discouraged or busy. Sometimes all at once. These last couple of months, it’s been a shitty place to be.


Phish Song Power Listing

Summer’s here and the time is right… for blogs about Phish! If I had the inclination I would look through the history of this blog and see how many posts are devoted to Phish. My guess is quite a few. I want to say in the past I’ve also flirted/promised/proposed writing about Phish on a more outgoing basis and never quite followed through. That sort of thing is always fun to think about and making up serial types of posts is really helpful in getting consistent content up on the old blog.  Unfortunately, interest wanes, life intrudes and then it’s 4 weeks on and nothing new has been posted on a given topic.

I think I’ve found a couple of mid-level commitments to Phish-related blogging that I can pull off. One is definitely long form and the other more of a commitment to sometimes daily updates, but not extraordinary length posts.

The first is inspired by my friend Jason who wrote a great blog entitled Dead For A Year.  Basically, Jason sat down and wrote a blog post every day of the year dedicated to a single version of a song throughout the Grateful Dead’s entire catalog. Now as everyone who ever wrote a blog knows, writing every day is a daunting task and things often come up. So Jason’s basic contract if you will, was to have 365 posts in a calendar year. Sometimes he’d miss a day, or have to double up here and there, but in the end, there are 365 posts up on the DFAY website. Quite an impressive accomplishment.

I am not nearly as ambitious.  I was looking over my Phish Stats (yes, they are a thing) and I saw that as of now I stand at 52 shows seen, a lot compared to some, a drop in the bucket compared to others.  As I thought about it, not too hard mind, that is a show a week which would be awesome if possible.  Now memory doesn’t serve to write a review of each show, but over the years (21 and counting) of Phish fandom there are certain songs, jams if I may, that have been stuck on my personal playlists. Some are pretty old, some are fairly new. So in the spirit of the laziness of this blog, and resurrecting in a sense the Friday Phish Fry, I will write about a version of a song once a week. Some I witnessed, some will be famous, others not so much.  Not sure what to call it, maybe My Phish 52, kind of pulling in the recently ended DC Comics imprint.

The second project will be a little more hands on, a little more day to day.  Again going back to Phish Stats, not so much my own but some of the overall numbers especially the every time played list. As sure as sunrise, YEM sits atop that list at 568 times played. A distant second is Possum at 496 times played and on down the list.  As the into to that section of the site says, “what will be first, 123rd?” I find the movement of the lower places quite interesting. What old songs are fading fast? What new songs are rising quickly? What songs have lost steam? What songs reflect a different era and touring schedule? After every tour I love to see what has moved where. So for this summer at the very least, I’ll be updating the rankings of the songs through the Top 100. While there are still a lot of songs after 100, that seems like the best place to cut off. If anything interesting happens further down, I’ll be sure to let you know.

A couple of things: First as much as I want to do this and I hope you enjoy the numbers as much as me, I will be starting in earnest a bit late I’m afraid. When tour starts this year I will be on vacation. More specifically, a vacation that doesn’t include Phish. That is coming later in the month.  So when I get back I’ll get on this.  I’ll probably do a July Top 100 recap and then a day to day thing where I can pick up.

The second thing I want to be sure to mention is my gratitude for the ZZYZX Phish Stats page. I’m not sure when the page was first started but pretty much since I’ve been a Phish fan, there have been Phish stats. The hours of enjoyment I get from David Steinberg’s genius is probably unhealthy.  I’ve written in praise of Phish Stats so I won’t go on at length, but suffice it to say that my gratitude for your work is immense. Once again David, thank you.

My May the 4th

I love that there is a special day now devoted to Star Wars geekery, not that Star Wars needs any help with its popularity or legacy.  Still, it is a nice sort of nerd touchstone, a way for those of us who have always been sort of inward with regards to our passions to celebrate what we love and who we are.  Conventions cover much of the same ground, even becoming big local and national events, but a day, Star Wars Day, almost feels like a holiday.  Unfortunately, for me and I’m sure for many of my age and older, May the fourth isn’t a pithy play on words, reminding me of joy and jedi.  It is a reminder of terrible events that occurred in my relative back yard when I was growing up.

In 1970, Kent State University wasn’t anything special.  It was just a sixty year old institution, experiencing like so many state schools a huge influx after World War II.  Many of the children of those vets were at Kent State in 1970.  I might have visited Kent a dozen times, between my sister being an alum and some friends attending school there, and it was nice enough, but nothing particularly noteworthy or impressive, except for one thing: May 4th.

Like so many colleges and universities at the time, Kent was host to it’s own share of protests and demonstrations, especially surrounding the US involvement in Vietnam.  In 1970, the promise of the war being ended was a fantasy, and even appeared to be a downright lie when the news arrived that the US had begun an incursion into Cambodia.  That was the major reason so many students and young people converged on Kent State in early May, just like many universities all across the United States.

Kent may or may not have been more violent from May 1 until May 3rd, I don’t know if there is anyway to measure that.  I heard from faculty and alumni of Ohio University that things were pretty crazy in Athens, Ohio and of course I can’t imagine President Nixon’s April 30th announcement was greeted with passive actions in Berkeley and New York.  Unlike those places, places that had been in the national spot light for the better part of a decade regarding protests of one stripe or another, Kent wasn’t anywhere special, just another college town.

Until it wasn’t.  May 4th changed all of that.  I won’t go into all of the details except for these: four dead, nine wounded.  In the middle of nowhere Ohio, protesters were killed and wounded.  This wasn’t the kind of thing that happened in bucolic Ohio, hell it didn’t really happen in the United States, or so people liked to believe.  For so many people, not just in Ohio, this was the event that brought the war, the protests, hell, the 1960s home.  If this kind of thing could happen at Kent, it could happen anywhere.

The immediate aftermath was the closing of hundreds of universities and schools across the country.  There wasn’t going to be another incident.  Final exams were canceled. Having been in higher education for most of my adult life, an event having the impact to close a school and cancel exams is hard to imagine happening, but it did in May of 1970.  Not just in Kent, not just in Ohio, but across the country.  It is hard to fathom.

The long term effects? I’m a little more familiar with those.  In my high school, at least three teachers were at Kent State when it happened, one was even nearby.  One of my seventh grade teachers was also there.  I’m sure all around Northeastern Ohio, there were teachers and professors who were at Kent that day.  I don’t know if my classmates felt the same, but I always was aware, especially come May, of those who had been at Kent that day.

When I went to college, Ohio University, or better stated Athens Ohio, commemorated May 4th, largely because one of the wounded, Dean Kahler, was an Athens councilman.  He would roll up on his wheelchair and share his experience from that day.  He would often say that he was lucky not to be Kent State #5.  It was easy to think was overdoing it, a bitter man not being able to let go.  But I couldn’t, still can’t imagine, how I would deal with becoming a paraplegic.  I’ve long since decided that he was doing the best he could and if that meant letting out the bitterness every May 4th, then so be it.


As the years have passed, especially since seeing Mr. Kahler, Kent State isn’t quite in the forefront of what I think when I hear the date, but it’s never too far away.  May the fourth be with you.  It most certainly is with me.

History of the United States Podcast #12


and yet again I’m much later than I wanted to be with this podcast.  This time around, we wrap up our discussion of slavery in the early colonies and move on to the other major colonial area, New England.  take care and let’s hope I’m doing more in a week or so!

History of The United States Podcast #10 (The Process of Slavery.)

Wow, only 10 (ish) days since the last one! I have to apologize in advance.  I think I was remarkably tired when recording this and I had a horrible case of the “ums” and “ahs.”  I sound like William F. Buckley’s illigitimate child.  Anyway, more discussion of slavery, how it came to be, how it was performed and used as a method of industry.  Not exactly the most cheerful thing you’ll be listening to, but necessary to understand…The History of the United States!


The History of the United States: Podcast 7.


Still need to get on the ball a little sooner, but I’m getting there!  In this “week’s” podcast we go over the other major player in European expansion into the Western Hemisphere, the French!  We also continue the discussion of Spain and how their actions in Europe affect things in the New World.  Enjoy and see you in…a week?