Saturday, May 26, 2007

blogger interview #5 - Richard Kamins

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how my friend, Richard Kamins, had given me a shout out on his blog, See! Hear! which is featured on The Hartford Courant's web site. I'm returning the favor and getting some free labor out of him at the same time by featuring him as #5 in my ongoing series of blogger interviews.

Richard has known me forever. I thought he was a cool grown up when I was a kid and then, as I grew up, he just became a cool friend. He's a writer, a husband, a dad, a former business owner, a wine expert, a community leader and a really big music fan. And he's a good interview. Thanks, Richard.

So, Richard, how did you get the gig with The Hartford Courant?

I have written a column ("SEE! HEAR!") for the Middletown and Shoreline editions of The Hartford Courant since 1997. It came into being as part of a short-lived "Middletown Extra" section that was started by the paper to compete with The Middletown Press. But the section did not bring in enough ad money so it was dumped a year later. The Courant then decided to keep 5 of the columnists from that section and fold them into the Greater Middletown ("Town") edition.

Did you pitch them or did they come to you?

I didn't pitch it as much as complain about the poor editing job they were doing on my column. I write a lot because, most of the time, there's a lot going on and they edit a lot and much of the spirit of the column disappeared in the edits. I said, "You know, you could print the whole thing online." They said "No." I went off to Israel (for vacation) sure I was going to quit once we returned. Instead, I was called to a meeting and asked if I wanted to write a blog on the newly-expanded The Courant had taken a hard look at its readership and saw waning interest in the print copy from the 25-48 year old category. They're still dealing with the look of the website.

What were your intentions with the blog?

The blog allows me to "fill out" my column, list more events that are going on in the area, allowing more space for the small venues. I was also hoping to do more reviewing of CDs and books and open the "scope" of the column to events outside the area.

Has the blog evolved since you started?

Somewhat - I feel the urge to be more "political", especially in the light of current events. I heard an interview with Professor Anthony Braxton (who teaches at Wesleyan) in which he described his current music as being "political." That certainly begs lots of questions, but since I am quite interested in the creative process, I am curious to understand how the state of the world effects those who "make art", from music to movies to poetry to novels, etc.

How much direction does the Courant give you as far as what you write about?

None - I was given to understand my print column was quite '"popular" and this would be the opportunity to expand upon it, in a way that would be interesting to an audience the Courant is hoping to attract to its website. Feedback has been sporadic but positive. Sporadic because a good portion of the posts deal with local events.

Is See! Hear! your first and only blog?

It is.

How would you describe it?

On one level, it's an "arts preview" page - here's what's going on. The subtext is that I want readers to understand that there are many opportunities to get away from the big-screen "hi-def" in their living rooms and see "live" entertainment, to have interaction with artists and performers, to provide feedback (even if it's only applause) to the creators and the venues, and to help support the creative process. Many of the events that go on at Yale and Wesleyan and other colleges (as well as the local libraries and museums) in the area are free, so what's the excuse not to go look once or twice? (Yes, I'm an idealist.)

In the more than two decades that I have known you (gulp), you have always been a writer. Where does blogging fit into your identification as a writer? What do you get out of writing the blog? Do you still do other writing? Do you feel like the blog gets in the way of your other writing or does it encourage you to do more?

I'll answer this in reverse order. Yes, it gets in the way of my creative writing but doing research for the column opens up so many new doors and exposes me to so many other opinions and people that when I do write, I feel my voice and clarity are sharper and clearer. I just don't do a lot of "other" writing. But I have been involved in more theater lately and the process of self-editing my column has helped me focus on "editing" my characters on stage. Does that make sense? My focus is stronger because I want the reader or viewer to understand what I am saying.

Blogging obviously allows me to write anytime about any topic I choose (that fits within the parameters I've set for the column.) I hope it show that I think about how to describe the art and artists I write about. Blogging is part of my continuing growth as a writer - it exposes my weaknesses (and strengths, too) and allows me to work on being a better writer.

Where do you write most of your posts?

At my desk at home.

Is there a favorite place or time of day for posting?

I write mostly in the morning and (sometimes) very late at night.
Do you have any special rituals?

No, except in the warmer weather, I turn on a fan to get air moving in the room. Otherwise I open the windows. In the winter, I just sit and write. Mostly, I want to be comfortable when I'm sitting down.

Do you have a favorite blog that you read on a regular basis?

Do the Math, produced by the group Bad Plus. I don't love their music, but Ethan Iverson is a very good writer and interviewer. Also, I highly recommend Shadows of a People, part of an ongoing project by saxophonist-composer Matana Roberts.

Is there a new blog that you have discovered in the past month -- besides mine -- that you'd like to recommend to my readers?

The Comics Curmudgeon Someone who takes comic strips to task for all sorts of infractions - it's a goof.

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