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Tuesday, 19 September 2017
 
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Interfilk Guest : Ben Newman
Ben Newman Benjamin Newman: Creating coherent chaos wherever he goes
by Merav Hoffman

About ten years ago, at the Millennium Philcon in 2001, I encountered a new filker who had just bought a guitar and was learning to play it, his name was Ben Newman.

Ben and I had an instant kinship. We talked about everything, particularly music, but our beliefs and our desire to tell stories kept rising to the top. We talked about the nature of sentient machines, we talked about seasonal cycles, we even talked about Ben's desire to have a week-long Hobbit birthday party when he turned 33.

Where ideas and stories live, it's a good bet that you'll find Ben, guitar in hand going “Look at this interesting thing I found!” Ben’s songs are all over the map — sometimes they are literally about maps, dragons, quests, love, but there’s never just one concept in any of Ben’s songs. In keeping with A.E. Van Vogt’s theory of writing, that a new idea should crop up every 800 words, Ben reveals new vistas with every verse, leading on you on a storyteller’s journey.

One of Ben's greatest joys in sharing his work is watching people start to catch on to what he's doing. Sometimes you’ll think you’ve caught on, but you won’t realize why everyone else on the other side of the circle is laughing hysterically. Do a quick check — what do the laughing people have in common? Are they all Jewish? Pagan? Computer scientists? Part of the fun of being in a circle with Ben is watching the gleam in his eye as he starts flipping through his songs to find the one he hasn’t shared with you yet that will perfectly cap the current mood of the circle.

Outside of filk, Ben is pursuing a PhD in computer science at Brandeis University (it’s getting away!), builds intricate pipe cleaner creatures, and shares his home with his beautiful and talented fiancée Sarah Hartman, who is a creative force in her own right. Ben has also organized filk programming for Philcon, Concertino, and Pi-con, and is an active participant in the east coast filk community.

If you haven't gone up and introduced yourself to Ben yet, take a minute and walk up. Smile and get to know one of the nicest, most giving, and open-hearted people I've ever met. You'll be glad you did.

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