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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2002/08/24
by David Steinberg

On Golden Tickets

Lately I’ve been struggling to find a good column topic. I’ve written
close to fifty columns now, and the well sometimes runs dry. This
month though I was set. I could write about my softball team’s
incredible run, going from a 1-7 record to winning the championship.
There was sad news from the Widespread Panic camp, and my rediscovery
of their music in the wake of that. There was my plan to save
baseball from itself. Before I could decide which of those to write
about, a different piece of news came out.
It started out as a rumor. Phish was going to play a New Year’s run.
My official philosophy on all Phish rumors is that I was going to
believe them. When you buy a lottery ticket, what you’re really
purchasing is an excuse to daydream for a week about winning. When I
heard a good Phish rumor, I would let myself spend a day thinking
about how I would react to the announcement, about the effort for
tickets, about seeing my tour friends again, about the feeling when
the lights go out. That’s a pleasant day spent. The detractions
would soon come, and I’d go back to thinking of other things.
This rumor wasn’t like other ones though. People who usually would
denounce them were suddenly spreading this one. I found myself
starting to really believe, not just pretend to believe. Then the
news trickled in. There would be a new Live Phish series… and it
would be the amazing Halloween shows! There would be a Phish DVD with
a Curtain With on it! It was one of the best days of Phish news ever,
but soon no one would be talking about the releases. For at 11 AM
Pacific Time on August 14th, there was an announcement on
A mere 676 days after the hiatus began, the end was in site. Not only
was there going to be a New Years run, but a 2003 tour and a studio
album were promised. The long nightmare of the Phish fanbase was
There was only one problem. Between now and December 31st, I have to
somehow get a ticket to this show. This will be a very hard ticket,
along the lines of Radio City Music Hall [1]. As a result once again
my thoughts turned to Willy Wonka. With a full month between the
announcement and mail order, tension has time to mount. There are
some 20,000 Golden Tickets. What does Willy Wonka have to teach us
about the way to get one?
As you might recall, six people got Golden Tickets. They all did so
in different ways, each have their advantages and pitfalls. I think a
refresher course is in order. In the order they found their tickets,
here are the six and what they represent in the Phish world.
1: Augustus Gloop
Augustus really gets attacked unfairly in this movie. Think about it.
This is a movie about a candy manufacturer. There’s an entire song
about how great Willy Wonka is because he makes junk food. Isn’t it a
little hypocritical to make fun of Augustus for liking to eat?
In the Phish world Mr. Gloop is the tour veteran. He’s been to two or
three hundred shows. He has a lot of connections and friends and uses
those to get in.
2: Veruca Salt
"I wanted to be the first to find a Golden Ticket Daddy"
We all know the Verucas of the world. She spends hundreds of dollars
on attempts to get tickets. We all hate her, but how much of that is
jealousy from the fact that she can afford to buy front row tickets
from an agency? *3: Violet Beauregarde *
"Well, I’m a gum chewer normally. But when I heard about these ticket
things, I laid off the gum and switched to candy bars instead. Now of
course I’m right back on gum."
During the hiatus some people have moved away from Phish. They’ve
discovered other bands that do it more for them. In all of the
excitement of the return, there is some curiosity about Phish. Will
they go back to gum or stay with chocolate? Early January will have
the answer to that.
4: Mike Teevee
"Hey Mom, we’re on tv. Hi everybody in Marble Falls. Hi Billy! Hi
Maggie! Hi Fishface!"
Mike Teevee is the guy who everyone who is shut out hates. He’s just
there for the scene. For years, he’ll gloat about how he was there.
He won’t remember much about the music, but he knows that people will
be jealous of him. If he gets really lucky, maybe he could score some
drugs too. *5: Alberto Minoleta *
Got a fake ticket. Was shut out. It happens.
6: Charlie Bucket
"But I am different. I want it more than any of them."
Charlie got in through sheer perseverance. No he didn’t have the
money to buy lots and lots and lots of candy bars, no he didn’t have
connections, but he just kept on trying. When did he get his ticket?
After everyone else thought they were all gone. Desire doesn’t seem
like that much, but sometimes it’s enough.
In the movie everyone but Charlie is shown to have the wrong reasons
for being there. However, the movie is quite judgmental; how many
people really think that chewing gum a huge sin? All of the
characters have their place. Even the rich kids and scenesters have
their place. Their money is the wheel that keeps the Augusti on the
There is going to be frustration over these tickets. People who are
shut out are going to throw around insults at those they deem
unworthy. Heck, if I get shut out, I might be one of the insulters
myself. However, we really can’t blame anyone for trying to go.
Golden Tickets are out there to be found, and they contain a
message, "In your wildest dreams you could not imagine the marvelous
SURPRISES that await YOU!" Who can resist that call.
If you do get shut out, just remember this. Phish are back! The world is
sane again! We have many tours to look forward to in our future. As
for now, I hope to see you guys inside the Garden.
[1] My theory is that about twice to three times as many people will
try to get tickets to this show as compared to Radio City Music
Hall. However there will be about seven times as many tickets
available. RCMH should keep its crown as the hardest Phish ticket
ever; this show will be in second place.
David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New
Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live
music at the Capitol Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His
Phish stats website is at
and he was the stats section editor for
The Phish Companion.

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