Posted by Dani Kollin
Have you ever stared at a painting, transfixed? Been momentarily lost in a few notes of music so expertly strung together it’s as if, caught in that moment, you were swept up into sound itself⎯a note among hundreds eagerly rushing towards the next crescendo? Have you ever been moved by a work of such grace and inspiration that the experience of it left you exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time?
We are all emotional creatures. Our lives are consumed with the collection of visceral highs. Some through sex, others through sports, most through cinema, and all through love. Emotions rule the day and emotional maestros, our hearts.
Ray Bradbury was one such emotional maestro; was my emotional maestro. Not just an expert storyteller, but also a master craftsman. You didn’t read Ray; you lived Ray⎯such was the power of the master’s pen.
The world has lost an inextricable force of nature. Though we have his words to console us and his vision to guide us it was his voice that enthralled. A voice now silenced forever.
6.6.12 at 11:18 pm | Understanding The Power of Ray
5.17.12 at 2:13 pm | Of four novels written, three are dominated by. . .
12.21.11 at 11:07 am | Artist Jeffrey Schreir Describes Why He's Pumped. . .
12.20.11 at 1:11 pm | Happy Hanukkah from the other reindeer.
12.13.11 at 12:15 pm | Award-winning Author Naomi Alderman Gets Tapped. . .
11.18.11 at 11:03 am | Forgive me father for I have punned
12.13.11 at 12:15 pm | Award-winning Author Naomi Alderman Gets Tapped. . . (25)
10.5.11 at 9:05 pm | How one man transformed the information. . . (3)
12.20.11 at 1:11 pm | Happy Hanukkah from the other reindeer. (1)
May 17, 2012 | 2:13 pm
Posted by Dani Kollin
Well, we’ll suppose the best way for a couple of rabbi’s sons to talk about why, as guys, they created a universe dominated by women — would be to start with a quote from a friar discussing the ramifications of a gospel of Jesus.
“[Sometimes] it’s useless to try to change things. You can be open to reconciliation, but you have no control over whether someone will reconcile with you. Part of this process is embracing your own powerlessness. Letting go is paramount.”
The good friar (best-selling author, James Martin, SJ) was talking about Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” doctrine. He also adds that contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be victimized – au contraire. Rather it means you should strive for an “unconquerable benevolence.” All of which can ultimately lead to freedom and happiness.
Right — but what’s all that got to do with the women of The Unincorporated universe? Turns out, a lot — especially with regards to freedom and happiness. Any writer will tell you that a good story practically writes itself. Leaving aside all the blood, sweat and tears that came before the “writing itself” part, we’d say, that’s true. But what happens when your story’s written itself into a glass jar and then sealed itself off with a couple of pissed-off scorpions (the protagonist and antagonist) trapped inside? That’s what happened to us by the time we pushed past our first novel, The Unincorporated Man and found ourselves at the end of our second, The Unincorporated War.
In short, male thinking was incapable of moving our story forward. And arguably our kick-ass Fleet Admiral J.D. Black, introduced in book two, was more guy-like than girl; certainly in her methods if not her motives. If we ever wanted to arrive at the promised land of freedom and happiness for the Unincorporated universe we were going to need some of that unconquerable benevolence the good friar was referring to. Sadly, that’s a trait woefully lacking in men in general and ours in particular (see: scorpions above). Women, on the other hand, seem to have it in abundance.
All this begs the question: can you create a J.D. Black or David Weber’s Honor Harrington without their necessarily being labeled “guys with boobs”? We honestly had no idea. We did, however, recognize that because women tend to think about and resolve conflicts differently than men, we’d need at least one to figure out how to get our trapped scorpions out of the jar before our story spiraled into nothing but an interstellar slug fest. Don’t get us wrong, slugfests are good, we dig Military SF; just not when it comes at the expense of the Unincorporated universe’s overarching theme of freedom and personal responsibility.
So, having resolved to introduce a strong female protagonist into our universe (and for good measure, equally dependable female support) we showed her the jar with the fighting scorpions, stood back and waited to see what her “unconquerable benevolence” could do for us. We didn’t have to wait long — she kicked in the glass. (Now why didn’t’ we think of that?)
It was love at first write. Suddenly we were no longer confined to the sort of jarhead mentality that necessitates even bigger and more badass weapons, because we now had the ultimate weapon at our disposal — unpredictability. It’s not a jab at women; it’s a compliment. Whereas a male commander, especially in time of war, brooks little or no disagreement, a woman similarly situated not only brooks it, she tends to encourage it. Certainly all the great ones did. We studied Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth I, and Margaret Thatcher to name but a few. We were less interested in their politics than we were in how they managed to make things work. All were wartime leaders, all ruled over a group of cantankerous, scheming ideologues (mostly with oversized egos) and all succeeded admirably where lesser men had failed. We also delved into the history of Celtic woman — fearsome warriors and learned Druidesses venerated for their beauty as much as their brains. We think it’s safe to say that the women who emerge in The Unincorporated Woman are a combination of all of the above.
As a final denouement, we made the main female protagonist a skeptical agnostic, figuring that it might be good to have one around in the midst of what was threatening to become a religious crusade. Thus situated, the story began to once again, “write itself.”
The funny thing is, even if in the end we got our women wrong, just trying to think like one helped us immeasurably. We believe the characters to be richer, deeper and ultimately more interesting than those that preceded them. Are they badass? Yes — in some ways, even more than the men they’ve replaced. Are they men with boobs? Decidedly not; for the simple fact that they’d never let us write them that way.
There’s an old saying that behind every great man is a woman. We disagree. Behind every great man is usually another trying to best him. But behind every great woman, we discovered something quite extraordinary — a group of friends (of both sexes) working together to make her even greater. We can work with that
December 21, 2011 | 11:07 am
Posted by Dani Kollin
My wife forwarded me this incredible image of a gas pump menorah. I decided to track down the artist, Jeffrey Schrier and get his take on the unusual creation:
My dad and uncle had a gas station and garage business together, Sol and Joe’s Service in Cleveland Heights. Between the two families there were (are) six boys who as teens saving for college, all pumped gas for customers and helped to fuel and park in the garage, the enormous busses of their largest client, the Cleveland Hebrew Academy. I still recall pumping gas through the heavy aluminum gas pump nozzles gripped at hip height for a largely Jewish clientele often seen at Temple gatherings. In my childhood home there were two 1920’s torchier lamps handed down from my baube Anna. They had tiers of greenish agate set into heavy, ornate metalwork for the bases.
I felt so at home with making an assemblage menorah that expresses the transmission of memory and heritage from generation to generation (Dorv’dor), as I combined gas nozzles with an old, ornate lamp base. The old lamp base I used was cast with three lions, easily interpreted as Lions of Judah. The fuel nozzles are of the kind used on kibbutz in the 1960’s to transfer fuel from large tanks on trucks to farm equipment. Covenant through brit milah was present in my thinking when I elected to use gas nozzles as a primary source material for a body of new works. “Don’t let the lights go out they’ve lasted for so many years….”: We are hugely concerned about wether the stores of oil that rest underground will be able to support our ever enlarging global needs, and so far, for nearly a century many of us have had the privilege of having our lives illuminated by the miracle of oil. How long will the oil last? This assemblage fits with my compulsion for incorporating unusual materials into my work. Check out what I’ve been doing at www.wingsofwitness.org and other ways I recycle for my art.
December 20, 2011 | 1:11 pm
Posted by Dani Kollin
In honor of the 1st day of Hanukkah, I present you with you Rudolph’s first cousin on his mother’s side, Shlomo.
December 13, 2011 | 12:15 pm
Posted by Dani Kollin
You may have noticed the larger than life billboards that started appearing last year in Los Angeles touting someone called, “The Doctor” standing in front of a British police call box. Welcome to the wild and wonderful world of Doctor Who, a British science fiction TV show produced by the BBC that’s been listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-running science fiction television show in the world. It was also deemed the “most successful” science fiction series of all time, in terms of its overall broadcast ratings, DVD and book sales, iTunes traffic, and tellingly enough, illegal downloads. The show’s about the time-travelling adventures of a being known as the Doctor who explores the universe in his sentient time machine called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space). Along with a succession of companions, The Doctor faces down foes while righting wrongs, saving civilizations, and generally trying not to muck up timelines.
And now award-winning author Naomi Alderman, has been given the reins of the newest Doctor’s newest book. What I found compelling was that Naomi had been raised as an orthodox Jew and further, that her first novel, the Orange award winning and controversial “Disobedience,” depicted a rabbi’s daughter from North London who comes out as a lesbian. In short, there’s a rich history brewing in Naomi’s noggin and I, for one, wanted to get inside. What follows is a brief interview:
Q: In what way do you think the Doctor’s sussing of a mystery is Talmudic?
His method is obviously one of chevruta - he doesn’t need the companions to solve things, but he enjoys exploring through discussion.
Q: The Doctor never seems to deal with actual religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc) but rather faux “orders”. Assuming this is done so as not offend, is it possible that the show is missing an opportunity to explore something seemingly fundamental to human nature?
Hmmm, interesting. In fact, there has been some portrayal of actual religion, including a positive portrayal of Buddhism in Planet of the Spiders. But I suspect that the answer is that the UK is a fundamentally not-very-religious country, and that Doctor Who accurately represents our suspicions and our non-confrontational but deep-rooted agnosticism. To go back in history and have the Doctor ‘prove’ that Moses, Jesus and Mohammed didn’t exist would clearly be offensive and far too confrontational for British people. But to have him meet the ‘prophet’ or ‘god’ of an imaginary civilization and find that they are either misguided or plain manipulative I think is a way of saying what - dare I say it? - most British people quietly think about religion: that it’s fine as long as it’s comforting, but shouldn’t be taken too seriously or followed blindly. The Doctor is an atheist hero.
Q: Who do you think the most influential doctor is and why?
I think the most influential Doctor to the show was probably Tom Baker. His era encompassed so many different genres and styles of writing; it was a real time of exploration.
Q: If you could make the TARDIS look like anything other than a police phonebox, what would it be?
I suppose it would be useful to reinstate the chameleon circuits. But having said that, I have been known to lose my own car in a car park or parked on the street, and this would only be more of a problem for me if I could make my car blend into the surrounding environment. So for practicality, I’d keep it as a police box. Or maybe something larger, and more picturesque. Maybe the Giant Wooden Elephant.
Q: Who do you think should be the first female Doctor?
I think I would like to see someone older, someone with gravitas. If Joan Hickson were still around, she would have made an amazing Doctor. Having said that, I’m not campaigning for the Doctor to be a woman. I think the structure of the show has always allowed for strong female characters like Rose, Donna, Leela or Sarah Jane, women who have their own motivations and don’t just follow the Doctor round being in love with him or tripping over and twisting their ankles.
Q: The Doctor always seems to demonstrate the curiosity of a child. How fundamental is that to his nature?
Heh. It’s true actually, even as far back as William Hartnell, he’s unable to resist a mystery or the chance for more knowledge. It’s a wonderfully optimistic and hopeful way of thinking about the world, that the one thing we will always be able to get is more knowledge - even if it’s accompanied by fear and pain.
November 18, 2011 | 11:03 am
Posted by Dani Kollin
I saw the pun on another image. Both the image and the phrasing of the pun were kind of awkward so I found a better picture and rewrote the line. Then I applied a little photoshop magic and voila - really bad Star Wars pun. Don’t hate me, I couldn’t help myself.
November 1, 2011 | 7:08 pm
Posted by Dani Kollin
Imagine waking up to find an extra eye on your face. An extra eye, mind you, when absolutely everybody knows all humans are genetically programmed for just two of those suckers. That, in essence, was what Professor Dan Shechtman, 70, a professor of materials science at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel discovered (no, not an eye, but equally as surprising). In fact, Dr. Dan’s discovery was so implausible that the late Nobel-winning god of chemistry himself, Linus Pauling, argued vehemently that Dr. Shechtman’s data was patently absurd.
So nu? What exactly did Dr. Dan discover? In a word, matter. In more words, matter that absolutely everybody knew couldn’t exist. They’re called quasicrystals because well, they’re crystals all right but they ain’t your father’s crystals. See, science had already accepted that atoms could only be packed one way – in regular but repeating patterns, defined by precise rules. Dr. Dan blew that idea to smithereens when he discovered that they could also be packed together in a well-defined pattern that never repeats.
Well, that put the scientific community into quite a snit. Finding new matter simply wasn’t done, don’t you know. What will the neighbors say? Hide the dog! Spare the children! Cancel our synagogue membership!
It took years for Dr. Dan to convince people who should’ve known better. He even got kicked out of his own chemistry group for bringing embarrassment to the other members (the ultimate geek dis?). Still, the good doctor persevered. After all, the stuff wasn’t going away, despite the fact that everybody knew it wasn’t supposed to be there. Today that matter that didn’t exist is used mainly in hardening steel to unheard of tensile strengths. But more important, Dr. Dan’s quasicrystal discovery has revolutionized our understanding of how atoms arrange themselves. In short, a scientific breakthrough that leaves the door open for previously unimagined material applications, the likes of which are only now being discovered.
So thank you, Dr. Dan. Your discovery may not have been accepted at first but the results of your tenacity and fortitude were finally made crystal clear.
Dr. Dan Schectman Talks About His Award-Winning Discovery
October 5, 2011 | 9:05 pm
Posted by Dani Kollin
He is Apple.
He is Pixar.
He is iPhone, iPad, iPod, iMac and iTunes.
He is every font you see on every computer and smart device in the world.
He is failure redeemed.
He’ll be in the music you listen to, the apps you can’t live without and of course, the finger swipes on your smartphone – everyone’s smartphone.
He’ll be in the movies you have yet to watch, but are guaranteed to love because of their authenticity.
He’ll be in your disappointment when a device advertised to help, hinders instead.
He’ll be there when you finally decide not to let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own.
He’ll be there when you’re ready to put a dent in the universe.
Steve Jobs may have died today but fortunately for us he’ll be back tomorrow.
Steve Jobs is Dead. Long Live Steve Jobs.