?

Log in

Previous 10

Feb. 1st, 2016

atom

Louis Cohen (July 1, 1905 - February 1, 1956)

It's hard for me to believe, but 60 years ago today my maternal grandfather Louis Cohen died of multiple myeloma far too young.. (On the Hebrew calendar, Louis died on 19 Shevat 5716, so his yahrzeit was a few days ago.)

Sadly, I never knew him. I'd like to share his story.

Louis Cohen was born in Ukraine. I've seen his birth certificate; it's in Russian.

Louis emigrated to the United States when he was around the age of six or seven years old, with his parents, Jacob Cohen & Yetta Sokolovsky, and his younger sister, Molly Cohen. The family settled in Brownsville, a neighborhood in Brooklyn that was attracting a lot of Jewish immigrants and was considered a nicer place to live than the Lower East Side. Jacob got a job delivering canisters for soda water, and eventually he bought the business. My mom remembered that he made his deliveries driving a green truck.

Although Louis did not know English when he emigrated, he picked it up very quickly. Apparently, as a child he started school in a special class in which the students mostly did arts and crafts. But with his ability to learn English quickly he soon moved into a regular class. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School, went on to Pace Institute for two or three years, and became an accountant. He began keeping the books for his father Jacob.

In 1929, his parents bought a house in Flatbush for the whole family, located at 817 East 45th Street between Avenue D and Foster Avenue. On June 1, 1930, Louis married my grandmother Clara Baker in Boston. They were fourth cousins; either their grandfathers or great grandfathers were brothers. After they got married, they moved in with his parents. Furthermore, my Mom's aunt Molly married Irving Bell, a dentist who went to Tufts Dental School, and they also lived in the Jacob Cohen house. Apparently it was not uncommon for a large extended family to stay under one roof for such a long time.

Louis and Clara had two children. My Mom was born in 1936 and my uncle Robert was born a few years after.

Sometime in the 1940s Louis joined the Masons. As he was in his thirties, he was a little too old to be drafted into World War II. In fact, he kept missing the window to be drafted, for which he was very grateful.

Around 1945 Louis joined the law firm of Morrit & Eisenstein and did their accounting and the accounting for their clients. Later on, lawyer Fred Johnson also joined the firm, and the four of them worked very closely together. Mom tells me that Fred Morrit was a State Senator and a songwriter, but I haven't been able to find much information about him, or about Morris Eisenstein.

One thing that makes me proud of my grandfather has to do with his support for my mom. In the 1950s, there was no major emphasis on women's education, but Louis supported Mom's education wholeheartedly. He was very proud of her, and even though he didn't want her to leave home he did support her decision to attend Mount Holyoke college. Mom only spent a year there, though, because soon after she started college Louis died. When that happened, Mom came home and transferred to Barnard so she could live with her family.

Louis died of multiple myeloma at age of 50, knowing that he had helped raise and support two wonderful children. Sadly, both of Louis's parents were still alive when he died. They passed on themselves in the early 1960s, while my mother was in law school.

I remember him.

Jan. 31st, 2016

book-cover

Podcast: Take Me To Your Reader - Featuring Me

Take Me To Your Reader #36: I Remember the Future (Interview With Michael A. Burstein)

So, if you'd like to spend an hour and a half listening to me talk about the KAS Creations Film & Media production of "I Remember the Future" here's your chance! The folks at the podcast were really cool, and I had a blast doing the interview. Here's some of what I talked about, as noted on their website:


• Michael’s history as a writer and a science fiction fan
• The history of the I Remember the Future collection of Michael’s award-nominated fiction (featuring, naturally “I Remember the Future”)
• How to best preserve the legacy of the Big Three (Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein)
• High Energy Physics! (yes, we’re nerds)
• The vagaries of forgetting one’s had a story optioned for a film.

(That last one is actually amusing. I had forgotten that I had licensed the film to KAS Creations until 530nm330hz called me up and asked if I had granted a license to an Australian filmmaker. At first I said no, and then said, "Wait a minute! Yes!" And I'm very glad I did grant the license.)

If you do listen, enjoy.

Jan. 28th, 2016

atom

Challenger Anniversary - 30 Years

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy, the day when the space shuttle exploded and NASA lost seven astronauts: Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. Their sacrifice is memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery.

For the people of my generation, the Challenger tragedy was our equivalent of the Kennedy assassination. Because a schoolteacher, McAuliffe, was on board, many schools had chosen to show the launch live to their students over television. The launch took place around 11:30 AM EST, and seventy-three seconds into the flight, the shuttle exploded. People were confused at first, but it soon became clear that NASA was experiencing what they euphemistically refer to as an LOCV: loss of crew and vehicle.

I didn't see the explosion live, but I still remember that day vividly. My own story is as follows. I was in 11th grade at the time at Hunter College High School. One of our school's Chemistry teachers, Francine Salzman, had applied for the Teacher-in-Space program but not been accepted. So we were all keenly aware of the meaning of the launch.

The school's lunch period took place from 11:10 AM to 12 noon, if I remember correctly, and after eating lunch I went to hang out in the school library with friends. I was sitting in the front area of the library when my friend Christina Sormani walked in and asked if I had heard the news about the shuttle. I said no, and she told me that it had blown up during the launch. I protested that she was kidding, and she assured me that she wasn't.

I realized she was serious and I started to cry. I cried so much that Tina thought I personally knew one of the astronauts. I didn't, of course; at the time, like all of us, the only one I could actually name was McAuliffe. But I was crying for them nevertheless, and for the dashed hopes and dreams of an entire human race that yearns to go to the stars. I knew that this would cause a major setback in our space program; and I could only hope that it wouldn't crush it entirely.

That afternoon, when we got home, there was an ironic coda. My father had been applying to the Journalist-in-Space program, and on that very day we received the postcard from NASA indicating that all his applications materials were in. And years later, in 2003, McAuliffe and my father were my own inspirations as I applied unsuccessfully to be an Educator Astronaut.</span>

Jan. 25th, 2016

atom

Pangaea II - A New Kickstarter

Last year, I was part of an anthology called Pangaea edited by Michael Jan Friedman. As I recounted in the blog post Pangaea – The Anthology, Michael had come up with the idea of an alternate Earth in which the supercontinent had never broken apart. He invited a bunch of writers to contribute stories to this new shared world, and we were delighted to do so.

The anthology was so successful that Michael is doing it again. This time, there's a few new voices in the book, and we're working to share our characters with each other as well as the setting. Also, there's some new developments in the world of Pangaea, as can be inferred from the subtitle: "The Rise of Dominjaron." Who or what is Dominjaron? Well, you'll find out in the book...

Personally, I'm planning to continue the adventures of Betsi and Devora from "The World Together" and I'm excited to have them interact with the characters created by my fellow writers. And I'll be writing two new characters, both of whom will be named by people who support the project, as I've offered two new Tuckerizations. Better move fast, though, as the project went live over the weekend and the first of my two Tuckerizations has already been claimed!

The Kickstarter for Pangaea II can be foiund by clicking on the title. You can go there to get a full description of the book and the project, but here's the list of authors who have agreed to take part: Kirsten Beyer. Ilsa J. Bick. Michael A. Burstein. Peter David. Kevin Dilmore. Michael Jan Friedman. Robert Greenberger. Glenn Hauman. Paul Kupperberg. Ron Marz. Kelly Meding. Aaron Rosenberg. Lawrence M. Schoen. Geoffrey Thorne. Marie Vibbert.

Join us as we explore another world, a world that might have been.
atom

Nine Years Ago Today

Nine years ago today was when my mom, Eleanor Mae Cohen Burstein, died. At the time, I posted the following on LiveJournal and received many, many replies:

Eleanor Mae Cohen Burstein (1936-2007)

She was 70 years old when she died, and I had just had a message from her the day before in which she sounded fine.


I don't really have much to say about her passing today. I've thought about discussing her life a little bit; as many of my friends know, Mom attended Mount Holyoke, Barnard, and Columbia Law School, and in her later years worked as an Administrative Law Judge. She died before she got to meet my children, but she did get to enjoy some of her other grandchildren before she passed on. Although today is the anniversary of her passing on the Gregorian calendar, her yahrzeit was a few weeks ago.


At the time she died, Nomi and I had just joined Kadimah-Toras Moshe, and I remember how everyone came together for us, although many in the community barely knew who we were.


Anyway. I just felt compelled to note her passing, and that I miss her still.

Jan. 15th, 2016

atom

This Day in History, 1919: Great Boston Molasses Flood

Today is the 97th anniversary of:

THE GREAT BOSTON MOLASSES FLOOD

"Shortly after noon on January 15, 1919, a fifty-foot-tall steel tank filled with 2.3 million gallons of molasses collapsed on Boston’s waterfront, disgorging its contents in a fifteen-foot-high wave of molasses that traveled at thirty-five miles per hour. When the tide receded, a section of the city’s North End had been transformed into a war zone. The Great Boston Molasses Flood claimed the lives of twenty-one people and scores of animals, injured more than a hundred, and caused widespread destruction."

The above is quoted from author Stephen Puleo, who has published a wonderful book about the flood called "Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919." It tells the story of what happened and also places the event in historical context. For more information on the book, you can visit his website at http://www.stephenpuleo.com.

Dec. 13th, 2015

atom

Non-Spoiler Review: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (2015)

A few years ago, when Disney announced their acquisition of Lucasfilm, buried deep in the press release was the announcement that there would be new Star Wars movies. This month, the culmination of that announcement is with us, as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" will be released in theatres later this week.

Back in 1999, when "Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace" came out, the hype for Palpatine was so palpable you could cut it with a knife. While the hype for "The Force Awakens" has seemed somewhat more subdued, the excitement among the loyal fan base is unprecedented. People are anticipating once more visiting the Star Wars universe, and asking themselves yet again, will the film deliver?

The answer to that is a definitive yes. For anyone who was a child when they saw any of the other Star Wars films, and for anyone who felt that sense of wonder with the original trilogy or the prequels, "The Force Awakens" delivers. You will feel like that kid again, enjoying a story set in a universe of limitless possibilities.

And if somehow you never managed to see any of the other Star Wars movies, "The Force Awakens" serves as an introduction to a world you will want to visit again and again. If you are familiar with Star Wars already, it will be like coming home; but if you are not, it will be like discovering what your home actually was all along.

(For those of you asking yourselves how I am managing to post this review on the Sunday before its US release, when it hasn't even been screened for professional film critics yet, read the review again and ask yourself that question again.)

(Edited to Add: I may have been too subtle. There is nothing in this review that requires me to have seen the film already. That is, as long as I have faith that I will feel like a kid again. And frankly, that's how Episode I made me feel, even if I did realize in retrospect that it wasn't as good as I had hoped it would be.)

Nov. 19th, 2015

atom

I Remember the Future Film - Now on Vimeo!

Ladies and gentlemen:

It is my pleasure to inform you all that the KAS Creations Film & Media adaptation of my short story "I Remember the Future" is now available to view on Vimeo's Video on Demand. Click on the title to be taken to the film.

The film is eligible to be nominated for the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, and (if you're a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) for the 2016 Bradbury Award. (Nominations have already opened for the Bradbury.)

The film is NOT free to view. You can rent it for $2.99 and watch it within 24 hours, or you can pay $4.99 and purchase the film, which would allow you to download it and/or stream it anytime.

I'd like to thank the filmmaker, Klayton Aaron Stainer, for making the film available in this way, thus ensuring its eligibility for the Bradbury Award and a better chance at a Hugo nomination.

Nov. 2nd, 2015

atom

Joel David Burstein (December 11, 1929 - November 2, 1990)

Twenty-five years ago today, my father died.

It feels odd acknowledging this anniversary today, because time has worn away at the emotional pain and shock I experienced the night my father died. Fifteen years ago, on the tenth anniversary of Dad's passing, my family took out an In Memoriam ad in the New York Times, which Mom appreciated. Today, Mom is also gone, and in a way posting here is much more of an acknowledgement of this momentous anniversary than taking out an ad in a newspaper.

I tend to think Dad was a fascinating person. He was born in December 1929, in the wake of the stock market collapse, and so grew up during the Depression, which affected his outlook for the rest of his life. When he was almost ten years old, he attended the 1939 New York City World's Fair, and fell in love with the visions of the future it presented. He graduated as valedictorian of DeWitt Clinton High School (which was in Manhattan at the time, I think) and started college at Columbia, where he was editor of the college newspaper, The Spectator.

But while he was in his teenage years and World War II was raging, news of the Holocaust came to the United States. My grandfather was a rabbi, and my Dad grew up in a religious household; but the Holocaust caused him to lose his faith in God and to break away from religion.

On the other hand, he felt a strong connection to the Jewish people. In the 1940s he ran guns to the nascent Jewish state of Israel, and then he dropped out of college, never finishing, in order to smuggle himself into Israel and fight in the 1948 War for Independence.

Dad was dedicated to journalism and newspapers. He used to like to quote Thomas Jefferson, who once said that he would rather have newspapers without government than government without newspapers. Dad spent his life working at a whole variety of newspapers in New York City. In the midst of all this, he married his first wife, Evelyn, and had two sons, my half-brothers David and Daniel. Eventually, Dad and Evelyn divorced. He met my mother Eleanor, married her, and had three more sons: Jonathan, Michael, and Joshua.

By the time I knew him, Dad had been working at the New York Daily News for many years. In 1990, the Daily News unions were locked out and so once again went on strike against the owner of the paper, the Chicago Tribune Company. Dad was in the Newspaper Guild union office twenty years ago when he collapsed of a heart attack and was pronounced dead at St. Claire's Hospital. My brothers and I were in the Boston area at the time -- Jon in medical school, Josh and me in college. Jon and Josh were on a train home already because my father's mother had just died the day before, and they were going to NYC to be with my Dad for her funeral. We had no way of knowing that on Sunday, November 4, we would attend one funeral after another, with print and TV reporters gathered with our friends and family, the media there to report on my father's death as another tragic story.

My father was a strong believer in justice, in supporting the powerless against the powerful. Two months before he died, I marched with him in the NYC Labor Day Parade. The Greyhound bus drivers were on strike, and Dad – who always kept an eye on family finances – donated money to their fund without blinking. After he died, I found among his personal papers articles he had clipped about a Mohawk tribe in upstate New York struggling to get a piece of land back from the federal government. Dad always shared stories like that with us, to remind us that the fight for justice was a neverending battle.

Dad had been a reader of science fiction and comic books when he was growing up; by the time I knew him, he mostly read mysteries. But he inculcated in me a love of science fiction, and my one regret about my own writing is that he never got to read it. But his spirit infuses every word I write.

Oct. 21st, 2015

atom

Back to the Future Day - October 21, 2015

Today, for Back to the Future Day, I am... well, it's a regular Wednesday for me. I have to get the kids to school, work, and run errands. And tonight there's a Brookline Reads event at the library.

But somewhere in there I plan to invent time travel. So there's that.

Previous 10

atom

February 2016

S M T W T F S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
2829     

Syndicate

RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com