Brian Slator: big-time Batman fan.
And, sorta like Bruce Wayne, Slator is cool on the outside and sports an impressive array of hidden talents and tastes. He’s is a faculty member in NDSU’s computer science department, where he has been department head since 2007 and where he has done research on immersive virtual environments and games used for science education. He’s part of a group that has won several million dollars in grant funding to do this research, and he’s commercializing that research through a company called WoWiWe; they’ve recently developed a game called Virtual Cell which allows you fly around 3D renditions of cells.
Slator is also an author, voracious reader, TV watcher, theatre buff, and movie goer. He completed a novel, Chapters, earlier this year and it’s available through Amazon. It’s set in the 70s and, he said, “it’s a ripping good yarn, if I do say so myself.”
What book/music/movie/artwork really gets you going? Why?
I turned 60 last fall which, when you do the math, reveals I was in high school during the 1960s, and draft bait during the latter part of the Nixon administration and the Viet Nam era. I was a citizen of that decade. In addition, this calculates to being born in 1952, a ‘year of the Dragon’ in the Chinese calendar, and the ‘busiest’ year of the Baby Boom, the year when the most boomers were born, amongst the biggest bursts of human population in the history of this planet. If you are my age, you can guess what comes next.
Books? Anything by Hunter S. Thompson or Tom Wolfe. Influences: Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Dos Passos; plus James Joyce and William Shakespeare. At one point I read all the Sherlock Holmes stories, and later everything by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I have an almost complete collection of Man from U.N.C.L.E. paperbacks.
Music? Early: Beatles/Stones/Who/Animals; Later: Clapton/Springsteen/Allman Brothers, plus all the legacy influences: Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King.
Movies? I have always been a sucker for the ‘band of buddies’ story. So, my top ten list of movies includes The Great Escape, Kelly’s Heroes, Fistful of Dollars, Three Days of the Condor, The Electric Horseman, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Butch Cassidy, Outlaw Josie Wales, plus a couple more, and an undeserving sentimental favorite, Steelyard Blues.
In the 1970s and 1980s I was involved with AHC Productions, an amateur film cooperative. We got a couple of short films screened at film festivals: Eye of the Holy See and Tarzan Jr. and the Cuban Mercenaries. You can look them up on IMDB.
What artist, musician, etc., inspires you the most? Why?
If a young Bob Dylan and a young Bruce Springsteen were somehow combined with Bonnie Raitt and Arthur Rimbaud, that would be an inspiring and surreal mix of poetry and music. Leonardo Da Vinci as an action hero is a compelling idea, too.
What’s something you saw or heard recently that you would recommend to others?
The most amazing movie I have seen in a long time is Howl (2010). I missed the Joffrey Ballet doing Stravinksi’s Rite of Spring with the Najinksy choreography. Bummer. There is a TV critic who writes a daily column that never fails to amuse and enlighten. Kevin McDonough is excerpted in the Forum and appears online as Remote Patrol. I recommend this.
What local artist, musician, writer, etc., do you admire, and why?
Right now my favorite local artist is Katy Cox. I work with her and she can do absolutely anything.
My all-time favorite local artist is Christina Johnson. Christina and I go back. Did you see her recent piece in the Rourke Show, Waiting for the Male? Awesome! I was the model for that piece, by the way. I enjoy the theater and have an affinity for Theatre B on Main Street: the Horviks and the Wintersteens are the bees knees, and Brad Delzer directed a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that I thought was stellar.
Of course NDSU is a tremendous source of local art, music and theater. I gravitate towards the theater productions, but I have been to plenty of choir concerts too. Favorite local Middle Eastern Dance troupe, you ask? Why, my favorite by far is the Shimmy Sisters who are having their annual show in the Beckwith Recital Hall at NDSU on Saturday, September 21st, 2013. Local writer? I wish I knew Louise Erdrich. She writes great books and she is from around here. I almost know Lin Enger, over at MSUM, who I admire although we have never met. I met his wife some years ago, and he was advisor to my son-in-law–that’s almost a relationship.
I used to enjoy reading Mike McFeely when he was with the Forum, although I wrote to him once and he accused me of being a UND fan. When my wife heard about this, she said, “You’re a UND fan like Mike McFeely is a rocket scientist.” I only tell that story because I am sure Mr. McFeely would see the humor. And, I enjoy reading Tammy Swift, whom I have also never met. She was scheduled to interview me once, when we won a big research grant, but it did not come together. Then she worked at NDSU for awhile, and I thought FOR SURE we would cross paths, but we never did. Then one day I saw her walking near the HoDo and I said to my boss, “Look, Tammy Swift!” And he said, “Not exactly a celebrity sighting, Brian.” And I said, “Maybe not for you!” Oh, and that Kris Kerzman? Brilliant! (Oh, STAHP! – ed.)
Any guilty pleasures you’d like to share?
So many, too numerous to list. High concept TV: Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, Breaking Bad. Teen TV: One Tree Hill, Teen Wolf, Buffy reruns, Gilmore Girls reruns; Twins baseball, Vikings football; rainbows, unicorns, long walks on the beach. I own a 1973 Triumph 750 that I ride when the opportunity affords itself.
And, when nobody is watching I write fiction and inhabit the life of the imagination, the inspection of the mysterious, the modern mythology, some optical illusions and paranoid delusions, multiple contusions, various confusions, fictional reality, and realistic fiction – with just enough history thrown in, real and imagined, to keep events in context.
Image: Brian Slator outside the Technology Incubator at NDSU’s Research and Technology Park, where his entrepreneurial venture, WoWiWee, has its offices. Photo by the author.