Monday, March 29, 2010

Not "Goodbye," just a "See ya later."

Things have been anxious for me lately, hence the lack of posting (and I had done fairly good in 2009).  Part of it is my upcoming wedding (the planning of which is in relatively high gear now and going well), part of it is Day Job (nothing worrisome like losing it, just change in the system) and other things of a more personal nature.

Rather than fret over not posting, I have decided to sign off for a bit in an effort to ease my mind over things that shouldn't cause me anxiety anyway. A sabbatical of sorts.

This is, of course, after I do a little makeover on the blog (nifty new banner, slightly easier to read postings, etc). I've got good timing that way.

25x52 will move to its own blog as planned, I've been playing with that layout as well. I have fallen behind on my donations, but plans are afoot to make that up and post them retroactively. I also plan to have a little addition content on that project as well. With luck, that will roll out at some point in April, and I'll make one more post here announcing it before shutting up for good until at least Autumn.

In the meantime, I'll continue to learn to live, taking a cue from here:

Image © 2010 Christian Berntsen

Right now, though, I'm going to go watch an episode of Doctor Who and go to bed.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Don't smoke, kids. Or maybe smoke, if you're on a break an in a gold metallic suit. Or somthing...

Hmmm, haven't blogged in over a month. Time to rectify that.

And how do we do that? By showing the hypocrisy that is apparently thriving in Star Wars--and it's not George Lucas tellikng us he never promised a third trilogy. Rather, it's via the seemingly innocent C-3PO:

Awkward? Yeah, but even more so when you see this...

(The folks at io9 dug up this bit of evidence.)

What kind of game are you playing, Goldenrod?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Life sucks less because you can make Lemonade

I watched a documentary the other night that wound up having a profound affect on me, it was called Lemonade. The film was about, well, I'll just rip the short version from the site:

What do people who were once paid to be creative for a living do when they’re laid off? They get creative with their own lives. Lemonade is an inspirational film about 16 advertising professionals who lost their jobs and found their calling, encouraging people to listen to that little voice inside their head that asks, “What if?”

You may not be an advertising professional or work in a creative field; and hell, you may not even be on the verge of or even close to losing your job, but it certainly gives you something to think about. With my creative life in flux as it has been the last year or so, and with my leaving BLAM! Ventures--the publishing company I co-founded--last fall, I found the stories of the sixteen people involved at turns moving, enlightening and familiar.

Lemonade creator Erik Proulx is one of those sixteen, he founded the blog Please Feed The Animals to help other advertising professionals transition to new lives. In creating Lemonade, he sought to give hope to those in a position he'd been in three times himself, on the receiving end of a pink slip.

From coffee roasting to painting to gender transitioning, the breadth of change these people have gone through is simply amazing, and demonstrates that the world doesn't end when you lose a job. In fact, it can be the beginning you never knew you needed. Here is the trailer: 


One of the best, and most often quoted lines in the film comes from Lisa Hickey, who said:

“Don’t be the person looking for a job. Be the person doing something interesting.”

You can watch the full video here on Hulu. If you've ever thought about what you'd do if you lost your job, or even if you've thought about ditching your job and following your dreams, the 35 minutes is well worth your time.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

25x52: An Update

I missed yesterday's posting, but that's OK (really, it is), because I am in the process of moving 25x52 to its own blog!

After giving it some thought, I felt that what I'm trying to do with 25x52 would be better served in a place dedicated to the idea, rather than thrown in among a mix of other thoughts. I will, of course, cross-post here when I make a new donation, but the details and links will all be on the new blog. The added bonus is I will be able to expand what I cover in relation to my donations and elaborate thoughts on giving and community service in general. And where will that blog be located, you ask? Why, right here:

The link will remain private until I post next week's donation on February 12th (and I'll remind you in those handy cross-posts I mentioned a moment ago) as I'm still figuring out the layout. I found a nice template at Deluxe Templates, which is the first time I've not used a standard Blogger template, and will serve me until such a time as I learn to create one myself, or find a benefactor who would be willing to help fund that particular part of the project.

I will also be changing a couple of things. Actually, those changes have begun already in how I format the posts, and it may continue to evolve over time. For one, I've discontinued posting receipts with my personal info redacted. I have the first few up and I think that's enough. I initially put them up there to both act as proof of what I was doing and be another spur to call others to action by demonstrating the end result, and that it is not that hard to do this if you have the means. 

I also think all the links I placed were too much, so there will only be one on the image I post at the top of the post--which will go to the home page--and one directly to a place on the site where you can donate (if there is such a page, otherwise I will indicate how best to make your donation below the link).

As indicated, I will also be expanding some of the coverage for 25x52, this may include interviews, impact stories and whatever else I can think of. It is my hope the blog will grow over time, and that you will watch and hopefully participate as it does.

I will be making this week's donation during the weekend, but will post it on the new blog next week. Until then, have a great day.

Friday, January 29, 2010

25x52: Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing

Bringing you the authors of science fiction and fantasy.

- from the AISFP main page

Why I chose Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing:
A little over a year ago I discovered Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing via Lou Anders, editorial Director of Pyr Books. Lou or one of his authors was being interviewed and I decided to tune in. At that point, while podcasts were something I had known about for years, they were something I had never really listened to. After listening to that show, and browsing through some of the archives (along with the recent discovery of another fine podcast, If You're Just joining Us, at about the same time), I became a big fan of the format and of AISFP in particular.

Creator and host Shaun Farrell, along with his charming co-conspirator Sam Wynns, bring humor, love of subject and a truckload of invaluable information every time a new show hits the internet. There is a good-natured chemistry to the hosts, evident in their banter and obvious enjoyment of each others company. An aspiring writer himself, Shaun proves he is also an adept interviewer who honestly enjoys what he does and relishes the chance to learn something new during the time spent interviewing authors. Sam brings her lifelong passion for reading and all things science fiction and fantasy to the show, along with her quick wit and her other passion: teasing Shaun.

And while Shaun and Sam have a good time together, the real heart of AISFP are the interviews. Each episode brings such luminaries as Michael Moorcock, Robert J. Sawyer, Neil Gaiman and Larry Niven. Newer writers such as Tobias S. Buckell, Mary Anne Mohanraj and Thom Lloyd are also featured, as well as publishers, editors, retailers. And while the focus is on publishing, there are the occasional jaunts into other media with interview subjects such as musician Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica) and TV writer/producer Joseph Mallozzi (Stargate: Atlantis). Hey, I was even interviewed (briefly) for a project I'm involved in this past fall, which was very exciting for me. So, all in all a well rounded, well produced, and very fun program (my minor participation notwithstanding).

One of the reasons I began 25x52 was not only to give to charities who needed help, but also to support worthy personal and artistic endeavors that entertain and enrich our lives. AISFP fits that bill for me and many others. I have been given hours of enjoyment, and learned more about writing in the past year than I have since, well, probably the rest of my adult life. The show had a rough 2009, with Shaun Farrell moving and changing careers, and episodes more sporadic than in previous years. But friends have stepped into to help, and Shaun remains committed. So do I. 

I hope you will join us.

(The donation button is on the left side of the main page)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday's Ripe Pears

Haven't posted much of late aside from my 25x52 project. A short one with some old news to rectify that.

Recent movies I've seen: Up in the Air and The Book of Eli.

Verdict: I enjoyed both, but Up in the Air was the better of the two. Both are worth a watch if either appeals to you, though.

The sooper secret show I mentioned a while back, well it wasn't that secret, but it was apparently not well publicized and most people seemed to have had to win a contest to get into. And who did Catherine and I see? Well, Evelyn Evelyn of course. They were performing in a small showcase at the Slipper Room in Manhattan. It was ostensibly their first public performance, but I am skeptical of this. You can search them on YouTube and find a couple of clips. Supposedly they don't like being photographed or filmed (so alas, being the obedient boy that I am,  I acquiesced to their demands of no pictures so all I have to show you is the awning above the Slipper Room's side entrance), but you can see some early footage which I'm not quite certain they are aware of. The twins (for that's what they are, Siamese twins) are a bit sheltered. They didn't speak outside of whispers between each other, or to the host Sxip Shirey, but sang in clear and beautiful voices while looking frightened and lovely and not quite strange but mysterious (yes, mysterious).

The odd thing about it all was even though they don't like pictures, a camera crew was there shooting a documentary on them. Sure, they only shot them from behind, but still.... Catherine and I were briefly interviewed, don't know if we'll make the cut. I'll let you know if we do. (That's funny, too, since we don't like pictures much either, or at least I don't).

Neil Gaiman was in attendance as well, as the twins were the discovery of his fiancee Amanda Palmer and her friend (and my favorite musician) Jason Webley. We actually didn't participate in the contest to get a spot in the audience (which was to draw Siamese animals, or some such thing), I think we got the invite because of the series of flash stories I wrote recently based on Jason's song titles. But whatever the reason, we had a wondrous time, and were back home at a reasonable hour because the show was at 3pm.

You should follow the link to their MySpace page and listen to their songs, they are quite catchy. An album will be available in March, and if you get a chance, see them in action, they'll be touring this spring.

And that's all I have for you this evening. Good night.

Friday, January 22, 2010

25x52: United Way

From the United Way info page:

“United Way is a worldwide network in 45 countries and territories, including nearly 1,300 local organizations in the U.S. It advances the common good, creating opportunities for a better life for all, by focusing on the three key building blocks of education, income and health. The United Way movement creates long lasting community change by addressing the underlying causes of problems that prevent progress in these areas.”

Organization Homepage:

Why I chose the United Way:
The United Way helps provide people with the opportunity to live better lives. Through their three building blocks of Education, Income and Health they offer support and challenge everyone to do their part in making sure we are all afforded the chance to make it.

One of the best parts of the United Way is that it is a community based organization, with each of the nearly 1300 chapters across the country tackling the issues of its local neighborhoods. By establishing partnerships with local schools, businesses, governments, etc. they are able to serve the needs of the citizenry and bring the community together.

On the national level, the United Way has created partnerships with organizations such as the NFL, which gave them a visible presence in your living room during games--promoting the work they do with the players who come aboard to support them. The organization is also a part of the current efforts to raise funds and bring aid to those affected by the recent quakes in Haiti, which is just one more reason to support them.

Plus, my future sister-in-law works for them, and for me that right there was as good a reason as any to donate (she's good people).

Friday, January 15, 2010

25x52: American Red Cross

From the American Red Cross’ Info Page:

“As part of a worldwide movement that offers neutral humanitarian care to the victims of war, the American Red Cross distinguishes itself by also aiding victims of devastating natural disasters. Over the years, the organization has expanded its services, always with the aim of preventing and relieving suffering.”

Organization Homepage:
Why I Chose the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross is well established and well regarded, offering a host of services to help those is need. I had already picked the Red Cross for week three when the earthquake hit Haiti the other day, so when I went to make my donation yesterday and the option to direct my contribution to relief efforts there came up, that is of course where my money went.

Normally I would only focus on the organization I’m giving to this week, but the situation in Haiti warrants further exploration, and the Red Cross isn’t the only organization out there marshaling its resources. If you plan to give elsewhere, make sure you aren’t being scammed by checking out the organizations credentials first. If you aren’t sure, ask a friend for a recommendation, or head over to Charity Navigator, an organization that tracks and vettes charitable organizations, they currently have a list of groups providing aid to those affected by the current crisis in Haiti.

Donation Page:
The American Red Cross' "Giving and Getting Involved" page

My Donation Receipt:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The 42 Challenge Review...

...will start next Thursday, January 21st 28th. [Because I can't get my act together, so I'll have two reviews then]

While I have finished the first book I was planning to review (Mary Robinette Kowal's debut story collection Scenting the Dark and Other Stories), my unexpected trip into New York City on Tuesday sort of knocked me for a loop, shifted my plans and further exacerbated my already wonky sleeping schedule. The concert we saw (that sooper-secret show I mentioned before, which may not have been as sooper secret as I assumed, more on that later) was well worth it, but trips into NYC always leave me tired and usually with headache, this one being no exception.

Rather than throw something together and possibly give a less than well thought out review, I've decided to hold off another week and get my balance back. In addition to Scenting the Dark I've already got a bunch of stuff lined up to absorb and review from various media (books, TV shows, music), and look forward to sharing them with you.

Don't be disappointed, the world isn't going to end because of this. I've delayed that, too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday’s Unique Music

The week got off to an interesting start, as two music related events greeted me on Monday morning.

The first, which I don’t think I can really talk about (I’ll have to confirm with the person who made the offer), prompts me to visit New York City today with Catherine for a secret concert—which I should be attending shortly after this posts (the wonders of scheduled blogging, you know). I’ll let you know how it went later, and reveal the deal if it’s not a sooper-secret event and I’m allowed to tell you all. I know for sure I won’t have pictures to offer, as they have asked attendees to refrain form taking any. Bummer, but I only have my iPhone camera which isn’t all that great anyway for high quality pictures.

The other bit of news is that I won a contest. SF Signal, a great news site for all things SF/F related, ran a contest to giveaway three copies of John Anealio’s SciFi Songs CD. SciFi Songs is a collection of Anealio’s science fiction inspired music, among my favorites’ is “George R. R. Martin is Not Your Bitch” which if you don’t know who he is and why he’s not your bitch, is probably not all that amusing (I won’t go into the long backstory here, but it involves Mr. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and a bunch of angry fans). Sadly, that one is not on the album, but other cool cuts are. You can check out some of his songs on his site. I’ll most likely have a review for the 42 Challenge after I receive it, it should be fun.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The 42 Challenge

Back on my New Year's Day post I named two projects I was going to be undertaking this year (two of several, but what those others are among the unnamed will have to wait for now, they're not ready to play with you, Internet Peoples). The first was my 25x52 giving project, which has now has two weeks worth of goodness under its belt and is rolling along nicely. The second, also numerically inclined, is the 42 Challenge.

While 25x52 was my creation, the 42 Challenge was born of and is curated by Becky of Becky's Book Reviews (and a few other blogs; aside from leaving a comment on her blog announcing my participation, I haven't really made her acquaintance yet, but I will remedy that soon enough). I had heard of it last year and thought it was a neat idea, but didn't give any more thought to it until I saw a link to it again at the end of the year (or two weeks ago, take your pick), when I read her call for 2010 participants. I have been wanting to put up reviews here for a while (along with interviews, so far only one in that category, but hopefully more this year), and this seemed like a nice way to do it and hopefully get a little more traffic the Manifesto's way.

What is the 42 Challenge? Well, the short of it, borrowed from the Challenge's blog, is to...

Review 42 sci-fi related items: short stories, novellas, novels, radio show episodes, television show episodes, movies, graphic novels, comic books, audio books, essays about science fiction, biographies about sci-fi authors, etc. Adapted or abridged works are okay as well.

Keen, no?

Originally, my first entry was going to be a review of Avatar, but everyone's mother has already done one, and I have ever-growing mixed feelings about it to posit any kind of decent review. Instead, I just received a long-anticipated short story collection from Subterranean Press that I'm almost through and can't wait to tell the world about.

Starting next week the 42 Challenge reviews will post on Thursday afternoons, weekly, until I hit the magic number--and maybe beyond if I'm inclined. I'll keep my requisite running list as per the challenge rules on the sidebar somewhere with linked entries to each of the reviews (that'll go up when the first review does).

Until then...

Friday, January 8, 2010

25x52: WFUV

From the WFUV’s Info Page:

“WFUV is a non-commercial, listener-supported public radio station, licensed to Fordham University for 60 years. Serving nearly 350,000 listeners each week in the New York area and thousands more worldwide on the web, and a leader in contemporary music radio, WFUV offers an eclectic mix of rock, singer-songwriters, blues, world and other music, plus headlines from National Public Radio, local news and sports and Metro Traffic.”

Organization Homepage:

Why I Chose WFUV:
To be honest, my betrothed is the real fan here. This is her station when she’s on the road with the radio on. Like the their info page says it’s an eclectic mix of music and programming and one worthy of continuing.

This is actually my second donation to the station. Last year my 23 year old car finally crapped out beyond the point where it was worth fixing (I had only had it for a couple of those 23 years). Rather than just junk it, Catherine suggested I donate it to WFUV, which I did. The process went smoothly except for the tow truck driver getting caught in traffic on the way to our house from NYC so he was a little later than anticipated. I don’t recall how much they got for the car, but I don’t think it wasn’t enough to qualify me for a tax deduction (and even if it was, I’m bad at that kind of thing, so I doubt I would have).

Donation Page:

My Donation Receipt:

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tales of Pending Rejection: Nasty in the Cupboard online

My story Nasty in the Cupboard is now online at Everyday Weirdness. Go read it, it's cool. And so is the site--read that, too.

Friday, January 1, 2010

25x52: The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

From The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Info Page:
“The CBLDF exists to fight censorship and defend the first amendment rights of comic book professionals throughout the United States.”

“The CBLDF's guiding principle is that comics should be accorded the same constitutional rights as literature, film, or any other form of expression.”

Organization Homepage:

Why I Chose The CBLDF:

I’ve been a comic book fan since my early teens. I love the medium and have even produced a few myself. One of the things that constantly comes up in the world of comic books are freedom of speech issues. Like any other form of entertainment, artists are going to come out with things that may offend, and like those others forms of entertainment, they have the right to do so. To take that right away from one group, means that yours could be snatched from you in the future. There's more to it than that, of course, but I don’t want that to happen for the above or any other reason, and that’s why I’ve made this my first 25x52 donation.

Donation Page Direct Link:

My Donation Receipt:

25x52, a new direction

For several years now I have told myself that “this year” I’m going to set aside a few bucks each week and buy a toy. And while I've been known to still occasionally buy toys for myself, these toys were intended for tots. Or rather, Toys for Tots. I would see the signs around my neighborhood during the holidays and think it would be great to be able to come in and put 52 toys into the donation box. Ideally, 52 more kids would have some fun because of me than would have before. It would be great for them, and probably better for me.

Years have passed by, and I haven’t done it once. Fed up with myself, and seeing more and more great things I could be helping out--even in a small way--all through-out the year, I decided to take a different approach this year. Instead of remembering to buy a new toy every week to save for one grand gesture at the end of the year, why not give something each week to someone or some organization who needs it right then.

This, 25x52 was born. It's my small way of helping out. Not just charities, but across a broader spectrum. There are many worthy people and organizations out there, and not all are providing obvious services such as helping the needy. Some are providing enlightenment through art. Others are offering advise on getting through life without charging for it, because they want to use their life experiences to improve and empower others.

With this in mind, my goal with 25x52 is to help support charitable organizations, public service programs, arts programs and, on occasion, individual artists. And rather than doing it anonymously, I'm documenting it here on the Manifesto, in the hope that others may be moved to help out one or more of what I believe are worthy recipients.

I'm excited by this, and look forward to sharing this journey. You will see my first 25x52 donation posted tonight, with a new one every Friday through 2010. See you then.

- Christian

New Years Eve Feast

We stayed home, which is more of a tradition in my family than going out is, and had a grand feast:

We got take out from The Curry Club, an awesome Indian restaurant here on Long Island (should you ever find yourself in the wilds of Suffolk County, and you happen to like Indian food, check it out). Vindalu Chicken, Lamb Boti, Korma Chicken, Vegatable Samosa, Mango Lassi and more. We were stuffed, and had leftovers enough for lunch today, even though it may not have looked much like it:

The evening was topped off with Mimosas (though not being a drinker, I just had the OJ) and New Year's wishes all around.

2010, the year of giving...

Happy New Year to all!

So, you've all had about 16 hours at this point to break your resolutions--16 hours in my time zone at least, some of you have had over a day.

As for the passing year, it was more rough than smooth. Some people had a very good year, though, which is promising for the rest of us. It means that even in tough times good things happen. 2009 was an up and down year for me personally. I got engaged, left the publishing company I co-founded, was lucky enough to have my Day Job at the end while others there were not so fortunate, and watched loved ones lose theirs.

Once again I have high hopes for the New Year. 2010 promises new challenges and the next phase in an exciting adventure I started three years ago when I met my beloved. Our wedding is this May, the 15th to be exact. It's going to be an awesome event which I'm sure I'll share here.

Along with my wedding, my departure from BLAM! Ventures enables me to re-prioritize my writing life, my creative life really. I'm not going to go into all that right now, rather I'll follow Derek Sivers advise on handling that.

I will let you in on two things I'm doing, though:

The 42 Challenge. This is something I discovered only yesterday, but it coincided with something I've been wanting to do for a while now, and just haven't had the time to do. So I've signed myself up for it and should have something posted in the next couple of weeks towards this.

25x52. This one is personal, of my own creation, and why I've christened this the year of giving. It's about giving back--which in many respects has been a lacking quality in my life--and a reassessment of where I'm at. I'll have more on this in another post to follow tonight, along with my first donation of the year (which I just made a little while ago).

With that, I will wish you all a Happy New Year once more, and I look forward to taking on 2010!