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May 25, 2006

the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have

Today is Towel Day, a day when all geeks can carry their towels with them in tribute to the hoopiest frood of them all, Douglas Adams.

I absolutely love that I'm recording an all-geek podcast on this most sacred of days.

Updated: Oh! You know what I love even more? Spending 2.5 hours working on the podcast, then losing the entire thing to some weird confluence of system lockups and crashes.

I'm taking a long, long, long don't-break-anything walk, and I'll try again in the morning. Sigh.

May 21, 2006

dropped to the sun alone

Anne and Ryan were out on Friday, which left Nolan and me to goof off at home when I got back from working on Legion of Super Heroes.

We had big plans: some Magic: The Gathering, a little Brawl, and maybe some OGRE and heads-up poker.

But when I got home, the goddamn pine tree in the front yard dropped a huge ball of pollen down on my car, and I spent the next four hours on the couch sneezing and trying to fight off the allergy-induced headache that felt like it was going to split my head in twain. Good times. Good times.

Nolan ended up playing Diablo II while I watched the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles pwn the Los Angeles Angels of Not Los Angeles Because We Play In Orange County But Our Idiot Owner Wants To Have Los Angeles In Our Name Because He's A Moron.

For those of you who missed the sixth inning massacre, the final board was:

LAD - 16 25 1
LAANLABWPOCBOIOWHLAIOWBHAM: 3 10 2

Of course, the Dodgers did their best to blow their fifteen run lead, by letting Carter come in and give up three hits and a run, and though I normally don't like games that are total blowouts, watching the Dodgers on the winning side of it for a change, and especially at the expense of the stupid Angels who swept us last year, was awesome. I should also add that the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles shutout the Los Angeles Because We Play In Orange County But Our Idiot Owner Wants To Have Los Angeles In Our Name Because He's A Moron to complete the sweep, and move up to 1/2 a game out of first in what is probably the weakest division this side of 7 year-olds playing little league.

Speaking of the Dodgers, yesterday, my dad took me to Chavez Ravine for some LAD vs LAANLABWPOCBOIOWHLAIOWBHAM action, and it was awesome. There are pictures in my buzznet blog, including a shot of Tommy Lasorda, who is the closest to royalty you'll see at Dodger Stadium, who got a standing ovation from our entire section when he walked from his seat to wherever it is you go when you're Tommy Fucking Lasorda and you rule.

Anyway, back to Friday: After the only team on the field worthy of having Los Angeles in their name blew the game wide open, I picked up my bag of comics from Free Comic Book Day, and finally had a look at the books I picked up. Most of them were a solid "meh," but that's the whole point of FCBD: to see new stuff that may not excite everyone, but introduce new readers to new material. If you're a guy like me who is already pretty narrow in tastes, it's unlikely you're going to find much that excites you. However, there were a few things that I really liked that I'll pick up next time I'm at my friendly local comics shop:

The Bongo freebie was also funny (and funnier than the average episode of the Simpsons these days, which is not meant as a backhanded complement) and the Fantagraphics Funnybook was fantastic.

Around ten, my antihistamines finally started to work, and my headache began to subside as it was overtaken by drowsiness. I fell asleep watching Dark City, which is still a hell of a lot of fun to watch, whether you've got a head filled with antihistamines or not.

Today, Anne and I opened up a new front in the War on Shit All Over Our House and Yard (Operation Enduring Yardwork) and pruned the hell out of a tree in the front yard, as well as tearing out all the weeds that had attempted to establish a beachhead in one of our front yard planters. Rain threatened all day today, but never arrived, which was great, because the combination of breeze and humidity provided just the right level of comfort for fighting the forces of Bermuda grass and their allies the tree-looking things that spring up all over the goddamn place. In a fit of planning ahead, I did my best Sean Penn imitation and snorted a whole bunch of Flonase (relax, I have a prescription) before I started the work today, and I was able to work for about five hours before simple exhaustion overcame me (rather than the sneezing and allergy-related misery I experienced Friday night.)

After all my yard work was done, I decided to take a break and play a little poker at PokerStars, so I hopped into a 4-player heads-up sit-n-go (I was inspired after watching the Heads-up Championship on NBC this morning.) I really like those matches, because most of the players at the lower buy-ins are very straightforward (so you know your pair of kings is no good when they bet into you on an A-high board) and you only have to beat two players to win three buy-ins, instead of 8 players in a regular sit-n-go. At one point, my first round opponent had me down to just a few big blinds, but I got insanely lucky and bounced back, tilting him in the process and taking it down. My second round opponent had the classic online tell: he'd check the "check/fold" box when he was in the BB if he didn't like his hand, so I'd call and if he insta-checked, I knew I could bet no matter what on the flop and get him to fold. I rode the right combination of luck and trusting my reads to victory, turning my mighty five dollar buy-in into twenty dollars when I flopped TP and a flush draw with AT and got him to call me with KT when my flush missed.

Okay, now it's time to go watch The Simpsons, in the lame hope that it manges to be funny this week.

Uh, okay, the whole opening bit with the attacking couches? Brilliant. Even if the rest of the show veers off into that weird Jesusland they've been hitting so frequently this season, that was worth the price of admission.

Wait. The baseball bit? Very funny. This "homer is the relationship counselor" bit? The polar opposite of funny. Are they hiring old 1970s sit-com writers? This is like a rejected Three's Company script. Give me another monorail, please. Please, I beg you.

May 18, 2006

catching up, part two

I've been too busy to write about some cool things that I've experienced, recently. I'm taking the next few hours to catch up . . .

Free Comic Book Day

In 2003, I took Ryan and Nolan to Free Comic Book Day at my local comic shop, Comics Factory in Pasadena (Colorado, just West of Hill, if you're ever in the area). It's a great shop, run by people who love comics and really take care of their customers.

FCBD is exactly what it sounds like: a day when you get to choose from a bunch of different comics -- for free -- at your friendly local comic shop. The idea is to get new people interested in reading comics and graphic novels, as well as convincing current readers to give a different book or genre a risk-free try. (Note to industry: how about Free Game Day?)

When I took the kids two years ago, they picked up a bunch of X-Men and Batman and stuff, and were really into comic books for about three weeks before losing interest and returning to Harry Potter (Ryan) and Reading Sucks (Nolan, who has grown into quite the reader in the last 1 months) I, on the other hand, picked up Fables, which is the coolest Vertigo title since Sandman, and found my love of comic books re-kindled. For most of a year, I went into the comic shop twice a month and picked up new books and read them all. I was terribly sad when I had to admit that I couldn't justify the time and money invested, though, and I didn't read much more than a few graphic novels for most of 2005.

So I have a pile of great books from Free Comic Book Day that I think I'm going to read this afternoon, as soon as I finish my writing commitments for today.

Uh-oh. Commence rambling:

I love to watch and read Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I love to play geeky games like Illuminati and Talisman and Frank's Zoo. I love to read comic books, and I wish I had the time to paint 40K armies and go to gaming cons and comic cons and just be a total nerd. I want to go for a hike to Echo Mountain, and I want to go Geocaching. I wish I had time to go out to plays and hear live music and see midnight movies and take my family on trips to see things like Yellowstone and the Smithsonian, or just go to the beach and enjoy one of the reasons we still live in Southern California.

Somewhere in the last couple of years, I've allowed my sense of responsibility and my need to be a good father, husband, and provider completely overwhelm me. I've lost a sense of Balance in my life, and all those cool nerdy things that defined me for so much of my life are struggling to get up there and have the floor, too.

When I went to Free Comic Book Day this year, I felt a connection to some of the happiest days of my life, those days when I sat on the floor at Darin's house and we read Sandman, and Killing Joke, and Dark Knight Returns together. The smell of paper and cardboard and books and that nerd-funk that can't be described reminded me of all the hours I spent in game stores like The Last Grenadier, and the hours I spent at home reading Uncle Albert's and rolling up GURPS characters, just because I could.

I fully realize that an adult with two kids and a mortgage can't have the sort of time and freedom to goof off the way he did when he was a teenager, but I think there has to be some way, even as an adult, to find Balance, and give yourself permission to goof off from time to time. You know that saying, "We don't stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing"? I grok.

Oh, which actually brings up another interesting observation: In On Writing, Stephen King says that you can't expect to be a creative writer if you don't make the time to read. All the really good poker players I know say a similar thing about playing cards: if you don't make time to study your game, and talk with other players who you respect, you can't expect to play your best game. The same thing goes for athletes; they say that Tony Gwynn and Ted Williams took more batting practice than anyone else on their teams, and Michael Jordan spent more time practicing free throws and anyone else on the Bulls. It makes sense, doesn't it?

I wrote earlier today about not having time, and feeling like there isn't enough time for things, and I think the conclusion I've reached from this already-too-long post is that we have to give ourselves permission to make time for the things we really want to do. In my case, I need to have full access to my creative brain. Fear is the enemy of creativity, and I have to just stop being afraid of not providing for my family enough, so, uh, I can write some creative things that will provide for us.

That segues nicely into part three, coming later.

May 8, 2006

limited edition chapbook available SOLD OUT!

Morethanthiscover I wanted to have something new and cool to show off when I went to the Grand Slam Sci-Fi Summit back in March, so I worked like crazy and made a very limited edition chapbook called More Than This, which is a few stories from the Do You Want Kids With That? manuscript (which is a book similar to Dancing Barefoot, but all about stepparenting.)

I wanted it to be something really cool and worth having, so in addition to three stories that I really like, I asked Ben Claassen to do an illustration like the ones he did for Dancing Barefoot, and I asked my stepson Ryan if he'd write a foreword. Luckily for us all, they both agreed, and the result is really cool, if I say so myself.

I only made 200 of these books, and sold 51 58 of them at the convention. Since I gave Ryan and Nolan numbers one and two respectively, that means there are 147 140 left in the whole entire universe, including the far off Dangot (that's pronounced "dang-oh," not "dan-got," which you may have heard) Nebula.

I was only going to make 100 for the convention, but it didn't cost that much to increase the run to 200, and I figured that I'd be able to offer whatever was left on this here website.

See where I'm going with this? I knew ya did!

If you'd like to pick up one of these limited-edition chapbooks, you can use the "Buy Now" button below. I'll sign the chapbook to whomever you want, and number it by hand with my very favorite squishy-handled pen. I'll keep this offer up as long as I have books, and of course I'll refund any orders that come in after they're all gone (assuming they sell out.)

One last thing: in the writing and editing process of Do You Want Kids With That?, my editor and I have come to the conclusion that it probably doesn't work as a full-length book (long story) but will almost certainly work very well as a 60-minute audiobook. So it's quite likely that this will be the only way you can get your hands on this material in any sort of book form.

If you're interested, here are the details:

More Than This - A Personalized, Autographed Chapbook by Wil Wheaton, featuring a foreword from my stepson Ryan.
Length: 20 pages.
Price: $25.00 (includes shipping)

Please allow 3-5 weeks for processing and shipping. At this time, I can only accept domestic US orders (international shipping is a real bitch for a small time operation like mine, and I have to increase the costs quite a bit to justify the extra time and work. Sorry.) If you have questions, put them in comments, so I can sort of FAQ it up. Thanks.

UPDATE: As of 8:30 PM PDT, there are just 75 left. 74 left (I thought I should probably set one aside for my mom.)

UPDATE AGAIN: As of 9:38 PM PDT there are just 32 left. Wow.

UPDATED AGAIN AGAIN: At 11:05 PM PDT, there are only 11 books left.

UPDATED ONE LAST TIME: It's 11:44 PM PDT, and all the books have been ordered, so I'm going to bed now. I'll start processing orders tomorrow after breakfast. Thanks to everyone who placed orders!

Boston CONFIRMED - July 2nd!

So it turns out that Eventful Demands really work! Thanks to everyone who demanded me in Boston (currently a staggering 209,) I was able to confidently contact a few bookstores and tell them that I was coming to town, with about 200 people who would come to their store, spend some money, and freak out the regulars.

As I've tried to put this together, I've learned that Boston has no shortage of outstanding bookstores, (especially indie book stores) and scheduling something for two days before the Fourth of July holiday is really, really hard . . . but I stuck at it, because this is such a unique opportunity to find out if decentralized tools and the power of the internets really does work for a guy like me.

On the advice of several WWdN:iX readers, I focused my attention and my efforts on Brookline Booksmith and Porter Square Books. If I was going to be in town for more than two days, I could probably do events at both stores, but since I'm only there for a brief time, (and because they called back first) I'll be at Brookline Booksmith on July 2nd. The store is working with the theatre across the street from the store to set up a screening of Stand By Me, followed by a Q&A with me. If they can get a print of the film, it will start at noon; otherwise, I'll just take the stage at one, do a reading from Just A Geek, and take some questions after. Either way, it's going to be really, really fun.

More details will come as they get worked out, but so far, here's what I have in easy-to-cut-n-paste form:

Who: Wil Wheaton, author, actor, cad, knave, raconteur.
What: Reading from Just A Geek, possible screening of Stand By Me.
Where: Brookline Booksmith - 279 Harvard Street Brookline, MA 02446
When: Sunday, July 2, 2006  - 12:00pm

This is really exciting for me. I feel the same level of anticipation and giddiness I felt when I was about to release Dancing Barefoot through Monolith Press, because this is something that I never could have done on my own (both practically, and courageously) and I can't wait to see how this whole thing turns out.

Now, I can turn my attention to taking care of Montreal, which is going to be a hell of a lot easier, I think.

April 26, 2006

another example of the power of the blog-o-sphere

Howwouldapatriotactcover Over the last few months,Glenn Greenwald has rapidly become one of my favorite political bloggers, joining Digby, Joe Gandelman and John Cole. Just like those guys, he is intelligent, well-researched, intellectually honest and consistent, and whenever I read one of his posts, I feel enlightened, if outraged. In fact, it's because of guys like those (and Avarosis, and C&L, and Peter Daou) that I rarely write political posts these days; if I can't say it as well as they can, I don't see the point.

Glenn is about to release a book, researched by bloggers and inspired by his own blog called How Would A Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. His book is published by Working Assets, which is a very small press (they're primarily a long distance provider which was coincidentally started by a friend of a friend.)

The reason I mention this is not because I think it's a book that everyone should read (it is) but because it's a book, like Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot, that was born on a blog, nurtured by bloggers and blog readers, and did something neither of my books was able to do: rocket up to number one on Amazon almost immediately after it was announced. Just A Geek peaked in the teens, if I recall correctly, thanks entirely to the efforts of bloggers and WWdN readers.

In a very short time, Glenn has made substantial contributions to the blog-o-sphere, and it's wonderful to see him getting some recognition from the same. Congratulations, Glenn!

February 1, 2006

reading is fundamental

Last week, I mentioned that I've read a few books recently which I think many of you will enjoy. Here they are, in no particular order, with the obligatory affiliate link so I can cash in and blow it all on hats.

If you liked the underlying story in Just A Geek -- that story of self-doubt, self-discovery, and (hopefully) finding the courage to do what you want to do with your life, you're going to love this book. If you liked the behind the scenes elements of Just A Geek, you'll also love this book. Lindasy Moran is a hell of an author, who can put the reader into exotic and mundane places with equal amounts of passionate, vivid, and totally accessible writing. She tells a brutally honest, thoughtful and hilarious tale of her short career in the CIA, from her training at the The Farm, to her assignments in the Balkans during the late 1990s. Lindsay is candid and compelling, whether she's talking about the dual life she lived and the toll it took on her relationships with her friends and family, or the cloak and dagger stuff she did in her job. Amazon's reviews have been unfairly freeped by people who are unhappy that she revealed some unsavory secrets about life inside the CIA, but don't let the 3 star rating fool you. This is a great book that's incredibly satisfying to read. I give it an A+.

Have you ever looked at a person, and immediately known you were going to be best friends? Have you ever looked at a person and immediately known that you should do whatever it takes to get the hell away from them? Have you ever wondered what goes into devloping those instincts? Blink is all about that nano-moment when our brains instantaneously process a billion little bits of information and give us an almost-always accurate first impression. This book could have been dry and boring, but Malcolm Gladwell informs and enlightens us in an easily read and entertaining book. I haven't read The Tipping Point, but I bought it because I liked Blink so much. I give it an A.

Meh. I kept waiting for all that Star Trek stuff to happen, and it never did. Where the hell was it? I mean, it was in the Star Trek section, and the cover is all "Star Trek Enterprise Star Trek Transporter Klingon Star Trek." There was, like, one chapter about working on two days of Star Trek and all this other crap about self-discovery and self-doubt and self-what-the-fuck-ever. What a bunch of crap! Where was the gossip? Where was the real secret behind the inverted isolinear optical chip refractiontational warp matrix? And what the hell is a blog? I give it an F-.

This book and Blowing My Cover have done more to inspire me to get off my stupid lazy ass and finish my next book than anything else in the universe.  I can't seem to sum up this story, so I'll let Publisher's Weekly do it for me: "Angie Neuweather, 16, has it rough: she's fat and sort of slobby; her mom's horrible fiancé has just moved into their low-rent apartment; and she's constantly being tortured at school (the kids call her "Lezzylard"). Spunky girlfriends help Angie weather sophomore year, including Shelby, a spiky-haired, out-of-the-closet lesbian, and Heather, who has just one giant breast. Angie's a little sexually confused herself: she's sort of got a crush on Carrie, an anorexic popular girl, but she also enjoys sexual fantasies that involve penetration by a giant hairy monster. The friendship of two boys—stoner Pike and perky Mantis—motivates her to go on a severe diet, experiment with drugs and attend her first beer party (her mom's so strict that Angie isn't even allowed to wear concealer over her zits). Eventually, she discovers that she's pretty, and when a rival calls her a "manstealer," she has an epiphany."

This book isn't for everyone, but will captivate people who enjoyed River's Edge, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Repo Man, and SubUrbia. I give it an A-.

  • Sin City Volume I and II by Frank Miller

I am so late to the party on Sin City, I'm a little ashamed. Frank Miller does for Noir with Sin City what he did for Batman with Dark Knight Returns. The link will take you to a complete collection of Sin City graphic novels, but since I've only read the first two, those are the ones I can heartily endorse. Volume I is essentially what became the movie, and at times could have been used as story boards, in fact. Volume II weaves in an entirely different story, with entirely different characters, into the story Volume I. Rather than give you the details of the plots, which aren't all that important, I can tell you that the drawings are simple but striking, and the dialogue and stories are the type of gritty, anti-hero tales that Noir fans love. If you like stories about the bad guys beating the shit out of the worse guys, and the femme fatales who drive them to do it, you'll love Sin City. Volume I gets an A, Volume II gets an A-.

Okay, that's all for me today. If you've read any of these stories and would like to add your thoughts, go for it. If you've read any of these books and can suggest additional books based upon them, that's good too. If we can Long Tail Lindsay or Michelle's books, that would be superawesome.

October 17, 2005

The Rough Guide To Sci-Fi Movies

RoughguidetoscifiJohn Scalzi is the author of a great book called Old Man's War, as well as The Rough Guide to the Universe.

He also writes an absolutely fantastic blog, called Whatever, which I highly recommend to everyone who reads and enjoys any of the crap I write. I read it daily, and John has inspired me to make some major changes when I return to blogging at WWdN (more on that in a future post.)

Today, John announced the release of his latest book, The Rough Guide To Sci-Fi Movies.

As you might expect from the title, the book is a guide to science fiction film, from the very first SF film in 1902, to this summer's biggest science fiction extravaganzas. That's 103 years of science fiction film in 325 pages, including the index (lovingly indexed, I'll note, by the super-competent and generally awesome Susan Marie Groppi). But -- of course -- it does some scene setting as well, putting SF films into context. The book is arranged in the following chapters:

The Origins: The history of science fiction and other speculative fiction, reaching back to ancient Greece and then following through with written science fiction through the 21st Century.

The History: A quick jaunt through the eras of science fiction film from 1902 to 2005, not only in the US but worldwide.

The Canon: Reviews and commentary on the 50 science fiction films you have to see before you die (more on this in a minute)

The Icons: The people and characters of enduring significance in science fiction film.

Crossovers: Film genres that mix and match with science fiction, including fantasy, thrillers, horror and animation.

The Science: A look at the science (or lack thereof) in science fiction films.

The Locations: Significant studios and locations where science fiction is filmed, and places (real and otherwise) made famous by science fiction.

Global: Snapshots of science fiction films from all over the world, from Canada to South Korea.

Information: Past and present science fiction in other media.

There's much more information about the book in John's blog, so if you're interested at all, you should head over there and check it out right now, then you should buy it today. Then you should buy a copy for a friend, and while you're at the store, ask them why they don't carry  Just A Geek. Be sure to mention that it's a Star Trek book that's all about Star Trek, and you have to love Star Trek to enjoy reading it. That's always good for a laugh.

Congratulations, John!

October 8, 2005

turn the page

Via Slashdot, I saw that the British Library has an online exhibit of some amazing works of literature, including manuscripts in the authors' original hand, like Leonardo DaVinci, and Lewis Carroll. There are flash and non-flash interfaces, to serve users of varying bandwidths and preferences, and the images are simply amazing.

This is one of the greatest advantages of living in these times: I would almost certainly never get a chance to see any of these works in person, but The Internets bring them right into my home.

If you like this exhibit, you'll probably like WikiSource and Project Gutenberg too.