November 01, 2004
Come and see me at ACME on Wednesday
If you're looking for something to do on Wednesday night, and you're in Los Angeles, come on down to the ACME Comedy Theatre!
I'm a panelist in a live stage version of the classic 1950's gameshow "What's My Line?"
It's going to be incredibly fun. We're doing it in a 1950's style, so we'll all be in vintage suits, and talking just the way they did back when Television gave you cancer if you sat too close to the set.
For all the details, head over to my pal J. Keith vanStraaten's site.
Print out this entry, show it at the Box Office, and you'll get 2-for-1 tickets!
The show starts at 8pm. There's a restaurant and bar right next door (and it's good, too) so you can make an evening of it! Come on, put the kids in the bathroom with the seat up and some newspaper on the floor, and treat yourself to a night on the town. You deserve it, baby.
This entry is from the blog department. Posted by wil at 11:01 AM
just a few geek things
I have a few friends who are in rock bands, and they all tell me that when they come back from a tour, they want to re-record their albums, because they've lived with the material night after night for months at a time, and they've discovered nuances in the work that they didn't even know was there when they made the album.
That's the way I've been feeling about Just A Geek the last few weeks. I've had a chance to make this material live and breathe in front of a few very different audiences, and I've discovered a lot of nuances in the material. I've struggled against a mighty tide to help people understand that this is not a Star Trek book, or a self-serving celebrity bio, and in these performances I've intentionally focused on material that communicates, I hope, what the book is really about: what do we do when the hopes of our twenties don't match up with the reality of our thirties? I can't begin to tell you how hard it's been to get that message out. I know that it's easier to promote the Star Trek angle, but it's hurting book sales, keeping my story away from people who can relate to (and would presumably enjoy) the story, and preventing any recognition from the mainstream media. It's kind of a drag, because my warnings about the doors Star Trek opens and the doors it slams shut fell on very deaf ears. There are times that I hate being right, and this is one of them.
The experience of bringing Just A Geek to the audience was very different from the experience I had with Dancing Barefoot. Because I worked with a publisher (rather than doing it myself with Monolith Press), I had to make some compromises with Just A Geek, and I'm really unhappy about some of them, (like the subtitle, which I tried to convince myself I liked, but I really hate), and I needed to include some things (most notably, the stuff about 9/11) that I thought was best left out. It's been incredibly frustrating, and in many ways I feel like I'm working for Viacom or G4 again.
But when I perform Just A Geek live, there's nobody between me and the audience, so I don't have to compromise about anything. I get to present the material the way I believe it should be presented — the way it was intended. I get to perform it the way I want to, and bring it to life the way it sounded in my head when I wrote it.
I didn't realize how important creative control was to me, in terms of content, marketing and publicity, until just a few days ago, and I'm really happy that I have these opportunities to do things the way I want to do them.
Even though I've only gotten to really "perform" the material (as opposed to just reading it) four times so far, (at Gnomedex, Linucon, Creation's Las Vegas Convention, and at Dallas Comic-Con) it's so much fun, and it feels so great when I do it, I have decided to take some of the material and turn it into a full-on show, similar to the staged reading that Patrick does with A Christmas Carol. Look for it at ACME sometime early next year.
Until then, I continue to work on the audio version of Just A Geek, which has become more of a "director's cut," including off-book comments (audio footnotes, I guess) and some of the changes that I've discovered during performances the last few months. I'm about 2/3 finished with it, and I understand that the post-production process will be very quick, so it should be ready pretty soon — definitely in time for the holidays. Initially, it will be available for purchase online (yes, it will be at iTunes and Audible), but once we get enough capital, we'll make actual CDs, with cool artwork and liner notes and stuff, too. David Lawrence is producing it, and he and I are talking about including a conversation about the book, like a bonus interview, or something, which would serve as the introduction.
Maybe, if the whole thing works out, I could put together a little tour of 99 seat theatres and universities! I could start in Southern California, and maybe go back to the Southwest. If it was successful enough, I could take it other places as well. I could call it "My Big Fat Geek Tour."
Wouldn't that be cool?
This entry is from the Just A Geek department. Posted by wil at 01:58 PM
My flight to Dallas was pretty rough. There were massive thunderstorms all around Texas on Friday, and while the pilot did his best to dance around them, it was still a very bumpy ride.
Luckily for me, I have noise-canceling headphones and my iBook, so I did my best to ignore it -- and the lady next to me who was white-knuckling the armrest.
When the plane finally touched down at DFW, we were only thirty minutes late, which was pretty surprising, all things considered. I walked through the airport to the baggage claim area, and realized that the last time I collected bags in this airport, I was 18, and I was in town for a charity hockey game. I was tending goal against several members of the 1980 US men's hockey team in a game that was unwisely scheduled against a Cowboys / (some major rival -- I'm not a football guy, sorry) game, so we had about 60 people show up for the game.
That was seriously funny: playing hockey in this huge arena, with some of the greatest guys to ever lace them up, in front of about 60 people, who were more interested in watching the football game on the jumbotron than us.
Anyway, isn't it interesting how our brains can file something away into some sort of tarball that only gets zxvf'ed when we trigger it by some location, or sound, or smell or something? Brains are cool like that. I'm running WheatonIX version .9 in my brain, if you were wondering.
While I walked around the baggage carousel, the memory of that game consumed me: how badly I played (hey, you face Mike Eruzione when you're eighteen and see how well you do, sparky) and how great it felt to be skating on a real NHL rink with real NHL players. I looked for my bags with about 20% of my perception, so I almost bumped into a young man who is in the Marines.
He couldn't have been more than twenty, but I bet he was closer to eighteen. He had bright blue eyes, a babyface, and his hair would have been an unruly mop of curls if it wasn't cut high and tight. His uniform was crisp, and he stood with two other young Marines, who were out of uniform.
I happened to catch his eye when I looked up, so I extended my hand.
"When I was your age,"I thought, "I was in this airport to play hockey, hoping I could hook up with some cheerleader or something. . . and you're preparing to go to a war I believe is based on hubris, incompetence and lies."
"Thank you for your service." I said.
He looked surprised, and seemed to be at a loss for what to do. I wondered if people thank him often, and if not, why not. After a second, he took my hand, shook it with a firm grip and said, "Thank you, sir."
"No," I said, "Thank you. Be well."
He nodded his head, and I continued to walk around the baggage carousel. When my bags came out a few minutes later, he was leaving with his companions.
He was a United States Marine, and I'm certain that he will serve our country proudly and with honor, but in that airport, he was someone's son, maybe someone's brother, and he was only five years older than my own stepson, at most. It was a sobering experience.
I made it to my hotel without incident, but shortly after I checked into the hotel (should that be 'checked in to' or 'checked-in to'? Stupid grammar) I saw Chase Masterson in the lobby. She was having some problems with the computer in the hotel's business center, and I offered to help her out.
"I'm going to go give her some Technical Support," I told the bellman, hoping that it didn't sound like a Penthouse Forum-esque euphemism. Luckily it turned out to be a .pdf issue that I knew how to handle (I don't do Windows. Har.) and I was able to help her out quickly and easily.
I got myself up to my room,
It was about 6 when the crashing started against the wall behind my head. At first, I thought it was just someone giving a little technical support early in the morning, but it was so violent, and so persistent, I figured it was something different. I made a few calls to the front desk, but nobody could give me a straight answer about the source of the noise, or their inability to stop it. It was incredibly frustrating. I just kept thinking, "How am I going to face this day on five hours of restless sleep?"
The answer, of course, was, "Coffee and a high-protein breakfast to get you started. Once you get to the con, adrenaline will take care of the rest."
I got up and watched the local news, while the WHACK WHACK WHACK! continued on the wall beside me. I showered and checked out of my room at 7, even though I didn't have to be picked up until 9:45.
I listened to Jon Stewart's Fresh Air interview on my iPod (which is really fantastic, and for 5 bucks at audible, is well worth the investment) while I ate a breakfast which claimed to be 'classic eggs benedict'. I wasn't so sure, but I was too hungry and tired to argue.
I met up with a few people outside the hotel, and drove to the convention hall which was actually in Plano. I mention that it was in Plano because some of the other actors were dangerously close to complaining that the show was not actually in Dallas, but was in a suburb. I didn't see what the BFD was, but apparently some of their fans went looking for something in Dallas last year, and couldn't find it because it was in Plano. I asked, but nobody knew if those people who couldn't find it have figured out how to bang the rocks together since then.
When I got to the convention center, it was still very early, so the room where we would be signing our stuff was empty, except for me, and Herb Jefferson. Herb is a really nice guy, and he does TONS of stuff for the Navy. He asked me if I'd be interested in doing some things with him for some soldiers, and I told him that I am, of course, so we'll see what comes up in the next few months.
"I'm one of those people who doesn't support the war, but I am proud of, grateful to, and completely supportive of our men and women who are fighting it," I said. "Is that okay?"
"I think they'd be happy and honored to meet you," he said. "They know that you don't have to support the politics of the war to support the guys who are fighting it."
It took me about twenty minutes to set my stuff up the way I wanted it. I stacked Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot off to one side, then I set them up so they'd be flanking me when I sat down, then I put them all together on the other side . . . then I moved them back again. I knew that the only person in the world who cared about this was me, but I had some time to kill so I made sure things were just right. I ended up letting them flank me, because it made me feel sort of cool, like I was standing behind my work, or something like that.
Over the next 45 minutes or so, the room slowly filled up with the actors who would be signing autographs for the day. I didn't pay attention though, until Michael Dorn and Brent Spiner came in. I wondered if I'd feel awkward or weird or uncomfortable . . . but I just felt happy.
For at least a decade, I've felt embarrassed and ashamed when I've seen anyone from TNG at a convention. I felt like they were there to promote whatever they were working on at the time, while I was there to hopefully earn enough money to carry my family through for a couple of months. There was also a lot of regret and remorse related to my sullen teenager years when I was on TNG (and I've written about that angst extensively before so I won't go into it here,) but over the last few years, I've mostly gotten over that. When I wrote Just A Geek, I really examined my life. I discovered what really matters to me in my life, I recognized what I needed to change so I could enjoy those things, and I recognized the things that I couldn't change and needed to accept (or just let go) so I could stop living in the past. When Michael and Brent walked in, I wondered how I would feel. Would I be embarrassed? Would I feel ashamed? Would I feel awkward or unsure?
I watched them walk across the room: They both looked happy and healthy. Michael was chatting up an incredibly beautiful girl who is in one of the new Star Wars movies. I searched my feelings, in that "use the Force" sort of way, and was happy to discover that I felt . . . happy. That was it! Just happy to see them, and anxious to show them my books.
I caught Michael's eye when he walked past, and I waved.
He smiled and gave me a hug.
"How are you, man?" he said.
I told him how happy I was. I told him how I'm writing like crazy, and even though I haven't done any on-camera work in ages, I'm not bothered by that. I've said those things before, but this time I actually meant it, and I actually believed it.
We had a great conversation about the doors that Star Trek opens, and the doors that Star Trek slams shut. As we talked, it dawned on me that we have a lot more in common, post-Trek, than I thought, and that was somehow comforting to me.
We could have talked all morning, but Michael was taken away by some convention folks, and I went back to obsessing about the proper placement of my books, until Brent came over to my table.
He picked up a copy of Just A Geek and said, "This is your book, huh?"
"Yeah," I said.
"I loved this one," he said, pointing to Dancing Barefoot, and I suppressed the urge to break into a little dance.
"If I don't sell all of these today," I said, pointing to Just A Geek, "I'd love for you to have one, if you have time to read it."
"I'd like that," he said.
"You're in it, you know." I said.
He smiled and said, "Did you make me look good?"
"Yeah, I tried. It was pretty tough . . . but I'm a good writer, so you come out okay."
We both laughed.
"Nah, I'm just kidding," I said. "I'm not that good a writer."
We laughed again, harder this time.
"Good job, Wil," he said.
I beamed. "Thank you, Brent."
We talked for a few more minutes, and then we sat at our respective tables as the doors to the room opened.
For the next few hours, I signed books and pictures and action figures and stuff, for a ton of people. It was really a good scene: everyone was happy to be there (fans and actors, I mean) and there were a LOT of people who told me they only came out to the show so they could meet me. A bunch of people even had copies of Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot already, that they'd bought online or in local bookstores, and everyone told me how much they'd enjoyed reading my stories. Several former Soapboxers (who are now teh soapboxers) came out to the show, also. There's a massive WWdN Posse in Texas, and it was awesome to see so many of you representin', yo.
I was scheduled to read from my books at 3, so around 2:50 I picked myself up, and prepared myself to go onstage. I had to race to catch a plane when I was done, and I knew that people would want to get books signed after I read, so I cut the reading short. I usually read for about 60 minutes, but this time I only read for about 25 minutes. I cut out the Hooters stories that I usually use to bookend the stories, and just read "The Trade" from Just A Geek, and Star Trek: The Experience from Dancing Barefoot.
I think I've talked about this before: there are three states that an audience can be in when I perform: With me, indifferent, or against me. I felt like I had the audience with me the entire time I performed. It was like Linucon, where I could just relax, take some risks, and trust that the audience was along for the ride. It was a fantastic reading, and I wish I'd recorded it so I could share it with people who weren't there. I actually think I'm going to start recording all my performances, and maybe one day I'll make some sort of "best of" CD or something. That would be cool.
When I finished my reading, I ran as fast as I could back to my little table in the autograph room, and discovered that a line had somehow formed before I could get there. It was like some sort of ripple in the space/time continuum had allowed them to get there before me. Cool.
So I sat down, and I signed as many books and pictures as I could with what little time I had left. I really didn't like rushing everyone through the line, but I wanted to make sure that everyone who had lined up and waited got what they wanted, and I didn't want to miss my plane . . . so if I had to rush you through the line, I'm sorry about that. I hope you understand that it was nothing personal.
When I was done signing and all packed up, I did a quick interview for a local TV station, and said goodbye to my friends.
I ended up selling all my Just A Geeks, and left with about ten Dancing Barefoots. Sadly, I didn't get to give Just A Geek to Michael or Brent, but I think it will make for a good story the next time I see them. :)
The drive to the airport was quick and painless, and so was the flight home. I watched Band of Brothers on my iBook while the woman next to me kicked my leg in her sleep, and when I touched down in Burbank, I was happy to be home. Anne picked me up, and we stopped by my friend's birthday party on our way home. When we finally fell into bed shortly after midnight, I could feel, in my bones, the exhaustion of the last 48 hours. Thankfully, nothing whacked against the side of my house, and I woke up after 10, with just enough time to prepare for my reading at Borders later that day.
This entry is from the blog department. Posted by wil at 02:03 PM
at long last, a political post
A lot of readers have e-mailed me, and asked why I haven't talked more about politics this election season. It's mostly a time issue, but the real reason is, there are other sites out there that say the very same things I want to say, and they say them better than I do. As I wrote back in May: "Salon, DailyKos, Atrios, Josh Marshall, The Daily Howler, Juan Cole, and Kevin Drum are just a few of the sites I read at least once a day. I do a lot of nodding along in agreement when I read them, and they always say what I would say, with more eloquence and passion than I can currently muster."
In that entry, I also said, "There's enough anger and strife in the world right now. I'd rather put my time and energy into reflecting on the things that make me happy, than the things that piss me off."
Then I got an e-mail this afternoon inquiring why I haven't written about the most important election in our lifetime.
The most important election in our lifetime.
Boy, did that strike a nerve with me. This is the most important election in my lifetime. Forget the concept of holding the Bush administration accountable for the lies and incompetence for a moment, and just think about the very real possibility of a Supreme Court stacked with Bush appointments: goodbye freedom of choice. Goodbye freedom from religion. Goodbye equal rights for homosexuals.
Presumably, you're reading this website because you want to know what's in my head, and a lot of you have asked how I feel about the election . . . so here it is: I'm pretty sure that John Kerry will win this election. I am pretty confident that the majority of Americans are fed up with the lies, corporate sell-outs, and reality-defiance of the Bush administration. I am pretty sure that I'll wake up on November 3rd and tell my wife, "Our long national nightmare is over."
But it will still be close, and it's possible that the GOP's disgusting efforts to keep voters away from the polls will work, and we'll end up with four more years of George W. Bush.
Last week, a reporter from Salon invited me to contribute to a story that asked, "What will you do if President Bush is re-elected?"
I struggled to find the best way to express how important I feel this election is, and I tried to articulate some of the main reasons I believe that Mr. Bush does not deserve a second term, but there were so many, I kept ending up with over 1000 words. One draft was close to 1700 words, and that was just trying to understand how President Bush and his supporters seem to live in some parallel reality where up is down and we have always been at war with Eurasia. (Or is it East Asia? Doesn't matter. War is Peace.)
What I came up with, in the editing and soul-searching, and the worrying, is this: I believe that we much reject George W. Bush and the direction he's taken our country. Even if we (hopefully) end up with a new president tomorrow, it will take decades to repair the damage George Bush has done in just four years: damage to our civil rights, damage to our economy, damage to our national standing with the rest of the world (doesn't it bother anyone that the vast majority of the world viscerally hates America because of George W. Bush? I'm not talking about "The Terrorists." I'm talking about our traditional allies in France, Spain, Germany, Britan, and pretty much all of Europe. On September 12, 2001, the entire world stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us . . . but look at how our country is viewed now.) If he gets another four years to wreak havoc on America and the world, we may never recover from it.
Here's what I ended up sending them:
A friend of mine just e-mailed me, and asked me if I felt like it was the night before Christmas, or if I felt like it was the night before I go to the dentist.
I don't know.
This entry is from the politics department. Posted by wil at 09:57 PM
November 02, 2004
pull the lever
Anne and I just got back from voting.
Our polling place was well-staffed by very friendly and helpful people, and there was absolutely no line at all. We were in and out in about ten minutes. The Los Angeles Times was conducting an exit poll at our location, but I didn't get asked to participate. Darnit.
I was a little unsure about how I'd use our new optical scan ballots, but they are actually identical to the punch-card ballots I've used since I was eighteen, with the only difference being we stamp the card rather than punch it.
So as of about 8:15 this morning, John Kerry has two more votes from California. :-)
My friend Kathleen is a poll worker in Los Angeles, and she wanted me to share the following blogging.la post with Los Angeles voters:
I hear that people in Florida and Ohio are waiting for several hours to vote, and I hear that there are already massive instances of voter intimidation in Ohio and attempts in South Dakota, so I consider myself very fortunate that I cast my ballot so easily.
Today is our day, America. Get out there and make your voice heard, and be sure to thank the people who have volunteered to work the polls. They're probably going to have a long and difficult day.
This entry is from the blog department. Posted by wil at 08:58 AM
November 03, 2004
the voice of america
I'm stunned, and at a total loss for words this morning, so I'm going to borrow some words from Oliver Willis:
Apparently, my country holds a fundamentally different set of values than I thought we did, and that scares the shit out of me. I still believe that Bush is bad for America, and though I'm virtually certain that the next four years will be an absolute disaster. Not just because we have gotten four more years of the Bush agenda, but because this election has been an enthusiastic endorsement of that agenda.
I hoped I would wake up this morning to the good news that our long national nightmare was over.
It's not over.
It's just beginning.
Updated November 4th @ 1909: This comment thread is putting a huge load on my server, so I'm locking it.
This entry is from the politics department. Posted by wil at 09:19 AM
what's my line? find out tonight at ACME
Just a reminder:
If you're looking for something to do tonight, and you're in Los Angeles, come on down to the ACME Comedy Theatre!
I'm a panelist in a live stage version of the classic 1950's gameshow "What's My Line?"
It's going to be incredibly fun. We're doing it in a 1950's style, so we'll all be in vintage suits, and talking just the way they did back when Television gave you cancer if you sat too close to the set.
For all the details, head over to my pal J. Keith vanStraaten's site.
Print out this entry, show it at the Box Office, and you'll get 2-for-1 tickets!
The show starts at 8pm. There's a restaurant and bar right next door (and it's good, too) so you can make an evening of it! Conservatives can celebrate their victory, and Liberals can join me at the bar for about eighteen hours.
This entry is from the blog department. Posted by wil at 10:48 AM
November 04, 2004
What's My Line? RULED!
The first performance of What's My Line? at ACME last night was an unqualified success!
Everything clicked perfectly: the panel was hilarious and played brilliantly together, the host was charming and funny, the guests were truly interesting and talented, and the set looked AMAZING.
Upon reflection, it was one of the best shows I've ever done. In fact, it was so good, I can't remember a single thing about it.
No, I wasn't drunk, I was just so focused on performing from moment to moment, I wasn't able to stop and "watch" myself, like I can when a show sucks. All I know is that I had as much fun as I've ever had in a show, and when I was finished, I met several Industry people, who all told me how pleasantly surprised they were to discover that I was funny.
This one guy said to me, "I had no idea you were so funny! Why aren't you on a sitcom?"
Before I could answer, he said, "I mean, I really didn't think you were funny."
"You're in good company," I said, "with just about the entire entertainment industry."
Another woman told me that she loved the show, and will come back every week for the entire run.
"There's a fine line between 'devoted fan of the show' and 'stalker,' you know," I said.
She totally topped me: "Well, I'm not going to be ignored, Wil!"
I laughed again . . . but it was about 70% nervous.
I also found out that a lot of people read my website, and a lot of other people believe the totally fake bio I wrote about being a hobo.
I told this one guy that I didn't think anyone could possibly believe that, but apparently they do.
"Do you think I should change it?" I asked.
"No way," he said. "It's hilarious."
"Oh." I said. "Thanks!"
We had a very full house, which is uncommon and pretty surprising for the first performance of a show, especially on a Wednesday, but they were totally with us from the very beginning, and that contributed to the success in a BIG way. So if you came out last night, thank you!!
I'm absolutely loving my life as a writer, but the show last night, and a couple of really wonderful auditions recently have reminded me how much I enjoy being on stage, and performing for a live audience.
This is the beginning of about five months of amazing shows at ACME, and I'm luckily to be part of two of them. I don't say this about everything that I do, (actually, I hardly ever say this about anything that I do) but it's totally worth coming out to see What's My Line? at ACME.
This entry is from the blog department. Posted by wil at 06:21 PM
November 05, 2004
as time goes by . . .
Anne and I took the kids to see The Incredibles this afternoon.
What an amazing movie! It is a brilliant example of why story is so very important. The animation is phenomenal — particularly the simulated hair and water motion — but without the amazing story, talented voice performers, and stellar direction, it would all be for nothing.
I predict that this movie will utterly destroy all previous box office records for Pixar films, and may even make a run at some top-grossing live action movies.
Yes, it is that good.
When we walked out of the theatre, there were some quotes from classic films embedded into the ground, and I saw one that captured something I wanted to share with my wife.
"Hey," I said, right after we passed it, "You had me at 'hello.'"
She looked back at me, and smiled. "I know! There are great movie quotes all over the ground here!"
"No," I said. "You had me at 'hello.'"
"Right," she said. "And there's 'Here's looking at you, kid,' and there is 'May The Force be with you,' and there is —"
"No," I said, and turned her to face me. "You," I poked her in the stomach, "had me," I poked my own stomach, "at 'hello.'"
"Oh." She paused for a second and blushed, "I like that a whole bunch."
"Well," I said, "You did."
I love it this. Even though we've been together for almost a decade, I can still make her blush.
This entry is from the movies department. Posted by wil at 05:43 PM
November 06, 2004
throw the goats
A few weeks ago, the evil geniuses at goats.com started a story called "a dish best served delicious (or, invoking godwins law)". In the story, I play an important part in the untimely death of the Pork-o-tron 5000.
The whole story arc is really fantastic, and it's worth your time to start at the beginning and read it all the way through . . . in fact, it's the perfect way to spend some time on a Saturday afternoon. So grab yourself a beer, or a scotch, or a cup of tea, or a hooker, and check it out.
This entry is from the blog department. Posted by wil at 01:59 PM
November 12, 2004
a rush and a push
A friend of mine called me yesterday, worried, because I haven't updated my blog in almost a week.
"Well, I'm glad you waited a whole week to call me," I said, "because if I were dead, I'd be getting pretty stinky right now."
"That makes no sense at all," he said.
"I don't have to make sense!"I said, "I'm beautiful, Lois!"
"Well, you're still able to quote Family Guy," he said, "so I'm going to assume you're just busy."
And he was right. I've been too busy to sit down and write about anything . . . and most of what's going on in my life right now is either: a) too personal to blog about b) Totally Top Secret And I Can't Talk About It or c) it's so goddamned boring, it's not worth the effort to talk about how boring it is.
One of the very few things that I can talk about that doesn't fit the above criteria is Mac World!
I have been a Mac user since the very early days of the Mac 128. I wrote my first stories on that machine, and I still have the printouts from the dot-matrix printer I used way back then. I've been to several MacWorld expos, and I can't believe that I actually get to be a part of the show.
Until now, the largest audience I've ever addressed was close to five thousand people at the Royal Albert Hall in London, but the audience I will at MacWorld will probably be the largest I've ever been in front of in my life. I hear that they're expecting somewhere between five and six thousand people in the room, plus I think there will be some sort of simulcast online (and I'll release my presentation under Creative Commons again,) so I could theoretically reach ten thousand people. I'm used to addressing an average crowd of about 150 people, and I get a little anxious when the crowd approaches 500 . . . but thousands?
I should feel too nervous to even move . . . but my nerves are totally overwhelmed by excitement, because I didn't get this invitation because I Used To Be Wesley On Star Trek, or anything like that. I got this invitation to speak because one of the MacWorld organizers saw me perform Just A Geek at Gnomedex!! It feels like I earned the opportunity, and I'm going to give the performance of my life when I'm there.
Remember when I wrote that I feel like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be in my life right now? How I'm content, but not complacent? It's because of things like this. I don't feel like I need to run away from the stuff I used to do (or the person I used to be) anymore. I feel like I spent the first thirty years of my life building this complicated foundation, and now I'm living in a wonderful house atop it.
I'm off to prepare my presentation for ApacheCon on Monday in Las Vegas. Have a great weekend, everyone.
This entry is from the Just A Geek department. Posted by wil at 09:56 AM
November 16, 2004
see the dust cloud disappear
We just walked in from ApacheCon. I'll give a full report as soon as I have a chance to write it up, but here are a few quick impresisons:
I was scared absolutely shitless when I gave my talk yesterday morning, and The Voice Of Self Doubt was so loud in my ears, I had a hard time hearing my own voice. It took me a long time to shut him up so I could just talk, but when I did, and I hit my stride, I felt like I got some good points across, and I got very positive feedback from a lot of people, including two people who told me that they'd gone into my talk convinced that blogs were lame, but left equally convinced that they were a powerful tool to empower people who have something to say.
Last night, I found out that I hosed the link to ApacheCon in the previous blog entry, with the rookie move of leaving out the "http://" in the link. Brilliant thing to do the day before I go and talk to the people who make teh Intarweb exist. I lost a
Last night, I played some 3-6 poker at the Mirage with a table composed exclusively of ApacheCon geeks like me, and it RULED. The Mirage is now my official Favorite Poker Room In The World (details on that in the full report post). Anne and I also discovered a fantastic Tiki Bar, in the Venetian, called "Venus." If you're into that sort of thing (and I'm a HUGE dork for ultra-modern lounge culture, Tiki music, and drinks that come in a bowl on fire) you should go there NOW. I heard that they're going to close it down pretty soon.
At 2:30 this morning, they imploded a hotel across the street from us. I'm glad I knew it was coming, because the explosions and resulting collapse of said hotel would have scared me almost as much as standing in front of the con on Monday morning.
More tomorrow. My dogs want to take a walk.
This entry is from the blog department. Posted by wil at 05:00 PM
November 18, 2004
look up to the skies and see
Well, I never had time to write up the ApacheCon report . . . because I got a call late last night to audition for Alias at noon today.
Holy shit. Alias!
So I spent all last night, and most of this morning, preparing for the audition. I just got back from a fantastic What's My Line? performance, and since I need to "unwind" right now, I'll tell you all about my audition while it's still in my mind.
In Just A Geek, I wrote about how there are a ton of factors that I can't control when I go to an audition, and how important it is to work on the few factors that I can control. I love Alias almost as much as I love Jennifer Garner, so I ensured that everything I could control was absolutely perfect. The material was extremely well-written, so learning it was super easy. I made bold and clear character choices, and -- most importantly -- I decided that I was going to enjoy the opportunity to audition for one of the greatest shows on television.
The character was described as "early 30s, charmingly familiar." I'd love to say more, but I don't want to blow it for fans of the show, or piss off the writers . . . so that's all you get. :)
"'Familiar!' Hey! That's me!" I shouted across the living room to Anne, when I took the sides off the FAX machine last night.
"Yeah, you're totally That Guy," she said.
I was already excited about the audition, but when I saw the character described as "familiar", I got +5 excited, because I can actually be That Guy. Until I sort of went into semi-forced-semi-retirement a year or so ago, just about every part I auditioned for was not exactly for my "everyman" type, and it was incredibly frustrating (and documented in Just A Geek) to keep hearing "you're a great actor, but you're not [tall, short, sexy, scary, famous] enough for the part.
In retrospect, it wasn't surprising to hear those comments, because I kept auditioning for parts where no matter how skillful my performance was, I wasn't going to book the job, because my essences were wrong for the character. See, one of the factors completely beyond my control when I go into an audition are my essences. By that, I mean those certain things that I have so deeply embedded into my soul, I take them with me everywhere I go, no matter what I'm doing. If I'm playing a hero, or a villain, a leading man (quit laughing) or a nerdy neighbor, I'm always going to have this "I can relate to that guy" quality. I'm going to be a little too smart for my own good, and there will always be this faint sense of sadness, too. There's nothing I can do about that -- it's just part of who I am -- so if I have to play a character who is, well, let's just pick any random word . . . how about . . . edgy, for instance, I'm boned. I yam what I yam, as the wacky sailor used to say.
But while I worked on the scenes for today, I knew that I was already standing on a strong foundation, and that freed me up to develop an interesting character. I also got to do a whole lot of looking at Jennifer Garner on teh Intarweb . . . for, uhm . . . research, you know.
The call was at Disney, and I got there nice and early . . . but still waited almost 25 minutes to park my car. Apparently, today was "Bring your toddler to Disney for something" day, and the place was just swarming with happy families. A few years ago, it would have annoyed the crap out of me that I was delayed getting into my audition, but I instead thought to myself, "I bet this is slowing everyone down, so it won't actually make me late at all, in a relative sense. Maybe I should just enjoy the infectious happiness of these little kids." I took my own advice, and when I finally got to the writer's building (23, if you're scoring at home) I was in very high spirits. "I can't believe that I get to audition for fucking Alias!" I kept thinking.
I signed in, and saw that my friend and frequent WWdN commenter Keith Coogan had come in earlier in the day. I always like it when I see people I know on the sign-in sheet, as if I needed another reason to smile.
I read over my scenes while I waited, and when they took in the actor ahead of me (Eddie Kaye Thomas, best known as "Finch" from the American Pie movies), I stepped outside and ran over the scenes. I must have looked like one of those crazy actors who's outside acting to a tree or a bicycle (it was a folded up pingpong table for me, today) but I didn't care. I was going to go in there and give a great audition. I timed it perfectly -- when it was my turn to go into the room, I had read them over twice, and I was at the peak of readiness.
"I just want to warn you," the casting assistant told me as we walked down the hallway, "that there are about fifteen people in the room. It's like a pilot session in there."
I laughed. "I'll be sure to play to the back row," I said.
"This is Wil Wheaton," she said as we walked into the room.
The room was the same as ever: a huge conference table took up about 80% of the rectangular room, and about fifteen people sat across it, along its long edge They all nodded, or waved, or made some sort of friendly greeting. "Okay, this is totally not like a pilot session," I thought, "These people are way too nice."
There was a metal folding chair pushed against the table, presumably for the actors to sit in, but I had no intention of using it.
"Do you mind if I stand up for this?" I said.
"I think that would be appropriate," the casting director said, not unkindly.
I slated my name, and started the first of two scenes . . . which I won't describe, so I don't get sued.
When I was done with the first scene, one of the producers (clearly a Very Important Producer, by the way everyone deferred to him) looked right at me and said, "That was really wonderful!"
The rest of the room nodded in agreement, and though I couldn't tell if they were agreeing because of who he was, or because they actually agreed with his assessment of my performance, I have done this long enough to know when someone is full of shit or not, and this producer wasn't full of shit. His compliment was genuine, and that just doesn't happen very often anymore. It meant a lot to me.
"Thank you," I said, as I started the second scene.
I was totally off-book for both scenes, and gave a very solid performance. When I was done, I actually wanted to do a lame little dance out in the hallway, because I felt so happy with the work I'd done. I even allowed myself a happy thought: "I think I may have just booked a job!"
When I got to my car, I called Anne before I pulled out of my parking space.
"Did you get it?" She said.
"I won't know for a few hours . . . but I wouldn't change a single thing. I am so happy with my audition, Anne. It was awesome." I told her about the producer's compliment, and how I went in after Finch.
"That's so cool! Call me as soon as you know something." She said.
"Okay. I love you."
I hung up, and drove home, where I spent the next few hours trying to catch up on e-mail (I got down from 500 unreads to 309 unreads in about two hours. Not too shabby!)
Around 5pm, while I was getting ready to leave for ACME, I got the phone call from my manger.
"They loved you, Wil." He said. "Everyone in that room responded to you very positively. . ."
We've had this conversation too many times. "But . . ." I said.
"But, you're not physically large enough for the part. They want someone who's much bigger than Jennifer Garner."
To be entirely honest, I wasn't surprised. I've had five auditions in the last six weeks, and for each part, I haven't gotten the job because of the way I look (I was too short for one, they changed another part to female, I wasn't "tough" enough for one, and I forget the other two, but it was pretty much the same thing.)
"Well," I said. "I'm not going to try to act like I'm not bummed . . . but goddammit."
"They're definitely going to bring you back in the future," he said.
"Did they say that?"
"No, but trust me."
"Okay," I said. I remembered how happy I felt when I walked out of the room. "I had a really good time, Chris." I told him about the producer who complimented me.
"Was it genuine?" He said.
"Yeah. Yeah, I think it was. That was awesome!"
"Good. You're doing the show tonight, right?" he said.
"Yeah. I'm actually about to leave right now."
"Well, break a leg. I'll talk to you tomorrow."
And that is the story of how I almost got to spend eight days acting like I was smitten with Jennifer Garner.
. . . yeah, "acting." That's it.
This entry is from the blog department. Posted by wil at 01:29 AM
three days in the desert
I've got a big old Weekend of Just A Geek-ness out in Palm Springs, starting today.
If you're in the area, and you'd like to drop by and listen to a reading, or get a book signed, here are the details for the trip:
This entry is from the Just A Geek department. Posted by wil at 10:21 AM
November 22, 2004
if i could, yes i would
I don't know why I've always loved the desert. Maybe it's the clean air, the limitless stars at night, or the strange romance I've always felt for seclusion, or maybe it's just all that sand . . . but I really do love it, so when I was asked to head out there for a book signing, I jumped at the chance.
It turns out the desert doesn't love me as much as I love it — hardly anyone showed up at the bookstore when I did my reading, and I think the owners sold a grand total of 30 books the entire time I was out there.
See, the average crowd at a book signing since I started promoting Just A Geek has been about 80. The largest was well over 100, and the smallest (until this weekend) was about 30 . . . but I guess my target audience just isn't out there in Palm Springs.
I felt so bad, because the guys who own the bookshop are so nice, and took such good care of me and my family, but for whatever reason, I just didn't draw people out there. . The bookshop guys told me that it's hit or miss out there, and not to feel bad . . . but I wanted them to at least make back their costs, you know? I think it's just that Palm Springs is a much "older" town than my target audience, and most of the press materials stressed the Star Trek-ness of my book. I need to develop some materials that talk about the other aspects of this book that non-Trekkies or WWdN readers can relate to. If you've read Just A Geek and wouldn't mind sending me some ideas, or posting them in comments, maybe we can brainstorm something useful.
Anyway, there were only about 12 people at the bookstore on Friday night, which would have made me super depressed a year ago, (like my experience at LosCon, for example) but I heeded some advice someone gave me about speaking to small groups of people: enjoy the intimacy of the smaller crowd, and honor the few people who did show up, rather than wasting energy on the people who didn't. So the reading on Friday, which could have been a real bummer, ended up being one of my favorites.
Because the group was so small, I could take more time to read and talk, because I knew I'd get through the signing in about 4 minutes. I read from Just A Geek as planned, but I also got to read the story "Ready or Not, Here I Come" from Dancing Barefoot, which was a real treat for me. I don't know if I blogged about this or not, but way back when my first Monolith Press printing of Barefoot showed up, I gave the first copy to Anne, and the next two to the kids. Ryan and Nolan were so excited to be in the book, and so excited to be in that story, I remember them both declaring with absolute certainty, "No, I am the kid in the drawingI I was totally wearing a cap just like that one when we played that night!" I just loved it that they were so excited to be part of something I created, and when I read the story on Friday night, it brought back the game, and the joy of holding my first book in my hands.
If the group at the store on Friday hadn't been so small, I wouldn't have been able to just pick Barefoot from a lady sitting about three feet from me and ask the group, "Do you mind if I read you a short story from this book?" after I'd been talking about how having a family to love and support turned my focus from Proving To Everyone That Quitting Star Trek Wasn't A Mistake onto just being a good husband and stepfather — and enjoying the experience of my life with them.
I haven't picked up Dancing Barefoot, other than to read a brief selection from SpongeBob Vega$ Pants at a con, in months. But when read from it on Friday I remembered how much I love that little book, and how proud of it I am. It's really like my first-born child, and the stories in it about my family made me so happy, I decided that I'm going to do another Barefoot-style book, this one with stories that are just about family. Earlier today, I went through my blog archives and also looked through the stuff I cut from Geek, and I have more than enough material (some of it just notes that never made it onto the blog, which will be developed into complete stories) for another book. This one will probably be a little bit longer than Barefoot, and I have a cool idea for the illustrations (that I'll talk about if / when it works out.) It's going to be wonderful, and if everything goes according to the plan just forming in my head, it should be available from Monolith Press early next year.
Overall, I had a good time in the desert. I got to bring Anne and the kids out, and we got to enjoy some desperately needed family bonding time, away from any disruptions.
There was also something very cool reading about my family when they were right there in the room. Afterwards, Nolan told me he thought about raising his hand and asking, "So tell me the truth . . . are the kids you talked about really that cool?"
Heh. Yes. Yes they are.
This entry is from the blog department. Posted by wil at 01:18 PM
November 24, 2004
Some places you can see me do my thing in the next week:
So now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
This entry is from the blog department. Posted by wil at 10:48 AM
i believe in mr. grieves
I am so freakin' tired, I can hardly see.
Last night we rehearsed "ACME Love Machine" until almost midnight, and I didn't fall asleep until around two. We're having work done on our house, so I was up at 8 enjoying the sound of sawing and breaking glass. If I was eating better and exercising more, six hours would be plenty of sleep . . . but I've let myself get overwhelmed with work and travel in the last two months, so it's been a horrible fast food life. Things should slow down at the end of next week, and I can start putting my body back together. I didn't realize how much time it takes to exercise daily and prepare my own food . . . I'm going to appreciate it more when I have that kind of time. (And I can start running again. I plan on doing the San Diego marathon again this year, and maybe Los Angeles, too, if I can train in time.)
Tonight, I'm back at ACME for another rehearsal and a complete show tech. I think I'll be there until at least two. We have a preview show on Saturday, and it's going to require a lot of focus and professionalism to be ready for that show. Normally, I'd be freaking out about how soon we are taking this show in front of an audience . . . but I'm so excited to perform it, I'm actually anxious to get our funny up on the stage.
Yeah. This is one of the funniest shows I've ever been a part of, and I can't wait to perform it. I've done a ton of sketch and improv shows over the years, and I can honestly say this show will rank in the top three best shows of all time.
Most of it is the writing, which is really funny and solid, but the cast is phenomenal. It's one of those "lightning in a bottle" things, like the cast of TNG, where we all like each other, we all love the show, and the energy backstage is so positive and so supportive, it carries over into the audience. I know there are some other actors and musicians who read WWdN, and I'm sure you'll back me up on this: when you're in a show with a cast you love, and when that cast is supportive and enthusiastic about the show and each other, you could do the show for an audience of one and it wouldn't matter.
Some of us are in EarnestBorg9 together, and many of us went through the ACME school together, so it's not surprising that we all get on so well, but there's always a chance that something weird can come up, some stupid personality conflict or something that can happen, but we're already like a family . . . or maybe a group of inmates who've just escaped from an asylum. I'll bring fruit cups tonight, and see what happens.
Our first show is December 11th, and we run every Saturday at 8 until Christmas, take a break, and then we're back through all of January and February. Please come out and see us. I promise you'll like it.
This entry is from the blog department. Posted by wil at 11:14 AM
November 26, 2004
on being thankful
Last night at dinner, my dad's cousin (who we all adore, but only get to see once a year, at Thanksgiving) asked us all to say one thing we're thankful for.
Have you ever tried to do that? Come up with just one thing that you're thankful for? It was really hard for me to do. I have so much to be thankful for, I didn't know where to begin.
So I said, "I'm thankful that I'm able to be here with everyone tonight."
In my mind, that encapsulated many things: I'm thankful that l live in a place that's safe and comfortable. I'm thankful that I can afford to drive my car 100 miles to my great uncle's house for dinner. I'm thankful that I love my family, and they love me, so I actually wanted to make the drive. I'm thankful that I'm having success in my creative work, from acting on stage to voice acting in games and on TV, to writing all the things I'm writing. I'm thankful for my wife and stepchildren, and my dogs and my cats, and my friends, and my blog and . . . .
See what I mean?
My cousin Dustin, who has overcome one of the biggest obstacles anyone could ever face, and has a lot to be thankful for himself, had simple but powerful insight. He said, "I'm thankful for my family. Because friends will come and go, but your family is there forever, no matter what."
I know it's not like that in all families, but it sure is in ours, and for that, well, I'm thankful.
I hope everyone gets to spend at least a little time this weekend with someone they love.
This entry is from the blog department. Posted by wil at 09:45 AM
November 29, 2004
I missed the ACME show on Saturday night, because I hurt my neck so badly on Friday, I couldn't even stand up Saturday morning. More on that later.
As if the pain in my neck and shoulders wasn't bad enough, I'm trying my best not to get sick, now. I think it's just the dry air from my heater and the weather the last few days, but my throat is sore and scratchy, and my sinuses are all dry and ouchy . . . so I'm just going to put up this quick reminder and get back into bed:
This entry is from the blog department. Posted by wil at 09:33 AM
November 30, 2004
defame your stereo
I don't remember how I found them, but I have two new favorite websites: Defamer and Stereogum. They touch my sense of humor in a way that, if Loretta touched Cleveland that way, he'd say, "Oh, Loretta, that tickles me."
There will probably be light blogging for the next week or so. I think the problem with my neck, the cold that I'm barely holding at bay, and about two weeks of really restless sleep are symptoms of trying to do too goddamn much stuff all at once.
This entry is from the random thoughts department. Posted by wil at 03:11 PM
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