This post is not a number, it is a free man. It also continues my 2009 year in review from part five, and concludes this obscenely long series of posts that I hope was worth the time I put into creating them.
I revealed a fairly major secret, and there was much rejoicing. Yaaay.
About 24 hours later, JJ Abrams called me. It was an entertaining conversation; I couldn't believe he wanted me to do work on his film, and he couldn't believe that I wanted to do it. He asked me if I'd be interested in playing some Romulans, and I think I held my hand over the phone so he couldn't hear me squeal in delight before I calmly told him that, yes, I thought I could do that. I don't recall precisely why, but we agreed that it would be extra cool to keep it a secret until the heat death of the universe, an uncredited bit of awesome that only a handful of people in the world would know about … unless we told them. (In fact, as far as I know, only a dozen people in the world knew about this until some meddling kids and their dog at Viacom found out about it this summer, and said we had to give me credit and stuff.)
I met JJ at an ADR stage a few days later, where he told me the entire plot of the movie (and, for the record, hearing JJ Freakin' Abrams tell you the plot of his Star Trek is even more awesome than you'd expect) and showed me some of the scenes that I'd be dubbing. I ended up providing voices for all the Romulans on Nero's ship, including the guy who tells him that "it's time" at the very beginning of the movie. (Yeah, how cool is that?)
I was distracted for the first 15 or 20 minutes before we started work, because I kept expecting someone to come out from behind a screen with a camera to laugh at me, but when I was given my dialog and recorded my first take, I knew that it was really happening.
I thought it would be really hard to keep my squee under control, but when I stood there in the darkened ADR stage, three pages of dialog in front of me, sitting in the soft glow of a single dim light clipped to a music stand, I was able to put my inner awkward superfan into check long enough to be a professional actor. I mean, I was working for JJ freakin' Abrams on Star frekin' Trek, so maybe I could rise to the occasion, you know?
We recorded dialog for about an hour or so, I guess, and when we were finished, JJ invited me to come with him over to the mixing stage, where he was going to watch a reel of the film.
Um. Okay. Yeah, I think I can do that. I texted Anne something like, "Probably never coming home again. I'm going to stay here with my new best friend JJ Abrams and watch as much of Star Trek as he'll let me."
I wrote a brief history of my life as a Magic: the Gathering player, and played Magic online as part of the Xbox Game With Fame thingy.
I played the game a few times, but it didn't capture my imagination like the board games and RPGs I loved. The mechanics were interesting, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around advanced concepts, like "tapping" and the mysterious "upkeep." (Perhaps I was not the high-level gamer I thought I was.) I went back to that shop a few weeks later (it must have been near a casting office) and ended up talking to the owner about playing Magic. "It's okay," I said, "but I'm just not that into it."
He reached behind the counter and pulled out a long box. "Maybe you'd like the game better if you had access to all the cards."
"That box has one of every card in the whole game?"
"Yes. It's eighty dollars."
"Sorry, dude, there is no way I'm spending eighty dollars on that."
Yes, for those of you wondering, this particular box had a Black Lotus in it, among other things.
Because I was so excited about making things this year, I did my best to help other peopleget excited and make things.
In the old days, creators had to hope that:
1. A store would carry their Thing.
2. Once in the store, their Thing would be in a place where people could see it.
3. People would buy their Thing.
4. People would buy enough of their Thing to get the cycle to start over at step 1.
Oh, and to have any hope of being successful, they have to do this in different stores all over the place, competing for space and attention with huge companies that have massive advertising budgets. It was, to say the very least, daunting.
But look at how much things have changed! Creative people can get excited, make something, and get it to their customers without ever having to go through any of those steps. The financial risk has been almost entirely taken away, so now we can take chances on our really crazy ideas, just because we're excited about them.
In the comments to that post, there are dozens and dozens of links from other WWdN readers who got excited and made things. Dig through if you have some time; there are some treasures buried in there.
One of the things I got excited and made is the Memories of the Futuremug:
My mind ran off like a dog chasing an idea through the forest, returning a few minutes later with something awesome. If I were to create a dialog to dramatically illustrate the way it all came together, it might go something like this:
My Mind: DUDE! OMG! This is going to be so cool!
Me: Okay, I'm listening.
My Mind: We're going to make a mug that goes with Memories of the Future.
Me: Tell me more…
My Mind: On one side, it will have those beautiful space jellyfish that Will designed for the cover.
Me: I love how those look.
My Mind: Everyone does. Will did a great job with them. Now listen, because this is what takes this mug from cool to awesome: On the opposite side of the mug, it says:
Me: Holy crap, My Mind! That's awesome!
My Mind: I know, right?!
Me: High five!
My Neighbor's Kid: Why did Mister Wheaton just slap himself in the head?
My Neighbor: He's a writer, honey. They do weird things like that.
And … scene.
My brother got excited and made some awesome calendars.
As the year drew to a close, I remembered the irrational immortality of youth:
We parked in a mostly-empty lot and walked down toward the water. There was a winter storm on its way, driving powerful waves ahead of it that were so huge, they crashed up against the bottom of the pier and occasionally broke over the end of it. Wrapped up in the irrational immortality that's endemic to 22 year-olds, we walked dangerously close to the end of the shuddering pier, angry waves boiling beneath, and dared the Pacific Ocean to reach up and touch us.
We saw Seth (who looked every inch the Rat Packer in his white jacket and red carnation) and thanked him for inviting us. At first, he didn't recognize me (on account of my luxurious beard, a theme that would repeat itself again in a moment) but when he did, he got super excited to introduce me to his orchestra's conductor, Ron Jones. Ron scored Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Seth was such a huge TNG fan, he hired him to score Family Guy. When Seth introduced us, Ron smiled warmly and said, "It's so lovely to meet you. I scored your childhood."
It was such a wonderful sentiment, and said with such joy and nostalgia, I looked at Anne and had to blink my eyes several times. Seth got pulled away by one of the hundreds of people who wanted to talk to him, and Anne and I talked with Ron for a little bit before he had to go back to conducting his orchestra.
I'm still trying to convince myself that that actually happened, and that I wasn't invited by mistake.
When I finished the first series of Memories of the Futurecast, I restarted Radio Free Burrito and gave it its own home at RadioFreeBurrito.com. I release a new episode every Monday, children.
For the rest of the month, I pretty much dug into the vault for posts so I could enjoy some vacation time with my family, then I wrote a bunch of posts about what I did all year that I hoped to keep to three, but ended up going to six, because as it turns out … it really was a great year after all.
You know, it's really easy to look back on the year and only see the things I didn't do, the things I didn't finish, the stuff I missed out on, and the things that I failed to accomplish. In fact, it's really hard not to do that. But when I put this whole series of posts together, though, a pretty clear picture emerged: 2009 was an awesome year for me professionally, easily the best year I've had as an actor this decade. As a writer, I didn't do the fiction I wanted to do (again) but I released two books that people seem to like a whole lot, and began work on another. For the first time since I started this stuff, I finally feel – for real – like I can really make a living doing this stuff. I'm not getting rich (and it's not like I'm not trying, guys) but I'm not starving or struggling, either.
Over all, I'm grateful for my friends, my family, my health, my success, and that I get to share all of those things with millions of people (wow, that's weird) who I'll probably never get to meet, but who seem to genuinely care about all that stuff, and give me the wonderful gift of listening to me when I tell them stories about it. You're reading this, so you're probably one of those people, right? Well, thank you. I sincerely mean that.
Yeah, 2009 was a pretty good year, so I'm putting 2010 on notice: you've got some big shoes to fill, buddy. I think you should get on the phone with some people and get to work.