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home again

Last night was the first night in almost two weeks that I haven’t had a series of horrible nightmares that woke me up at the end of every REM cycle. I woke up this morning next to my dogs (Anne is still in New York) who seemed as happy to snuggle next to me as I was to snuggle next to them.

GenCon was, on balance, awesome. I played some fantastic new games, spent some great time with friends, and ate a couple of fantastic meals. The only bummers were a day of fucking awful anxiety that threatened to keep me in my hotel room, and a single person (out of hundreds) who was a dick to me when I explained that I can’t stop to take pictures because it draws a crowd and then I get pinned down in one place, unable to enjoy the convention.

There’s lots going on right now that I want to write about, and being on hiatus from The Wil Wheaton Project should afford me time to sit at my desk and be a proper writer for the first time in months, but today I am home, and  I need to rest and reload my HP and Mana.

More to come.

Akira and me

So last night my wife and her friends went out to dinner, and I stayed home for a quiet evening alone with my dogs, a homebrew, and ​Akira. If you haven’t seen it, and you like anime, science fiction, cyberpunk, or some combination of those things, I highly recommend it. In the US, it’s streaming on Hulu Plus, and the Blu-Ray is amazing.

This is the movie that introduced me to anime, way back in 1988 or 89. I remember buying a bootleg VHS at a comic convention, which had a photocopied paper wrapped around the outside, entirely in Japanese. One of my friends said he had heard it was a great movie, so I dropped the twenty bucks or whatever and picked it up. When we got home, we put it into the VCR (kids, ask your parents – it was like a streaming media server that only served local files to a single device, off of very inefficient, removable storage medium) and watched.

It wasn’t dubbed, it wasn’t subbed, and we had absolutely no idea what was going on, but we loved it. In 1988 or 89, there just wasn’t anything like this movie. We had Voltron and Robotech and Battle of the Planets, and they were all pretty awesome, but the breathtaking beauty of Akira was unequaled. We watched it over and over again while we played tabletop games, until we wore out the VHS. We invented some sort of story, where Kaneda and Tetsuo were fighting the espers for some reason, and were eventually defeated by them when Akira is reborn. I remember finally seeing it with subtitles in the mid-90s, and being blown away by the story that was actually being told, which was quite a bit more interesting and complex than the one we’d made up.

I loved Akira so much, it lead me to Ghost in the Shell, all of Miyazaki’s movies, and unintentional hentai (boy, it sure was a shock to us when we picked up a thing called Demon City, only to discover that it was all about tentacle dicks fucking everything in the world. I don’t recall the story, but I can clearly recall how we were all traumatized but unable to look away from it.)

I don’t keep up with the world of anime now, because I have too much other stuff to keep up with and not enough time for everything, but I will always have time to watch Akira.

The Real Batman v Superman

We made a thing for last night’s Wil Wheaton Project, and I think it’s pretty great.

As of today, we have one episode left. We won’t know if Syfy is going to order more episodes for about 5 or 6 weeks. We all need the break (it’s a lot of work to make this show, and I think it’s safe to say that we’re all feeling a little worn out), but I’m sad that we’re going to take the break now, when I finally feel like our show is firing on all cylinders.

How I spent my birthday

My sound guy, Matt, helped me take off my mic. My wardrobe stylist, Kristin, helped me out of my jacket, while my makeup artist, Molly, handed me a wipe thing to get my makeup off my face.

Anne stood up from the audience and said, “we have something for you.”

“Dude, I don’t want anyone making a big deal about my birthday,” I said, “especially at work.”

“Well, it’s too late. I got you Batman cupcakes.”

From behind the green screen, my stage manager, Roger, handed me a chocolate cupcake with a batman cookie on top of it. It was pretty awesome.

“Holy shit that’s amazing and I’m so glad you did this!” I said. “Please don’t sing.”

“Nobody is going to sing. We also got enough cupcakes for the whole audience and crew, too,” Anne said.

I turned to the audience and told them. Someone shouted out that they knew, because they’d been let in on the secret while I was changing my wardrobe earlier.

I walked out the stage door, and saw boxes of cupcakes set up on a table. For the next few minutes, I thanked every person who came to the show, and handed them a cupcake and a Sharknado toy that our friends at Funko provided to us to give away. My crew and the show staff gathered around and wished me happy birthday, Kristin gave me some Star Wars Vans, Molly gave me some craft beer, and my writers gave me a card that was accompanied by even more beer. My people just get me, you guys.

After I changed into my normal clothes, Anne and I drove up to Santa Barbara — well, Anne drove while I drifted in and out of sleep — to spend a couple days for my birthday. Traffic was surprisingly light, and we got to our hotel early enough to watch the gorgeous sunset over the Pacific Ocean. We had a wonderful dinner, shared a fantastic bottle of wine, and fell asleep before 10pm.

12 hours of sleep later, we woke up. After five exhausting days at Comicon and a taping of The Wil Wheaton Project, I finally felt rested.

“Happy birthday,” Anne said to me as we stretched and tried to convince ourselves that getting out of bed was a thing we should probably do.

“Thanks,” I said. “It’s totally my birthday.”

“All day long!”

We had breakfast, and then took a long walk on the beach. There weren’t too many people out, and most of the people who were there had adorable dogs running around. Anne and I are dog people, so we got to stop several times to throw a ball or scratch a scruffy neck.

“You know what I think would be awesome?” I said, as we reached a sea wall a couple miles away and began our walk back to the hotel. Before Anne could answer, I continued, “I think we should go to the spa and get massages.”

“That’s the best idea you’ve ever had,” she said.

“I know. I’m kind of amazing.”

We got back to the hotel,found out that we could book into the couple’s massage room, and got 80-minute massages in a beautiful room with windows open to the ocean, the sound of gently breaking waves carried in on a soft ocean breeze.

After our massage, we went back to our room to get ready for dinner … but first I had to take a nap, because when you’re 42, that’s how you spend your birthday.

I woke up two hours later, and got ready for dinner, which would be at one of my favorite restaurants in town. I looked for my nice shirt in the suitcase, and discovered that, in my exhaustion a day earlier, I had forgotten to pack it.

“I’m not as amazing as I said I was earlier. I forgot to bring my nice shirt.”

“It’s okay,” Anne said, “the restaurant isn’t fancy.”

“But I wanted to look nice for you.”

“I don’t care how you look,” she said.

“Even if I look like a hobo?” I said.

“You can’t look like a hobo, because you also forgot to pack your hobo bindle.”

“Dammit!” I pulled on a black t-shirt that was at least more appropriate than the Tabletop T-shirt I had been wearing.

We got to dinner, and it was awesome. I had all the food I wanted, and the restaurant even gave me a chocolate souffle with a candle in it, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY WIL written on the plate in chocolate. I’m always excited when someone spells my name correctly, and then I was even more excited when I found out that they knew how to spell my name because the servers were fans of The Wil Wheaton Project. I blew out the candle, and wished for the show to get picked up for more episodes, because I love working with the people who make it happen.

We went back to the hotel, watched the show I’d taped the day before, and almost immediately fell asleep afterward. We slept for another 10 hours, and took another long walk on the beach before we got back into the car to go home.

It was an absolutely perfect, beautiful day. There were some high clouds, and the sun was very warm, but the breeze off the ocean kept us cool. We were so happy and content, we didn’t want to leave, and by the time we got back to the hotel we realized that we’d walked almost eight miles.

On the way home, as we neared Ventura and were about to turn inland, leaving the ocean views to memory, I said to my wife, “This was the best birthday trip, ever. I feel totally rested, completely relaxed, and like I got all my hit points back. I really needed this. Thank you for making it happen.”

“You’re welcome. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

How I spent my Comicon

I spent five days at Comicon this year, and discovered a new level of exhaustion and fatigue every day, surpassing the level I’d discovered the day before. By the time I was finally on the train back home, I had reached a point of burn out that I never though I’d experience: I pretty much don’t want to go to Comicon any more, because it’s stopped being fun for me.

Wednesday, we got on a much-delayed train (tragically, a northbound train hit a woman up near Ventura, so the southbound train was delayed by almost three hours) and headed down for Hop-Con at Stone’s Liberty Station. We celebrated the launch of w00tstout 2.0, and tapped some awesome limited collaboration brews, including my own white sage IPA, called the Tao of Sage. Much fun was had, and I drank as much beer as I’ve ever had in my life. I’m not sure how it got away from me so quickly (I suspect it was the 13.5% w00tstout on cask with s’mores) but my wife had to literally roll me into bed, because I sort of overdid it. Lesson learned, I woke up Thursday morning without a hangover (Anne says she kept giving me water) and vowed to institute Operation: Beer Just Drink One for the rest of the con (a quest I completed, I’m happy to note).

Thursday night, we did w00tstock 6.0. It was a great show, with some standout performances by Mega Ran, Marian Call, and Thomas Lennon. Craig Ferguson even came by to make jokes.

I always want to perform something new at w00tstock, but I’ve been so busy with The Wil Wheaton Project, I haven’t had time to write anything that isn’t specifically for the show. I had some stuff in my pocket that hadn’t been performed for w00tstock before, though, so I went with my story Blue Light Special, from The Happiest Days of Our Lives. It felt like a little bit of a cheat to me, but the audience loved it, and I had a hell of a good time performing it.

After the show was over, we tried to go to the Geek & Sundry lounge, but upon discovering that the rest of the world was there, in a room that I’m fairly sure was 500° Kelvin and 812% humidity, we ended up going back to our hotel, crashing into bed, and sleeping for almost 10 hours.

This was a theme for me at Comicon this year, and it’s probably the only reason I was able to survive it (emotionally and physically): I didn’t stay up too late, I didn’t overdo anything, and I made sure that I got to sleep as much as I needed, on every night that it was possible to do that.

Friday morning, I went down to the convention center and actually went inside for the first time. I was a surprise guest on the Big Bang Theory writer’s panel, and we showed a trailer for the imaginary film Serial Apeist 2: Monkey See, Monkey Kill. The audience loved it, and they really seemed to be happy that I was there, which made me feel good.

Friday night, I took a crew from The Wil Wheaton Project to Syfy’s Sharknado 2 party, where we made some funny stuff together. Some of it made it into this week’s show, if you’re into that.

Sidebar: How much fun was Sharknado 2?! I love that everyone in the film’s universe just accepts that there can be a massive shark-infested weather event, and then stuff happens. I also noticed that, according to some Twitter thing, I was the second most prolific Sharknado 2 Twittering person, behind the official account. I’m, uh, I’m not going to try to pretend that I’m not proud of that.

Saturday, we went back to the convention center, where Anne did a signing at Cupcake Quarterly, a really cool nerdy pin-up magazine that our friend publishes. After dropping her off, I tried my best to get through the con floor to visit some of my friends, and this is where I discovered that, maybe, I just can’t enjoy Comicon like I used to.

I realize that I’m on television every week, and even though that audience is smaller than we all hoped it would be (turns out promotion off the network is kind of important), that audience is maybe, um, oversampled at Comicon. There’s also the whole Big Bang Theory thing, and Tabletop is pretty popular with my people … so on the one hand, it was really exciting and awesome to meet so many people who love the shows I make as much as I do, and I tried to take pictures and stuff with as many people as I could, but I quickly learned that there’s no such thing as “just one quick selfie”.  I hate telling people no when they ask, but if I said yes to one person, that person quickly became ten people, and then a small crowd formed. I got a little panicky once, when I was literally surrounded, but everyone I interacted with was kind and understanding, and with the help of my friend Shawn, I was able to make it across the floor to visit with some people I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.

So, before I continue: I know this is a #firstworldproblem and a #celebrityproblem and whatever else you want to say about it. I get that, and I know that from a business position it’s an amazing problem to have. From a human being perspective, though, it’s a bummer, because I couldn’t wander the floor and look at art and talk to comic creators, because whenever I stopped  I got sort of mobbed, even with my friend doing his best to keep an eye on me. I suppose I could be one of those people with a couple of security goons, but that seems even worse. If I do go back next year, I think I’ll have to cosplay in a full mask or something, which is weird, but at least I’ll get a chance to maybe pick up some cool art and books.

After Anne was done signing, I did a quick interview for Rotten Tomatoes, and then we spent a little bit of time at a really nice cocktail party that Bill Prady has every year. Finally, I got to see a lot of my friends all in one place, and that was really nice.

Before we knew it, it was time for the Geek & Sundry panel, which I had to leave early because I had to get up to a theatre a couple miles away from the convention center to perform in the Welcome To Night Vale / Thrilling Adventure Hour crossover show.

“You look exhausted,” Ben Blacker (Thrilling Adventure co-writer) said to me when he saw me backstage.

“I am,” I said, “and I’m soaked through because of the humidity, but I’m really glad to be here for this show.”

I looked around the backstage area, and took in the curtain, the lights, the prop boxes, and all of the things that I only see backstage in a theater. I heard some of the other actors running their lines out on the stage, and flipped through my script to catch up to them.

“I’m so happy to be here, though, because I feel like I’m back in my element as a performer, back where I belong, back where I’m doing actual work, instead of being ‘that guy from TV’.” I wiped sweat off my face and took a deep breath. “It’s like I’ve been doing hundreds of performances for an audience of one for the last few days, and I’m looking forward to doing one performance for an audience of whatever fits in this theater.”

“I get that,” he said.

“I feel like it’ll be rejuvenating,” I said.

“That’s awesome,” he said, “and you’re up on the next page.”

I walked up to the mic and joined the rehearsal. It took me a few tries to find the character, but with the help of Ben Blacker and his co-writer Ben Acker, I brought the omniscient galactic being S’Tonge to life in a way that was incredibly fun and deeply satisfying. And not for nothing, I got to be in Welcome to Night Vale and The Thrilling Adventure Hour on the same stage in the same show, and I never thought I’d get to do that.

When the show was over, I thanked everyone for having me, found my wife, and went back to our hotel.

“I have found a new level of tired that I didn’t know existed,” I said, in the elevator.

“You said that yesterday,” she said.

“I know.” I said.

We went to sleep, and got up early Sunday morning so I could make it to Nerd HQ for a panel with Felicia. After that panel ended, Anne and I were rushed to the train station in a freaking golf cart motorcade — for reals — and a few hours later, were back in our house. The dogs were extremely excited to see us, and even the cats couldn’t pretend that they didn’t give a fuck about us for very long.

I unpacked my suitcase and repacked it with clean clothes, because the next day, Anne took me away for my birthday, which I’ll write about later.

this is why i’m weird about comic-con

I’m packing for Comic-Con, finalizing my set for w00tstock, getting all kinds of excited for Syfy’s Sharknado 2 party on Friday night, and locking down my character choices for the Welcome to Night Vale / Thrilling Adventure Hour crossover show on Saturday night.

I fold some jeans and put them into my suitcase and think to myself, “this is weird. I don’t feel panicky about Comic-Con at all.”

So, of course, my brain goes, “well, let me fix that for you” and I feel the nauseating well of panic swell up in my chest. My arms feel fifty feet long, my hands get cold and numb, and I realize that I’ve been clenching my jaw for several minutes. My ears actually pop when I release it.

Depression and anxiety are awesome*.

So I’m genuinely excited for all the cool things I will get to do this year, and I’m genuinely excited to be, at least in some fashion, a representative for Syfy, Geek & Sundry, and myself. I’m excited to see neat cosplay, visit with friends who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like, and for some things to happen that I can’t talk about in public at the moment.

… but occasionally things like this happen at Comic-Con, and then I get scared and overwhelmed, and don’t want to go outside.

I’ll do my best to be awesome, but if you see me at Comic-con, and I seem a little weird or off to you, this is probably why.

*not actually awesome

this is how we do it

I’ve been getting up earlier than my body wants to on Monday mornings for almost two months, now, and I’m still not used to it. I mean, I don’t feel like I’m upside down in a pool filled with goo, but I’m still a little slow and easily confused until I get my CON and DEX bonuses from my morning coffee.

I don’t know if I’ve talked about this, but the way we put The Wil Wheaton Project together goes something like this:

We have a great staff of associate producers, researchers, and staff writers who are responsible for certain shows. We do our best to assign shows to each other that we wouldn’t normally be watching, so that we all bring different perspectives to the shows that we cover. All of us are constantly on the lookout for stories, videos, cats, and things that would probably be interesting and/or amusing to our audience, and we have a private mailing list for that.

We take all that research, and have a couple of creative meetings during the week that helps us narrow down what we’re going to do on the next episode (tonight, we air S01E08, which we call 108, so we’re working on 109 this week).

On Thursday, there’s a thing called a clip meeting, where everyone gets together to look at clips that have been gathered, along with some jokes or insights or other commentary that may go with those clips.

On Friday, I come into the office for a table read of the script with a the senior producers, and we all work on figuring out what sorts of jokes we’re going to do, and how the show is going to come together. We usually leave the office very, very late on Fridays.

Over the weekend, we watch all of our weekend shows, and keep looking for box office news for movies that are in our world. Then, at are-you-fucking-serious o’clock on Monday morning, the producers and editors put together material from those weekend shows. Around 8am, I head into the office and look at everything they’ve been working on, and we make a final decision on what’s going to fill out act one of the show.

Usually, we have three bits in act one that are more or less locked in, and we add up to three more based on that early Monday work.

After a bit of work on Monday morning, we all head to our studio and tape the show. It’s usually done in the very early afternoon, at which point the network executives and our executives get to work on putting together the final cut of the show, which is sent into space and then down to New York for broadcast about 30 hours after I walk out of the studio.

It’s not as harrowing as I imagine @Midnight must be, but we all work very hard without ever feeling like we have as much time as we want, and I’m super proud of the work we’ve been delivering since episode 104, which is when I think we finally found ourselves and started making the show that I hope we’ll get to make for at least another year.

So, I want you to know this about tonight’s episode: yesterday, we built act one from the ground up. We didn’t keep anything that we had planned to put there, and a few people — including our amazing editors — worked their asses off to build the longest act of the show, the most important act of the show, in just a few hours, when all of us are at our most exhausted. And get this: we ended up having to cut some things that we really liked from the first act, because it was too long! I’m intensely proud of the team I get to work with, and so grateful for the privilege of working with them, and what we did as a single unit yesterday is a very big reason why.

 

there are four things

We taped a great episode of The Wil Wheaton Project yesterday, that I’m super excited to see tonight. We wrote some stuff that I think is really funny, and I had all kinds of fun when we were in front of the audience. Tonight’s Wil Wheaton Project is on at 9pm Eastern on Syfy. Next week, the network is moving us back to 10pm, after Face Off, which I was disappointed to learn is not a show where puppets reenact the classic Nic Cage / John Travolta film.

Starting today, I’m working on the audiobook for John Scalzi’s Lock In, which is a really fantastic story, until the end of the week, when I get three days to prepare for everything I’m doing at Comicon next week, including W00tstock and Hop-Con.

Speaking of Hop-Con, Anne and I got our hands on a case of w00tstout 2.0 yesterday, and I’m happy to report that it’s just as good as we knew it would be. It also is a great way to ensure you don’t feel your face, if you’re not careful.

Finally, Anne wrote and produced a wonderful video for the Pasadena Humane Society, starring Marlowe and Seamus, which I think you’ll enjoy:

 

 

 

No, that’s not me on Instagram

Someone is impersonating me (or at least trying to mislead people into thinking he/she/it is me) on Instagram. This person is using my Twitter avatar, my bio, and generally causing a lot of confusion.

I tried to report the profile to Instagram, and Instagram told me that to complete the report, I would have to send a scan of my government-issued identification.

Fuck. That.

So: I can’t get the account taken down, but that’s not me on Instagram. Tell your friends. Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you.

Schrödinger’s Nielsen Box

The last three episodes of The Wil Wheaton Project (105, 106, 107) are pretty much what I wanted this show to be all along. I feel like it’s a good blend of irreverence, silliness, cleverness, and actual information that’s entertaining and interesting. We’ve had some great guests drop in, and our original creations (our silly TV theme songs, games like How Will They Bite It?) are landing on the audience exactly the way we hoped that they would.

As far as I can tell, the people who watch the show are having a good time with it, and the feedback I’ve been getting has been overwhelmingly positive. This makes me happy, because I’m making the show that I want to make, and the people who are watching it seem to enjoy that.

So, creatively, I’m very happy.

Our ratings are okay, but not great. We are building on our lead in, which is good, and people are watching the whole show, which is also good, but it’s discouraging that more people aren’t watching something that I’m really proud of.

I’ve done just about everything I can to convince the network to make it easier to watch online, but I’m just getting a runaround that ends with a whole lot of audience that probably would add to our ratings just going to YouTube or Pirate Bay to watch us. I’m happy that people are finding and enjoying the show, but I’m disappointed that our network isn’t making it easier for those people to be counted in a way that would help us get renewed for more episodes.

I made a decision two weeks ago, after 106 didn’t do as well as I hoped it would, to not care about the ratings any more. They matter only because it’s part of some inscrutable formula some people in a building in New York use to determine if we get to make more than 12 episodes, and those numbers are a distraction from the creative process for me.

As it stands right now, we’ll get to do at least five more episodes. After that, my long range sensors can’t get  a signal. I could spend a lot of time worrying about our ratings, but the fact is that people tune in or they don’t. The network has to promote the show in a smart way that gets people interested in us, and we have to make a show that those people enjoy enough to stick around and watch.

So I’m going to stay focused on the creative side of things, and work with an incredibly talented, smart, and funny team of writers and producers to make a show that we are proud of, that we can stand by.

Whether that’s for five more or thirty more is currently in Schrödinger’s Nielsen Box.