Category Archives: blog

i forget the secret knock

I’m pretty busy with a few projects that I can’t talk about, including two Really Awesome Things that I’m dying to announce.

My little pocket notebook is filling up with words that I hope will get assembled into something here when I slow down a little bit, so I’m still writing every day, just not in public.

And now I want to share something really neat, before I get back to work:

Stand by Me 1986 ( FILMING LOCATION ) from Herve Attia on Vimeo.

This was shared with me by a reader, who notes that this guy makes lots of videos showing the current state of classic film locations. I doubt you’ll have the same emotional reaction to it that I did, but still think you’ll dig it.

Now I have something where I didn’t have something before.

My friend Cory Doctorow says that he can write simply by sitting down and opening up a vein. It doesn’t matter where he is, or what’s going on around him. When it’s time to write, it’s just his brain and the place he puts the words.

I admire that, and wish I could do it, but it’s just not possible for me. I need to be in a calm and quiet place, both emotionally and physically, and depending on what stage of a project I’m in (rough draft, last mile, rewriting, outlining), I may need other existential things, particular bits of music, types of coffee or tea, things like that.

I guess it’s different for every writer, but I have these — you know, I sat here for almost a full minute typing and deleting the word “silly”, before deciding that it isn’t silly at all — rituals that let me open the creative vein that Cory can tear open at will.

The important thing, I guess, is that the words get written and the story gets told, and what the specific the steps are from idea to publishing don’t really matter, at long as you take them.

Today, I had the barest hint of an idea, and I wanted to know what it would turn into, if I worked on it. Imagine seeing something far away, though clouds and haze. It could be a mountain, it could be a thunderhead, it could be a tumor pressing against your optic nerve. The thing is, you don’t know what it is until you get close enough to see it clearly. You have to take the steps.

So I put on my running shoes, and I went out for a jog, letting my mind wander around, until that hint of an idea began to coalesce into something more tangible. After about forty minutes, I had enough to write down some broad strokes, knowing that once I started writing the actual thing, I’ll know how to fill in the gaps that were left today.

I took literal steps to get my brain going, and to start the process of turning a few scattered “what if…” ideas into something that may turn into an actual story. I don’t know what will come of it, and I don’t know when it will be finished, but I took the steps, and now I have something where I didn’t have something before.

everyone needs more marlowe wheaton

"...but I was playing with the toys."

“…but but but I was playing with the toys.”

Seamus is really patient with Marlowe, but she’s 19 months and he’s 5 years-old, so for the last few days, she’s been pushing him, and testing her position in the pack.

Today, he finally decided that he’d had enough, and in addition to holding her down and reminding her that when he doesn’t want to play, it means he does not want to play, he took her toys away from her and made her wait about an hour before he let her take one of them back.

I let him correct her, because that’s really important for her socialization, and it’s really important to maintain pack status… but I did have to take this picture of her looking at me like it was the most unfair thing in the world that he took her toys away.

This is a story about dogs being cute. It does not involve them shitting.

There’s a small, yappy dog in our neighborhood. It has terrible owners who leave it outside all the time, and whenever it’s outside, it barks nonstop. I feel bad for the dog, because it’s clearly lonely and stressed, and I really dislike the owners for not being more responsible with their pet.

For the longest time, when that little dog would get going, our dogs would run into the backyard and start barking with it. This created a delightful feedback loop that was actually the opposite of delightful.

I’ve used positive reinforcement to train all of our dogs, so to stop them from this behavior, I started saying to them, “Hey! What do we do when that dog barks?” and giving them treats when they were quiet. After a few weeks of this, when that dog barks, they just go straight to the place in the kitchen where we keep the treats, sit, and wait for us to reward them. It’s been really awesome, and just saying “What do we do?” calms them down whenever they get worked up at anything outside, from people walking dogs to helicopters flying overhead, to the mailman delivering our tacos.

Seamus is a really smart dog, and he picks up on things really fast. Riley isn’t nearly as smart, and Marlowe is probably going to end up being as smart as Seamus, just as soon as she learns a little more self-control and better manners (she’s only 18 months, but she’s right on pace, as far as we’re concerned.) Seamus has figured out that he can bark once at absolutely nothing, then calm himself down, and go wait for treats. The other dogs usually run into the kitchen and join him.  I don’t mind him thinking that he’s tricking us, because it just further reinforces the behavior we want, anyway.

So a couple of nights ago, Marlowe was next to Seamus, chewing on an antler* in the living room, and Seamus wanted it. He’s above her in pack status, so he could probably just take it, but he’s not like that with her. I watched him look at her, look at me in the kitchen, then look back at her. He barked once, and stood up. Marlowe jumped up, dropped the antler, and raced into the kitchen to the place where the treats are. Seamus calmly laid down, picked up the antler, and began to chew.

“Dude, that was amazing,” I said to him. I gave Marlowe a consolation treat, as he closed his eyes and chewed, contentedly.

*This is the best thing ever, for aggressive chewers. They are humanely gathered from places where they’ve already fallen off the deer or elk or whatever, washed and sterilized, and cut into varying lengths. It’s natural, doesn’t run the risks associated with bits of plastic or rawhide, and a large one lasts for about six months with Seamus and Marlowe, who are incredibly aggressive chewers.

This is all about dogs taking shits. If that sort of thing grosses you out, don’t read it.

This is all about dogs taking shits. If that sort of thing grosses you out, don’t read it.

I walked out into the backyard, and got the dog-shit-picker-upper-thing out of the place where it lives. I carried it to the lawn, and began using it for its prescribed purpose.

After a couple of scoops, Marlowe joined me on the lawn. “You guys sure do poop a lot,” I said. She looked at me with sweet eyes and a pibble smile.

I continued to pick up their dirty, sinful business, and Riley arrived. She surveyed the situation, and decided to take a huge shit in the middle of the yard. “Thanks for not waiting until I put this away, Piles,” I said.

I turned my back to her and worked my way toward the back of the lawn. The sun was warm on my back, a very light breeze rustling the leaves on the camphor trees.

I turned around just in time to see Marlowe eating Riley’s poop.

“Goddammit, Marlowe! Stop eating shit!” I said.

She took a few steps away from me, looking guiltily back over her shoulder. “That is so gross, dude. Don’t do that!”

She looked at me, hunched her back, and pooped. I’m pretty sure she was thinking, “I’m sorry. Here, let me put it back.”

 

 

Ticket to Ride: Europe is on today’s Tabletop

Today, we release one of my favourite episodes of the season, Ticket To Ride: Europe, with John Kovalic, Emma Caulfield, and my lovely wife, Anne Wheaton.

John does the incredibly wonderful comic Dork Tower, and this week he’s been doing a Tabletop storyline that you may enjoy.

Emma is an amazing actor, vlogger, writer, and awesome human.

Anne does a whole bunch of awesome things, including VandalEyes and Rescue Pets Are Awesome. She also runs our charitable foundation, created the celebrity pet adoption calendar for the Wiggle Waggle Walk (raising over $50,000 for Pasadena Humane Society), and for some mysterious reason agreed to marry me.

This episode was really fun to shoot, even if the game ended up being the most intense, focused, serious game we’ve ever played on Tabletop.

I hope you enjoy it, and remember to send me your pictures and stories about your own Tabletop gaming, so I can share them with the world.

OH! OH! OH! And get ready for the second annual International Tabletop Day, which is happening April 5.

It isn’t type casting. It’s smart casting.

Over at my Tumblr ask thingy, therondraith asked:

Why do you always end up playing the asshole in your various acting roles? You’re good at it, but it seems to be an unfortunate typecast.

All actors have a particular role that they’re best suited to play, and when they play those roles, they really connect with the audience.

For example: John Travolta is amazing at playing The Loveable Loser. That’s who he was in Welcome Back Kotter, Grease, and Saturday Night Fever, and audiences freaking LOVED him. When the studios tried to make him The Leading Man, in films like Urban Cowboy, Perfect, and something else I’m forgetting right now, audiences turned on him and his career started to flounder.

He didn’t do much of note for a very long time, until Tarantino cast him as a junkie hit man in Pulp Fiction. Suddenly, he’s playing the Loveable Loser again, and his career explodes with roles in Michael, and something else that I’m forgetting right now (it’s 5am and I’m on 4 hours of sleep).

So, when he’s playing that archetype, audiences connect with him on a subconscious level, because it’s the type he plays so perfectly.

The type I play so perfectly, it turns out, is that guy you love to hate, that guy who antagonizes your hero, but who actually has a good heart, when he forgets that he’s being an asshole. That’s who I play in The Guild, Leverage, Eureka, and Big Bang Theory. I don’t know why I play those roles so effectively (it may be related to how much I like to sass people in real life), but it’s what I’ve been doing for a few years, and it’s no coincidence that my acting career has had a bit of a resurgence as a result.

I don’t consider it typecasting, I consider it smart casting, and I wish that more casting people would understand what type I play, and give me a chance to work in those roles.

Oh, and remember: the villain is the hero of his own story, so even though I’m playing an asshole you love to hate, from that character’s point of view, he isn’t doing anything wrong. For example, Doctor Parrish on Eureka was an antagonist to Fargo and Carter, but from Parrish’s point of view, he was the smartest guy in the room, and he was just baffled that he was the only one who could see it. As a result, he resented having to answer to Fargo, who he viewed as someone who didn’t deserve to go to Titan, be the Director of GD, or get the girl. He resented having to deal with Carter, who wasn’t even a scientist, but was always telling him what to do. At the end of the day, though, Parrish loved GD, loved the town, and would tolerate working with people he thought weren’t as smart as him, because he believed in doing the right thing for science.

Thanks for your question.

on a long run, on a long run

I went to my doctor yesterday, and told him how crummy I’ve been feeling. We talked about a lot of different things, and ultimately decided that it was probably a good idea to change up my brain pills. This morning, I started something new, and I really feel a lot better. I honestly don’t care if it’s a placebo effect at this point, but the end result is the same: I don’t feel despondent, depressed, and shitty about myself.

“You are very hard on yourself,” he told me yesterday.

“I know,” I said, “I just have really high expectations that I want to meet, and with all these incredibly successful friends …” I trailed off because I felt like I was starting to feel sorry for myself.

“Being judgmental about what you make or don’t make doesn’t help you at all,” he said, “you have to do your best every day, even if your best isn’t what you want it to be.”

I knew he was right, and I knew that it was my depression getting in between me knowing that was right, and accepting that it was right. That’s one of the incredibly frustrating things about depression: I can know that the way I feel is just my brain chemicals being messed up, but whether I accept it or not, the end result is the same: I feel awful. It’s a little unfair that it doesn’t work in both directions, but after living with it for my whole life, I can tell you that depression doesn’t care about being fair; it’s really a dick that way.

My doctor said that I was very clear-eyed about my mental illness (psychologists call people like me “the identified patient”), and because I could be rational even when I was feeling irrational, he wanted me to try some cognitive therapy. “When you feel bad, when you are thinking and feeling that you’re worthless or anything like that, I want you to recognize it, and then make an effort to replace those bad feelings with good ones.

“When you are feeling bad about a job you didn’t get, think about a job that you did get, that you feel good about. When you feel bad about not finishing a story, recognize that feeling, and remember how you felt when you published something you’re proud of.”

“That sounds like something I can do,” I said, “and it sounds like it may help me break out of the cycle of depression telling me a suck, then making me feel terrible because I believe that I suck, which makes me depressed, which lets depression tell me that I suck.” I imagined a particularly ugly ouroboros wrapping itself around me.

I don’t think this means that I don’t allow myself to feel disappointment, or frustration, or any of the other emotions that I think we all need to feel to be a fully-functional human. I think this means that I don’t let my mental illness take something like feeling unsure about where a story goes next and turning it into the Very Certain And Unshakable Belief That I Am A Worthless And Stupid And Idiotic Loser Who Everyone Knows Really Sucks. Not, um, that I’ve felt like that a whole lot lately, or anything like that. Um. Right.

So.

Let’s get started, shall we? This weekend, Anne and I went to the mall to pick up some fancy pants I had tailored. While we were there, we noticed that the big old men’s clothing sale was happening, yadda yadda yadda I got three awesome suits for less than the cost of one, if they weren’t on sale.

Guys: it turns out that your beautiful wife telling you, “WOW, you look great in that suit,” is a powerful motivator for buying that suit. And two others. Because reasons.

After we were finished getting them tailored, Anne had to get on the phone to handle a bunch of #VandalEyes business, so I went into the bookstore until she was done. On my way to the Science Fiction section, I stopped to take this picture of their Tabletop game section:

tabletopgames

While I was taking this picture, a young man cautiously approached me. “Mister … Mister Wheaton?” He said.

“That’s me!” I said.

“I love your show Tabletop! You are the reason my friends and I play games, and I’m actually here today to find something for one of them.”

I put my phone into my pocket. “That is really awesome,” I said. “The main reason I make Tabletop is to inspire other people to play games.”

He swallowed, nodded, and said, “um, would you, uh … would you help me pick out a game for my friend?”

My heart grew three sizes. “I would love to do that!”

I asked him a bunch of questions about the games they like to play together, his friend’s level of experience, and how much he wanted to spend. Ultimately, he settled on Ticket To Ride. He shook my hand, thanked me several times, and walked away, happily.

“I’m so sorry to bother you,” a voice said behind me. I turned and saw a young woman with a nametag that indicated she worked in the store.

“Yes?” I said.

“This is my section,” she said, pointing to the games, “and it’s here because of your show, Tabletop.”

My heart grew another three sizes.

“We order all the games you play on your show, and we usually sell out of whatever you’ve just played right away.”

“That’s really cool!” I said.

We talked about the games that she had in the section, and I recommended a few new ones for her, including Hive, Love Letter, and Coup.

“I’ll see if I can convince my manager to let me order those,” she said. “Anyway, I don’t want to take up any more of your time. I just wanted to thank you for your show, and for everything you do.”

“It’s my pleasure,” I said, “and it really means a lot to me that you took the time to tell me that.” I started to walk back to the Sci-Fi Books, and stopped. I turned back. “If your distributor doesn’t know what’s coming up on Tabletop — and they should, but if they don’t — please e-mail me and I’ll give you the release schedule, so you can know what to order.”

“That would be great,” she said.

“Awesome.” We shook hands, and I walked back to the Sci-Fi books. Before I could really figure out if I was going to get anything, my phone chirped in my pocket. It was Anne. She was off the phone, and didn’t want to go on a quest to find me in the store. “I’ll be right out,” I replied.

I walked past that Tabletop game section, which was absolutely huge — even bigger than the entire Sci-Fi and Fantasy book section, combined, and a little voice in my head said, “it’s okay to feel a little proud about this.” I listened to it.

I’m still frustrated and disappointed when I see a character on a TV show or in a film that I clearly could have played, but didn’t even get to audition for (a casting director recently told my agent that they would not even see me for a role, because “Wil Wheaton can’t play someone in his late 30s,” even though I’m 41, with two children in their 20s, and just letting me spend thirty fucking seconds in their goddamn office to see how I look now and how I interpret the role may change their mind). I’m still frustrated and disappointed that I haven’t produced any original work of fiction of any consequence in a year, and that I haven’t finished Memories of the Future Volume 2.

BUT — and it’s a big but* — instead of focusing on those things, and feeling like I’m being crushed into a singularity by a black hole of depression, I can look at the show I created and brought to life with some very talented people, that is having a very real and lasting impact on a lot of people, in a very positive way.

When I look at the writing I haven’t finished, I can look at the calendar and see all the times I was working on a video game or an audiobook or an animated show, and was on the road to promote Tabletop, and honestly accept that there just wasn’t that much time to write the things I wanted to write, because I was busy working on other things.

I can stop being so hard on myself, and I can stop judging myself, and I can stop holding myself up to standards that are so high, even the people I’m comparing myself to every day would have a hard time reaching them.

Or, at least, I can try, and I can do my best, because that’s all I can do.

*hurr hurr hurr

here i dreamt

A couple days ago, I turned on asks at my Tumblr thing, because it felt like a way to participate in the Tumblr community. It’s been silly and fun, and — in the case of this one — a little cathartic.

tumblr_ask

If you can’t read the image, here’s what it says:

I’m afraid to ask this ? But.. Do you plan on making any other movies? Are any in the works? Truly you are a great actor, both funny and serious. I admire you Greatly!

I honestly don’t know. My career is pretty great at the moment, in terms of steady employment and creatively satisfying work, but it feels like Hollywood isn’t interested in seeing me work as an actor in movies.

It’s a strange and frustrating and ultimately depressing reality for me that most casting people would rather discover someone new (so they can say “I discovered that guy!” when he wins an award or has a breakout role) than give someone like me a chance. This is something I’ve struggled with a lot lately, and I think it’s one of the reasons I feel so depressed.

When I was a teenager, I desperately wanted a studio to make a Sandman movie, but I hoped that they’d wait until I was older, so I could work in it. Thanks to the arrogance of youth, it never occurred to me that there would come a day where I just wouldn’t be cast in films (or the really great cable series that seem to have replaced films) anymore. It didn’t occur to me that, if that Sandman movie got made when I was an adult, I wouldn’t have a chance to be in it, or even a chance to audition.

What I may have to do, if I really want to showcase myself as a dramatic actor who is worth casting, is make a short film entirely on my own and release it online. At worst, I’ll have created something I’m proud of and enjoyed the process of creating. At best, I’ll create a sort of long-form audition reel that (hopefully) casting people can’t ignore.

Thanks for your question. This is something that’s been on my mind, but I haven’t been able to talk about.

Also, thank you for your kindness yesterday. You know who you are.

and i am nothing of a builder

When you really want to write something — anything at all — but your goddamn depression is sitting on your chest, making it really really hard to even reach the keyboard, so you end up with a folder of abandoned drafts.

And you feel like shit because you aren’t making anything, or creating anything, or actually doing anything.  And you desperately want to make something, but whenever you start, depression wraps itself around you and whispers in your ear, “Why bother? You know how much you suck.”

And you know that depression lies, but you listen to it anyway, and you don’t even know why, but you do. It’s like you can’t tune it out and ignore it, even though it’s getting in between you and the thing you love to do more than anything else.

And that folder of abandoned drafts starts to feel like a monument to your own failure, and even though you could just delete it, you don’t because you know there’s something decent in there, and you just have to find it somehow.

Because you know that you have a good life, and you know that you do some cool things, and you know that you can make things, that you have made things, you decide to stand up, even with the weight of depression doing everything it can to hold you down.

And you struggle. And you push. And you struggle some more.

And finally you stand up. And you take a deep breath, and then you fall down again.

And then you try to stand up again, and you start to wonder if you’re just feeling sorry for yourself, but then depression reminds you that you’re not feeling sorry for yourself, you’re just acknowledging that you’re the least talented of all your friends and everyone knows it but you.

And then you remember that depression lies, so you keep trying to stand up and push it off, and believe in yourself.

And it’s really fucking hard.