Category Archives: Current Affairs

a moment of silence, please.

Majel Barrett Roddenberry died yesterday. She was a hell of a lady, who loved Star Trek and Star Trek fans like no other.

Some knew her as the original Number One, some knew her as Lwaxana Troi, and everyone knew her as the ship’s computer, but I just knew her as Majel, my friend Rod’s mom, who always treated me like he and I were brothers.

Since we got the news yesterday, a lot of people have asked me if I can tell a story as a way to remember her. I’ve dug around in the attic of my mind for hours, and the best I can do is: We always had fun when we were working on Next Generation, but when Majel was on the set, it was a party.

“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”

I’m nowhere close to Hollywood’s “A” list, but when they opened it up to the rest of us, I signed this letter:

Dear SAG Board Members, officers and staff:

We feel very strongly that SAG members should not vote to authorize a strike at this time. We don’t think that an authorization can be looked at as merely a bargaining tool. It must be looked at as what it is — an agreement to strike if negotiations fail.

We support our union and we support the issues we’re fighting for, but we do not believe in all good conscience that now is the time to be putting people out of work.

None of our friends in the other unions are truly happy with the deals they made in their negotiations. Three years from now all the union contracts will be up again at roughly the same time. At that point if we plan and work together with our sister unions we will have incredible leverage.

As hard as it may be to wait those three years under an imperfect agreement, we believe this is what we must do. We think that a public statement should be made by SAG recognizing that although this is not a deal we want, it is simply not a time when our union wants to have any part in creating more economic hardship while so many people are already suffering.

Let’s take the high road. Let’s unite with our brothers and sisters in the entertainment community and prepare for the future, three years down the line. Then, together, let’s make a great deal.

Sincerely,

[About 130 actors who are on the “A” list, according to the people who decide what the “A” list is. And your pal Wil Wheaton, who is not on the A list, but still struggles to qualify for his health insurance every year.]

Allow me to give a little perspective on where I’m coming from: I’m a former member of SAG’s Hollywood board of directors. I’ve chaired committees, and I’ve sat in on negotiations. I’m about as pro-union and pro-actor as you can get, and I hate the insulting offer the AMPTP has given us. But I’m also a realist. If we go on strike in February, we won’t hurt the moguls enough to force them to negotiate with us, they’ll just fill up on “reality” programming and produce new works under the disastrous contract those idiots at AFTRA agreed to, while SAG’s health and pension plans are destroyed. We’ll definitely hurt our own members, and all of our friends from other departments who work with us on the set. Yeah, I realize that SAG’s first responsibility is to its own members, but we don’t exist in a vacuum, and we have to acknowledge that fact.

Let me be clear: The moguls can go to hell seventeen different ways for being greedy and unreasonable, and trying to bust our unions. In three years I’ll be the first in line to fight them as long as it takes … but we aren’t coming from a position of strength right now, and everyone knows it, especially the AMPTP. Producers and networks won’t feel the pain of a strike in any significant way, but a – and we all know that they’ll do whatever they can to drag it out as long as possible; look at what they did to the WGA – will likely ruin the lives of more middle and working class people than I care to think about.

For the SAG board to even consider voluntarily stopping work when we’re falling deeper and deeper into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression isn’t just stupid, it’s recklessly irresponsible. SAG needs to face the reality we’re stuck with: AFTRA sold us out. AFTRA fucked all actors everywhere by negotiating with the AMPTP on their own and agreeing to shockingly horrible terms. The AFTRA negotiators failed all actors, whether they’re currently SAG, currently AFTRA, or are still hoping to join. Those “negotiators” should be ashamed of themselves, and they shouldn’t be allowed in the same building as a contract ever again.

I believe the things SAG is asking for are entirely reasonable, I believe they reflect the reality of the entertainment industry in 2008 and beyond, and I believe that they are vital for actors to continue to make a living in the future – especially internet jurisdiction and residuals. In any other economic environment, I’d be willing to walk out in a heartbeat to get them. But we have to be realistic. People are losing their homes, can’t afford basic healthcare, and are struggling to support their families. SAG is not negotiating from a position of strength (thanks again for that, AFTRA, you’re awesome) but in three years, we can join our sister unions and we will be.

Sun Tzu teaches us that “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.” SAG leadership needs to be responsible and realistic; this is not the time to have this fight. If you’re a SAG member, I urge you to vote no on the strike authorization vote, and be ready to fight like hell in three years.

there’s no need to be afraid

Holiday stress got you down? Feel like the holidays suck bourbon balls and you can’t wait for January? Your old pal Uncle Willie is here to make it all better:

The economy is in the shitter, unemployment is skyrocketing, and it turns out that there are just nine days left until Christmas, which means there are only eight shopping days, provided you’re willing to run through the mall with Governor Ahnold and all the other panicked people on Christmas Eve. It is entirely understandable if you just want the whole damn season to be over. If you haven’t totally lost the holiday spirit (or dumped it all in your egg nog), I’m here today with a few tricks to make the holidays not just bearable, but joyous and wonderful.

I was trying to work in a Brad Jacobs reference there, but I couldn’t make it fit, damn my stupid fingers. Anyway, this column is filled with what I hope is useful advice to actually relax and enjoy the season, and it ends with this bit that is so important to me, I’m going to excerpt it here to give it maximum exposure:

Before I settle down for a long winter’s nap, I want to mention one thing specifically for the parents reading this. Go to your kids’ holiday pageants, and cherish every moment when you’re there. Take the morning off from work, call in sick, but do whatever it takes to attend. Arrive early, so you’re not fighting with other parents for a spot against the back wall. Turn off your cell phone (and don’t just put it on vibrate so you can check your e-mail during the Hanukkah song — off means OFF). Embrace the time you’re there. You only get a few of these moments, and one day you’ll look at December on the calendar and realize that, like a set of keys dropped into a river of molten lava, they’re gone, man.

See, there’s nothing tricky about it. It’s just a little trick!

desert bus for hope 2008 begins

Hey Kids, it’s your old pal Wil Wheaton here, and this is a post about a whale.

WAIT! NO IT ISN’T! IT’S A POST ABOUT AWESOME PEOPLE WHO DO AWESOME THINGS THAT MAKE WITH THE HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY!

Ahem. Allow me to introduce a few things:

There’s this fantastic charity that my friends from Penny Arcade created, called Child’s Play:

Since 2003, over 100,000 gamers worldwide have banded together through Child’s Play, a community based charity grown and nurtured from the game culture and industry. Over 3.5 million dollars in donations of toys, games, books and cash for sick kids in children’s hospitals across North America and the world have been collected since our inception.

This year, we have continued expanding across the country and the globe. With around 60 partner hospitals and more arriving every month, you can be sure to find one from the map above that needs your help! You can choose to purchase requested items from their online retailer wish lists, or make a cash donation that helps out Child’s Play hospitals everywhere. Any items purchased through Amazon will be shipped directly to your hospital of choice, so please be sure to select their shipping address rather than your own.

When gamers give back, it makes a difference!

There’s are these guys up in Canadia called LoadingReadyRun. They’re really funny, and I did a sketch with them last year at the Child’s Play dinner in Seattle:

Inspired in name and appearance by the Commdore 64 Home Computer System, LRR is a site run by-and for-geeks. You have to be at least a bit of a geek to think writing, shooting and producing a new, original short sketch every week is feasible. But you have to be a giant geek to actually do it. Since LoadingReadyRun’s start in 2003, it has consistently updated with a new video, every week. Often more!
LRR videos have been featured in film festivals such as the Comic Con International Film Festival in San Diego, and shown on major TV networks, including G4 TechTV, The CW and even CNN.

There’s this horrible old game called Desert Bus, that’s really more of a cruel practical joke than an actual game:

The objective of the game is to drive a bus from Tucson, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada in real time at a maximum speed of 45mph, a feat that would take the player 8 hours of continuous play to complete, as the game cannot be paused.

The bus contains no passengers, and there is no scenery or other cars on the road. The bus veers to the right slightly; as a result, it is impossible to tape down a button to go do something else and have the game end properly. If the bus veers off the road it will stall and be towed back to Tucson, also in real time. If the player makes it to Las Vegas, they will score exactly one point. The player then gets the option to make the return trip to Tucson—for another point (a decision they must make in a few seconds or the game ends).

So, if you put all this together, you will get the guys from LoadingReadyRun playing a marathon of Desert Bus to raise money for Child’s Play charity! It’s hilarious to watch them play it, especially as the hours go by, and this year it’s going to be even more entertaining as they will be joined by the cast of ‘The Guild’, Sean from Harmonix, the Joystiq Podcast’s Justin McElroy, John Davison of What They Play and 1Up Yours, Microsoft’s Major Nelson, Jeremy Baker of http://www.thezone.fm, and Sam Logan of Sam and Fuzzy.

They will also be joined by yours truly, sometime on Sunday afternoon (Pacific time). If you’ve got nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon (or evening, or whatever time it is where you live) and you want to hear me and some hilarious Canadian sketch comedy geeks – who will most likely be in Batcountry by the time I get there – engage in the high quality grabassery and shenanigans you’ve come to expect from us, watch my Twitter Tweet-o-thingy for the announcement.

Throughout the entire marathon, you can watch them play, via the driver or bus cam (links on the top of their webpage). There’s also a live chat where we can go encourage them and tell them how awesome they are. Of course, this entire thing is for charity, so if you can part with a couple of bucks, we could all join forces to make a real difference in the life of a child.

just in case you missed the macy’s parade moment everyone is talking about


This is the best version I’ve seen. It came from MartiMcKenna on Twitter.

Spot Us: community funded reporting

My fellow Propeller Scout, David Cohn, founded something awesome that I think everyone should check out. It’s a project called Spot Us:

Spot.Us is a nonprofit project of the Center for Media Change. We are an open source project, to pioneer “community funded reporting.” Through Spot.Us the public can commission journalists to do investigations on important and perhaps overlooked stories. All donations are tax deductible and if a news organization buys exclusive rights to the content, your donation will be reimbursed. Otherwise, all content is made available to all through a Creative Commons license. It’s a marketplace where independent reporters, community members and news organizations can come together and collaborate.

Ever since I started my first lame Where’s My Burrito? website and weblog, I’ve been excited by the potential we have in the 21st century to use the immediacy and ubiquity of the internets to deliver a serious challenge to the status quo. I can’t wait to see what happens with Spot Us and the people it inspires over the coming months.

“…or else we didn’t win anything at all.”

I went to a local park and had lunch with a friend of mine today. It’s beautiful here, but we can tell that it’s Summer’s last attempt to hold Autumn at bay, and we’ll be suffering through the misery of sixty degree afternoons soon enough. There’s even rumor of an inch of rain before the end of the year, which we both know will turn our freeways deadly. Um, it also seemed like a good excuse to walk away from the computer and enjoy actual human contact for a change. While we ate sandwiches and watched little kids chase each other, we talked about the election. We’re two small blue spots in a sea of red here, and we’d shared hopes and fears over the last several months.

“I guess we’re supposed to be gracious in victory,” I said, “but I’m profoundly offended to hear ‘we need to look forward and not backward’ and ‘we need to stop being so partisan’ from the very same fucking motherfuckers who have been telling us that we hate our country and love terrorists for the last eight years? These are the same people who worked really hard to make sure that I and everyone who didn’t agree with their blind support of Bush and Bush policies didn’t feel welcome in our own fucking country for eight years!”

I looked down at my hands, which had involuntarily clenched into fists. I felt a frightening and unexpected, uncharacteristic fury rise in my chest.

“I want to grab these people by the throat and scream at them ‘HOW DO YOU LIKE IT FUCKER?! YOU LOST! YOU FAIL! YOU GO HOME NOW!’”

I kept my voice low, but was really worked up, shocked and horrified at the level of anger I was feeling.

We looked at each other for a moment. I was embarrassed by my outburst. This really isn’t like me. Fortunately, my friend is incredibly cool and unflappable. She is also incredibly wise. She put her sandwich down and wiped the corners of her mouth with a paper napkin.

She pointed out at the different people in the park and said, “They are home. We share this country, all of us, whether we like it or not.

“We voted against intolerance for people that don’t share ‘the right’ views because we and people we respect and admire have been the victims of intolerance for too long. We voted against hypocrisy and fear and hate. We voted for a chance to change.”

I unclenched my fists and looked at little half-moons in the palms of my hands. “I should feel celebratory. I should feel happy and relieved. Why in the world do I suddenly feel so angry?”

“Seething quietly and privately is understandable and totally warranted. Just, every time you want to grab someone by the throat, try to remember how both Obama and McCain have always reacted to boos from their audiences. One man said ‘we don’t need any more of that’ – and that’s the administration we voted for. Because we don’t need any more of that. We need to chip away at the havens of hate in this country until there is nothing left for the haters to fight with. Because that is going to be the biggest payback of all.

“Someday, the people that ‘don’t feel welcome’ in a tolerant and just place aren’t going to feel welcome anywhere.

“We don’t need to take any shit from anyone, but we can not become the bullies we’ve hated. Or else we didn’t win anything at all.”

While I processed all of this, she smiled and added, “Yes, my horse is very high, and I like it that way. I can see a long way from up here.”

“Damn. You’re wise,” I said. “I’m going to have to write down ‘We don’t need any more of that’ and use it to get over eight years of resentment. It’s going to take awhile to get over being called a traitor and being told to, effectively, ‘shut up and sing,’ but you’re absolutely right. We can not become the bullies we’ve hated.”

We finished our sandwiches, and walked through the park before we both had to get home to our families.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have had a second cup of coffee this morning,” I offered.

“I’m sure you’ll get your cool back once it wears off.”

I hope she’s right.

Afterthought: This doesn’t mean that progressives suddenly drop our agenda to fundamentally change things. This doesn’t mean that we don’t fight for what we believe in over the next four and hopefully eight years. This means that, as human beings and as Americans, we can choose to live in John McCain’s vision of an angry, divided, fearful America, or Barack Obama’s vision of a tolerant, united, hopeful America. It’s not going to be easy for me, especially after the hateful, divisive campaign McCain ran and eight years of being screamed at by George Bush’s True Believers. But as my friend said, “We need to chip away at the havens of hate in this country until there is nothing left for the haters to fight with. Because that is going to be the biggest payback of all … we can not become the bullies we’ve hated. Or else we didn’t win anything at all.”

four things

Four things this morning:

  1. This toaster gives new meaning to Dark Side.
  2. Newsweek is running a series called the Special Election Project. They had reporters inside both campaigns, with incredible access to candidates and staff, with the understanding that the story wouldn’t be written until after the election. It’s fascinating to me, and I thought I’d pass it along.
  3. Zina Saunders is a brilliant artist and her political work these last couple of months has blown me away. Due to reader requests, she collected her campaign work into a book.
  4. President-elect Obama. I have to keep saying it, because I can’t believe it. Landslide. Mandate. Hoping this is a step toward the end of Lee Atwater-style politics. Quoting myself from Twitter: “Yes we can” is a much better motto for my country than “Be afraid.” Hope > Fear. Unity > Division.

I’m working on something awesome. I can’t wait to say what it is.