Category Archives: Travel

How does it feel?

So this hilarious picture was posted on Reddit yesterday.

We all made lots of jokes about how paying attention to the wife in each picture was the right decision, but eventually this discussion happened:

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 3.03.30 PMIf you can’t see that image clearly, here’s the important parts:

thatgengirl: At least he looks happy in your photo–we walked away from our photo op with a completely different opinion of Wil Wheaton.

me: Uh-oh. What happened?

thatgengirl then PM’d me, and gave permission to repost our exchange. It’s important to me, and I wanted to share it here, as well as at Reddit.

She wrote:

Hey Wil.

First off, I want to say that even thought we were a little soured by the experience–I still follow you on Twitter and read your blog. I started with WIL WHEATON dot NET years and years ago. (Your post about your son trying to communicate that he was kidnapped via bizarre text shorthand is my all-time fave.)

When we saw you were going to the Calgary Expo (2012), my husband and I were stoked! We bought a weekend pass for ourselves to celebrate our anniversary there.

The Calgary Expo is probably where it all went wrong. They were ridiculously unorganized, as was clearly demonstrated on the Saturday that everything was shut down. (My husband had to miss his photo op with Adam West because we were refused re-entry after the Fringe panel).

Luckily, our photo op was for the Friday evening, before others had arrived en masse. We stood in line for a very long time, crazy excited about getting to meet you. We knew from reading the Penny Arcade blog that you never touch people during photos to avoid the flu. We were cool with that.

When we were there, we saw how rushed people were being, and that sort of set us back, but we decided we could make the most of our 5 secs by just simply getting to say hi to an idol.

We were called, you didn’t make eye contact. I tried desperately by grinning a big grin, but you wouldn’t even look at us. My husband said he was a big fan, you didn’t even turn your head to acknowledge him. We were told to stand behind you–we did. You forced a smile (In the photo it looks like you secretly hate us) and the took the picture. My husband blinked, so they had to take it again–you seemed annoyed (But that’s probably projecting). Then you turned to someone who worked there and made a comment about the crying baby hating you. We told to leave, and that was it.

We were a little heartbroken. The whole experience felt like we were forcing you to meet us–forcing you to be somewhere you didn’t want to be. And I bet that’s probably true. You had probably just flown in, were tired, hungry, annoyed that the Calgary Expo spelled your name wrong…. You’re a human, and we get that. But gone was the impression that you were the fan’s fan.

The next day, we decided to get your autograph on the photo. Perhaps you were in a better mood? The line for your booth was insane, but it was what I saw when I got there that annoyed me. You had always affirmed that you never charge for autographs, and yet there was a sign at the front of the line that said “Autographs $30.” We could have afforded it, but it was just icing on the cake. We skipped your line and went to see Aaron Douglas instead. Great guy, I can see why you’re friends.

I’m really sorry I said what I did. I needed this reminder that we’re all humans doing a job and our words can make impressions and last forever online.

I love Tabletop, btw. After season 1 we went out and bought Catan, Smallworld, Ticket to Ride and Zombie Dice. We spend more time together as family now as a result. We would LOVE to see Zombicide on there sometime. We got in with the first Kickstarter and damn that’s a great game! Also, have you considered a children’s episode? My 6 year old loves Catan Jr. and I think it would be adorable if you guys got your kids to play it together (especially if most of the kids are under 10, but you made Ryan join too.)

p.s. Please don’t let them lynch me

I replied:

I’m so sorry you had a bad experience. Last year (2012) at Calgary Expo, I had the flu (Aaron and I went out for dinner one night and I ended up puking it all over a street on the way back to the hotel — good times) and was coming off of a three week performance tour of Australia. I wasn’t 100%, and probably was forcing things to a certain extent, because I felt an obligation to be there and entertain everyone. It was also incredibly emotional for me to be around the TNG cast for the first time in over a decade, so I was a little messed up on top of being sick and exhausted.

That con was the most overly-packed and unprepared for the mass of people I’ve ever been at, and I think that poor planning was most painfully experienced by fans during the photos. I hated that everyone was rushed through like you were, and I made sure that everyone involved knew that I wouldn’t be doing them in the future if they were going to rush people like that. This year, it was organized much better, and everyone was much happier.

I’ve always tried to keep autograph fees minimal or eliminate them entirely, but the reality is time I spend at a con is time I can’t spend working on Tabletop, my books, or any of the other projects I have in development. I give away tons of stuff to people at every con (I never charge volunteers for anything), and I’m never going to be one of those “give me $60 and get out” people cough Shatner cough. That said, it is work for me to be there, and though I’m uncomfortable even talking about it, I want you to know that I do my very best to be fair and reasonable. If someone gave you the impression that it was somehow required to fork over money just to visit and say hello and geek out about stuff, that person was wrong and I apologize for that.

I’m very sorry you had a disappointing time, and I hope that it hasn’t soured you on cons in the future. In the end, we’re all human, and though I make every effort to be as awesome to every single person I meet, when I’m meeting thousands of people I’m going to fall short at least once. I am sincerely sorry that I didn’t give you and your husband the awesome time you wanted and deserved.

I don’t think anyone is going to lynch you, and I honestly wish this exchange had been public; I imagine that you speak for a non-zero number of convention attendees who have had similar experiences. Thanks for taking the time to reach out. I wish you all the best.

Like I said, I believe you speak for a non-zero number of people — especially where the photo-ops are concerned — and convention organizers, the people who shoot the photo-ops, and the media guests who participate in them need to hear this and change the way we do them.

Redditor DireTaco added:

The photo ops are a kind of disillusioning experience in themselves, and not necessarily because of the celebrity; there’s just so many people, and while each fan wants to be able to talk 1-on-1 with you, they only get 5 seconds of a posed shoot and then they’re gone. If everyone got to spend the time they’d like to with you, you’d be there for a week.

And you as the celebrity have only so much time to squeeze in several hundred people, so you want to make the best of each shoot, but then efficiency gets mistaken for coldness. The no-touching rule is an entirely sensible and proper precaution when you have hundreds of people who want to enter your personal space, but it also adds to the perceived coldness.

Honestly, it’s a tough situation to be in for you and other celebs, and I sure as hell don’t envy you.

I replied:

I also have a certain amount of anxiety, and if lots of people are putting their arms around me, I start to freak out. If I reach out to a person, I can handle it, but when someone I don’t know tries to hug me or grabs me, I freak out, because that’s the way my brain is broken.

A general consensus emerged that the photo-ops at conventions are imperfect, but they’re probably the best any of us can hope for, considering the sheer volume of people who want to participate in them and the limited amount of time and energy that we all have to give.

I know “how does it feel” was asked in jest, and it was a really great joke, but I hope this gives a little insight into how it actually does feel, for both someone like me who appears at a con, and someone like thatgengirl, who attends a con.

I was attending cons long before I appeared at them (and even these days I still attend in ways — visiting artists’ alley, poking my head in on panels, jumping into photo-ops if I can) and I clearly recall how I wanted to feel when I went home, so now that I’m appearing at them, I keep that in mind and do my very best to treat people the way I’d like to be treated.

 

being a nerd is not about what you love; it’s about how you love it.

My weekend at Calgary Expo was just amazing. I didn’t think it could possibly get better than last year, when I got to spend a lot of time with my family from TNG for the first time in decades, but I was wrong. This was one of the most amazing weekends I have ever had at a convention, ever.

I’m still processing things like getting to meet Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey, finding out that they’re lovely people, and then being invited by them — twice — to join them for drinks. I’m still working out the reality that I kind of know Nathan Fillion, and when we see each other, we do things like this.

On Saturday, someone asked me during my panel to sum up my life in five words. I thought about it for a minute and replied: “I hope I never wake up.” (I hyphenated wake-up, even though it’s not technically correct. Don’t tell Andrew.)

So also during my panel, I was asked by a young woman to explain to her newborn daughter, Violet, why it was awesome to be a nerd. As it turns out, I’ve been having that conversation with my sons for their entire lives, so I spoke from the heart and told her.

I’m very lucky in that every now and then, I get to say something and people will listen to me. It’s an incredible gift from the great elder gods that I treasure, and respect, so I do my best to honour it when I get to use it. This video went pseudoviral yesterday while I was traveling home, so I suppose you could say that I got to be Dad of the Internet for a little bit, which is kind of neat.

This morning, reader LN sent me a link to this image, because it has Wesley Crusher holding his Sparks McGee hat. That alone would delight me, but the fact that the image goes so well with my talk on Saturday supports my belief that there really are no coincidences in this version of the timeline.

You'll Be Safe Here, by *dryponder at DevianART
You’ll Be Safe Here, by *dryponder at DevianART

I always tell people that conventions are so wonderful, because you’ll be surrounded by people who love the same things you love, the way you love them. But that’s not entirely correct. You’re also surrounded by people who love things you don’t even know about, but you love your respective things in the same way, so you get to love your thing enthusiastically, completely, unironically, without fear of judgement.

In other words, you’ll be safe there, and I’m so grateful that I get to be part of that.

He found what was to his surprise a golden morsel

This post was supposed to be about Planet Comicon this weekend, but it ended up being about something different.

When I was 20, I grabbed the yoke of my life and yanked it in an entirely unexpected direction. I was frustrated with everything about myself, unhappy, confused, and only certain of one thing: I didn’t like the person I saw when I looked in the mirror.

After meeting a the people who were NewTek during a Christmas party in 1991 or 1992, I felt inspired by their efforts to fundamentally change the way television was made with the Video Toaster. See, in those days, if you wanted to make anything to put on television, it was insanely expensive, and profoundly complicated. Someone who wanted to make a show or even a short film needed tens of thousands of dollars and an experienced editor who could help them work with huge, complex, expensive machines. And there was no such thing as digital.

The Video Toaster was hardware and software that could, for about five grand, put the same tools professionals used — at a cost ten times greater — into the hands of regular, creative people. It was amazing, and it thrilled me to be part of what we knew was a fundamentally changing who was allowed to make television. We did that, but until there was online video streaming, the revolution never actually happened. I left the company when I was 22ish, and returned to Los Angeles to complete my Jedi training. Soon after, NewTek fractured, and I lost touch with the people I worked with for those years. I think about them often, and what an important influence they were on me.

It was a tumultuous time in my life. I was angry at a lot of things the way a young person who is trying desperately to get the XP necessary to level up to adult is, but I like to think that I had some of the self-awareness needed to work on changing who I was so I could get on the path to who I am.

During those years, I flew in and out of Kansas City International Airport (MCI) a lot. Like, three times a month a lot. It was something like a two hour drive from Topeka (where we lived and worked for NewTek), on a highway that just kept going and going and going and. It was not a drive I looked forward to making, but the world was at the end of it, and knowing that kept me going.

This weekend was the first time I’ve been in that airport since 1993, and it didn’t seem to have changed at all. On my way out of the airport, I looked back across almost 20 years of memory and saw the garage where I parked my car whenever I was there, and a flood of memories nearly drowned me. It was a tumultuous time, as I said, but it was also, on balance, a very good time. I’ll write about some of my memories one day, when I can sort them all out.

I don’t know how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t lived in Topeka and worked for NewTek when I did. I don’t know who I would be or where I would be if I hadn’t turned off the autopilot of my life and learned to fly while I was already in the air, during a thunderstorm … but I’m glad the flight path I took ended up eventually landing me back in Kansas City this weekend.

I have a lot of memories to visit and process.

another batch of pictures from disney world

I know this is not an original idea, but I don’t care, because I am easily amused and it was lots of fun to take these pictures while we were at Walt Disney World.

Photos from MegaCon, Day Two

The best stories from yesterday at MegaCon will have to wait until later, because I have to be at the show in 30 minutes, and I just woke up. (Check out my rock and roll lifestyle, man.)

Here are a few memorable pictures from yesterday:

Cards Against Humanity Question Card

I get to make lots of Cards Against Humanity cards at conventions. I play a game when I do this, to amuse myself: when I write a question card, every answer card I do after it is for that question, until the question changes. The first question at this con was “What is Shatner’s secret fetish?” The answers can’t be printed in a family publication. Luckily, this isn’t a family publication. The two really gross ones that I remember are: Juggling the placenta, and cum on a moustache. If you’re bothered by that, don’t play Cards Against Humanity.

Lil' Wil with his Easter sweater

Lil’ Wil is all ready for Easter in this snazzy sweater! The whole reason Joel and I made this silly little plushie toy was so people would get excited and make things for him to wear. It’s been slow to take off, but I’m starting to see lots of great sweaters and other costumes for him at shows, and I love that.

Codex and Fawkes Cosplay

My shitty camera doesn’t do this couple justice, at all. She made her costume, including the really, really awesome shoes, and used Felicia’s Flog to build the staff. His Fawkes cosplay is perfect, down to the belt and the sporrin. They were really nice people.

Wil Wheaton at Universal Florida in 1988

This is a picture from 1988 or 1989, when I went to Universal Orlando with a bunch of Nickelodeon people. It was so much fun, I don’t even care that I was wearing a neon green fanny pack.

Nerdist Cosplay!

How awesome is this NERDIST COSPLAY?! This guy was hilarious, and he did a great Hardwick impression. He really fucked the snake out of the cage with this one.

MegaCon Staff having fun

Near the end of the day, the volunteers were having some fun. The volunteers at this show that I have interacted with have been fantastic.

CAH answer

And here’s the most recent answer card for Cards Against Humanity. It’s a little on the nose, but it made me laugh.

I had a really great panel yesterday morning, and the TNG panel last night had some truly memorable moments. I’ll write more about them later.

Photos from MegaCon, Day One

A real quick post before I head over to the second day at MegaCon, with some  of the cool things I saw yesterday.

Darkstar Cosplay at Megacon

Darkstar Cosplay!! For those of you who are wondering why I love this so much: Darkstar is a character I play on Ben Ten: Alien Force. The Ben Ten Wiki says:

Michael Morningstar, also known as Darkstar, is one of the Plumber kids that appear throughout the course ofBen 10: Alien Force. He appeared in the episode All That Glitters and since became one of the most notable regular villains in the series. He has the ability to drain life force from living beings, he gained a grudge against Ben and his team after they accidentally caused him to turn into an awful zombie-like being who has to wear a helmet to hide his face. His plans usually involve gaining back his original face and feeding himself, though he seems to still be interested in feeding from Gwen’s vast stores of Anodite energy.

He’s a great character who I love performing, and sort of the Doctor Doom of the Ben Ten-i-verse. The young woman who is in this costume made it herself, and came all the way from the Philippines to be at this convention! I’m kicking myself for not getting a photo of her friend, who was cosplaying as Michael Morningstar.

We had a cab driver last night who didn’t know we were with the convention. He was starting to make fun of all the people walking around the streets in cosplay. I stopped him and said, “I really love the people in cosplay. Making a costume and then wearing it at a convention is the purest, most unselfconscious celebration of love for a movie or character or TV show, or whatever a person is excited about. Cosplay is really cool, man, and it takes time and effort and money to do it right.” He had no response. [Success Kid.jpg]

Star Wars meets Iron Maiden

A mashup of two of my favourite things: Star Wars, and Iron Maiden. Up the irons!

I was on a pillow once. It was awful.
I was on a pillow once. It was awful.

This hand-painted Grumpy Cat pillow is grumpy, and amazing.

Finally: remember that time Wesley Crusher was on a stamp?

Star Trek TNG Stamps

Well, okay, he isn’t technically on a stamp. He’s more like on a piece of paper that you throw away when you use the stamps … but it’s the closest he’ll ever come to being the 24th century version of the Elvis stamp, so let’s just let him have this one thing, okay?

Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Imagination

Yesterday was our last day at Walt Disney World. A few hours ago, we said goodbye to our hotel and the resort, and I am writing this from our new room at the Megacon hotel.

We spent most of yesterday in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I didn’t know what to expect from the park, but I do know that it blew my expectations out of the water. The theming, design, and attention to detail in that park was just spectacular. I thought it was a little weird to not know where real animals ended and Disney Imagineering began, but I just accepted it, relaxed, and had a good time experiencing the results.

It's closer than it looks.
Sure, I’ll have a beer in Africa!

It was a lot of fun to have beers from different countries. Here I am drinking a Hakim Stout in Africa. It was tasty, and more like a brown ale than what we consider a stout in the West.

Expedition Everest was the most fun I've ever had on any roller coaster, anywhere in my entire life.
Expedition Everest was the most fun I’ve ever had on any roller coaster, anywhere in my entire life.

I like this picture. I put something in the foreground, so the forced perspective of the mountain would make it look even farther away and bigger than it is.

I want to go back to Animal Kingdom at a less busy time of year, so I can really take my time and explore the whole place, even though the crowding made the Asia and Africa lands feel more like I’ve seen them in movies, and in a way added to the illusion.

At the end of the day, we went back to EPCOT, so we could see the movie in Canada, and have one last beer around the world. When we got there, though, our feet were killing us and we were both verging on the cranky side of hungry and tired, so we just got a beer in America (Anchor Liberty Ale), enjoyed the view of the lake and all the people having fun, and skipped the movie in favor of walking back to the monorail for our final stop: The Carousel of Progress in the Magic Kingdom.

On the way out, I asked Anne if she would mind very much if we stopped by Journey Into Imagination.

“I loved this ride so much when I first came here in 1987,” I said, “and I’ve been told by countless people that it’s better for me to let the memory live on, rather than ride it again.”

“Does it not hold up?” Anne asked.

“I guess not, but I didn’t ask why. I think it’s better not to know.”

We made a left turn and walked past a small child, who had clearly had enough of the day.

“It’s Meltdown O’Clock,” I said.

“I can’t blame him,” she said. “This is a lot to take in for a kid.”

“Hell, it’s a lot to take in for an adult!” I said.

We arrived at the fountains in front of the pavilion. “I know this seems silly, but when I first saw these fountains, I was just enchanted. I’d never seen anything like this reverse waterfall, and the little tubes of water leaping from place to place was just magical.”

We walked around the fountains, and I remembered, like looking at a faded photograph or VHS tape with the white balance just off a bit, what it was like to stand in that spot when I was 14, with my parents, brother and sister, sort of in disbelief that I was really there, in a place I had only heard about and didn’t think I’d ever get to visit.

“It’s crazy, when I think about it, that water fountains made 14 year-old me so happy, especially at an age where most kids — myself included — work so hard to be too cool for everything. These fountains just brought me joy.”

Anne said nothing, and I quietly watched the tubes of water leap from pot to pot all around the pavilion.

“Okay,” I said, after a minute or so, “I’m ready to go.”

We held hands and walked to the entrance. A few minutes later, we rode the monorail back to the transportation and ticket center, and then took the ferry across the lagoon to the Magic Kingdom. We watched a beautiful sunset over the lake, and then made our way to the Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland.

It was exactly what I wanted it to be: a frozen moment in time when a Powerbook 170 could control the entire House of The Future, and animatronics were as magical as anything. I’m really glad that it exists, and that it exists in this very specific and particular way. I hope they don’t mess with it at all, so kids (and parents who are looking for a place to sit down for a few minutes) can be inspired to create that Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow they sing about in there.

EPCOT Panorama
EPCOT Panorama (Click to Enpanoramanate)

 

EPCOT is my favorite

We went to EPCOT yesterday. I went into space — TWICE — and had beers all over the world. Well, mostly all over the world. I mean, I love you, Canada, but I’m not drinking Labatt’s. And whatever they call “beer” in France is actually “anger and shame in a bottle.”

We had so much fun, in fact, we slept for 13 hours (I guess three days of nonstop fun will do that to old folks like us) so we’re just getting started today. Here are a few memorable moments from yesterday:

Oh the huge manatee
Oh the huge manatee!

The Living Seas is still one of the best places in EPCOT. I could have watched these manatees for an hour.

It's an oversized hat. It's funny.
It’s an oversized hat. It’s funny.

Anne kept saying she wanted a hat to keep the rain off her hair. I want a hat that I can fill with water and take a bath in. For some reason, even though this hat fits both criteria, we didn’t get it.

Thanks for watching Tabletop!
Thanks for watching Tabletop!

This is the best thing, ever. I’ve seen people wearing Tabletop T-shirts at cons, but never out in the wild. When I saw this guy, and he saw me, we both sort of freaked out and simultaneously asked if we could take a picture together.

taking a ride on spaceship earth

Tomorrow morning, I’m getting on an airplane with Anne, and we’re flying across the country to Orlando. MegaCon starts a week from yesterday, and we’re going to Florida a few days early to goof off at Disney World before the con gets started.

I’m not going to lie to you, Marge: I’m ALL CAPS EXCITED to go spend four days at Disney World. I haven’t been there since December of 1997 when we took the kids right after Flubber came out.

Boy, that trip was something. At the time, we were really struggling financially, and never would have been able to afford it. But because I’d finished shooting Flubber and done a ton of press for the movie, Disney did the whole trip for us as a special gift. They even gave us a guide — Hi Jeff! We miss you! — to take care of us the whole time we were there. I still can’t believe someone at Disney agreed to do that for the four of us, but to this day I am grateful for that kindness.

When we got to Florida, it was unseasonably cold, and the kids had forgotten their jackets in California. We had to spend way too much money — which we didn’t have at the time — on some pretty ridiculous Mickey Mouse sweatshirts for them. It made me think, at the time, of when the referee’s baggage doesn’t make a flight, so they wear silly souvenir gear from the home team’s gift shop during the game.

I think we were there for five days or so, and it was just fantastic. I remember taking the kids on Space Mountain, and Anne insisted on sitting behind them, holding onto their sweatshirts, the way a guy moving a mattress on the freeway puts one hand on it to stop it from flying away. You know at some level that it’s ridiculous and pointless, but you do it anyway. I remember offering to do this thing at the studio called “Star of the Day,” where I’d ride in a car down the main street of the Disney MGM studio and then do a ceremony in front of their Chinese Theatre, sort of a way to say thank you for the trip, and to help publicize Flubber. I’d done this right around the beginning of Star Trek, and the street was lined with people three or four bodies deep, cheering teenagers, the whole thing. When I did that in 1997, a few dozen people looked up from their ice creams and wondered who the hell that was in the car, and why they should care. Boy was that humiliating.

When we last went to Disney World over a decade ago, our lives were profoundly different than they are now. What I remember most clearly is how much fun the kids had, and how a major part of my fun was just being close to that. Anne and I keep talking about how we’re doing things in reverse: we spent the first part of our lives together with kids, being parents, and now we’re getting to do the things that young couples do, like travel and stay up late and sleep in on weekdays every now and then. I’m really looking forward to taking a few days with my wife to just goof off and have fun before I spend three days getting my geek on at the convention.

Since we haven’t been there in so long, I’d love it if you’d share your must-not-miss thing at Walt Disney World with us.