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 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.
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.
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:
The Living Seas is still one of the best places in EPCOT. I could have watched these manatees for an hour.
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.
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.
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.
Our flight home from Seattle was delayed because they couldn’t find the pilot. I guess this would freak out some people, but I thought it was pretty funny and ordered another beer.
Anne and I sat at a table with Felicia and Misha Collins, and shared stories from the convention while we waited to get on our planes. Misha, Anne and I were on a flight to Burbank, and Felicia was on a flight to LAX.
“You’re a dummy for flying into LAX,” I told her.
“It’s closer to my house!” Felicia replied.
“I don’t know why anyone would fly into LAX on purpose. It’s the worst airport in the world. It’s like people got together, put all the bad ideas for airport design onto a chalkboard, and used them to design it. I bet if you looked at it from the air, it spells out HA HA YOU STUPID SUCKERS COME HERE ON PURPOSE.”
“Why would I drive all the way from Burbank to my house when LAX is closer?”
“Because Burbank isn’t LAX.”
“Well, you’re delayed, so there.”
“I bet you we get home before you do, even though our flight is delayed.”
It’s not uncommon for us to talk to each other like we’re 8 years-old.
About twenty minutes later, Felicia told us all goodbye. A minute or so later, she texted me that she was on her plane and gloated a little bit about how comfortable it was.
This year’s Emerald City wasn’t as awesome as it’s been in years gone by. They were trying out some new things, I guess, and not all of them worked. The layout of the show was really strange, and it didn’t feel cohesive to me. Felicia and I were in a gaming area instead of the usual media guest area, which just didn’t work for us. It was very small, so it got ridiculously congested when people got into lines to meet us, and it was so far away from everything else, we sort of felt like we were at the kids’ table. The photo-ops were really tough for me this year. I’m adjusting my brain meds, and though I felt back to normal by the end of the day on Sunday, Friday and Saturday weren’t that great. I know it’s not a big deal to most people to put your arm around a person, but it really freaks me out (and knowing this makes me feel totally crazy, so if you’re thinking that you’re not alone) to have hundreds of people I don’t know grab me and hold on to me. I always ask the photo-op people to ask the attendees to respect my personal space, and for whatever reason this didn’t happen this year. Without meaning to be weird or uncool, people were super grabby and hands-y and I felt super anxious more than once.
That said, there were some truly wonderful and memorable moments. Here are a few pictures I took:
When Joel and I made the Lil’ Wils, we hoped that people would get excited and make things for him to wear and play with. I have some really great clown sweaters and a cape of dicks for him, but this is the first actual fez I’ve seen.
“You have to sign this,” a young woman said to me.
“I do?” I said.
“Yes. You said ‘when someone puts a picture of Nathan Fillion in front of you and asks you to sign it, you say yes!'”
She spoke the truth, so I signed it. It’s pretty great that he had already written that he loves me because I didn’t write that myself as far as you know.
Last year, she asked me to sign her arm so it could be made into a tattoo. I was kind of freaked out by the responsibility, but then I thought about it for a second, and realized I could maybe inspire her and anyone who reads her arm to be awesome.
I have met a few derby girls who have named themselves after me in some way. I love that.
This was my view of the 3000 seat main theatre during the Wil Wheaton vs. Paul and Storm show on Saturday morning. I was very concerned about the early morning show time. I didn’t think the audience would be ready for what we do while they were still waking up, and I have never been so happy to be so wrong. We filled it up (and added some SRO at the back) and the audience was on board from the beginning. We had so much fun, I went ahead and did a little bit of stand-up jokes that I think they liked. When we asked if the audience wanted to hear a 20 minute song about pirates or do a Q&A, the ARRRRRRRRRRR! of 3000 people was all the answer we needed. This show was one of the highlights of the convention for me.
How great is this cosplay?! Last year, she was a Gameboy, and this year she was Tetris. She sewed each Tetris square onto her dress by hand. I’m not sure you can see it, but she has them on her fingernails, as well.
This guy, Paul, couldn’t make it, so his friend asked me to hold his picture up for a photo-op. I asked her to hold it so I could pretend to put my arm around him. Then when she brought it to my table to be autographed, I filled in the rest of him. I am easily amused.
Our show at the Alberta Rose Theatre last night was a whole lot of fun for me, and as far as I can tell, the audience enjoyed it as well (even the 28-minute Captain’s Wife’s Lament). John Roderick was amazing as always, and even let me write his setlist (Blue Diamonds, Honest, and Seven) to which he added the song he debuted on JoCo Cruise Crazy. The Doubleclicks sang a lullaby for Mister Bear, encouraged a Velociraptor, and reminded us about the benefits of classic literature. Paul and Storm added Opening Band at my request, because Anne had bought some outrageously obnoxious boxers to throw at them … and then forgot them at the hotel, so there was a break in the song when I came out, all excited to see a wall of panties thrown at them … only to give an extended Grumpy Cat thumbs down to the audience. There’s probably pictures somewhere.
I stepped out of my comfort zone again, and did about ten or so minutes of stand-up jokes before the usual storytelling. I thought it went well, considering it’s only the second time I’ve done that sort of thing and I’m still leveling that particular skill. It felt really good when the audience exploded into laughter at a joke I wrote, and I understood the appeal of standing in front of people on a stage, making them laugh. I owe Hardwick a case of Fresca for helping me work out my set, and making it easier for me to give myself permission to attempt something I’ve always loved watching, but always been afraid to do. I haven’t decided if I’m doing jokes at ECCC, because my show with Paul and Storm is so early on Saturday morning, and the audience may not be awake enough for it to work. I guess I’ll make a game-time decision.
I’m looking forward to sleeping for most of today, to save up energy for the con this weekend, and then getting my geek on until Sunday. Geek and Sundry has our own space this year, and I plan to spend a fair amount of time there, playing games when I’m not signing stuff.
In other news:
My brain doctor helped me increase my brain meds a little bit, and though he told me it would take five days to feel the change, I’m already feeling better and closer to normal. I’m a little sleepy, but that’s an expected temporary side effect that I am happy to endure.
The reaction to Tabletop Day has been as positive as I expected, but the sheer volume of responses and events planned already is blowing me away. I made a silly video that should go up today, but may be delayed until tomorrow because the initial announcement was delayed by a day. Check our YouTube Channel (and subscribe if you haven’t) obsessively for the next 48 hours or so.
This trip to Portland was shorter than usual, but we had a great show, and I got to spend an entire afternoon yesterday with my sister and my godson, so I’m choosing to view it as a visit of concentrated awesome, rather than a visit that was too short.
On Wednesday, February 27 at 8pm, I will join my friends Paul and Storm for a show in Portland, Oregon. Check out the poster we have for the gig:
I KNOW RIGHT.
Now I have a VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION: If you’re coming to the show, what would you like to see me perform? I’m working on my setlist this week, and I think it would be awesome to do some stuff by request.
My inner ear thinks my house is on a boat, and my brain is trying to simultaneously process the incredible week I had on JoCo Cruise Crazy through the exhaustion I earned with all the fun I had. It’s like I got all my mana back, but my hit points are recharging much more slowly.
Here are two pictures for your entertainment. First, my badge, so I knew who I was.
And now, the harbor at Saint Maarten:
I have to take a moment to thank Will, Shane, and Stepto for writing such awesome posts while I was gone. They are so great, I’m leaving their author privileges intact, in the hopes that they drop by from time to time and share awesome stuff with us.
I’m on a boat! Or, maybe I’m on my way to being on a boat, or I have recently gotten off a boat, or I suppose I was on a boat at sometime in the past. (Boy, covering all the timelines is a lot of work, you guys. I see the benefits of just leaving things in a superposition… or, at least, I think about seeing them. I don’t want to observe them and ruin a perfectly good superposition.)
Last year, while I was on JoCo Cruise Crazy 2: Cruise Harder, I programmed something from my archives to publish once a day. You know, for kids. Well, this year, I didn’t have the time to search for and curate posts, so I’m doing something a little different: I invited some of my friends to take over my blog while I’m gone. They’ve been instructed to post whatever they want as frequently or infrequently as they want, and I’d like to introduce you to them now.
Meet Will Hindmarch. Will is a writer, graphic artist, game designer, and better at all of these things than he gives himself credit for. If you’ve ever played a game from White Wolf, you’ve probably played something Will put his filthy hands all over. If you’ve played the Fiasco playset we played on Tabletop, you’ve played something that Will and I wrote together. If you’ve read Memories of the Future Volume 1, you’ve seen a cover that Will designed. He blogs at wordstudio.net and is @wordwill on the twitters.
Meet Shane Nickerson. I’ve known Shane for mumblecough years, ever since we did shows together at the ACME Comedy Theater. Shane is the executive producer of Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory and Ridiculousness. Shane is one of the funniest people I know, and that’s saying something. He’s also an incredible father to three kids, never uses Comic Sans, and has paid me off exactly the right number of times in poker games. Shane blogs at nickerblog.com and is @ShaneNickerson on the twitters.
Meet Stepto. Stepto is probably best known as the leader of The Steptos, and as the former banhammer at Xbox Live. Stepto is a wonderful, thoughtful writer, and once pulled a man’s finger in Reno just to watch him fart. He’s the author of A Microsoft Life, and just released a comedy album called A Geekster’s Paradise. He blogs at stepto.com and is @stepto on the Steptos.
Please welcome this team of talented, funny, smart, and interesting people to WWdN, and make them feel at home. I’ll expect a full report when I get home from my trip, and don’t even try to replace the fish if they die. I’ll know.
The year is 1994. I am 21 years-old, and though I’m convinced I’m so mature, I’m having a hard time finding my way out of a 10×10 room with one door and a map. I’m struggling to figure out who I am, what’s important to me, and what I’m going to do with my life. I’ve spent some time working for NewTek (making really embarrassing videos), and while I’m very proud of the work I’ve contributed to the Video Toaster 4000, something just doesn’t feel exactly right in my life. I’m not sure I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
I’m adrift in a sea of post-teenage confusion, and I’m profoundly immature. Luckily, I am self-aware enough to know how little I know, so I’ve been attempting to educate myself about the world. I’ve been reading philosophy books, because that seems like something smart, insightful people do … but I’ve gotten wrapped up in Beyond Good and Evil and become something of an obnoxious fucking intellectual.
I will eventually grow out of it, but at this moment, in 1994, I’m dealing with the aftermath of being this guy for my entire life to this point, and it isn’t easy. In fact, it’s pretty goddamn painful, but I don’t know how to talk about it or deal with it, so I project this aura of overconfidence that, in retrospect, is pretty embarrassing.
Yet something important happens at this moment in 1994, and it happens on a Star Trek cruise in Alaska. It will change my life, set me on a long and meandering course out of the sea of uncertainty and toward the man I will eventually become. It happens because I find out I am expected to perform with the other actors on the cruse in a talent show, and I am forced to confront the reality that I don’t have any talents beyond acting, and I’m not sure I’m even very good at that.
So I take a walk around the deck of this ship, and instead of pretending to be deep in thought like usual, I actually think. I really think about who I am and what’s important to me, and wonder what I can contribute to this talent show. Honestly? I’m terrified. I feel like a fraud. I wonder if there’s a way I can just sneak out of this thing and not be part of it. Then I remember that I’m on a boat and the water around me is very cold. I keep walking past Star Trek fans — very nice people, every last one of them — and forcing a smile, with some occasional small talk. I’m afraid someone will ask me what my plans are for the talent show, but nobody does.
I don’t remember exactly how I got there, but I eventually found myself alone in the ship’s library. It was quiet, peaceful. I sat in a comfortable chair and looked out the window at the breathtaking Alaskan coastline.
What am I going to do? How can I do anything as entertaining as the other actors? René Auberjonois is going to sing a song from Beauty and the Beast, for fuck’s sake! I hate myself! Why did I leave Star Trek? Why did I do Liar’s Club? Why did I do The Curse? Why can’t I do something better than Stand By Me? Why aren’t I famous and successful? Why am I living in Kansas instead of LA? What am I doing with my life?
I sat there for a long time, wallowing in self pity and self loathing, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, I had an idea.
I write stories from time to time, and they’re not all that bad. Maybe I could write an essay…
I jumped out of the chair, grabbed a few sheets of paper from an empty table nearby, and wrote across the top of it:
In Defence of Nerds by Wil Wheaton
I started where all 21 year-olds who think they’re clever and insightful start an essay: a dictionary definition.
Nerd – (nurd) n. slang. 1. a stupid, irritating, ineffectual or unattractive person.
Yep, that’s me.
I continued to write for three pages, philosophically pontificating the titular defense (oh, excuse me, I’m very cultured so I use the British spelling – defence) of nerds. What I didn’t know at the time and didn’t realize until just now is that I was writing both a defense and defiant declaration of who I was. For three pages, I defined myself by the things that were important to me — being a nerd and loving nerd things — instead of allowing myself to be defined by who I was — a former child actor who was struggling to find his ass with both hands.
When I finished writing, I felt pretty good about myself and what I’d written. I felt empowered. I felt a little less lame. The talent show I had been dreading couldn’t come soon enough, so I could take the stage and prove to the world that I was more than just a former child actor who had quit Star Trek and was now regretting it. (This may sound familiar to those of you who have read Just A Geek.)
I was on near the end of the program, if I remember correctly. I tucked my pages into my copy of Beyond Good and Evil (because, you see, I had to impress everyone with my deep understanding of Nietzsche, who was relevant to the essay, for, uh, reasons) and walked up onto the stage.
“I hate talent shows,” I began with self-deprecating humor, “because they remind me how singularly talented I actually am.”
Some laughter came out of the audience, and I finished introducing myself. I began reading my essay. I can’t recall specifically how the entire thing unfolded — it was almost 20 years ago, after all — but I do recall that it went well, that the audience enjoyed it.
I ended with: “…I will remind my critics that Albert Einsten, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates are all nerds and non-conformists.” I paused dramatically. “My name is Wil Wheaton – and I am a Nerd.”
In my memory, which I want to make extremely clear is not entirely reliable, the audience went crazy with applause, even though I’d had the audacity to compare myself to Einstein, Hawking, and Gates. Ah, the blind arrogance and surety of the 21 year-old philosopher, right?
In the years that followed, I’d occasionally think back to this day in 1994 when I wrote and performed something in public for the first time. I would wonder if it was as good as I remembered or as bad as I feared. I looked for the essay whenever I moved, but I never found it.
Until this weekend.
Going through my garage, clearing out space to build a homebrewery in there, I opened boxes that I haven’t opened since 1995 when I moved out of my parents’ house into my own. Those boxes were mostly filled with books that I didn’t want or need, and they painted a clear picture of who I was back then: lots of SF and Fantasy books, how-to guides on programming in C++, every book Henry Rollins had written up to that point, volume after volume of William Burroughs and some of the Beat writers. There were books on film and acting, and a large number of philosophy books. Among the philosophy books was Beyond Good And Evil.
“Ugh,” I thought to myself, “I know why I haven’t looked in these boxes in years. I was such an insufferable douchebag back then. I should have listened more and talked less.”
I grabbed the book and tossed it into the donation box. It landed on its front, with its spine facing me. I turned back to the box I was emptying, and my eye caught some pieces of paper, folded up and shoved into the book, like a bookmark.
I slowly turned back and looked at them for a long time, not sure I wanted to see what 1994 me had to say, but very sure that I had no choice. I slowly reached out for the book and picked it up. I turned it over, cringed, and pulled out the papers. I unfolded them and saw “In Defence of Nerds by Wil Wheaton”
I sat down and read the entire thing. It’s … well, it’s written by the 21 year-old I’ve described above.
I kept it, and I scanned it this morning because it’s something I’d like to make sure I have forever.
Would you like to see it?
Here it is:
It’s not as good as I remember it, but it’s not as bad as I feared. It’s the very best 21 year-old me could do, and I’m proud of him for taking the chance, facing the fear of being laughed off the stage, and speaking passionately about something that mattered to him (that still matters to me).
I’m glad that, on that day in 1994, I set aside pretending to think about things and actually thought about things. It was a small but important step toward finding my way into the life I now have. In fact, if I looked around at the foundation upon which I built my adult life, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that essay awfully close to the keystone.
50,000 Monkeys at 50,000 Typewriters Can't Be Wrong