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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!! 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]
A mashup of two of my favourite things: Star Wars, and Iron Maiden. Up the irons!
This hand-painted Grumpy Cat pillow is grumpy, and amazing.
Finally: remember that time Wesley Crusher was on a stamp?
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?
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.
I mean, honestly. How great is this?
I have no idea how this happened. #Vandaleyes
I forget what this is called. Bead Art, maybe? A young woman built this from my avatar, using little plastic beads. The windows on that TARDIS glow in the dark.
My space mom has pretty awesome business cards.
Cutest 11th Doctor EVER.
Hipster Slenderman. I KNOW RIGHT.
Some other great things happened during the con, but they’re going to get their own posts because I have to get to my real work now.
I fell asleep in my seat before the plane took off. I woke up somewhere over Northern California and reached over to hold my wife’s hand.
“I just love you the most,” I said.
“I love you too.”
“Did you have fun this weekend?” I asked her.
“I did,” she said. “It was great to see friends. And your show was great.”
“Thanks, dude,” I said. I leaned back in my chair and dozed for most of the remaining flight. When we landed, I turned my phone on and got a text from Felicia:
DAMMIT! We landed early so we've been sitting on the tarmac for fifteen minutes!
I laughed out loud and sent back:
We're at our gate. I'll be home before you get your bags.
I hate you and your stupid airport.
Boy, it sure is peaceful and quiet at the Burbank Airport tonight.
A few minutes later, I sent her this picture:
Walking to my car!
Ugh. At baggage claim.
A little while later, the best text I’ve ever sent:
MY HOUSE I AM IN YOU.
The reply was so very very sweet:
In car but not halfway home. You win ... THIS TIME.
I took a victory lap, and my dogs joined me.
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.
- Scallops the ProspectARRRRR