Category Archives: Travel

FedCon day one

The plan was to sleep for as close to 12 hours as possible, to reset my brain for local time. My brain, as usual, had plans of its own. I woke up after about four hours, and before I fully realized what was happening, I'd solved a fairly major story problem on this project I've been stalled on for months.

I got out of bed, wrote down everything I could, hoped it would make sense to me when I woke up for real, and went back to sleep. About 8 hours later, I woke up and felt great. It was just after 9am local time. I hopped out of bed, and while I made my coffee, I checked my notes from the middle of the night. They all made sense, and now it's just a matter of time before HOUSE OF CARDS is written.

My first day at FedCon was a lot of fun. We did a press conference in the morning, which was pretty much everyone who was not named Richard Dean Anderson listen to Richard Dean Anderson take questions about Stargate, which is incredibly popular here. I sat next to RDA, which is what I figured out his friends call him, and I was quite impressed with his humor and intellect.

After the press conference, I ate lunch with Marina Sirtis, Kates Vernon and Hewlett, and Paul McGillon. I caught Marina up on the last ten years or so, and made new friends. It was awesome.

I had a break after lunch, so I came back to my hotel room and did some writing and Redditing before going back downstairs for my first photo session. The photo sessions are a little unsatisfying to me, because I always want to talk to everyone, but can't because the line just has to keep moving. I did my best to share at least a few words with everyone, though, and I think the fans I took pictures with all had a good time. At one point, the photographer was saying something in German over and over again to a girl who was posing with me. She said to me, softly, "I don't understand what he wants me to do!" She had a Scottish accent. I resisted the urge to say "Come along, Pond," and just shrugged. "Neither do I," I said. One of the photographer's assistants heard us and said to him, "English!" Everyone laughed, and he told her that he was trying to get her to tilt her chin down, so her glasses didn't reflect the flash.

When my photo session was over, I did my first Q&A in the main ballroom. It was more heavily-attended than I expected, considering that it was 9pm on a Thursday night, and I guess there were about a thousand people who were just awesome. I got a standing ovation when I came out! I told them that Anne asked me if I was going to learn German before I came here. I said that I wasn't going to try, because I didn't think I'd learn enough to be useful, and it would take valuable time away from playing Portal 2. I said that it wasn't that important, though, because we'd all be conversing in the universal language of nerds this weekend. For the rest of the hour, that's what we did. I had a great time, even though I was way out of my comfort zone just answering questions instead of performing something from one of my books. I haven't done that at a Trek con in over ten years, and I didn't know if I'd be able to not suck, but it was like riding a bike, and I left the stage feeling like I'd entertained everyone there, and made it worth their time to see me. 

When I was all done, I went to the bar downstairs with Garret Wang and got a local Alt Bier, which is a darkish beer that's not as hoppy as what I usually drink, but is the local specialty. While Garret and I traded "We worked on Star Trek" stories, a DJ played incredibly loud American rock music. It was delightfully surreal to hear about two hundred Germans singing along in accented English with KISS, while colored lights flashed along the walls and ceiling.

I fell asleep listening the the FAX compilation on my iPad, and had dreams that I was a super hero who could fly.

No, really. 

 

In which Wil goes to Germany (updated)

The following was written about ten hours ago, on another continent. I thought I’d published it before I left, but it turns out I saved it as a draft, instead. Good times.

I’m sitting in the lounge at LAX, waiting to board my flight to Heathrow. Sometime tomorrow afternoon, I’ll end up in Germany, do my best to adjust to jet lag, and then spend the weekend at FedCon.

I’m super excited to talk about Star Trek, read from Memories of the Future, talk about Eureka, and get my geek on with European fans for the first time since Anne and I went to London in 1996.

I’m not taking a cell with me, because it costs something like a million zillion eurobucks to do anything with it, so Anne and I will be out of instant concoct for the first time since we’ve known each other. That’s going to be weird, but I understand that primitive people during the 20th century did that all the time, so I’m embracing the novelty. Until I get to my hotel room, connect my laptop to the Internet, and talk to her online.

I will be mostly Internet silent while in Germany, which will be weird for me, but I will make every effort to deploy the obligatory I AM IN YOU messages when I reach my various destinations.

Have a good week and weekend, everyone.

This was written more recently:

I’m sitting in a lounge at Heathrow, waiting to make my connection to Germany. Our flight here was pushed by a massive tailwind that got us here something like 40 minutes early, but also gave us the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced. I hardly slept at all, so I feel a little blurry. My body thinks it’s about 5am, and even though I keep showing it my watch, it isn’t buying it.

I’m glad I have a day to adjust, so I’m not doing my Zombie Wil Wheaton impression all weekend.

And I may as well update this post again now, thusly:

I’m in my hotel room in Germany. The window is open, and I can hear the occasional European siren do the Doppler effect on one of the streets outside. I know it’s silly, but it’s one of those things that’s romantic to us Yanks.

My flight to Germany was nice, and I got all stupid and giddy when we flew over London and I could pick out landmarks. I tried really hard to stay awake so I could see France (having seen London, I need to see France, and then someone’s Underpants), but I didn’t even make it to the Channel. The flight attendant woke me up about 15 minutes before we landed, so I missed the whole thing. Oh well, there’s always the trip back on Monday.

I’m super excited for FedCon. The hotel is full of people who are also excited to be here, and the staff I’ve met totally have their shit together, which is pretty important to me.

My schedule is on the FedCon website, but here are some important things:

> I’m doing a Q&A Thursday night at 9pm.

> I’m doing a Q&A with Marina Sirtis on Sunday at 1pm.

There are also signings every day, and some photo sessions, too.

Okay, I think that’s it. I’m hoping that if I make myself stay awake for a few more hours, I’ll be able to sleep until something close to a normal time tomorrow morning, and I won’t be too exhausted to see at least some of Dusseldorf while I’m here. I mean, it would pretty much suck to come all the way to Germany and not see any of it.

I don’t feel safe. I feel violated, humiliated, and angry.

Yesterday, I was touched — in my opinion, inappropriately — by a TSA agent at LAX.

I'm not going to talk about it in detail until I can speak with an attorney, but I've spent much of the last 24 hours replaying it over and over in my mind, and though some of the initial outrage has faded, I still feel sick and angry when I think about it.

What I want to say today is this: I believe that the choice we are currently given by the American government when we need to fly is morally wrong, unconstitutional, and does nothing to enhance passenger safety.

I further believe that when I choose to fly, I should not be forced to choose between submitting myself to a virtually-nude scan (and exposing myself to uncertain health risks due to radiation exposure)1, or enduring an aggressive, invasive patdown where a stranger puts his hands in my pants, and makes any contact at all with my genitals.

When I left the security screening yesterday, I didn't feel safe. I felt violated, humiliated, assaulted, and angry. I felt like I never wanted to fly again. I was so furious and upset, my hands shook for quite some time after the ordeal was over. I felt sick to my stomach for hours.

This is wrong. Nobody should have to feel this way, just so we can get on an airplane. We have fundamental human and constitutional rights in America, and among those rights is a reasonable expectation of personal privacy, and freedom from unreasonable searches. I can not believe that the TSA and its supporters believe that what they are doing is reasonable and appropriate. Nobody should have to choose between a virtually-nude body scan or an aggressive, invasive patdown where a stranger puts his or her hands inside your pants and makes any contact at all with your genitals or breasts as a condition of flying.

I do not have the luxury of simply refusing to fly unless and until this policy changes. I have to travel dozens of times a year for work, and it simply isn't practical to travel any other way. Airlines know that I am not unique in this regard, so they have no incentive to take a stand on their customers' behalf. Our government also knows this, so our Congressmen and Congresswomen have no incentive to stand up for the rights and freedoms of their constituencies against powerful and politically-connected lobbyists like the former head of the TSA. This is also wrong.

I have to travel back into the USA next week, and I'll be back and forth between Los Angeles and Vancouver for much of the next several months. When I think about all this travel, I feel helpless, disempowered, and victimized by the airlines and the TSA … and I'm one of the lucky passengers who has never been sexually assaulted. I can't imagine what it must feel like for someone who has been the victim of sexual violence to know that they are faced with the same two equally-unacceptable choices that I faced yesterday, and will likely face whenever I fly in the future.

It's fundamentally wrong that any government can force its citizens to submit to totally unreasonable searches so we have the "freedom" to travel. It is fundamentally wrong that the voices of these same citizens are routinely ignored, our feelings marginalized, and our concerns mocked.

I don't know what we can do to change this, but we must do something. I'm writing letters to all of my congressional representatives, contacting an attorney, and reaching out to the ACLU when I get home. I am not optimistic that anything will change, because I feel like the system is institutionally biased against individuals like me … but maybe if tens of thousands of travelers express our outrage at this treatment, someone will be forced to listen.

Edit to add one more thing: I don't believe that all TSA officersare automatically bad people (though we've seen that at least some are.) For example, I recently flew out of Seattle, opted-out, and got a non-invasive, professional, polite patdown. It was still annoying, but at least my genitals weren't touched in any way, which was decidedly not the case yesterday. I realize that most TSA officers are doing the best they can in a job that requires them to interact with people who automatically dislike them and what they represent. It isn't the individual officer who is the problem; it's the policies he or she is instructed to carry out that need to change.

1. The TSA recently admitted that the amount of radiation passengers are exposed to in backscatter scanners was 10 times more than they originally claimed. The TSA claims that the scanners are still safe, but what else would we expect them to claim?

I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.

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One of my favorite things on JoCoCruiseCrazy was our Informal Moustache Formal, organized by the (now dead to me) Paul F. Not Coming On the Cruise Because I Got a "Job" that "Pays Me" and "Furthers My Career" Tompkins.

During the Informal Formal, Kevin Murphy loaned me this most exquisite fez, which I wore proudly until it was time for the Informal Moustache Formal to come to its inevitable and all-too-soon conclusion.

"Thank you," I would say when a gentleman or lady would compliment me on the aforementioned fez, "it is on loan from the Murphy collection."

(Photo by my friend Atom Moore, who has a brazillion pictures from the cruise up at Flickr.)

in which wil performs some material from the expanded happiest days

Hey look! It's me at the Emerald City Comicon, performing some stuff for the nice people.

If the embed isn't working, this link may get you where you want to go.

I thought it went well, especially considering that this was the first time any of these stories have been performed for an audience.

i’ll be at the emerald city comicon in seattle this weekend

I’m going to be in Seattle this weekend for the Emerald City Comicon. I had a blast at this show last year, and I’ve been looking forward to coming back ever since.

I’m coming up a day early to do some media stuff to help promote the con, so if you live in Seattle, you can hear me on KISW 99.9 in the 7am (ouch) hour on Friday morning, and Friday night, I’ll be on KIRO’s show Too Beautiful to Live at 8pm.

The con opens on Saturday at 10. I don’t have any panels on Saturday (though I’m considering an impromptu reading at my table in the vendor’s room sometime during the day) but I’ll be around until they kick us out. Sunday, the doors open at 10, and I have a panel at 2pm. I haven’t decided what I’m doing on that panel, but it will likely be a reading of something from the expanded Subterranean Press edition of The Happiest Days of Our Lives, followed by a Q&A.

I’ll have the usual collection of 8×10 pictures to sign, as well as the few remaining Monolith Press copies of Happiest Days, a few Dancing Barefoots, and a handful of Just a Geeks. I am also really excited that I have some copies of Sunken Treasure.

Admission to the con is $30 for both days, or you can come just Saturday for $20, or just Sunday for $15.

Books I Love: A Voyage for Madmen

While all the books I've talked about this week played an important part in shaping 20 year-old me into grown-up me, I'm finishing with one that I read a few years later than all of them, called A Voyage for Madmen. It's just as important as all the others, but for a different reason that sets it apart from the rest. They all helped expand my world, but this book helped me figure out who I was, and what was important to me.

In 1968, nine men entered a contest to sail around the world, alone, without stopping. The contest was sponsored by The Sunday Times, and the rules were pretty simple: leave from London between June and October, sail around the three great capes, and don't put into port until you get back. The first man to return to London won a trophy, and the sailor with the fastest time won £5000.

On one level, the story is an incredible adventure about nine men who took on a task that must have seemed almost impossible. Remember, there were no GPS devices in 1968, and no satellite navigation of any kind. They had to rely on charts, barometers, limited radio, and their wits to survive. Only one of them actually completed the race.

The book was exciting, but it spoke to me on an entirely different level than just adventure. If you've read Just A Geek, you know of my struggles with Prove to Everyone, my struggles to support my family, and my struggles to just figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life. I heavily identified with the insurmountable odds the sailors in this story faced, but none more than this man called Donald Crowhurst, whose story was so tragic you couldn't make it up.

Donald Crowhurst had experienced some small success with an electronics business, but as he got older, it was harder and harder for him to remain successful, or even relevant. This resonated with me like you wouldn't believe when I was around 27 or 28. He entered the race, completely unprepared, because he hoped the publicity and cash prize would save his business. He didn't do it because it was meaningful to him. He didn't do it because it was something he couldn't live without. He didn't do it for the adventure, for the challenge, or for the love of the ocean. He did it because he felt like he had to do it, and that it was his last and only chance to have a life worth living. When it became clear that he couldn't do it, he sailed off course to the South Atlantic and started faking his position through radio reports. He eventually lost his mind, and committed suicide. He never saw his wife again. I was never suicidal, but I read Crowhurst's story as a cautionary tale that I could relate to very, very intimately. In fact, in 2002, I mentioned him when I wrote about what I thought was a career-ending decision to accept a forgettable infomercial gig in Just A Geek:

Accepting it would mean some security for me and my family. It was also a really cool computer-oriented product (which I'll get to later, don't worry). It's not like I would be hawking “The Ab-Master 5000” or “Miracle Stain Transmogrifier X!"

It would also mean, to me at least, the end of any chance I had of ever being a really major actor again. That elusive chance to do a film as good as, or better than, Stand By Me, or a TV series as widely-watched as TNG would finally fall away.

I thought of all these things, walking Ferris through my neighborhood.

It was a long walk.

I thought of Donald Crowhurst.

I thought about why actors – and by actors I mean working, struggling actors like myself, not Big Time Celebrities like I was 15 years ago – suffer the indignities of auditions and the whims of Hollywood.

I remembered something I said to a group of drama students just before their graduation, paraphrasing Patrick Stewart: “If you want to be a professional actor, you have to love the acting, the performing, the thrill of creating a character and giving it life. You have to love all of that more than you hate how unfair the industry is, more than the constant rejection – and it is constant – hurts. You must have a passion within you that makes it worthwhile to struggle for years while pretty boys and pretty girls take your parts away from you again and again and again."

I listened to my words, echoing off the linoleum floor of that high school auditorium and realized that those words, spoken long ago, were as much for me as they were for them.

I listened to my words and I realized: I don't have that passion any more. It simply isn't there.

I am no longer willing to miss a family vacation, or a birthday, or a recital, for an audition.

I am no longer willing to humiliate myself for some casting director who refuses to accept the fact that I'm pretty good with comedy.

I am no longer willing to ignore what I'm best at and what I love the most, because I've spent the bulk of my life trying to succeed at something else.

I walked back to my house, picked up the phone and accepted the offer.

It was tumultuous, scary, exhilarating, depressing, thrilling, joyful.

I would spend the next three weeks wondering if I'd made the right decision. I would question and doubt it over and over again.

Was it the right decision? I don't know.

Things have certainly changed for me, though. I have only had three auditions in the last three months. A year ago that would have killed me, but I'm really not bothered by it now.

I've made my family my top priority and decided to focus on what I love: downloading porn.

Just kidding.

I've decided to focus on what I really love, what is fulfilling, maybe even what I am meant to do, in the great cosmic sense: I am writing.

Since I wrote that, I've grown up even more, and realized that I could be an actor and a writer, but my resolve to put my family ahead of everything, instead of putting Make It As An Actor No Matter What ahead of everything remains. (And, as it turns out, I enjoy this writing thing, which is kind of nice.)

There's another man in the story, named Bernard Moitessier. He was a famous French sailor, who seemed poised to win the race, when he decided to just … keep on sailing. His was a spiritual and philosophical journey, driven by the love of the journey. It was inspiring and reassuring to me. Following his story, and reading his book The Long Way helped me remember that if we're entirely focused on the destination, we rarely enjoy the journey. It took me a few years, but once I was able to let go of my destination (Proving to Everyone That Quitting Star Trek Wasn't A Mistake) I was able to enjoy my journey: my wife, my kids, my writing, my family, my life. And you know what ended up happening? I didn't get lots of acting work, but I got the right kind of acting work. Whether it was VO or on-camera, it was stuff that was fun, that was challenging, and that was entirely worth my time.

Every book I've talked about this week changed my life, and though I didn't expect any of them would when I started reading them, none was more surprising than this one.

Now, I don't want anyone to get me wrong. You don't need to be in your mid-twenties, struggling like crazy to support your wife and kids while you watch your once-promising acting career continue to slip away to get something meaningful out of this book; it works very well as an adventure story about some truly unique men who did something most of us will never do. There are truly heroic feats in this tale, and it's an easy and thoroughly enjoyable read.

But if you've ever wanted to test your wits against the world, or if you've ever struggled against the tide, I think you'll be glad you took A Voyage for Madmen.

home again, home again

Rainbow
Well, we’re back from vacation. I’m still not motivated to do much of anything except look at pictures and listen to surf music, though.

in praise of the scenic route

The 101 between Ventura and Salinas is one of the most beautiful stretches of highway I’ve ever driven (and I’ve driven a lot of them). The highway winds up to San Francisco from Los Angeles, along the coast in places, but mostly inland through soft rolling foothills and quiet farming valleys. You’ll see everything from vineyards to oil fields on the drive, and though it takes about an hour longer than the more boring but direct I-5, if you’re not in a hurry, it’s worth the extra time.

This trip provided me with some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever experienced on the 101: the grass on the foothills is golden, creating an inviting backdrop for splashes of color thrown across it by wild flowers. There was orange from poppies, yellow and green from wild mustard flowers, bright purple from lavender, and occasional bursts of bright green from grass that hadn’t gotten the memo about dying off for summer. Around it all were gnarled oak trees, providing shade for grazing cattle and horses.

Once I got north of Soledad, towering Eucalyptus trees — sixty feet tall, it seemed — stood guard over vast green fields of lettuce and celery, as if the foothills had been somehow pushed back by farmers decades or even a century ago. Near Monterey, a heavy blanket of fog did its best to come inland, as coastal mountains held it back.

I saw all of this under clear blue skies as I made my way up to San Jose, accompanied by Dimension X on m iPod (an odd but wonderful soundtrack, indeed). I was tired and road weary when I finally pulled into the hotel parking garage nearly seven hours after I’d left my house, but it was entirely worth it.

Geek Tour 2008: San Jose Super-Con – Updated

This weekend, the 2008 Geek Tour rolls into San Jose for Super-Con!

Original Announcement:

May 17-18
Super-Con
San Jose, CA

When I worked on NUMB3RS, I met the guys in charge of Super-Con in
San Jose. In fact, they were a big part of making Alt Con 9 (the fake
con in the show) look and feel as real as it did. I haven’t been to San
Jose for a convention since the only way to get there was via mule
train, so I’m looking forward to traveling up the coast in more modren
style, perhaps by zeppelin or auto-gyro.

I don’t have a lot of details for this one, and I don’t even know if I’ll get a chance to perform from my books, make balloon animals or just stand around making lists of things.

However, I’ll have a booth of awesome, where I’ll be hanging out on Saturday and Sunday, trading books and pictures for shiny gold rocks. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to visit with some cool people while and angry guy complains about it. That’s always pretty fun.

I’m hoping the copies of Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot that I ordered at great expense to myself arrive today, because if they don’t, I won’t have any of them for this show, which would be sad. [see Update at bottom]However, I should have shiny new copies of the second printing of Happiest Days, and 2008’s chapbook-o-rama, Sunken Treasure.

Uh, this is also pretty goddamn cool: The original cast of MST3K will be getting together — reuniting, if you will — for the first time since the exciting rock climbing portion of the film began. I’m kind of excited to listen to whatever they have to say, and hope I can trade them shiny gold rocks for their automagraphs on my copy of Manos: the Hands of Fate.

UPDATE: FedEx and UPS came through for me. I have the second printing of Happiest Days, as well as copies of Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot. This means that, if you like, you can trade me shiny gold rocks (or Kongbucks) for The Complete Works of Me, Wil Wheaton.

Of course, now I have so much stuff to take and no time to ship it, so it looks like me and the 101 are going to spend about 5 hours of quality time together tomorrow. And again on Sunday. Good thing I have Dimension X on my iPod.