the writer’s dilemma

Last night, I slept as deeply and undisturbed as I have in months. I woke up this morning much later than I’d planned, my body heavy, and unwilling to move on its own. Seamus slept against my hip, Marlowe was curled up next to me, her little face resting against my head.

I took my time waking up, and coaxed myself out of bed.

The wood floors of my house felt cool beneath my feet as I made my way into my kitchen and made the first of what will be many cups of coffee — not because I need coffee, but because I’ve figured out a way to make cold brew coffee that gives me the most delicious cup of coffee I’ve ever had.

Through the living room, I paused to kiss Anne good morning. I walked down the hallway into my office, sat down in front of my computer, and began my day.

I read emails, checked the morning news, glanced at Twitter, moderated comments here and at Radio Free Burrito.

Then I looked at a blank composition window, unsure where to begin. I looked into myself, tried to find something that needed to be recounted, a story that needed to be told, an amusing event over the last few days that was clamoring to be translated from memory and experience into narrative.

I found a single thing, but it’s actually too personal and painful to share. That one thing, though, once identified, starts to feel like a bug bite, demanding to be scratched and then itching more, asserting itself more, the more I scratched it. Though it is, in relation to everything else in my world, very small, it became the biggest thing, the only thing, pushing out everything else

And yet, I can’t.

So I begin typing, putting together images and moments from when I woke until when I began assembling them into words.

And when I get to that point where the thing asserts itself again, it holds me and will not let me pass.

And so I write it, but I don’t press publish. I put it away, in a document that is just for me, and I write this instead.

The War of the Worlds Rehearsal

In a few hours, I’m heading to the theatre for the final rehearsal for tonight’s performance of The War of the Worlds, as part of the 2015 Sci-Fi Fest.

I have the great honor and privilege of playing Orson Welles as Professor Pierson. It’s a bit of a dream come true for me, because I’ve been listening to the infamous 1939 broadcast of War of the Worlds since I got my very first cassette player in the late 70s. I can recite most of it from memory, but for tonight’s performance, it was important to me that I didn’t just mimic Welles’ performance. I need to make the character my own, and to do that, I’ve been reading and performing the scenes just like I would to prepare for any other character I was creating.

I thought it would be interesting to share some of my rehearsal process, so I recorded myself yesterday, and put the recording on my Soundcloud.

It’s about ten minutes long, and I think some of you may find it interesting, and maybe even entertaining. You can listen to it there, or push play here:

Tabletop Gag Reel: Stone Age

Agressive BreedingSometimes, YouTube stops to buffer and I get some pretty great Tablederp.

This week’s gag reel is one of my favorites in the history of the series:

it’s the year of the beard!

My friend, Atom, has an EPIC beard that is so epic, his wife commissioned a song from Molly Lewis to celebrate it. That song is called The Year of the Beard.

I have had a beard in some form or another since the writer’s strike of 2007, when it started out as a solidarity beard, and quickly grew into an NHL playoffs beard, and finally into a “I’m lazy and this saves me literally minutes a day” beard.

I like having a beard, though I’ve always kept it very neat and short, mostly because I’ve been working on camera in some way or another, and I’ve needed to keep a constant appearance.

See, always I’ve never been able to drastically alter my appearance in any meaningful way, because for most of my life I had to either look like my headshot, or stay in continuity for the show or movie I was working on. Sure, I’ve done colors and even shaved it (which was awesome and I’d do again in a second if I could), but I’ve never been able to even consider a mohawk or sweet juggalo tattoo on my neck or bifurcating my tongue and changing my name to HISSSSSSSSS.

But I’m not really doing anything on camera at the moment, and I’m primarily working as a writer and voice actor, so what I can do, and am doing at this very moment, is let my beard just grow until I feel like doing something about it. At the moment, I don’t feel like doing anything about it until at least after JoCo Cruise Crazy, and I may even keep it through the production of Tabletop’s RPG Show, because I kind of like the idea of having a big old GM’s beard for that show.

In which the author is bearding as hard as he can.
In which the author is bearding as hard as he can.

Some people think it’s great, others think it’s horrible. I don’t particularly care what anyone else thinks, though, because it’s The Year of the Beard and mine is almost big enough to hide stuff in it.

That Time The Stupidsphere Showed Up


If you follow me on Twitter (which I’ve told you not to do), you probably see the occasional RT or screencap from me, when the Stupidsphere shows up to tell me how stupid they are.

I wanted to talk about that in a forum that’s a little more complex than 140 characters will allow.

Let me define the Stupidsphere: contrary to their tiny-brained reasoning, I don’t define the Stupidsphere as a group of people who see things differently. Sure, I think denying climate change is stupid. Yes, I believe that clinging to debunked lies to prop up a narrative or worldview that is inconsistent with reality is stupid. Yes, I believe trying to convince yourself and anyone else that it’s really about ethics in games journalism is stupid.

But just because someone identifies as conservative, and I identify as liberal (and, in fact, so far to the left of mainstream politics in America the only person in government who comes close to actually representing my beliefs is Bernie Sanders, with Elizabeth Warren in a close second), that doesn’t make either one of us objectively stupid. I’m not afraid of differing opinions or ideas about how to make a country great, or how to best ensure people have safe, healthy, productive lives.

I’m never going to see eye to eye with someone who is in the NRA, because I personally don’t believe there is any reason, at all, for a private citizen to own an assault rifle. Hunting rifles? Sure (even though I don’t hunt and think hunting for sport is barbaric). Handguns? I hate them, and wish private citizens didn’t own them. I also realize that I live in a place (and on a difficulty setting) where I don’t ever feel like I’ll need one for self defense (though I believe that if we didn’t have such a gun violence epidemic in America, nobody would feel like they needed one in the first place).

I’m never going to see eye to eye with a person who denies that humans are massively changing the climate on our planet, even though every non-fossil-fuel-funded study concludes that we are.

I’m never going to see eye to eye with a person who believes that OMG THE TERRORISTS are lurking around every corner, so we should something something bomb Iran.

I’m never going to see eye to eye with someone who believes that women shouldn’t have absolute and unchallenged control over their own bodies.

I’m never going to see eye to eye with someone who believes that Atlas Shrugged is anything other than a piece of poorly-written fiction, instead of a manual for how to run a country.

That said, even if we don’t see eye to eye, we can still be friendly. We can still play games and have drinks and love our kids and enjoy a sunset together. While I strongly disagree with those people, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to stop their beliefs and ideas from affecting my life, just as they’re going to do the opposite. That’s fine.


I do believe that a person who goes to a website that is specifically designed to encourage him or her to go on Twitter and harass me with their pathetic insults, and regurgitated and debunked talking points, over and over again for the sake of yelling at me is stupid. Profoundly, incredibly, mindnumbingly stupid. Dunning-Kreuger stupid.

These people are the Stupidsphere, and when they poke their heads up out of their epistemic closure, this is what typically happens:

StupidsphereI wrote that in reference to the news that Ted Cruz, who is on record denying all sorts of science (in addition to every other stupid asshole thing he does) will be chairing the Senate committee that oversees NASA.* (Yep. Elections have consequences. I get it, even when I don’t like it. It would be great if Texas would stop fucking up Congress with assholes like Ted Cruz, though).

So these people really love their eagles and American flags, and I think they have a medical condition where they can’t reach orgasm until they visit Stupidsphere HQ, find out who they’re outraged at for the day, and then let the insults fly.

The last time these idiots invaded my mentions, it was because I pointed out that a lot of GOP officials (elected and otherwise) were investing a lot of energy trying to convince Americans that ISIS (or ISIL or IS or A Bunch Of Fucking Assholes Who Should Be Launched Into The Sun Already or whatever they call themselves at the moment) was LITERALLY LURKING UNDER YOUR BED AND TRYING TO KILL YOU, and I suggested that this was likely related to the upcoming election. Now, before I get to what the Stupidsphere HQ said about me, I’ll further observe that the impassioned proclamations of IMMINENT DEADLY ISIS DANGER all seemed to immediately stop on November 5th. ISIS is terrible, and it is an organization does terrible things, but being terrified of them seems to be exactly what they want, and I find it odd that these supposed patriots would be so eager to help them. But, you know, election. So there’s that.

Anyway, the Stupidsphere HQ twisted my words, and told their mouth-breathing acolytes that I had said that ISIS wasn’t real, was actually something Republicans invented to win an election, and that none of the truly terrible things those people had done were actually real.

The Stupidsphere went nuts, and I ended up spending a good part of an evening blocking hundreds of people  — not because they disagreed with me, or because I couldn’t handle their incredible insights, but because they were belligerent assholes who were so goddamned stupid they couldn’t even read what I said for themselves and realize that Stupidsphere HQ and the Stupidsphere Leaders were just straight up lying to them.

And why would the Stupidsphere HQ do that? Gosh, I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with advertising and clickbait and page impressions. Or maybe not. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.

Anyway, back to yesterday’s Stupidsphere freakout.

Please enjoy this bit of brilliance:

More_StupidsphereThis is really common when the Stupidsphere goes on the rampage. They’re obsessed with insults based on things like sexuality and penis size, and while they declare themselves to be champions of free speech and expression, they are very eager to tell me to shut up and just go back to acting, even though I apparently suck at it. (Ironically, one of the loudest voices in the Stupidsphere is a right-wing actor who they never want to shut up and stick to acting. That’s kind of weird).

Brilliant Intellect Stupidsphere“Shut up Wesley” is one of their favorites, because everyone knows that the sickest of burns is always based on something nearly thirty years old, involving characters from a TV show.

Yesterday, though, something seemed to rise above the usual spew of bullshit. I kept seeing the same thing over and over again, and it was so outrageously stupid, I realized very quickly that it must be one of the talking points the Stupidsphere latches onto in order to prop up and sustain their fantasy world where immigrants are sneaking babies filled with bombs into America to take our jobs and then kill us in our sleep after forcing us all into having gay abortions for Kenya.

The talking point was that President Obama had declared that NASA’s mission (remember this was all started because I love NASA and I’m not thrilled that an anti-science, climate change denying asshole now holds NASA’s funding in his hands) was going to focus on — I am not making this up — “Muslim Outreach.”


Muslim Outreach StupidsphereThis one has the bonus of not only including the talking point, but also the insult (which seems poorly considered to me. If I’m so irrelevant, why is this stupid person spending any time attacking me? If I’m so irrelevant — which they are very keen to suggest — why does Stupidsphere HQ even pay attention to me? Why not spend their time attacking and harassing someone who is relevant? It just seems like a misplaced effort, is all.)

So I used DuckDuckGo to find out exactly WTF this is, and who was Stupid Patient Zero for the talking point. My suspicion was Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh.

TA-DA! It is, in fact, Rush Limbaugh.

Here’s what Limbaugh said on his March 6 show:

“Hey, Ms. Gregoire, never mind that Barack Obama made NASA into a Muslim outreach department and it’s Barack Obama, your idol and hero, that makes it necessary to pay the Russians $70 million for every astronaut to the space station,” Limbaugh said.


Limbaugh reached into the early flare-ups of the Obama presidency for his quip about NASA’s conversion into a “Muslim outreach department.”

The notion stems from remarks by Bolden in an interview with an Arabic TV channel in 2010. Bolden identified three priorities from Obama, including finding “a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.”

The Obama White House refuted Bolden’s remarks once outrage swelled, with spokespeople emphasizing the agency’s mission is space exploration and not diplomacy.

Limbaugh also accused Obama of shutting down NASA space flights. Obama certainly played a role (the shuttle flights stopped while he was in office), but the plan to scuttle the space shuttle program started before Obama took office, and Congress has not fully funded budget requests to speed along the creation of a private American space fleet.

Those omissions go beyond the realm of hyperbole. We rate Limbaugh’s claim False

I found that in about 30 seconds. I would have found it faster, but I was typing with one hand, as the other one was busy scratching my head because I couldn’t believe that anyone who doesn’t accidentally set themselves on fire every day would believe it.

I linked to that article on Twitter, and the predicatable Stupidsphere response was that Politifact is partisan (it is not) and that I should rely on “unbiased” news sources like — again, I am not making this up — FOX News and Real Clear Politics (whose co-founder stated: “we have a frustration all conservatives have”, which is “the bias in media against conservatives, religious conservatives, [and] Christian conservatives”.[3])

So to clarify and sum up the original point I think I was trying to make: I do not believe that everyone who sees things differently than me is part of the Stupidsphere. I know for a fact that everyone in the Stupidsphere sees things differently than me, and for some reason they have to really be loud about it.

And the whole thing actually makes me kind of sad. The Stupidsphere HQ and its leaders are all making money off of their gullible followers, and they’re all helping to prop up a political establishment that deliberately makes things worse for working class people. The Stupidsphere HQ and its leaders don’t give a shit about the people who follow them and leap into action when told to do so. All they care about are their clicks, and they’re laughing at them all the way to the bank.

Continue reading That Time The Stupidsphere Showed Up

this one is for non-judgmental ninja

I was trying to make a snowman, and I just couldn’t get the snow to stick together.

I started to feel bummed out, because I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to make a snowman again, but then Non-Judgmental Ninja showed up, and we made this together:

It's Snow K

…wait for it.

Continue reading this one is for non-judgmental ninja

In Which I Interview Patton Oswalt for Playboy

This is a big deal for me. A few months ago, my friend introduced me to Marc Bernardin, who is a new editor for Playboy. My friend told me that Marc is helping bring back the kind of writing that Playboy had in the 70s and 80s, when it was held up next to Esquire, Vanity Fair, and Rolling Stone. They both thought that I should become a contributor, and be part of that effort.

It was an incredible honor when Marc asked me to interview Patton Oswalt for The Playboy Conversation, and I’m really happy with how this turned out. Here’s an excerpt.

Geographically, Los Angeles isn’t that big. In fact, we say that pretty much everything, from The Valley to the South Bay is about a 20-minute drive, until you account for the traffic. It’s just past eleven in the morning, and I’m stuck on Highland, just six miles (but almost 22 minutes) away from my destination, because I didn’t account for the traffic.

I call my assistant and ask her to “let them know that I’m stuck in traffic, and I’ll be there as soon as I can.” She calls me back a few minutes later and tells me that everything’s okay. “Patton’s already there, so just drive safely and get there when you can.”

I try and fail to be patient. I can’t make the traffic move faster any more than I can go back in time to take a different route to Hollywood from The Valley, but I’m late, and the only thing I hate more than waiting for someone is making someone wait for me.

Twenty-five minutes later (parking is a bitch in Hollywood) I walk into BLD restaurant on Beverly. I look around and find Patton, sitting at a small table, facing the door, sipping from a mug while he looks at his phone.

“I’m so sorry to keep you waiting,” I say.

He looks up, cradling his mug in one hand. “It’s okay. Is everything alright?”

“Yeah,” I say, sitting down. “There was construction on Barham and an accident on the 101 and–”

“And you’re fucked,” he says.

“Pretty much,” I say. The waitress comes by and I order some coffee. I pull out my recorder, and set it on the table between us.

Where do I start? I’ve known Patton Oswalt for almost 15 years, though we’ve never been particularly close. When our orbits intersect — most frequently at Comic-Con or in the lobby of a theatre in Los Angeles — we talk for a few moments before going on our respective ways, until we meet again. I like Patton, and we’re friendly, but we’re not friends. This isn’t the first time I’ve interviewed someone, but the uncertain intimacy between us, combined with my general anxiousness about being late, has made me a little off balance. Whether he senses this or not, I don’t know, but Patton takes the pressure off.
PATTON OSWALT: So you’re interviewing me for Playboy?
WIL WHEATON: Yeah. And I’m not going to lie; I think it’s pretty cool. It’s such an interesting part of our culture. Magazines like Playboy are so different to the current generation than they were to ours. Like, if you want to look at boobs today, you just go to the internet, but when we were younger, we had to, like, actually find a magazine, find that one kid who for whatever reason, had an older brother or something who got it.
PATTON: I think I actually wrote a thing for Playboy about telling the new generation buy Playboys and go leave them in the woods, just so those kids can still, it gets them out of the house. I think I actually wrote that down for them. Gets them out of the house. Because the sense of that quest, it doesn’t really exist anymore. Not only the quest, but the currency. Now you’re the kid that has a Playboy: What can you trade for it? What can you get for it, you know?

(My friends and I hid  a Playboy in a tree, covered up with some rocks, in the wash behind our house. I remember that the playmate of the month was Hope Marie Carlton, and the Internet tells me that that means we had the July 1985 issue.) The waitress comes back, and sets a small press pot down in front of it. It probably has three cups in it. “Would you like to order some breakfast?”

I look at Patton. “Yes, I’ll have the huevos,” he says.

I order the first thing that I see on the menu. “Blueberry pancakes, with a side of bacon or sausage.”

She writes on her notepad, stops, and looks at me. “Did you want bacon or sausage?”

I notice that she has blue eyes, and is pretty. She has a cool tattoo on her left forearm. “I don’t care. You choose.” I hope I’m not being flirty. That happens sometimes when I’m nervous.

You can read the rest, where we talk about Twitter, fatherhood, stand-up comedy, The Interview, and his new book, Silver Screen Fiend, at (the site is probably NSFW, but the page where our conversation lives is SFW)

Secret Vacation 2015

We used to feel comfortable talking about where we were when we went on vacation, but that didn’t always turn out so well for us, so now we go on Secret Vacations instead.

This secret vacation features lots and lots of snow, reading books by the fireplace, and convincing ourselves that we can eat more junk food, because our bodies need the calories to keep warm. If you listen to today’s abbreviated Radio Free Burrito, you can hear what I think the best part of this Secret Vacation is.

Now, please enjoy two pictures that capture our long walk today: Anne, with her delightful Kermit the Frog hat thing, and me, trying to decide if having a nearly-frozen beard is the best thing, or the best thing ever.

Kermit loves snow There's ice in my beard

a brief history of Radio Free Burrito

Way back in 2005, when I was trying to figure out where the next mortgage payment would come from, I tried just about anything creative that I could think of to help support my family.

Mostly, I did that by writing. I did columns and freelance work, and wrote a few books. It was creatively satisfying, and it helped us get through each day, then each week, and eventually through a few years.

Way back in 2005, the whole podcasting thing was just getting started, and I saw an opportunity to live out my childhood dream of having a radio show (in fact, even earlier in the 2000s, I had done a live broadcast where I played music and did my best DJ impression. I had to give it up for reasons that are lost to history). Just as blogging tools like Greymatter and Blogger had made it easy for me to become a self-published writer, Garageband made it easy for me to become a self-published radio sort of guy. Back then, I felt incredibly guilty if I did something or spent money on something that was just for fun, without also supporting my family. I couldn’t really afford to do a radio show or podcast just for fun, but maybe I could get sponsors or sell ads or take donations or whatever.

So way back in 2005, Radio Free Burrito was born. It never really helped me support my family, but it helped me find some more creative confidence, and it gave me an opportunity to pretend I was one of those late night DJs I grew up loving, listening to on a tiny transistor radio in my bedroom long after I was supposed to have gone to sleep.

I did Radio Free Burrito with some regularity for several years, trying my best to stick to a weekly schedule, but since this was back before I got treated for Depression, it was really, really hard to stick to it. I put a lot of work into each episode, and sometime around 2008, it just felt like it wasn’t worth the effort.

But something happened around the end of 2009. I don’t remember what it was, but — wait. I think I know what it was. I think that’s when I finally got treated for Depression.

Huh. That’s weird. I hadn’t really put these two things together until just now. Which is ironic, because I’ve been struggling to hold a pretty bad Depression and Anxiety thing at arm’s length for at least a week.

ANYway, around the end of 2009, I found a groove, and I got comfortable with the sound of my own stupid voice. Radio Free Burrito hit what I’ll call its golden age during 2010, and I looked forward to it so much, I started another podcast to support my book Memories of the Future, Volume 1.

After almost a year of consistent releases, my life started to really turn around. Not to mistake correlation for causation, but this was when I started to work like crazy as an actor again. I think it was around 2011 that I started working on Leverage, then Eureka, then Big Bang Theory, and then Tabletop was born. As much as I had loved working on the Burrito every week, I actually didn’t have a lot of time to spend on it, and since I felt like it never really passed more than a couple hundred listeners, anyway, I had to make a choice to let it go and invest my time and creative energy in other places.

The last show I did was in February of 2013. People asked me about it all the time, but I was pretty sure that Radio Free Burrito was done.

Until this weekend, when I had an idea.

See, I’ve been listening to Serial and Snap Judgment and 99% Invisible and Nerdist and Dan Carlin.  Thanks to all of that, something landed in my brain and refused to leave. See, I’m sort of between big projects at the moment (finishing Tabletop and getting started on our RPG spinoff), and I think that The Thing I’m Going To Do Between Things is Radio Free Burrito. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay on a weekly schedule, but I think I can. I think that, if I remember that the point is not to make something perfect, but is actually to just make a thing, I’ll enjoy it, and maybe a couple hundred people will enjoy it with me.

So yesterday, I did a brand new Radio Free Burrito. It isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible, and it’s a thing where there wasn’t a thing before. I had fun when I was making it, and all I’ve been able to think about since I made it was what I’m going to do when I make the next one, which is pretty cool.

I won’t do this with every episode, but I wanted to share it and its show notes, here on the mothership, so as many people as possible can know about it.

Well, it looks like we’re really back, for reals, and on an actual schedule. Welcome to Radio Free Burrito Episode 35 – Ring of Fire

This week, I talk about the first thing to come to my mind, including trains and books. I tell a pretty gross story that gives the episode its title. This will also be the first episode that has an actual name, because some day I’d like to come up with something as magnificent as #Torsoshorts.

Okay, that’s everything. Please enjoy Radio Free Burrito Episode 35 – Ring of Fire.

Radio Free Burrito’s Experimental Episode

I had an idea, so I tried it out. I’m publishing it now, before I have a chance to back out and change my mind.

  • Show Notes:
  • The audio isn’t perfectly clean. That is by design. This is an experiment.
  • Radio Free Burrito doesn’t work as hard as Memories of the Futurecast did to earn its NSFW rating, but listener discretion is still advised.
  • If you want to introduce yourself, join this post. Maybe you’ll make a new friend.
  • The theme music was just called “flight.mp3″ and I have no idea where it came from.
  • There’s no art, because it’s an experimental episode.
  • I’m not sure if this will work with typical podcast clients. Apologies in advance if it isn’t available in your preferred thing.
  • The episode is 19.26 and is 28MB.

Enjoy the Burrito!

If the embeded player doesn’t work, try this link: RFB-Experimental

50,000 Monkeys at 50,000 Typewriters Can't Be Wrong

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