This is a thing that comes up frequently. Someone wonders why Picard put Wesley, who was a teenager, at the helm of the Enterprise.
Surely, the argument goes, there are more qualified, experienced, adults on board who deserve the spot.
This most recently came across my Event Horizon, thusly:
“… The better question is how did this completely unqualified child get to actively pilot the flagship of the federation while others had to attend the academy for years and get multiple placements before even being considered.”
I NEVER respond, but today I felt like Wesley deserved someone to speak up for him, so why not me?
“Okay, so. Disclosure: I am the actor who played Wesley. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about exactly this, because angry nerds have been yelling at me about it for 30 years.
“Remember that a being of extraordinary power and ability pulled Picard aside and said, “this kid is special. I can’t tell you exactly why, but it’s really important that you nurture and encourage him to the best of your ability.” And Picard listened. He heard that this being, who had literally just taken them where no one has gone before, and he followed his advice.
“And that eventually leads Wesley to become one of the Travelers.
“I’m sure that there are plenty of officers on the Enterprise who share your opinion. They’re pissed that this kid was promoted. They’re pissed that he’s a nepo baby.
“But they don’t know everything that Picard knows. And Picard is the captain of the ship, so he gets to make that call. And he doesn’t have to explain himself to anyone.”
And what I didn’t add there but will add here is: The Traveler from Tau Ceti made it very clear to Picard that Wesley and Beverly must never know that Wesley is special, the crew and everyone else on the Enterprise must never know. So all of the sudden, Wesley is given this thing he dreams of, and he absolutely knows he hasn’t yet earned it. How do you think this makes Wesley feel? I mean, we never saw it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist within the character and actor who played him. He wants to make Picard and his mom proud of him more than anything, and Picard promoted him? HOLY CRAP DREAM COME TRUE! But … wait. What’s going on? His peers are jealous of him and what he gets to do. The adults he is around when he isn’t on the Bridge quietly resent him for what they believe is unearned privilege. There are a a thousand people on the Enterprise, and Wesley probably knows maybe two dozen of them. Everyone else who sees him? All they see is the nepo baby, and Wesley knows it. He has MASSIVE imposter syndrome, and spends a lot of his time trying to understand why Captain Picard believed in him and gave him a chance. He can’t understand why that isn’t enough for anyone else. It’s Captain Picard, man! He made the call! Doesn’t that count for something?
Wesley’s dream has come true, and he can’t even celebrate it. Yeah, he’s a full ensign, a Starfleet officer … but he’s a kid who has never been to the academy and learned what being a Starfleet officer means, how to behave and exist around other Starfleet officers who have also gone through everything it takes to get a posting on the federation’s flagship. He is wearing the uniform without having gained the experience that he needs to fill it. He doesn’t know that Picard and the Traveler did this. He just knows that, now, he has to show up and prove that he actually does deserve it.
And this kid has never been in a place where it’s safe and okay to make mistakes and learn from them. And he knows that. At fifteen. It’s a lot. Now this kid has to carry around with him not just the responsibility that comes with the chair and the rank, but he also has to exist on the Enterprise where he passes people in the corridors, sees people in the canteen, waits in line to use the transporter with all these other officers who have never met him, and DEEPLY resent him for something he didn’t do. Wesley feels that resentment every single time, and it hurts like fucking hell. He will spend the rest of his time in Starfleet trying to prove to everyone that he was and is worthy of the promotion. And every single time he sits at the CONN, he knows that if he fucks up even a little bit, everyone he loves could die. He carries that with him, every second of every day. He feels it in every judgmental look, every whispered conversation, every challenge from a bully who has had one too many drinks. And when he doesn’t hear it from someone else, he hears it from a voice in his head. He can’t escape it, until he finally does and it all makes sense.
And, thirty years of Terran time later, after he’s spent more time being a Traveler, seeing and doing things you wouldn’t believe than he ever spent as a human, he’ll hear someone complaining about how he got that promotion someone else really deserved way back when, and it will hurt all over again, because the body remembers.
It’s another one of those round up posts, like in the Before Times! Also, my silly choice to do that outrageous 90s theme (I bet you are all going to miss the dancing baby) has served its purpose, and now we are back to something a bit more readable.
So the phrase “you have too much time on your hands” came across my event horizon, as a response to a silly thing I did to amuse myself. I’ve heard this for my entire life, and every few years, I write a post like this about it. This is a slightly edited version of my response.
I doubt very much you mean to be hurtful when you say this. It’s just a silly thing you say, like “tell us how you really feel”. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a little joke.
About that. This is one of the most insulting, degrading, things a creative person can hear. We have all kinds of fun making something, and we put it into the world, and “you have too much time on your hands” devalues our creative experience. It’s another way of saying “don’t you have anything better to do?” Actually, dad, I don’t. This is exactly what I wanted to do with my time and energy.
I had exactly the right amount of time to make whatever the thing is. I choose to invest my time in doing something amusing, or silly, or whatever. “You have too much time” implies that this was a waste of the time I have, time that should have been spent doing something else, rather than the thing I chose to make, because it made me feel good to do that.
I am so confident that most people who say this don’t mean to be hurtful, and if you’re one of them, I hope you’ll hear me, as a creative person who has been dismissed like that his whole life, when I tell you how hurtful and insulting these words are. Don’t take my word for it, listen to all the other creative people who will reply to this, if they choose to share their experiences.
I’m not calling you out. I’m not putting you on blast, and I’ll ban anyone who brigades or attacks you. I’m just taking this moment to share this for you and anyone else who doesn’t want to be hurtful in the future. A teaching moment.
We don’t have too much time. In fact, nearly every creative person you ever talk to will tell you that we don’t have enough time. Please don’t dismiss us or the stuff we make.
Thanks for listening 🙂
NB: Facebook is bad for civilization. There is a future coming where someone researches and produces data which will show how absolutely destructive the whole damn thing is. There is a future where social media as it exists today is looked at the way my generation looks at DDT. We cannot believe it was ever a Thing, and the people who were poisoning us knew it all along. Facebook and Twitchan are a catastrophe for democracy and marginalized people. I can’t wait for the day to arrive when all of social media is regulated like tobacco and alcohol, and gets broken up into some parts that are less predatory and dangerous.
I just want to amplify my dear friend who is not here for anyone’s bullshit:
Okay. Let’s step out of that place and into something more fun!
I’ve wanted to round up some of the TV I’ve been watching:
Holy shit The Last Of Us is perfect. Flawless. Worth the entire subscription.
Netflix’s 1899 went from “interesting, compelling” to “steampunk LOST” so fast I gave up halfway through. The era of “weird for the sake of being weird, style over substance, vague hints of story instead of real character development, and we’ll sort of loosely wrap it up eventually” cannot end fast enough. Honestly, it should have died with Charlie. RIP Charlie.
Conversely, I had to force myself to not binge Wednesday, Brand New Cherry Flavor, The English, The Recruit, and Sandman. Highly recommend all of them.
The Justice Department has been scrutinizing a controversial artificial intelligence tool used by a Pittsburgh-area child protective services agency following concerns that it could result in discrimination against families with disabilities, The Associated Press has learned.
The interest from federal civil rights attorneys comes after an AP investigation revealed potential bias and transparency issues about the opaque algorithm that is designed to assess a family’s risk level when they are reported for child welfare concerns in Allegheny County.
Algorithms use pools of information to turn data points into predictions, whether that’s for online shopping, identifying crime hot spots or hiring workers. Many child welfare agencies in the U.S. are considering adopting such tools as part of their work with children and families.
Though there’s been widespread debate over the moral consequences of using artificial intelligence in child protective services, the Justice Department’s interest in the pioneering Allegheny algorithm marks a significant turn toward possible legal implications.
Supporters see algorithms as a promising way to make a strained child protective services system both more thorough and efficient, saying child welfare officials should use all tools at their disposal to make sure children aren’t maltreated. But critics worry that including data points collected largely from people who are poor can automate discrimination against families based on race, income, disabilities or other external characteristics.
(bolding is mine)
This was timely, as I just watched this short from Aperture about Algorithms a couple days ago.
tl;dr: algorithms are inherently racist, classist, and not at all neutral because the data used to train them is largely drawn from a system that has elevated the opportunities and privileges of CIS white men. It’s appalling.
Let’s stay at YouTube for a minute, because I said this was going to be fun.
It’s going to be a movie? I just saw that when I looked for a link to the publisher’s page. Hmm. I hope they do it justice. I hear they missed the mark with Tales from the Loop, but I haven’t watched it yet so take that with a grain of highly radioactive 236 U.
Also, I noticed a Still Just A Geek coffee mug in the background of one of Hank Green’s videos and I’m not gonna lie: I squeed with extreme delight.
One last YouTube mention. I can’t get enough of CGPGrey. I don’t know anything about them, except that their brain is amazing.
This video is about choosing a theme for yourself, like “my theme for this month is reading.” or “my theme for this month is mindfulness.” The idea is to help us build on little successes that fit into a broad theme, rather than setting a single goal and feeling like a failure if we don’t complete it to our liking.
My theme since I turned 50 has been self care and gratitude. I’m spending all kinds of time working on healing my cptsd and trauma, and I’m showing up for myself every day to support that. I’m making a choice to work on specific things in therapy (EMDR has changed my life), and then do the hard work in between sessions to build on the insights I’ve gotten from my therapist.
I felt this fundamental shift beneath my feet last week. This HUGE thing changed in me. It’s so big, I can’t see all of it, you know? Like, I can just see this small part of it that I let go of, and until I get farther away from it, I won’t know what all of it is. I feel so good, so unburdened, that I have spent substantial time being suspicious of it. I legit wondered if I was manic, but after talking with my therapist, I’m pretty sure what I’m feeling is the lack of generalized anxiety that has defined my life for so long I didn’t realize it was there. “This is water,” as they say.
If you only take one thing away from this post: work on your shit. It’s worth it. YOU are worth it. And I’m going to tell you something that’s going to be upsetting: all your friends know you are lying to yourself, and to them, about your mental health. We can’t do anything to support and help you until you choose to be honest and do that incredibly hard work that is so terrifying.
In the land of music, I can’t believe how much I like Miley Cyrus’ new song, Flowers. I love her smoky voice and “fuck you I’m fabulous” attitude.
I’ve been listening to Alkaline Trio, Taking Back Sunday, Get Up Kids, Ataris, and all that fabulous early 2000s stuff we all associate with Warped Tour. Yes, I made a playlist at Spotify.
Speaking of, I had no idea that Spotify used so much shitty compression, until my son pointed it out to me with a side by side comparison to Apple Music. The difference between the two is astounding. Real quick: I hate Apple. Their UI is the worst. Their design is stupid and non-intuitive. Oh, how I hate iTunes. And Apple’s refusal to use open standards in messaging can get fucked.
But Apple Music is remarkable (The Linux client, cider, is amazing). The lossless sound is so much better than the over compressed shit Spotify squirts into my ears, and I had no idea until I put them side by side. Spotify is like putting a wet paper sack over your speakers, by comparison. Once you hear the difference, it’s real hard to go back.
Too bad Spotify didn’t invest in sound quality like they did in centering and spotlighting a conspiracy theorist. This is the year I let my membership expire.
Okay, last thing: I searched high and low for a really solid RSS reader that wasn’t full of crap. I eventually settled on Fluent Reader. You can grab the Appimage here, if you’re a Linux user like me.
Oh look the morning is behind me and now I’m late for work. Which will happen in a virtual desktop two clicks over, where I’m writing a brand new thing.
Yesterday, I cleared a lot of debt off the books that Wil From The Past had accrued. I put clothes away, I did the dishes, I went through half a dozen bags and boxes of stuff that I brought home from conventions this year. The biggest thing I did, the thing that most fun and most satisfying, was cleaning my game room from floor to ceiling. I got out the dusting thing and the furniture polish and the fancy vacuum, and I went to work. It took a couple hours, but with the constant companionship of Bony Danza and the occasional visit from Marlowe, those hours flew by. The air is lighter, the protective layer of dust did its job and the bookcases look great.
If you follow my Instagram stories, you’ve seen my high score posts from my arcade machines, right? You know that I have two different multicade machines, and one of them is the “hard” machine. I play Mr. Do! on both machines, and though I’ve always scored higher on the easy machine, playing the higher difficulty is generally more satisfying. I haven’t played much for the last few months (Cyberpunk 2077 attached itself to the Skyrim receptors in my brain and spent 194 hours there), so it was shocking to me that when I sat down for my first game in a long time, I locked into some kind of symbiotic groove with the game and ended up recording my highest high score of all time! ON THE HARD MACHINE!
…or so I thought until I looked at my high score on the easy machine last night, which is 2000 points higher. I left WAY more than 2000 points on the board during my unexpected run. Damn.
I’m doing a TON of Donkey Kong again, too. I’m working on this piece that Donkey Kong is central to, and I desperately want to talk about it, but I’m gonna hold that back so I’m motivated to finish it. (Level 4 elevators though. Fuck me am I right?)
Speaking of early pop punk … I have to admit that in the early aughts, the part of me that is a First Wave Punk and Hardcore Kid was mildly disdainful to entirely dismissive of pretty much that entire genre. I felt like it wasn’t serious, that it was about girls and cars instead of ending systemic oppression and fucking shit up. I mean, I wasn’t entirely wrong, but WOW did that guy I was miss out on a lot of fun times as a consequence of that foolishness. As a 50 year-old (nope. still doesn’t feel okay to say that.) I can absolutely ADORE all of it, accept it on its own terms, and allow it to exist alongside Bad Religion and Dead Kennedys. I wish I’d had this maturity when I could have seen all these acts live, in their prime. Well, live and learn and always pick up anyone who falls down in the pit.
Anne and I went to the hockey game last night, and watched the Kings win a game they were supposed to win, which has not been the case as often as it should be this season. I posted a picture from the game like I do, and OF COURSE some dickhead needed to show us his whole ass because we each wear a mask when we are indoors, in public.
I know why this is a whole stupid thing, but I don’t understand it. Yes, dipshit McFuckface made it all political because he is a fuckface, and the single-celled organisms that worship him are dying as fast as they can to own the Libs by deliberately exposing themselves to infectious diseases. (Great job, y’all. I feel SO OWNED.) But I can’t wrap my head around being so fucking stupid that you deliberately make yourself and your family less safe, to make a point that the people you are trying to own could not care less about. I can’t wrap my head around choosing to believe a Fox News personality over an actual doctor or scientist with an actual degree and actual experience and expertise. I just … wow. These people are why there are warnings printed on everything.
So, since I’m already here, I’m going to say this so I can refer to when this happens next time I share a picture of us inside a public place:
When I wear a mask in an indoor public space, I’m not making a political statement. I’m making a choice to protect my health and the health of my family. I’m listening to the advice of experts who are better informed and educated than all of us.
A political statement is something like, “Republicans are fascists and domestic terrorists who don’t care if you die as long as they have power.” Putting on a mask when it’s recommended by every expert who works with public health has nothing to do with my endless contempt and disgust for right wing garbage. Read that as many times as you need to, until you understand the difference.
I realize that it’s VERY important to a lot of extremely stupid people that masking be part of the culture war they’ve been losing my entire lifetime. That’s pathetic, they are pathetic, and I could not care less what they think about me and my personal health choices.
It is a massive waste of time and energy to engage with these people, who only want to waste my time, and yours. I just block them and delete their bullshit, so they have more time to spend with their increasingly worthless not-NFTs.
Can you believe it’s Solstice already? If December crept up on me, Solstice jumped out from behind a hedge and shouted BLESSED YULE MOTHER FUCKER!
I walked Marlowe this morning, and maybe it’s the Yule in the air, but my neighbors were all extra friendly and chatty. I felt … well, I know that I live in a community, right? I know that, intellectually, but I really felt it, and it was just great.
From the moment Star Trek Picard was announced, people asked me if Wesley Crusher would make an appearance. Until August of last year, I told the truth when I said that I would love to do that, but had no idea if it would actually happen. I’m pretty psyched that we were able to keep this secret as long as we did.
I want to take a minute and share why Wesley’s return to Star Trek is so deeply meaningful for me, why this is so much more than merely playing a fun cameo for two pages. I want to tell you what Wesley Crusher means to me, as an almost 50 year-old husband, father, and survivor.
Wesley’s fictional journey and my real life journey are remarkably similar. We were both incredibly smart kids who struggled to fit in with our peer group. Neither one of us had a relationship with our father (Wesley, because his father died when he was a baby, me because my father chose to be my bully instead of my dad). Both of us spent our entire lives on paths we did not choose, struggling every single minute of every single day to make the people who put us on that path proud of us. We both felt uncomfortable in our own skin, and ended up spending as much time in our intellect as we could, because that was a place that felt safe.
Our stories and paths diverge widely in our teens: he’s awkward and angsty, but genuinely loved and supported by the adults in his life, who encourage him to explore his interests. I’m awkward and angsty, but I’m invisible to my dad on a good day, and my mother does not see me. Instead, she only sees the kid from Teen Beat, and all the trappings that come with proximity to him that she can scrape up for herself. In my headcanon, Wesley felt alone because he didn’t get to regularly interact with kids his own age, and if his life mirrored my own at that time, a lot of kids he would have wanted to be friends with judged him before they knew him, because he was kind of famous. Let me tell you, when every room you walk into is filled with people who have already made up their mind about you before you even introduce yourself, you just stop walking into rooms. Or, at least, I did.
When Wesley saw his opportunity to forge his own path with the Travelers, his entire family supported him, they celebrated the end of one journey and the beginning of another. I did not get that support. When I was about 20 and left the series, followed quickly by leaving the entire entertainment industry, neither of my parents were there for me, at all. By this time in my life, my father had stopped trying to hide his contempt and disinterest for me, and my mother had essentially abandoned me to focus her energy on a friend of my sister’s, who was climbing the teen fame success ladder. My mom was always there when I was chasing her dream of acting fame, but when I needed a mom to help me figure out what I wanted to do with my life, she just did not show up at all. I was left entirely alone to try and figure out how to be an adult. It was terrifying. Luckily for me, when I was 23 I met the woman who would become my wife, and my journey toward discovering and realizing my dream began.
But let us go back to the moment when we each realized we were not on our paths, but someone else’s. Wesley and I both walked away from everything we knew, every expectation that was ever put on us, every person we ever cared about, because we both knew that something was not right in our lives, and if we were going to fix it, we had to figure out what it was. And to figure out what it was, we had to get off the paths we had been on since we were too young to know what a path even was.
Wesley was expected to be a Starfleet captain, or maybe a chief engineer. I was expected to be a famous film actor, or at least famous. We both accepted these expectations right until we didn’t. He got there before I did, but there was a moment when we both knew that we were pursuing dreams that were not ours, that they were more important to other people than they were to us. We needed time and space to find out who we were, and what our dream was.
When we had that time and space (or all of time and space, for Wesley), we could discover what was important to us, what we wanted to do with our lives and the time we had in this universe, who we were when we weren’t defining ourselves according to someone else’s expectations. During that time, I met more people than I can count who have told me how much Wesley means to them. They told me he inspired them, that they saw themselves in him at a time when they felt unseen by the people in their lives. They told me he helped them figure out what kind of person they wanted to choose for a partner in love and life.
For two decades I listened, while people told me the ways he was there for them. I never would have expected that he would also be there for me.
Ron Moore wrote Wesley’s final episode, Journey’s End. Ron knew Wesley needed to do something different with his life. He knew that Starfleet wasn’t right for Wesley. He knew that Wesley couldn’t keep defining himself through someone else’s expectations. I don’t know if he knew that I also needed that (I didn’t even know it at the time), but like so many other people who watched Wesley’s story, I was inspired by Wesley’s courage and conviction. And I followed him out into the Great Unknown.
I was surprised to discover that as I got to know myself all over again for the first time, I also got to know Wesley. If Wesley could matter so much, to so many people, why couldn’t he matter that much to me, the actor who played him? It took a long time and a lot of work to find the answer to that question. I wrote a whole book about it, in fact. But what’s important is that much in the same way I had allowed myself to be defined by how I was measuring up to someone else’s expectations, I had allowed my relationship with Wesley Crusher to be defined the same way. And the end result of that was a lot of self-inflicted pain and sadness for me. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that around the same time I finally felt seen in the world, I was able to see Wesley the way so many others did. It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it. I was, and am, worth it. Getting to know Wesley Crusher, to see him the way he was seen by the people who loved him, to love him the way he always deserved to be loved … you can see the parallels, right? Believe me, it was all worth it.
Wesley and Kore may blink out of existence and never come back on camera again. Or they might go literally anywhere through all of space and time, from Strange New Worlds to Discovery to Lower Decks (but not to season three of Picard. Sorry, nerds.). I honestly don’t know what comes next for them in canon, but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t spent some time thinking about it.
I may get to tell more of Wesley’s story at some point – his journey over the last 25 or so years is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about – as a writer or as an actor. Maybe both. But even if that never happens, if I never get to be Wesley Crusher on camera again, I will have the privilege of hosting The Ready Room, where I get to be a Starfleet veteran, a member of the exclusive “Legacy Star Trek” club, and an unashamed superfan who gets to take other nerds into the Room Where It Happens. I get to celebrate everything we all love about Star Trek in all its incarnations, for my job.
I love the life I’ve built for myself. I love and am intensely grateful for the place in Star Trek that belongs to me, as the actor who played Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher, who now plays The Traveler Formerly Known as Wesley Crusher, who is the host of The Ready Room.
I and Wesley will always be part of The Next Generation for the rest of our lives, and that would absolutely have been enough. The fact that we both get to be part of not just The Next Generation, but also part of the larger Star Trek universe, is a privilege and a gift that I will never take for granted.
We talk about how Star Trek is so inspiring when it shows us what’s possible, what we can achieve for ourselves when we work hard and work together with compassion and empathy for each other. For me it goes deeper than that, because finding love and compassion for Wesley Crusher allowed me to find love and compassion for myself.
Welcome home, Wesley. I missed you so much. Thank you for being there for me when I needed you.