Category Archives: Things I Love

announcing the officially unofficial wesley crusher fan club

I’ve done a bunch of fun projects with Stands over the years. Today, we launched our latest: The Officially UNofficial Wesley Crusher Fan Club!

Over the years, I’ve met thousands of people who are around my age and grew up absolutely loving Wesley Crusher. They were inspired by him. They related to him when adults expected him to be an adult, but treated him like he was a kid. They wanted to be his friend on the Enterprise, part of his sick breakdancing crew. All the complaints about the — let’s generously say “uneven” — writing and early character development didn’t matter to them, they were just happy to see someone like them on Star Trek.

I never knew about that — we never knew about each other — because we were kids. But I’ve met so many of you, and I’ve shared your stories so widely, it’s not a sampling error. We all now know how beloved Wesley Crusher is and always was, so I conspired with my friends at Stands, and the Officially Unofficial Wesley Crusher Fan Club is open for members.

I love this. I think a lot of you are going to love it, too.

I think you’ll also love that every purchase supports GLSEN, an organization that works to ensure that LGBTQ students are able to learn and grow in a school environment free from bullying and harassment.

from the vault: the autumn moon lights my way

In 2005, I blew up my blog and couldn’t fix it. So I started a backup blog at Typepad, where I wrote and published until 2012.

As I’ve been promoting Still Just A Geek, I am more and more aware of this enormous gap in my story that is a significant part of my journey from 2004 me to 2022 me. I’m not sure how or why it got left out; it just sort of … slipped my mind. Brains and memories are weird that way. But I’m discovering that nearly that entire time is well documented (for better and worse) at WWdN:iX.

So I’ve been slowly revisiting that part of my life, as I consider putting together some sort of novella-length … supplement? I don’t know. Something will replace the graphic that says “SOME TIME LATER” between the end of Just A Geek and the beginning of The Big Bang Theory.

I wrote A LOT about my sons, and our relationship, during this five year mission. It’s rewarding and special to look back at those posts, now, knowing everything I know.

So here’s one from September 28, 2005:

the autumn moon lights my way

I heard Led Zeppelin coming out of Ryan’s room, so I put down my Sudoku book (yeah, I’ve been hooked for about a month), walked down the hall, and knocked on his door.

“Come in,” he said.

I opened, and entered his sanctuary: astronomy posters hung from his walls, and a stack of books (Les Miserables, The Count of Monte Cristo, Macbeth, Divine Comedy and a host of other books that your average AP English student with a 4.0 in the class reads*) sat on his desk. A pile of (clean? dirty?) clothes lay in a heap at the foot of his bed. He sat at his desk, looking at The Internets.

He turned around in his chair. “What’s up?” He said.

“Oh, I just heard you listening to Zeppelin II, and I didn’t want to miss a chance to share in something we both love, that I happened to introduce to you in the pre-Pod days.”

“I . . . just wondered what you were doing.” I said.

He got very excited. “Oh! I found this awesome Family Guy Website, and I was downloading audioclips from it, and putting them on my computer.” He clicked a few times, and showed me the website.

“When I was your age, I did the same thing, with The Prisoner and Star Trek,” I said,  “on my Mac II.”

He frowned. “Weren’t you on Star Trek?”

“Yeah,” I said, “but the sounds were from the original series.”

He looked back at me.

“So it was geeky, but it wasn’t totally lame,” I said. Why did I feel like I our ages and roles were reversed?

“What’s The Prisoner?” He said.

“A show that I love, that I don’t think you’re geeky enough to enjoy.”

He clicked his mouse, and iTunes fell silent.

“Wil,” he said, “you didn’t think I’d like Firefly.”

“Touche,” I said with a smile. “Any time you want to watch The Prisoner, I am so there.”

“Actually, any time you want to do anything, I am so there, because I don’t want to be a stranger to you for the next five years, and I’ll close the gap any way I can.”

“Okay,” he said. “Maybe after school some day next week.”

“When –“

“When my homework’s done,” he said. “I know, Wil.”

He wasn’t snotty. He wasn’t rude. He wasn’t impatient or unpleasant. He just . . . was. I saw a lot of myself in him.

“I need to work my a–” he began, “I need to work very hard this semester.”

I nodded my head. “I’m glad you know that, Ryan.”

He turned back around to his computer. I stood in his doorway and looked at him for a minute.

“He may not have my DNA, but I’ve given him some of the things that matter in life,” I thought.


He didn’t turn around. “Hmm?”

“I love you.”

“I love you too, Wil.”

“Ramble On, And now’s the time, the time is now, to sing my song.
I’m goin’ ’round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way.
I’ve been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.”

*Yes, I’m proud as hell. Sue me.

the fountain of youth

I spend a lot of time remembering and writing about the video games I played while growing up, mostly because it's the closest I can come to actually playing them, until the magical day arrives when I have an entire room in my house dedicated to housing a classic arcade and console collection.

I've written before about books and games as time machines and portals, but I've recently realized that the father away I get from the times those things transport me, the more important they both become. Maybe it's a geek's midlife crisis, or something, but I've really missed arcades recently.

Whenever I play any classic arcade or console game, it's like I'm flipping very rapidly through a book with different places and years on each page; I see just enough to make an emotional connection, but it never enough to capture any details. I don't know what it's like for anyone else, but for me, when I pick up a joystick controller today, I pick it up in 1979, 1980, 1983, 1985. When I played Pitfall! at PAX, I played it in my living room in Sunland, my bedroom in La Crescenta, at Joey's house, at Josh's house, at Bobby's house. 

It's awesome that I can play every Atari game ever written using Stella, and it's a lot of fun to plug in an Atari Flashback for a quick Combat battle (I'm still training for our Thunderdome showdown, Shawn Powers), but those experiences aren't quite the same as playing an actual vintage Atari. It's pretty easy to walk into a Target or a Best Buy these days and get one of those joysticks that has a dozen or so games in it, and being able to play them in some form is always better than not being able to play them at all, but the joy I feel when I get to play on an actual console just can't be emulated. There's something about searching a box for exactly the right game, flipping the switches, and picking up an actual joystick to play Yar's Revenge or Keystone Kapers or Air Sea Battle that emulation just can't capture.

It will be unsurprising, then, to learn that my favorite rooms at PAX were the Classic Arcade room, and the Classic Console Freeplay room. They were exactly what they sound like: the Arcade room had about a dozen games, including Sinistar, Dragon's Lair, Frogger, and a prototype game called Crazy Otto that eventually became Ms. Pac Man. The Classic Console Freeplay room had everything from Atari to Colecovision to NES to PSX to Intellivision to Sega Genesis.

They also had one of my favorite consoles of all time, Vectrex, which I played with Storm. BEHOLD:



Photo credit to Enforcer David Johnson, who took many awesome pictures of PAX East.

While we played, Storm and I channeled our inner 12 year-olds with such classic phrases as, "No way! I shot him!" and "It cheated! The computer cheated!" and "MMMMOOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!"

I remember when I got my Vectrex in 1982 or 1983; it felt like I had a miniature arcade game, because – unlike even the best Atari versions – it recreated games like Scramble, Armor Attack, and Star Castle almost perfectly. Minestorm was like Advanced Asteroids, and Starhawk was pretty much Luke Skywalker's attack on the Death Star, brought directly into my bedroom, under my control. I may have played the Star Wars soundtrack on my record player while I assumed the role of Red Five. Many times. I'm just saying.

Storm and I got a little misty-eyed when we watched a father teach his son how to play, and I noticed that both of them were having an incredibly fun time, for entirely different reasons. Storm said that the picture I took of them was like a geek's version of the Norman Rockwell painting where the dad is teaching his son to fish. I thought that was awesome.

But I think the best thing Storm said was in reply to an e-mail I sent him and Paul with a link to those pictures: "Ponce de Leon was completely wrong about the fountain of youth."

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.