2006 was a very good year. In fact, it was probably the best year I and my family have had since 2003. So, with less than 9 hours remaining, I thought I'd hop in the wayback machine and take a quick look at some of the highlights. Fire it up, Sherman!
I traveled to Montreal, where I saw the beautiful Jardin Botanique de Montreal, and Boston, where I walked the Freedom Trail. They were both places where WWdN readers cared enough about seeing me perform from my books to demand me, and awesome enough to actually show up when I did. I went on CruiseTrek, a trip that I intended to write all about, but never quite found the time or words . . . though I did faithfully recreate prince edward island.
I had my hopes raised about an awesome nerdy TV show that never happened, I attempted and gave up on a podcast (though I got a great ambient tune out of the whole experience, which I made all on my own).
I wrote a story for the Poker Stars blog that I subsequently sold to BLUFF Magazine. I was (surprisingly) cast as one of the leads in the animated short film kyle + rosemary, and I got to play Cosmic Boy on Legion of Super Heroes. I finished twenty-third in the WPT Invitational.
I put together a limited edition chapbook that sold out faster than a jackrabbit on a date. I found a photo of myself and my sides from Star Trek: Nemesis and didn't get sued by Paramount for posting some scans.
I wrote a story about the quest to play Guitar Hero II at E3, and got it published as a feature story in the AV Club. My wife and I did the San Diego Rock-n-Roll Marathon (half of it, anyway) and raised a ton of money for cancer research. We did the Marathon in honor of Anne's friend Kris, who we learned last week is 100% cancer free, partly thanks to a successful stem cell transplant. Go stem cells!
I admitted that, yes, I'm the asshole.
I lived at the Palms in Las Vegas for over most of July and August, writing about (and playing in) the 2006 World Series of Poker. Though it's the sort of writing that appealed only to a narrow segment of the audience, from a pure writing standpoint, I felt like it was the best stuff I wrote all year. I'm positive that much of it will find its way into a book in the future.
I turned 34. I'm officially older than Jesus. My blog turned 5, which is almost as old a Jesus, in Internets years. Star Trek turned 40, which is a billion in Internets years, and older than Jesus and me. I marked the occasion with a bit of a tribute.
iTunes 7 ate all my purchased music, and Apple gave it all back.
My column at the AV Club, Games of our Lives, was awesome, but it was retired before it had a chance to stop being funny. I started hosting InDigital on Revision3. I started a new column reviewing classic Next Generation episodes for TV Squad.
I stopped editing the geek wire at Suicide Girls, and became a featured writer. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Geek is a bit I wrote there that I'm very proud of. I became a Navigator at Netscape News.
I wrote a statement of conscience. I learned that math is the scariest thing kids can see on Halloween. I watched the entire Star Wars saga in one sitting. I went to SoCal Gen Con and wrote about it for my Geek in Review.
I gave my son permission to read all of my comics. I wrote a shorter version of Open Water. I wondered What would Jesus do.
I added advertising to my RSS feeds. I appreciated the tiny things and how long I've been riding the planet, and found some perspective on beauty and mystery. I got really annoyed at more stupid security theater bullshit and Star Trek: The Next Generation 2.0.
I played a lot of Guitar Hero and reviewed Guitar Hero II. I helped add one more to the Next Generation of Geeks. I celebrated a wonderful little Christmas with my family.
Of course, I wrote about all these things and more, and some of it totally doesn't suck. So here are my favorite posts, which I guess you could call The 2006 Best of WIL WHEATON dot NET:in Exile.
the one about saturday at disneyland.
Nolan rode with Anne, and Ryan went with me. "Do you want to drive?" He said.
"No," I said, "you have your permit now, so let's see how you do."
He laughed and sat down into the car, named "Mac Badger."
The ride operator lowered the safety bar, and we launched out of toad hall, crashing through the library, exploding out of the fireplace, and speeding out into the countryside.
Ryan spun the wheel, while I shouted out, "Look out for the cop!" and "Left! Left! Left!" and "don't drive off the end of the dock!"
We were seriously cracking each other up, and as we burst through the exploding TNT room, I took a mental snapshot of the moment: here we are, on our way to nowhere in particular, laughing like crazy, and enjoying the simple joy that comes with being together.
That's when the ride broke down.
Suddenly, flourescent lights came on, and the magical world of Mister Toad evaporated. From somewhere else in the ride, I heard a voice cry out, "booooo!"
"What?" Ryan said.
"Please stay in your vehicle," a voice said over a loud speaker. "You will be escorted out of the ride shortly."
"Clearly, you broke the ride with your terrible driving," I said.
Speakng of caring about characters, Nolan has been absolutely glued to this book called Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson. As a writer, parent, and book-lover, I can tell you that there are few things as wonderful as seeing him turn off the TV and walk away from Xbox so he can read this book. Last night, he came up to me with a pale face, and red eyes and said, in a quivering voice, "My book just got really sad. A boy I cared a lot about died."
He could have been telling me about the loss of a friend. I felt like I should hug him.
"I totally understand," I said, and pointed to my copy of The Dark Tower, "One of my favorite characters in this book died about two hundred pages ago, and I felt like I'd lost a friend."
"It's weird how a book can make you feel that way," he said.
"I think it's really wonderful that you are sensitive and intelligent enough to let a writer affect you like that, Nolan," I said, "that makes me feel really good as a writer and as a parent."
"You should totally read this book, Wil," he said, "and Speak, too. You'd really like them."
"Okay," I said, "your recommendation means a lot to me. I'll put them into my pile."
He ran into his room, and came out with Speak. He handed it to me, and I saw what a beautiful forest I was in. I marveled at every single tree.
Grand Slam 2006 - Day Three
"Hey, Wil," Ryan said, "can we play D&D?"
"Yeah," Nolan said, "you keep saying that we'll play, but we never do."
"Guys," I said, "you know that I haven't had time to put together an adventure."
Their shoulders slumped.
"But!" I said, "I have an idea that may be even more fun than D&D."
I closed the refrigerator door, and went to the phone to order pizza.
"Go to my Big Trunk of Games, and bring out Munchkin."
I ordered a large pepperoni, and met them at the dining room table. Nolan held the box in his hands.
"So this is just like D&D," I said, "without any of the annoying role playing."
I opened the box, and split the cards into treasure and door piles.
"The thing is," I said, "you can't take this game seriously. At all. Even a little bit. The whole point here is to screw with each other and come up with really lame ways to beat each other up."
"I think I'm going to love this," Ryan said.
I wandered over to the dealer's room, and took a few pictures. I'm happy to say that I only spent $15 before I left, on the coolest bit of geek ephemera I've seen in a long time (I purchased the d20 keychain) before heading back over to the main auditorium to listen to Ron Moore speak.climb so high and gain so low
I knew Ron was coming to the show, because I'd read it in his blog late Saturday night, and I hoped that I'd get a chance to talk with him one-on-one, but I didn't expect that I'd run right into him backstage before he went on.
He lit up when he saw me for the first time in over fifteen years, and my prepared speech about how I didn't know if he remembered me flew out of my head. In one of those "hand on the car" moments, a series of images flashed through my mind in an instant, as I recalled some of the things he did for my character: Yesterday's Enterprise, the first time I got to do something really different on the bridge; The First Duty, the first (and only) time we saw Wesley interact with his peers, act his age, and witness his angst-ridden humanity; and Journey's End, the first (and only) time we saw Wesley as an adult, willing to take a principled stand against his father figure, Captain Picard. I felt a surge of emotion well up in my chest, and before I knew the words were coming out of my mouth, I said, "When we worked together on TNG, I was too young, and too immature to appreciate what you gave me as an actor, and what you did for my character. I know it's fifteen years late, but I wanted to say thank you."
He smiled warmly. "Thank you," he said. "It really means a lot to me to hear that."
I kept thinking about the Road. When I knew what my Road was, I knew where my Road was, and I knew how to get back on it. I wasn't as far off it as I thought, in fact. I just had to turn the wheel and step on the gas. It also helped to drive with my eyes open for a change.gazing through trees in sorrow hardly a sound till tomorrow
My Road is paved with d20s and TRON DVDs and Atari 2600 games. It's lit by the glow of TNG and BSG episodes and the soundtrack is by Vangelis. It's patrolled by Rover and they sell Soylent Green in the rest stop vending machines. The speed limit is 42, but if you flash your Bavarian Illuminati card, you can use the FTL drive to make it to Milliways in time for dinner.
my mind is filled with silvery star
I can connect with that memory right now as if I'm watching it on a television all over again: Gene presents me with his bars, everyone breaks out into applause, and I feel like I really didn't deserve it -- I was just an actor, after all.
I was too young and immature to fully absorb the magnitude of the gesture, but I recall that Gene shook my hand, then pulled me into him for a big hug, and I felt that sense of pride and embarassment that you get when your dad brags on you in front of everyone at the family reunion for making the final out that won the All-City Championship, but you secretly know that you just held up your glove and the ball managed to find its way into the pocket.
When I was in my very early teens, I had one of those massive teenage crushes that consumes your every waking moment and requires you to listen to endless hours of The Smiths in your bedroom wondering why she doesn't like you "in that way." This particular crush was on Kyra, who was so beautiful, and so smart, and so cool, and so a senior when I was a freshman it was never going to happen. Kyra introduced me to The Smiths (on Vinyl, no less), the Violent Femmes (in her BMW 2002 while we were driving to see Harvey at a local college) and was goth before goth was goth. Though I had such a massive crush on her, we were great friends, and she never broke my heart.parked under the sunsphere
I've always felt that, as a parent, my job (and greatest hope) is to help my kids grow into the kind of adult that I'd be proud of, and I'd like to spend time with, even if we weren't family: honest, honorable, generous, compassionate, and responsible. Sometimes, as part of the whole Pod People experience, I feel like those efforts are failing. Add the bonus of the really great and neverending loyalty conflict game (that I refuse to play, but have to deal with, anyway,) and it's easy to wonder if any of the work will ever pay off. It's been easy to lose hope.i meant every word i said
But over the last couple of months, I've come to believe that the Pods were actually Chrysalises, because it feels like both Ryan and Nolan have emerged as young adults whose company I really enjoy (and I believe the feeling is mutual.) The moments of irrationality are still there, and I'm sure that I am still so lame from time to time, but I have lots and lots of hope.
"Yes! I get to put on Live Aid!" Ryan said. He started toward the living room.close your eyes and then its past
"Uh, wait." I said, "we haven't reached consensus."
"Oh, we totally have, Wil," he said with a grin, "you're 25% in favor, and mom, Nolan, and I are 75% opposed. We have a majority."
I was done. I'd lost, and now it was time to take it like a man.
"Dude, I have, uhm, extra . . . uh . . . powers." I said.
"What?" Ryan said.
"Yeah, I went up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start," I said.
"Okay," Ryan said, "so you get extra lives on Contra. What does that have to do with the radio?"
I grew up in a tract home in the Northeastern San Fernando Valley. All the homes around us were some variation of stucco with asphalt shingle roofs and dark wooden shutters stuck onto the sides of the street-facing windows. If you've seen E.T., you've seen houses just like the ones I grew up in. Another 1980s film that features a house just like mine is Poltergeist. This is the only movie that still scares the everlivingjesusfuck out of me, and every time I hear Kaja Goo Goo's Too Shy, it reminds me of the afternoon I watched it with my older cousins, stretched out on the floor of our den after swimming in our pool all morning in the middle of summer.
Real Love/It's Only Life
Anne came home. I heard her hang up her keys on the mirror by the front door. "Where's Wil?" She said to Ferris. I'm pretty sure Ferris said nothing in return. A minute or so later, she walked into my office.
"Hey, why's the house so clean?" She said.
"Oh," I said, "I was writing."blue light special
As if commanded by some unseen puppet master, my hand shot out and grabbed the nearest figure from the rack.
"I'm getting this one," I said. "This one is awesome."
"Ha! Take that, mom! Nobody is going to trick me into responsibly saving my money!"
"Okay, put it in the cart and let's go."
I looked down at the package in my hands, and saw my triumphant purchase: Lando Calrissian.
In my head, I thought of the worst curse word I could muster the courage to think.
maybe you can just enjoy the tour
Just outside the door of the office, I ran into an old friend who is a tremendous actor. He'll probably want to remain nameless, but I'll just say that you'd know him if you saw him, and you may even think better of me for knowing him.
We talked for a minute about life, the universe, and everything.
"Hey," he said, "how is it in there?"
We actors always ask each other this question, because even though we're competing for the same roles, when you divide the world into Us and Them, we have to stick together.
"It's a great room," I said. "It's always a great room in there. They'll make you feel welcome and it's not like this -- " I crossed my arms across my chest and frowned, "at all."
"That's a relief," he said. Then, "Hey, I, uh, wanted you to know that I read both of your books."
"Yeah." He said, "and I wanted you to know that I loved them both. As an actor, and as someone who's known you for as long as I have, I want you to know that you really inspired me."
"That is . . ." I said. "Uh. Jesus. Thank you."
You're doing more than this," he pointed to the buildings around us, "and what you're doing really matters."
Over the first eight issues, I could relate to Dream's persecution, and his imprisonment, and I was intrigued by his power -- if this guy could march straight into Hell and win a battle of wits with a demon, maybe I could walk into a convention or a game shop and suffer the slings and +5 arrows of insecure geeks.
Dream was cool and he was sexy and he was mysterious, and cerebral and unflappable, and powerful and Endless. He was all the things I still want to be, and when I read Sandman, when I was in those pages, when I was in the world Neil Gaiman created and artists like Sam Keith & Mike Dringenberg and letterers like Todd Klein brought to life, it didn't matter that I was afraid of girls (besides, none of the girls I knew in real life were as sexy or smart or patient as Death, anyway) and it didn't matter that Trekkies treated me like shit because I was Wesley Crusher.
Though the year had its ups and downs, (my biggest struggle was finding Balance, something exacerbated by a lack of time) when everything is counted (in large amounts) it was a great year for me and my family. I almost had more work than I could handle, and I'm very proud of the stuff I've created, but more than anything else, as I look back on 2006 . . .
"You know why 2006 was so awesome?" I just said to my wife.
"Because my relationship with Ryan and Nolan grew twelve levels. A lot of other things happened, but if I had to pick just one thing, there it is."
Happy New Year, everyone. Thanks for spending some of 2006 with me.