Reuniting The Next Generation's cast

28-Sep-19 9:35 AM by
Filed under Star Trek; leave a comment.

Thirty-two years ago today, my dad and I watched the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation. So I thought today would be a good day to die get the gang back together — not in the upcoming Picard series, but in my dining room.

Across years of attending E3, Super Megafest, and Star Trek conventions, I've had the good fortune to meet castmembers from every Star Trek series. Each gave me a moment of their time with conversations I'll always remember for the insight into their off-screen personalities: Jonathan Frakes is goofy and gracious; Brent Spiner is witty and wily; Denise Crosby is open and kind. These moments came as they autographed eight-by-ten glossies, which became my touchstones for these celebrities who brought to life characters that molded my upbringing and creativity.

I eventually moved into an apartment where I could display these mementos.

Of my collection, only one franchise was nearly complete: The Next Generation. And of that, only one actor was missing: Wil Wheaton.

Wheaton was the keynote speaker at the first Penny Arcade Expo East, held every year in Boston. It is also the only PAX East whose keynote speech I missed, and that weekend didn't present another opportunity to corner young Wesley Crusher.

The next possible encounter didn't come until almost a decade later, when I booked passage on the JoCo Cruise, an annual cruise of nerd celebrities: actors, sci-fi authors, podcast hosts, and comic artists. Wil Wheaton was one of the guests in 2017, so I came prepared with both one of his books and a headshot I'd bought on eBay.

On JoCo Cruise, celebrities are treated like fellow passengers, and we're asked not to stalk or harass them. Still, I felt I could acknowledge Wheaton's celebrity while still being respectful. For example, I was reading Wheaton's book by the pool when he happened to walk by, and I asked for his signature, which he graciously provided — completely natural.

That moment was happenstance, though — for the headshot, I had to be more deliberate, as I couldn't just "happen" to be walking around with his photo. On Pajama Day (I was dressed in my DS9/Voyager medical jammies), I again hung out by the pool, this time with his photo. I saw Wheaton playing a board game with friends, which I didn't want to interrupt; then, without pause, he dove into lunch with his family, which was another private moment. When he was finished eating, that was my chance.

I approached him with the photo and a Sharpie marker and asked for his autograph — which, like his castmates, he graciously provided. It somehow came up that I'm from Leominster, hometown of R.A. Salvatore, who I was surprised to learn is a friend of Wheaton's! Wheaton credited Salvatore as being a mentor during his transition from actor to writer.

I also told Wheaton that his was the last autograph I needed to complete my TNG collection. He signed it appropriately.

Wil Wheaton's autographed headshot

To Ken: Quest Complete. -Wil Wheaton

Unlike the $20–80 I'd spent for each of his castmates' autographs at conventions, Wheaton's only cost me a cruise. But it was worth it.

That was two-and-a-half years ago, and in all that time, I've never framed and displayed Wheaton's autograph. On my dining room wall, except for a few scattered superheroes and Star Wars characters on the far end, the headshots were grouped by Star Trek series, with the same franchise in each column. I didn't know how to rearrange it to make room for young Mr. Crusher. Some friends recommended I get a ladder and add an entirely new row, filling it in with non-Trek actors in my collection, but that seemed overwhelming.

But this week, I'm moving out of my apartment, and I'll no longer have room for any such displays. Today, the anniversary of TNG's debut, was my last chance to reunite Wesley with his Enterprise family.

So as all the other headshots came down, one went up.

All TNG autographed headshots together

The TNG crew is always together in my heart, and I can revisit their adventures anytime with a DVD. But today, I tied together all those personal experiences, scattered across all the years. As with all my Star Trek encounters, this was a fleeting moment, but a happy one, and one that I'll take with me in all my travels.

Star-studded NASA PSAs

11-Dec-12 1:33 PM by
Filed under Potpourri, Star Trek; Comments Off on Star-studded NASA PSAs

It's my policy to not express political opinions in any public online venue, but I suspect readers of this blog will agree: NASA is underappreciated. The United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration is one of the most advanced, intelligent, resourceful, and reliable agencies our government has. In the past year, it launched a Mars rover on a nine-month space journey, navigated it through seven minutes of terror, and successfully landed it within 1.5 miles of its intended target. The event was documented through an incredibly savvy Twitter account and a professional, informative, and dramatic video:

Yet the right people don't seem to appreciate these astonishing accomplishments. NASA knows that to reach the stars, they're going to need some star power — so they've recruited some celebrities to help get the word out.

In a recent series of public service announcements (PSAs), pop culture stars such as June Lockhart, Norah Jones, and Alex Trebek. Of course, you can't hope to trek across the stars without acknowledging the icons who have been there. Here's a PSA with Wil Wheaton:

(more…)

Who's a Geek?

01-Jul-09 1:30 PM by
Filed under Celebrities; Comments Off on Who's a Geek?

Earlier this week, John Hodgman, perhaps best known as the PC from Apple's "Get a Mac" ads, spoke at the annual Radio & TV Correspondents' Dinner, with President Obama in attendance:

Though the USA's current presidential administration does seem to be more science-oriented than its predecessor, the correlation between that and the President's own geeky nature and background is oft overlooked.

Barack the BarbarianObama's familiarity with Superman's legacy is evident not only in the picture Hodgman presented, but also when Obama roasted McCain some months ago. The President has since appeared in several comics of his own, including not only Spider-Man, but also an original title that segues perfectly with Hodgman's slideshow.

However, as proud as I am to have a geek president, I think we need to consider the image that Hodgman reinforced. It was just a decade or two ago that geeks were shoved into lockers, had sand kicked in their face, and never, ever got the girl. To hear Hodgman speak, those days are still with us, and the lines are still sharply delineated as the jocks-and-geeks war rages on.

In reality, as society becomes more technologically dependent, the geeks are inheriting the earth. Those who know how to use Twitter aren't just sharing lolcats; they're helping the Iranian revolution. Playing video games does not make us geeks; that activity has gone mainstream. Some of us would just as soon go for a 150-mile bike ride as we would watch Star Trek.

So if not the classic stereotypes of yesterday, and not the extremes that Hodgman parodied, then what defines the modern geek?

For that, I'll let geeks speak for themselves:

My Secret Identity

25-Oct-07 2:22 PM by
Filed under Celebrities; 1 comment.

Angela Gunn is proving quite the sleuth at revealing the unpublicized lives of the stars. First she found a list of 66 celebrities who blog (ever wonder what Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cusack, and Jeff Bridges have to say that's [supposedly] unscripted?). Now she's dug up their resumes to reveal their inner nerds — that is, "celebrities who work at traditional artistic pursuits to make their way in the world, but have been known to kick back with a little astrophysics or microbiology in their spare time."

The list is a good balance of the expected and the surprising. Masi Oka, Wil Wheaton, and Bill Nye we already know about — but Dolph Lundgren? Rowan Atkinson? Lisa Kudrow? You have to be kidding me. I don't know whether to be impressed by these geeks' intellectual genius, or by them defying stereotypes and playing characters completely antipodal to their nature. (By contrast, my acting self receives daily audition notices for the fifth season of Beauty and the Geek.)

Excellent job, Ms. Gunn, for this fun and insightful piece (my contributions to which — Drake Hogestyn and Natalie Portman — reveal perhaps more about ME than I'd like…).  In a culture where "heroes" are often such for all the wrong reasons, it's nice to have admirable reasons to respect these stars.