As mentioned in this week’s podcast, here are links for two of the panels I moderated at Motor City Comic Con.
Martin Starr and John Francis Daley via Detroit Free Press Co-stars of FREAKS AND GEEKS, Martin Starr also stars in SILICON VALLEY and PARTY DOWN, John is in 5-25-77 and is the co-writer of SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING.
Ron Perlman via Facebook Live Ron is best known as HELLBOY as well as SONS OF ANARCHY and from the brilliant BEAUTY AND THE BEAST show from 1987.
It’s hard to put into words how much of an impact Star Wars had on me. 40 years ago, my 8-year-old self sat in a theatre seat in a suburb of Toronto and when I came out, the world was different.
Star Wars is so deeply rooted in pop culture now that it’s hard to remember that when it came out, Star Wars was really weird. It’s incorrect to say that no one had ever seen anything like it before — after all, Star Wars wears it’s influences on it’s sleeve — but at that place & time, in that configuration, it was a quantum leap. As we all know, Star Wars changed everything, for better and sometimes worse.
As an 8-year-old, it galvanized me in ways that are still with me. I knew what I wanted to do with my life: tell stories. It opened up whole universes of possibility that I never dreamed existed.
At the most recent Celebration, George Lucas said that the essence of A New Hope (as it would eventually be named) is a coming-of-age story, and that is one of the many keys to understanding the breakthrough of Star Wars. To kids in that theatre, it represented giant, undreamed-of potentials that were on the horizon. We were Luke walking into the cantina and getting a glimpse of worlds we never imagined could exist. Moreover it gave us a moral center. It said “Things are about to get weird. There is darkness out there. Don’t be afraid.”
It’s totally fair to say I wouldn’t be doing Operation PUG if it weren’t for Star Wars. The first film project I ever did was an early Star Wars fan film in 2001, back when a Pentium, a copy of 3D Studio Max, a borrowed camcorder and hastily rigged green screen were all you needed. It gave me my first experience in creating a piece of media for mass consumption, and the lessons learned still inform everything I do today.
Star Wars has become something quite different in the past 4 decades. As we go forward I am comforted that the custodians of the franchise understand and revere it with the same deep love that the fans do.
Thank you Star Wars. You introduced me to myself.
The Force will be with you. Always.
As our podcast listeners know, we have officially joined the fine family of podcasts at gonnageek.com. Our feed is now up and Stephen (your host at gonnageek.com) has put up a lovely welcome post.
Hello new people! We’re excited to be part of the family.
This article will contain spoilers for some side-quests in Elder Scrolls Online.
It’s no secret that I have a deep love for The Elder Scrolls Online. I named it my Game of the Year last year, and the more time I spend with it the more I like it. It’s also no secret that I try to be progressive and consider myself an Ally, so to find that ESO includes many quest lines with non-heteronormative NPCs was a real delight.
I recalled first encountering a same-sex couple in ESO on a previous PUGCast, but it’s worth repeating here. It was shortly after the American election. The rise of Trump and his hate-filled followers cast a shadow over everything. Fear was real. I’m not normally an advocate for using video games as an escape, but there’s no question I retreated to Tamriel to take my mind off of the horror unfolding over the landscape.
There I encountered a Breton chap, sitting on a rock outside a cave that led to a small village. He was worried. His husband was sick and he’d brought him to this village to partake of it’s famous magical “cures”, but things didn’t feel right. Could I help him find out what they were doing to his husband? I confess I normally button through quest dialog, but this time I took notice. Husband you say? I needed to see where this was going.
Through the course of the quest it is revealed that his husband is infected with lycanthropy, and in fact the village is a kind-of leper colony for werewolves, where the head of the village keeps their werewolf-impulses in check with a magical talisman that controls part of their minds. At the end you are given the choice to either help the woman control the werewolves, or free the werewolves from her control.
It’s hard not to see a parallel between this and Gay Aversion Therapy. The village leader, a werewolf herself, genuinely thinks she’s helping the werewolves by suppressing their “unnatural” instincts. The cost, however, is that the individual must give up their free will and remain a virtual prisoner.
In the end I opted to help free the werewolves and destroy the talisman. The Breton and his husband escape, and start to rebuild their life with this dialog:
It’s notable for several reasons. Too often in fiction, when LGBTQ characters are present they’re either played for comedy value, or noted for their promiscuity. Here is a loving couple, determined to fight for each other, work out their problems, and not compromise themselves. They aren’t a tired stereotype. The fact that they’re same-sex never even arises as a factor. They’re just… a couple.
It was such a breath of fresh air to leave the ugly world of US politics and see a vision of a place where love and devotion is allowed to flourish between anyone who chooses, regardless of gender.
Then there is the quest A Faded Flower, where you reunite a Dark Elf woman with her former lover who she mistakenly thought betrayed her. This one throws a few more emotional twists: the former lover was a Kajiit slave to the Dark Elf’s family, and it was falling in love with her that convinced the Dark Elf to rebel and free the family slaves. Add to this the fact that it has been many decades — Dark Elves age much slower than Kajiit and hence the Kajiit is an old woman at this point, whereas the Dark Elf looks practically the same — and their reunion is all the more poignant.
Without a doubt, the single most beautiful quest I’ve encountered in the entire game is called The Flower of Youth. It’s so minor it’s easy to miss, since it’s encountered on the way to a main story quest area, but it is one of the sweetest and most emotional quests I’ve ever encountered in any game. A video (not mine) of the quest is below, it’s worth watching for the voiceover alone.
You encounter an old Bosmer (Wood Elf) and his husband by the roadside. They have both lived far longer than they expected, and the husband is dying. The Bosmer brought his husband to this place to die peacefully among the flowers that they loved in their youth, but the flowers no longer grow here. You are asked to gather the seeds of the flowers that the Bosmer may plant them in memory of his husband.
I have no shame in saying this quest seriously choked me up. It is so bittersweet and brings home the point that love can, and should, exist between anyone who choses — that devotion is not the exclusive possession of one model of behavior. There is such a heart of kindness in this quest that I want to give the artists and writers who worked on it an award.
I am given to understand that there are many more LGBTQ NPCs in the world, but ESO is so vast I simply haven’t found them yet. It cannot be overstated how important it is to have these kinds of characters present and visible in game worlds. While it’s not perfect, these efforts go a very long way to moving video games forward as a place where mature and supportive discussions can be had.
Thank you, ESO. Despite being a straight white dude, I feel so much more comfortable and welcome in Tamriel knowing that it’s a place where the values of love and compassion are built into the very fabric of the world.
I got to meet Richard Hatch at Toronto ComicCon 2011 when I moderated his Q&A. I excitedly combed through his IMDB to grill him about his other, non-Battlestar Galactica roles but when the time came, he said he’d run the show himself, which was fine. I still got to help steer him back to questions the fans were asking. I wasn’t sure what to expect with him. He was one of the first actors to really embrace cons, which I admit felt a bit desperate. Why wouldn’t an actor just act? Is he a has-been, pining for the old days, just looking for a paycheck? Or just a devoted actor, invested in his biggest role and looking to thank fans personally? Obviously the truth was somewhere in between.
Richard got his start in the legendary soap “All My Children”, and appeared on several TV shows throughout his career. His big break was a blessing and a curse, when he replaced Michael Douglas on “The Streets of San Francisco”. Imagine being compared to a force of nature like Douglas. It’s tough for any show to survive losing a big star, and it was a losing battle, ending after a single season. Even Battlestar was never a big success, only lasting one season. His IMDB list is impressive in its breadth if not depth, he played three different roles on both “The Love Boat” and “Hotel”, a testament to his ability to lose himself in a character, and also unfortunately to his lack of star power.
He seemed to be always hawking a new book, movie, or TV show that was poised to be the next big thing, but invariably it was another high-concept low-budget sci-fi misfire. He obviously always wanted to continue BSG, and was initially combative about the reboot, until they asked him to come on board in a new role. When I was in San Diego in 2013 he ran the panel for the 35th anniversary of BSG, and showed a clip from his attempted continuation of the series, which looked, well, cheap, but it’s understandable that he felt ignored after spending decades trying to bring the show back. When he wasn’t pursuing that, he ran acting workshops out of LA and was running a website with his son, “Who The Frak”, billed as “The World’s First Social Network Reality Drama!” He also made a whole lot of terrible short films, but I have to believe he was just helping out up-and-coming actors and filmmakers, using his name to give them a little boost. After his panel, I walked him back to his booth, and we talked a bit about his projects and life in general. A big part of his workshop is about life lessons, and I got the feeling he really wanted to be a motivational speaker, since it came to him very easily. Hell, after ten minutes I felt like I could make my own megaseries.
It’s so easy to dismiss Hatch as a one-hit wonder, but who can say what’s been made by those he inspired? In the end, most will remember him for a TV series he made, but for those of us who met him, we’ll remember his passion for what he loved, as well as his amazing warmth and friendliness.
Guess it’s time for the year-end navel gaze again.
It’s been a godawful year in general, mostly for the world at large. The Trump victory is just the pimple head ripening on the festering goiter that had been growing for years. But now the bad guys are loud and unashamed, and their filth has poisoned the world, possibly terminally. It all still seems somehow surreal, like a fever dream you can’t wake up from.
Hey, have you heard about this Social Media thing? All the cool kids are doing it, so you probably should too. You can find us at:
Mark Zuckerberg says we’re awesome and also fake news isn’t a problem.
We at O:P are a small hobbyist site. We don’t have the resources (yet) to do a lot of outreach and grow our audience, but for those of you — mostly friends and family — who do check in I wanted to post something about the U.S. election.
I know some of our readers/podcast listeners are from the U.S., and moreover what happens there tends to affect everyone. This election in particular has, for many reasons, been felt more than any other I can recall.
I could write a lengthy piece but I think it would just get lost in the background noise. Let me just say that on behalf of Operation PUG, we stand firmly as allies with marginalized people. I think the valuable conversations around this new era will benefit from nuance so I will try to refrain from hyperbole, but I just wanted to be clear once again. We are pro-diversity, pro-human rights, pro-equality. That may get us labelled as “Social Justice Warriors” by some. Speaking only for myself, that’s fine with me.
I can’t put it any better than Austin Walker of Waypoint, so I urge you to click over and read and/or listen to his statement. Everything Mr Walker says about Waypoint’s agenda, goes for us here at Operation PUG as well.
Be safe. Be hopeful. We have your back.
We took off last weekend to accommodate the holiday, and we decided this week that out of respect for the horrible tragedies unfolding in the US we are going to skip this week as well. Look for the return of the PUGCast on July 18.
On a lovely weekend getaway to New York City I had the chance to see the Smithsonian exhibit Star Wars and the Power of Costume in Times Square. The exhibit features costumes and props from all the films, mostly originals but some obvious repros or restorations. I’ve never had the opportunity to get close up with real screen-used Star Wars props before, so this was something of a religious pilgrimage for me. Below is a gallery of the best pics my iPhone could take.
Last week for April! Next stop: Summermovieville. But there are some great releases this week!
KEANU – KEY & PEELE was a seminal sketch series with some of the funniest skits to ever hit the small screen, and they’ve finally made the jump to the big screen with this one. Of course, it’ll also probably be their only film, but hey, let’s enjoy it. They’ve chosen to ignore W.C. Fields’ advice and chosen to make the world’s cutest kitten their co-star, but hey, cute kittie! Reviews have been very positive but it’s not perfect, though it’s still more than worth your time.
GREEN ROOM – This one’s been killing it at festivals, and now it’s time for everyone to feel the terror. A punk band witnesses a murder and is terrorized by skinheads, fronted by Mr. Captain Patrick Stewart, providing one of the greatest film villain performances ever.
LOUDER THAN BOMBS – Family drama, led by Jesse Eisenberg and Gabriel Byrne. A war photographer’s death tears her family apart, and her secrets make things even worse. So yeah, happy fun times.
RATCHET & CLANK – Sony’s near-mascots get their big-screen debut, but unfortunately it’s not very good. A real shame, it’s a vibrant universe but I guess we’ll have to stick with the games.
MOTHER’S DAY – By all accounts, one of the worst Hollywood ensemble romantic comedies of all time, and that’s saying something. Don’t let your mom see it. Take her to HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS or SING STREET or even the friggin’ JUNGLE BOOK.
Just a quick note that to accommodate schedules we’re deferring this week’s podcast to next week, so the next PUGCast will be up Monday April 9.