Rob Lightner

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We need to talk about Preacher

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AMC's new fantasy softball team
AMC’s new fantasy softball team

You guys. I just watched the finale of AMC’s Preacher adaptation–the one we talked about a few weeks back–and I’ve got some thoughts. If you’ve never read the comics and don’t intend to, skip down to the heading “OK, THEN, LET’S GET ON WITH IT.”

First, I need to revise what I said about the comics. I’ve reread the series since that episode, and the icky stuff is ickier than I had remembered. The comics’ attitudes toward women, people of color, and especially LGBTQ people are conflicted at best. Writer Garth Ennis consistently calls out and makes fun of bigotry–yay! At the same time, he uses gay male sexuality as a punch line so often that it feels like self-parody. As for the theme of modern American men coming to terms with women’s equality, yeah, it’s in there–but I don’t think Ennis went deep enough to pull it off. He could have taken one more step and created a fascinating take on women’s deaths as plot devices (“fridging”), but he never quite gets there, sticking instead with a fairly standard romance. Sigh.

But it’s silly to talk about what someone else’s work could or should have been. It is what it is, and what it is is problematic. The best of the series is still fantastic, but the worst of it is puerile.

What about the AMC series? It diverges so massively, in so many ways, from the comics that it’s like hearing that Avatar was based on The Smurfs. If you’re a fan of the comics, expect major differences in plot, characters, and relationships. Many of these changes were necessary to adapt the format to multiseason drama, but some are just inexplicable:

  • Jesse and Tulip knew each other as children instead of meeting by chance in a lurv-at-first-sight moment.
  • Arseface’s father is a tough, confused, but loving dad instead of a monstrously hateful bigot.
  • The pathetic second-string angels Fiore and Deblanc are elevated to big-bad status, sort of.
  • Jesse’s congregation survives his first taste of Genesis.

If Ennis and artist Steve Dillon weren’t involved in the production, I’d blame show creators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg for letting their self-indulgence run wild. But it could be they’ve just decided to tell a very different story, and it seems as if they’ve shed much of the most problematic material from the books.

OK, THEN, LET’S GET ON WITH IT
The show is lovely. It alternates densely-packed action with long, dawdling moments of conversation against a backdrop of Texas wasteland. The basic narrative of the show takes its time to develop, but here’s the elevator pitch: A troubled preacher with a past accidentally becomes the host for a power that rivals God’s.

The acting is terrific across the board. Dominic Cooper works surprisingly well as the lead, despite shifting the character away from the strong silent type toward someone more comfortable using his mind-control power. Ruth Negga is brilliant as Tulip, stepping up her game from Agents of SHIELD while baiting the racists and delivering one of the best character introductions in modern memory. Joseph Gilgun (Misfits) is perfect as Cassidy the vampire, full stop. And oh god Jackie Earle Haley kills it as bad guy Odin Quincannon.

The dialogue is good fun, and the exposition is never insulting, even though there is quite a lot of it. The show looks and feels unsettling and hyperreal, as if something terrible is just about to happen. (It usually is.) My one faint critique is that the first season felt like it was all just a setup for the next. It was a fun ride, but we didn’t get very far.

So! It’s definitely worth watching, unless your tolerance for violence is low-to-middling. It’s somewhere between Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, so it’s not for everyone. If you can handle blood spatters, lovingly rendered shotgun blasts, and cries of “He shot my dick off,” you’re all set.

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Episode 67 – Pokemon Go

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Pokemon Go Home! (Photo credit: José María Mateos)
Pokemon Go Home! (Photo credit: José María Mateos)

Pokemon WHAAAA? Mary tells us all we need to know about this quick-burning craze that is swallowing people’s data plans whole even as it enforces unprecedented exercise goals on unsuspecting nerds. Rob explains shutting it down after discovering that his closet is infested with Zubats, while Paul wryly observes his son’s dealings with this reality we call augmented.

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Episode 66 – Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, Inside, and Thunder Alley

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Plenty of nerd for everyone!
Plenty of nerd for everyone!

Hey, it’s a Nerdhole sampler! We talk about a cool, short book by Kai Ashante Wilson, the sweet new video game by the folks behind Limbo, and a board game that briefly made NASCAR seem interesting. And we managed to bust out an entire podcast without talking about television. Achievement unlocked!

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Episode 65 – Warcraft: The Beginning

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No orcs allowed in the Uncanny Valley
No orcs allowed in the Uncanny Valley

Should you see that World of Warcraft movie? Listen and find out. Since Paul and Rob are so woefully ignorant when it comes to all things WoW, we invited two smarties from Mary’s guild, Kraken Skulls, to help enlighten us. Big thanks to Jeremy and Mike for taking the time to join us!

ERRATA
Even the Lore Dorks miss now and then. When we were talking about one of the towns that was destroyed in the film, we said “Redridge” when we meant “Lakeshire.” The town of Lakeshire is located in the province of Redridge. We sincerely regret the error.

UPDATE: Apparently Warcraft did NOT make enough money in China to guarantee a sequel, so the future of the franchise is uncertain.

RELATED UPDATE: Mike sent this Wired article about why Warcraft did so well in China.
Tl;dr: China’s State content regulatory entity only allows 35 foreign films to open in the country each year, and the Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda owns Legendary Entertainment, which made the movie. It goes even further to look at how Legendary funded the making of the movie by selling equity to Chinese entities, including the China Film Group, which is apparently a part of the Chinese government.

ALSO: Blizzard is finally doing something about the toxic community in WoW, they’re instituting a silencing system for repeat offenders.

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TRAILER

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Rob can’t not write about Squirrel Girl…

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…and now I’ve got a hook. During an interview with a fashion site, America’s younger sister Anna Kendrick revealed her interest in playing SG should she ever burrow her way into the MCU. Some time ago I pitched Shailene Woodley for the role, but I’m not about to rule out Kendrick, especially after seeing the work of this clever fellow:

She's here to kick butts and eat nuts.
She’s here to kick butts and eat nuts.

I’m way behind on Unbeatable Squirrel Girl thanks to Marvel Unlimited’s digital delay (and my cheapness), but it’s pretty much the funnest thing out there. Make a point to check it out–it’s not like all the other comix. Each issue starts with a recap brilliantly told through her Twitter feed, and the character’s relationship with the rest of the Marvel universe is as wonderfully weird as ever. ENDORSED.

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BackHole: Episode 43 – Fall Nerd TV Roundup

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19350-wabac_machine_teaserWe’re glitching out a little, so we decided to repost last fall’s look ahead at nerdy TV. Heroes Reborn dashed our hopes, and Rob’s inability to recall Harvey Bullock’s name is especially galling, given how interesting that character turned out to be on this season of Gotham. Overall, though, we think the last years TV season did okay by us nerds.

Please note that many of these shows are changing up their streaming arrangements in the near future, notably those in CW’s Arrowverse (which now includes Supergirl). The short version is that they likely will only be available on streaming after the end of the season, but pretty quickly thereafter. This is why we can’t have nice things. These links work for now.

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  • Arrow (on Hulu) (on Netflix)
    Rob: This season felt pretty scattered and ended with a big dud of a twist. Wait, was it even a twist? As always, solid action and pretty faces kept us watching.

  • Fear the Walking Dead (on Hulu)
    Rob: I watched about 2/3 of the season and then stalled out. I will likely finish it up, but not even Ruben Blades’ intensity can fire me up.

  • The Flash (on Hulu) (on Netflix)
    Rob: This show may be the funnest thing on the air, even though they keep punishing their characters to maintain the minimum required grim-n-gritty for a modern superhero show. But the ending…well, we’ll see how Season 3 treats the “Flashpoint” time-travel business the writers stirred up.

  • Gotham (on Hulu) (on Netflix)
    Rob: It felt like Gotham had lost its way for a while, but this season was full of good fun and creepy action. Terrific casting, like BD Wong as Hugo Strange and Paul Reubens as Penguin’s dad, helped a lot, as did the last-minute reintroduction of the terrific Fish Mooney. The more they lay off of Bruce Wayne, the better.

  • Heroes Reborn (on Hulu)
    Rob: Oof. Sorry.

  • iZombie (on Hulu) (on Netflix)
  • Sleepy Hollow (on Hulu)
    Rob: Some good parts, but the show has lost its way. And again with the stupid season-ending twist! Knock it off, writers. I may hatewatch the next season, though.

  • Supergirl
    Rob: They’re officially adding her to the Arrowverse, which should strengthen the show in some good ways. Plus, it’s great to see a show where the central characters are nearly all women.

  • Supernatural (on Hulu) (on Netflix)
  • The Walking Dead (on Netflix)
    Rob: It feels like watching kids torturing insects, but I keep watching.

  • Our Apologies 2015 episode, in which we try to make dull the pain caused by some of our dumber opinions–including some from this very episode!

RECENT NERD TV EPISODES

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There’s no UI in the word “team”

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Never Fail
Never!

It’s been almost a year since we discussed the digital card game Solforge on the podcast, and I haven’t ragequit once. If anything, I’ve stepped up my playtime, including a couple of ongoing async games with friends and a fair number of real-time tournaments or random matches. It’s fun!

But we need to talk about UI. Solforge recently released its shiny new client, and while there are a few things to love about it, they made some elementary interface mistakes that are shocking to see in a pro-quality game in 2016. Wasted space, confusing layout, and poorly displayed information caused one game designer pal to call it a “sobering UI nightmare.” This Reddit post lays out the problems in detail–it’s not just the standard resistance to change that we all know and hate.

But it’s not all bad! I like the new card design, and some of the other new elements are pretty sweet as well–but they’re drowning in a sea of bad choices (which is also the title of my forthcoming memoir). They’re working on it, but it’s hard to see how they can fix some of the issues without a major overhaul.

Game designers, I’m talking to you now: Take your interface seriously from day one. Your revolutionary mechanics, eye-popping art, and delightful storytelling will all die lonely deaths if your players run into any obstacles at all. It’s hard work, and it may carve out more of your time and cash on hand than you’d like, but it should be an uncuttable corner. Solforge will survive and may even improve as a result, but it has a sizable player base and additional support to keep it going through this rough patch. New games don’t have that luxury.

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Episode 64 – Fallout 4 DLC

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Building advanced robots, but still wearing the Vault Suit.
Building advanced robots, but still wearing the Vault Suit.

The first round of DLC is out for Fallout 4, and we’re as happy as ever to gab about our favorite game (well, our collective favorite, anyway). Players have tons of new settlement options plus a mid-length story that brings robots front and center and a longer story set in a new, spoooooky location. The very latest DLC (Contraptions Workshop) just came out a few days ago, and we’ll likely report on that later in the summer after the rest of the content drops.

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An Endorsement, For All Intents and Purposes

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We don’t have to dive too deeply into Nerdhole’s extensive market research to assume that most of those reading this are into nerd culture and podcasts, and the rest of you are search engine spiders. So if you’ve got a little extra time in your week, you should check out A Podcast, For All Intents and Purposes. Hosted by “two co-dependent, overeducated nerds,” every show is smart and funny and charming. We occasionally host trivia nights at Raygun Lounge with Andrew, one of the APFAIAP boys, and it’s always good fun to watch him strike his trademark balance between bemused and curmudgeonly.

Andrew is an attorney, and their recent podcast on a legal struggle between Wizards of the Coast and their volunteer Magic: the Gathering tournament judges was fascinating and well explained*. We also enjoyed listening to their alternative take on Fallout 4 (Andrew is agnostic, while D. didn’t care for it so much). Lately they’ve been producing shorter episodes because Andrew has been dealing with a move, but they’re edging up on episode 100 and they’ve promised something special. We can’t wait!

* Rob pitched Andrew on a podcast focused entirely on geeky legal/policy issues. Turns out there already is one, but surely there’s room for more?

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Robots Ate My Lunch

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Automatron
Automatron

This week’s podcast (coming soon!) is all about our return to the world of Fallout 4 now that the DLC is live and available on consoles. But first, a tale of hubris that took place after we recorded:

I was feeling pretty smug, as I often do. This time it was because I had breezed through the end game with a ton of Luck perks and a tricked-out Gauss rifle, one-shotting fools on all sides and loving the hell out of VATS. I would have bumped the difficulty up a notch or two from Normal, but I wanted to get to the end a little faster.

And I did! And there’s neat stuff when you get there, at least in the Railroad-aligned finish. But then I started to check out the Automatron DLC, and, well, my lunch got eaten. By robots.

I stumbled into a one-sided firefight between a bunch of junky-looking robots and some wasteland folk and thought I’d save the day as usual, ho hum, shut up Preston. After murdering hundreds of Institute synths, these rusty jokers would make easy kills. I popped one with a quick VATS sneak attack and then took some time to check out the rest of the opposition. While scanning, I was quickly surrounded by my kill’s grieving friends, and before I even thought to look at my health bar, I’d been pounded into a slo-mo death animation.

Invigorating! I managed to take them out the second time with the help of some chems and a deeper investment in self-preservation, and I’ve found every battle since then to be challenging and life-affirming. I even had to drag a power armor out of storage for one battle, breaking my looooong chain of Silver Shroud cosplay.

And so I recalibrate my expectations and ponder cranking up the difficulty in search of punchier adrenaline squirts. Maybe a quick, smooth ride to the end isn’t what it’s all about. Maybe I need to wander through my settlements and build them up from the sleeping-bag-infested work camps I threw together in my rush to read the last page. Maybe death really does make us appreciate life more.

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