Monday, November 29, 2010

Photo Monday

Kitteh in "sag" mode.

These are the pictures...

...you get...

...when I'm sitting at the kitchen table and don't want to move.

Kitteh in her new favorite seat.

Candles.

Ditto, working out lighting.

Statuary. Such as it is.

The orange tissue had been around amber-scented candles. Kitty smelled great for a while. 

Commentary on the Hynes Convention Center T Stop Boyleston St. entrance. That isn't an entrance.

Glazed leaves.

View over Charles River.

Anna and clouds.

Hawk hunting.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Very old. And very kind. And the very last.

For your Saturday morning edification this week: get yourself a cup of tea (or coffee) and a jammie dodger if you fancy one because, boy, I have got thoughts about the 5th season of Doctor Who and -- well, you must want to read them or you wouldn't be here. :)

My original plan -- just so you know -- was to write commentary disc-by-disc. This probably won't happen; I'm thinking more episode-by-episode. But, because it's Saturday, I'm writing this on Friday night, and I'm trying to grin my way through a 3rd week of insomnia, we'll make it a nice long one for today, yes? Yes.

Fair warning: Spoilers, minor or major, may lurk ahead. To date, I have watched through Amy's Choice, so expect spoilers for anything up through there.


So first off, lets talk Eleventh Hour.

When last we saw the Doctor...he wasn't really having a good day. Radiation-forced regeneration, lots of near misses with Donna, serious stress with old schoolfriends, and his whole home planet trying to come back and take over the universe. Not good. And then the TARDIS bursts into flames. Really not good.

Amy Pond, the Girl Who Believed.
With our newly regenerated -- and still not ginger -- Doctor aboard, the TARDIS crashlands into the backyard of one Amelia "Amy" Pond.

Amy, at age seven, rocks. She is prepared, by God! She is praying -- to Santa, I believe -- for help with the voices that lurk behind a crack in her bedroom wall when she hears a loud crash and bang and looks out her window to see a smoking blue box in her potting shed. Is she baffled? Does she crawl under the bed and call for Mummy? She does not! She get her wellies, a warm sweater, and a great big flashlight and goes to see what the hell this is all about. Amy rocks.

Various sillinesses occur as the Doctor's character veers from extreme to extreme -- for some reason the new series always pictures the newly regenerated Doctor as fixated on food and drink. In this case, there's a very funny sequence of scenes with the Doctor getting Amy to give him various things -- starting with apples -- or cook him various dishes which he then discards in disgust, including tossing a plate of buttered toast out the door, shouting, "And stay out!" after it.

You thought we'd forgotten about the crack in the wall? Oh, not at all. The crack in the wall is...well, it's not good. As the series is going on, it's becoming clearer and clearer that the crack in Amy's bedroom wall is very very not good indeed. It is a very not good thing. There isn't anything really very good about it at all.

The crack in the wall has allowed a prisoner to escape: "Prisoner Zero has escaped." (A nod to The Prisoner? Very likely.) There are things lurking just at the corner of vision -- out of the corner of the Doctor's eye -- and Amy's -- and is this ever a good thing? Nope.

But the Doctor is distracted, and the TARDIS may be about to blow up or melt or something, and he leaps off, promising Amy to return in five minutes and pick her up for a quick trip in the TARDIS once he's got all the kinks worked out.

Once again demonstrating perfect English child preparedness for the weird and wonderful, Amy packs, gets her duffel coat and returns to the garden to wait -- for approximately 12 years.

When he finally does return, having figured out that the whole Prisoner Zero escape thing is way worse than he originally thought, she's a little irritated. In fact, she knocks him cold with a cricket bat as he comes barging into the house. Reasonable thing to do, under the circumstances.

So, okay, you're not here for a blow-by-blow of the plot and, really, I'm not that interested in doing one (despite what I've just done for the last few paragraphs!) There are several interesting things going on in Eleventh Hour, though.

For one thing, there's Amy's aunt. She's supposed to be the orphaned girl's guardian -- and where is she? Ever? She's not in the house when Amy is cooking the Doctor his despised multi-course banquet; she's not there when he returns 12 years later; Amy never mentions her again. Is this a huge rug which Steven Moffat hopes to yank out from under us at the end of the season ("Hah! Gotcha! She was the Black Guardian all along! Whee!")? Or is it simply a hole in the plot that never got filled?

And then there's the Doctor. He seems to lie. A lot. Rather a lot in fact.

Giving up sonic screwdrivers for cell phones?
In fact, the new Doctor is morally ambiguous in a way that previous Doctors, particularly Tennant's 10 as the most immediate model I have in mind, have not been. He seems to inhabit an area that is almost entirely grey. He's not happy there, but he seems reluctant to move anywhere else, really. There isn't a lot of sunlight in his particular universe; I get the sense more and more as the season goes on that this is a deeply pessimistic, unhappy version of our Timelord. He yells. He shouts. He loses his temper. He gets upset -- not easily, but when he does it has a force and a clarity of anger behind it that 10 didn't have and 9 only used about...twice in the whole season. There's a lot of rage here and it isn't being let out in little dribs and drabs of pity, sympathy, empathy, and angst as with 10 -- it's being hammered into something very strong. I don't know yet if I'd call that "something" self-protection or a weapon, but I'm sure the end of the season will show.

Note, for example, the end of Hour with the Doctor facing off the Atraxi -- the prison guards who have been searching for Patient Zero and are now threatening to burn the planet unless he is returned or gives himself up:





That's a bluff. That's a huge giant bluff -- as well as a huge giant eyeball -- and it's also a huge giant threat. And I've been thinking it over since I saw the episode and I can't say as I honestly think, as a long, long-time Who fan, that I think this is a threat that any other Doctor would have delivered. Certainly not either of the last two: 10 would have played the bluff for a laugh and had some thing that goes "ding when there's stuff and can boil an egg at 30 paces" in his pocket; 9 would have bluffed it and, possibly, bare-faced it as 11 does, but without the threat, I feel. I always felt that 9 was far too aware of the possibilities inherent in a violent situation to be truly happy when he had to resort to it: it's the difference between his take in Rose and in The Doctor Dances. And while 10 could leap to a violent solution more quickly -- it wasn't good for him. You could see it not being good for him; it was a forcing of his personality, a choice he really didn't want to have to make and he hated making it.

All the new Doctors have been at peace with chaos; even welcoming of it -- 11 is the first for awhile to seem to relish the fight in a direct physical "come on in if you think you're hard enough" sort of way.

He seems quite happy brazening it out with a big stick: I am the Doctor. I am the baddest motherfucker in this valley and what are you going to do about it.

And it is hard not to love; I'm  in for the ride, I'll admit. I have to say, this Doctor's approach is intoxicating; the scene is a pulse-raiser and an adrenaline-charge...but it also seems very, very dangerous.

Another small point: when he's so frantically looking for help to figure out the Prisoner Zero problem -- where's UNIT? Where's TORCHWOOD? Where's my dear darling Captain Jack? Or Sarah Jane and Luke? From a series point of view, I understand why there weren't cameos of intensely popular characters from other series plunged into the middle of Matt Smith's first attempt to establish himself as the latest face of the Doctor but...not mentioning them or not mentioning why they're not mentioned...felt like a gap. And it felt like a stupid one -- I realise the Doctor's memory isn't all it should be when he's immediately post-regeneration, but then tell me that. Remind me of that fact and I can rationalise why UNIT doesn't get called in. Or maybe this new regeneration has taken an irrational hatred to his past activities with UNIT and doesn't want to get involved. Fine. Great. Just tell me and we're good.

So, episode two, The Beast Below.

Someone saw The Wall far, far
too young.
We open with a scene in a school. The children are lining up to get their grades for the day from a deeply creepy kind of carnival fortuneteller-in-a-box dude. There's a really nervous boy at the back of the class; he gets a zero and the figure's head revolves from a cheery smile to a scowl. When he tries to get on the lift to go home when the class is released, he is plunged down "to the beast below" to the accompaniment of a really-not-psychotic-and-disturbing-at-all rhyme.

All this takes place, so the Doctor helpfully tells us when he and Amy show up, on Starship UK, the last remains of the British Empire after the Earth has been devastated by solar flares -- a late entry in the 1970s Tom Baker story arc that started with Ark in Space and ended with Revenge of the Cybermen, apparently!

The Doctor tells Amy all about how he never interferes in the lives of the people he meets on his travels -- and then immediately starts to consider a girl he sees crying -- we know she is one of the boy's friends from the class we opened with and presumably sad about losing her classmate. Amy chastises him: "You never interfere in the affairs of other people or planets...unless there's a child crying?" Well, of course. You can't be having that kind of thing -- you can almost hear Granny Weatherwax saying it and of course the Doctor can't be having with crying children; he doesn't even bother to pause to explain that one. Not to mention the other weird things about Starship UK -- like the fact that it doesn't seem to be moving.

There's lots of fun stuff in Below: there are nods to The Empire Strikes Back, to China Mieville's The Scar, and to Life on Mars -- anyone else notice the girl in the panel on the elevator when Timmy gets in at the beginning? Yeah -- check her out on your next pass through this episode. If she doesn't ring any bells, picture her with a big ol' clown doll -- and then enjoy hiding under your bed for the next...oh, an hour or so should do it. *shudder*

"Basically, I rule." So cheesy. So good!
There's also Liz 10, the ruler of Starship UK, who is a fantastic, scenery-chewing, over-the-top character -- right up until the point when she becomes deadly serious and very sad in the last few scenes of the episode -- along with, I have to say, pretty much everyone else in the show.

Karen Gillian -- Amy -- is fantastic here. I have to say, I'm becoming a serious Amy fangirl. I had a hard time cosying up to either Rose or Martha, the first two companions of the new series. I dealt better with each of them when they came back into the series as cameos or, in Martha's case, in Torchwood even though she was indirectly responsible for getting Owen killed; I'll try to forgive her! Donna I went with without reservation from her first episode; season 4 was a heartbreaker for me. From Turn Left on, I had to watch the show with a box of tissues. I won't even discuss what happened with Journey's End.

Amy could be my next favorite: she is smart, she is quick, she doesn't defer to the Doctor or expect him to spend all his time saving her without her expending effort on her own behalf. She thinks independently, calls him out when he's being a prat (which, lets face it, he is prone to do), and isn't afraid of doing her own thing. With all of this, she really loves the Doctor. And we're not -- thank God -- doing another unrequited adoration thing here as we did with Martha or a stifled love affair as we did with Rose. This is much more affectionate, in a way; much less fraught; much more the emotion between long-time friends or between family members.

"This is the sound..."
And she rescues him -- and I mean seriously rescues him -- in Below. The Doctor has discovered that the Starship is based, quite literally, on a starwhale. This giant creature, like the avanc in The Scar, has been harnessed to the bottom of the ship and is being tortured with regular jolts of pain directly applied to its brain in order to keep it going. Most of the inhabitants of the ship don't know this. There are feelers from the whale -- scorpion'y lookin' things -- breaking through into the city and inhabitants who see them or who are of age to vote are taken off to education booths. They watch a short film that tells them the history of the Starship, the use of the whale, and are then given a choice: they can vote to remember what they now know -- and to know that if enough people on the ship vote to remember, the whale will be released and the Starship will die -- or forget, and keep the whale in bondage but the Starship alive.

Even the Queen has to make this vote. To her debit, she has voted to forget many many many times. To her credit, she has tried to discover the truth an equal number of times. (Her story is a little complex.) So is the story of the starwhale -- it came when the Earth was dying, allowed the Starship to be strapped to its back, and has kept the city alive in the centuries since, only to be repaid by having people it doesn't want to eat regularly dumped down its neck and a probe stabbed into its brain.

When Liz 10 discovers it again now, in the company of the Doctor and Amy, the Doctor takes charge: "Look, three options: One, I let the Star Whale continue in unendurable agony for hundreds more years. Two, I kill everyone on this ship. Three, I murder a beautiful, innocent creature as painlessly as I can. And then I...I find a new name. Because I won't be the Doctor anymore."

A moderately good adventure episode becomes a critical character development episode as the Doctor leaps right over all intervening options to lobotomizing the poor whale in order to save the human race. He ignores all over evidence -- the original story mentions the fact that the children were crying and the whale came from the sky to save them; of all the people dumped down to "the beast below," the children are all returned; and the fact that the children in the room at the minute, having just been coughed back out of the whale, are playing rather happily with the feelers the whale has sent up into the city. Amy, on the other hand, puts it together: "What if you were really old, and really kind, and lonely, your whole race dead. What couldn't you do then? You couldn't just stand there and watch children cry."

And a character development episode becomes a really moving moment between the Doctor and Amy and what I feel is an important moment for the Doctor as he realises his error and realises the depth of the mistake he just nearly made. All they need to do, of course, is stop torturing the whale. It's perfectly happy to help; it volunteered, in fact, to save the children of Earth; they don't need to hurt it.

As you may be able to tell, I really liked Below -- it had holes, yes; it had a lot of them, but there were some great ideas in here and I can't tell you how much I liked the solution. This was akin to seeing the second episode of Farscape and expecting a real old school Star Trek "Kirk will thump it to death"solution and having Crichton say instead, "Why don't we try talking to them?" and meaning it. This was great stuff.

Not to mention the fact that it re-established the Doctor's back story -- in about two sentences. Amy asks about others like him and he says, no, there are no others. It's a long story. Maybe another time. And she figures it out on her own. The link between the star whale and the Doctor is hers and it's gorgeous.

So, thank you for following me so far; tune back in next week for more on the new season and, as a treat for all our Saturday mornings, a video I was reminded of by a recent post from my wonderful friend Diana and I wonder if the creator may revisit in light of Mr. Smith:


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Who wants jammy dodgers?

Okay, folks, so this week is kind of a bust thus far post-wise; last week kicked my ass and I had no strength or brain to write posts over the weekend.

But despair not! For I have five days off and lots of new Doctor Who to write about. Not to mention miscellaneous other things.

So check back soon and remember....

....don't blink.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"...later."

And -- now it's Wednesday. How are we all feeling?

video

(I seriously urge you to read your lease first, though. And lots and lots of thanks to my friend over at Hypomnemata for putting it together for me.)

So now I've finished fangirling, what else can be said about the show?

Well, one of the nice things about Moffat's Sherlock is that it is, at one and the same time, so essentially different from what I think of as the "classic Holmes" while drawing from the original story/character/theme pool, that there's no clash of inevitable fandom clash. This isn't Brett's Holmes -- the same stories are there (sometimes), but that's about it.

Sherlock and John at their new favorite place.
All hail to Minerva for the picture!
What is the same -- or at least much the same -- is the relationship between Holmes and Watson which forms the core of the story. Without that and without that done well, a lot of the attraction of the stories is gone. At least, it would be for me. I was willing to go along with the lunacy of the Ritchie Holmes largely because Downey, Jr. and Law seemed to be having so much fun with what they were doing -- and there was something about their portrayal of the friendship that worked. Perhaps because it wasn't so much a "friendship" as an unspoken and obviously unconsummated romance, but that's a whole different post.

Honestly, I'm not all that interested in the endless debate currently going on about which team Sherlock may -- or may not -- play for. I know what Benedict Cumberbatch has had to say; I suspect what Moffat would say; I'm pretty sure what Conan Doyle would say; and....well, to be honest, that's all just fine and dandy but it's like arguing with an ouroborous. You could be there all day and probably will! Characters -- especially popular ones as Sherlock seems to be becoming -- are blank slates; fans can and will inscribe anything they damn well please onto them. I'm sure there's someone out there who is heartbroken that Torchwood will not be moving to Fox because he or she is convinced that inside Captain Jack somewhere is a straight boy yearning to come out.

What I think is interesting in the new Sherlock is how detached Sherlock has become. The Brett Holmes was distanced, uninvolved -- but never unemotional. He had a sense of humor (albeit occasionally a peculiar one), a great deal of pride in his skill and accomplishments, a keen sense of class distinction, an ear for music, and rather snobby tastes in food and wine if I remember rightly. My point here in assembling this rather mongrel list is that Holmes never came across in the original Doyle stories as suffering from any kind of psychiatric condition: yeah, he was a bit weird, but it's mostly the kind of weird you can write off as being genuine Victorian gentleman weirdness. (This is the same kind of weirdness that comes across with the father of the family in Doctor Who's "Tooth and Claw" episode, written off by the Doctor with, "I just thought you were happy!")

This Sherlock is a little bit beyond that -- this is sort of like what would happen if you took Conan Doyle's Sherlock, crossed him with Cracker, and then added some of the late Prime Suspect Jane Tennison. He is not only distant, he is actually removed. We don't know why -- I would imagine speculation runs rife in fandom -- but there are, presumably, reasons.

Which then makes it interesting to watch when he is startled into not being removed: e.g., the closing scenes of "The Great Game." Watson goes out for the evening when everything should have been solved and resolved, leaving Sherlock to shiver quietly in 221b. Sherlock goes out, too, taking the jump drive which contains the solution to the nouveau "Bruce Partington Plans" with him. The two meet up at a deserted swimming pool -- and for a startlingly real-feeling minute, it seems like Watson might be the bad guy.

Watson not being the bad guy. Go and thank
Minerva for the lovely still!
I bow to Moffat and Gatiss and the work they must have done and to Martin Freeman for making the possibility of Watson's betrayal feel so real. And the look on Sherlock's face -- bow to Cumberbatch, too -- shows how much this hurts. And how unexpected the hurt is. Half of his problem seems to be with what to do with the sudden feeling that someone might have hurt him -- and how the hell does that work?! (Watch Cumberbatch's eyes, by the way, if this isn't working for you -- as a friend of mine said on Saturday evening, "It's all going on there!")

The bad guy is, of course, Moriarty and he and Watson are not one and the same -- not even close really. As someone who was deeply terrified of the Brett series Moriarty as a child -- I was traumatized by the Reichenbach Falls episode -- I like this Moriarty. He's unstable on a level that makes quicksand seem dependable. His voice, his attitude, his physicality change as quickly as he speaks and it's really unsettling to watch.

There's a great, great moment here when Watson tries to help himself: Sherlock has a gun on Moriarty and we know there's a sniper with a bead on John, so he grabs Moriarty -- not such a great idea as it turns out, since there's more than one sniper, but the complex of emotions going across Sherlock's face makes it totally worth it. An equally valid story choice, of course, would have been for Moffat and Gatiss to choose to unbalance their hero -- and he is the hero, don't mistake that, just a very...rough-edged one -- bit by bit and allow him to discover slowly how much the new relationship with John has grown to mean to him -- but this is a lot more fun. Forcing him out of his adopted stance of emotional detachment -- which we've even seen in relation to his brother who tries to bribe John to spy on Sherlock for him out of "concern" -- and watching him not snap under the strain is fascinating. He doesn't know what to do with the new information -- but it is information and he can cope with it.

I don't want to absolutely ruin the end of the episode for those of you who have braved spoilers to follow me thus far -- suffice it to say, Moffat wanted to be sequel-hunting and classy at the same time and pulled it off moderately well.

And I really really hope that the new series -- which I hear will begin filming in the spring? -- will show up over here in non-pirate quality soon. I've figured out two possible ways for our heroes to survive the end of the Game, but what I'm really eager to see is if Moffat figured out a third.

Did I mention he's also Irish? Go forth and give thanks to the
mighty Minerva for making this post much more scenic
than it would otherwise have been!

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Catch you..."

Sherlock.

You knew I was going to get here sooner or later, right? Lets talk.

When I first heard about the "update" of Holmes -- "a detective for the 21st century," a tagline I devoutly hope Stephen Moffat didn't come up with or, if he did, that he regrets intensely -- I was dubious. Me? I'm a Brett girl. Always have been. Rathbone doesn't thrill me; Downey, Jr. amused me, but didn't shake my essential loyalty; King's (no, not that one) Mary Russell novels, ditto. As far as Holmes goes, it's all Brett all the way.

Despite my essential bias, I have to say: Moffat and his co-conspirator, Mark Gatiss, know their Holmes. There's really no better way to put it than that; better still, I suspect they know their Conan Doyle. I find C. Doyle interesting as a historical figure and I adore the Holmes canon, but he was a pretty hack-job writer, often comes across as being rather stupid, and was personally bigoted, Imperialistic, and jingoistic to a painful degree. Just try reading his "impartial" history of the Boer War -- but don't blame me when your eyeballs ache. Does all this affect his writing? Oh, hell yeah, honey. Get through Study in Scarlet -- and try not to wince. If Holmes himself doesn't come out with something winceable, just wait 'til we get to the "American scenes." Oh, baby, oh, baby.

And if that doesn't get you, try The Sign of Four. Argh. There's lots of awful -- yet, somehow, it didn't get swept away with a lot of the rest of the late Victoriana that The Strand and the Gentleman's Magazine and Blackhill (Cornhill? Corn...black? Blackhilll? Cornhillblack? Blackornhill? Oh, something like that. Someone else be the librarian and look it up!) and whatnot used to print up every month. There's just something about Holmes and Watson that works and continues to work and continues to work and just...well, it just goes on continuing to work.

And it works here. Gatiss and Moffat have got it jumping through old and new hoops and it still works.

So lets have a brief rundown. Spoilers ahead. Take this seriously. If you haven't seen it and want to, read no further.


Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock.
Note the coat.
:)
Episode one, A Study in Pink. :) Great stuff. Really really awesome first episode. The characters and story spring straight into action and really don't stop to breathe for about an hour and half -- particularly Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes who speaks so quickly that I was surprised he didn't either a) pass out; or b) gasp at the end of every sentence like Mrs. Haddock in Gerald Durrell's story about his sister getting involved in spiritualism. Man must have breath control like a merman.

The basic plot is lifted straight from A Study in Scarlet (if you try to read the original, don't blame me for the pain of the second half. It hurts everyone.) A body is found; there are no clues/weird clues/anomalous clues; Lestrade calls in Holmes; and I could make a "the game's afoot" reference here and I will restrain myself. Holmes and Watson meet for the first time; Holmes shows off his observational skills all over the place; the rooming situation at 221b is arranged and we're off to the races.

I need to say right off the bat how excellent a pairing Holmes (Cumberbatch) and Watson (Freeman) are here. They are great. This is like...it's like watching David Tennant and John Simm play against each other as Doctor and Master -- an inevitable comparison given who wrote the storylines in each case. They feel each other out for a few scenes -- both as characters and, rather visibly, as actors; get a sense of how this could work -- and then they basically just start having fun. And they have a lot of fun. And it is good fun. :) Martin Freeman is fantastic. He is a solid, believable, angry, damaged, unbelivably hurt -- and still functioning John Watson. He has discovered depth and humor and anger in that character that I wasn't quite sure were there and it works when he does it. This Watson is an Afghan veteran; his wound is giving him psychological symptoms; and he starts blogging about his "adventures" with Sherlock largely on advice from his therapist. The opening scenes of Pink show some real darkness behind this character; he's struggling with survivor guilt, PTSD, a wound that won't seem to quite heal, and having no money.

Enter Sherlock and the 221b flat.

The rest is history, more or less. Rupert Graves as Lestrade is great stuff; just thick enough to let Sherlock be continually impatient with him but still a solid, dependable copper -- who also knows that Sherlock is a show-offy, overly dramatic prat who needs to be stepped on firmly now and then before he starts riots just because he can.

Martin Freeman as John Watson.
Couldn't find a picture of him
in the good coat.
Second episode, The Blind Banker. Less successful -- tries to draw on things like The Sign of Four and whatnot that really were Conan Doyle playing with his Orientalist/Imperialist prejudices and letting them run riot: The British Empire Is Good. Anything East of France (And Much of France) Is Bad. Anything Coming From the East Is SUSPICIOUS. And Probably EVIL To Boot.

One of the best parts of this show for genre fans is going to be seeing Paul Chequer, aka Eugene from Torchwood's "Random Shoes" episode as DI Dimmock trying to wrestle (not literally) Sherlock into being useful and coherent and polite, all at once. There's also a location from a Doctor Who episode -- look really carefully at the museum where the Asian teapots are being kept and see if it rings any bells. Personally, I think there are two locations: does anyone want to scrutinize the round, tall room where the curators sit -- there's a long scene with Soo Lin Yao there although it's mostly in the dark -- and then watch the Doctor Who "Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead" duo and see if anything looks familiar?

There are some great character moments here between Watson and Holmes -- e.g., a scene where Sherlock breaks into a flat to examine it -- and forgets to let Watson in, leaving the honest John storming in the street outside, occasionally stopping to shout through the letterbox to Sherlock in a mood that passes from curious to exasperated to angry and back to exasperation again. (Sherlock is being distracted by a strangulation attempt, by the way; so it isn't all rudeness on his part that he forgets good ol' John.)

And the show does introduce Sarah -- fan question: is she meant to replace Mary? if so...why? is there some reason we don't like the name Mary? -- who is a staffer at the medical clinic where Watson finds part-time work. They go out on a date -- Sherlock tags along -- disastrous consequences. There are people tied up; weapons aimed at them -- it isn't the greatest start to a relationship, lets just put it that way.

The worst part of this episode is, really, the story. It's Orientalist. It's not well thought out. It plays to a lot of stereotypes and cliches that...really, Moffat and Gatiss could have come up with better than this. I don't know why they didn't. It plays as good Holmes but -- it plays as good old-school Holmes and if this is new-school -- then they can't really hope to get away with stuff like this. At least not very often.

The whole function of the episode is really to lead up to the reveal of the existence of Moriarty. Not much of a reveal, I grant you, but given events in episode three, it needed revealing. And it's a nice introduction which also serves to get rid of the villain from this episode who was clearly a "single use" villain.


Sherlock and Watson having a pleasant night out.
So, Episode three, The Great Game. My friends and I counted at least four original Holmes stories being referenced in the first ten minutes of the show: "The Five Pips," "The Bruce Partington Plans," "A Scandal in Bohemia," and "The Empty House." There are others.

I have to say, I struggled with this episode a little bit for oh, say...the first thirty fucking seconds because after that it. did. not. stop. Which was great. Lets face it, Sherlockian logic works at its best when it moves so fast you can't see the joins. The Great Game moves fast enough and it was dark enough to make me a very, very happy new little fangirl.

"Bored. Bored -- bored!"
Sherlock is bored. He is very, very bored. (See? look at him being bored over there.)

Much to his delight -- something interesting happens. Someone blows up the building across the street. And then sends him a cell phone. A cell phone made up to look identical to a phone that was critical to the Pink case, in fact. And the phone has a single message: five beeps and a photograph. The photograph takes them to a location where there are items. Evidence from an old case. One of Sherlock's first cases, in fact. And one which he failed to solve.

Not wildly interesting in and of itself -- except he also gets a phone call on the cell. Someone needs his help -- someone has been tied up with explosives all over them and needs him to solve the mystery of the shoes before the explosives are detonated.

Neat, yes?

And guaranteed to get the attention of someone like Sherlock who thrives on this sort of situation: two puzzles, both comfortably removed from real people, and a deadline to work against. His favorite things!

Of course, the problems multiply: he solves the first mystery -- an old murder which he failed to solve years before; saves the woman with explosives strapped to her...and lookie here: the cell phone rings again. Another photo (introduced by four beeps this time); another plea for help; another old case. Another solution; another salvation -- and we repeat. But -- we kind of don't because Sherlock loses this one. It isn't his fault, it must be said: he solves the mystery and gets the solution back to the Mysterious Evil Genius (are we really taken in by this? No, no, we are not -- but it's fun to pretend for awhile even though we know who it is) under time -- but the woman at the other end of the phone starts to describe said Mysterious Evil Genius -- and that's all she wrote. Big boom. But still -- the phone calls (with ever-dropping numbers of beeps) and the old puzzles keep coming.

The old mysteries don't get a lot harder, in all fairness, but Watson is starting to get frustrated: Mycroft (who we met in the first episode) has a case he wants Sherlock to work on that Sherlock's ignoring; and Watson doesn't feel that Sherlock is taking the threat to the people seriously. Since the last phone call is from a child -- Watson nearly loses his bottle entirely. But, it has to be said, doesn't.

So we solve the final mystery -- to do with a forged painting -- and we finally get a name for our Mysterious Evil Genius, in case we had any damned doubt. But there aren't any more phone calls: perhaps the terror is over? Of course, we know it isn't.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"...I expect nothing less than gratuitous violence from the lot of ya."

So today I'm all set to talk about a movie I've actually seen. Exciting, yes?

Neil Marshall's Dog Soldiers. This is a pretty awful trailer, but it kind of captures some of the feel/problem of the film, so...


You can tell the distribution company had some doubts due to the number of dribbling fanboy reviews excerpted before you see a frame of film.

This isn't entirely deserved skepticism -- there are bits of Soldiers that are really quite awesome. Spoiler warning: Er. There are some, so be warned.

Anyway, quick summary: we open with a couple camping in the wilds of Scotland by something growly. We cut to a soldier running through the woods; turns out he's been trying out for some kind of Special Ops squad and fails the cut for some really "plot point! plot point!" reasons. Cut to full British Army squad -- including our opening scene failure -- being dropped in the woods of Scotland for a "live exercise." Things go rapidly downhill. Turns out Scotland is -- those of us who have been watching Being Human already knew this, of course -- totally infested with werewolves. These, though, aren't slightly flash, slightly grungy wideboys like Human's Tully -- these are big, fast, nasty, and very very smart.

I was kind of mis-sold on Soldiers -- someone told me it was the werewolf equivalent of 28 Days Later. It isn't -- but it is a totally respectable werewolf flick. I have sat and watched way worse than this (Devil's Tomb, anyone? The Jaws sequels?).

One strength Soldiers has on its side right from the start is the cast: Sean Pertwee as the sergeant of the protagonist squad; Liam Cunningham as the human bad guy; and Kevin McKidd as the "failed" grunt who makes good. Not to mention Emma Cleasby as our somewhat dubious "rescuer" who knows a lot about werewolves. A lot a lot about werewolves.

There's a good, reasonably sharp script -- we're not talking Guy Ritchie in his Lock, Stock, and 2 Smoking Barrels phase, here -- but the characters ring reasonably true and are all individual enough that we can tell them apart even if we can't be bothered to remember their names, as I couldn't. There are some startlingly good touches: one of the squaddies spends most of the movie complaining, with increasingly good cause, that he's missing the footie (England v. Germany ) to bugger about in the woods of Scotland. After he's eaten -- rather unrealistically, by the way: a were rips off his head and his insides apparently fountain out as though his ribs had been gently blendering his internal organs all along; I'm pretty sure humans are slightly more solid than that. Anyway, during the credit crawl, we're shown some newspaper front pages as our lone survivor tries to get the word out. One of them has a huge headline: "England 5; Germany 1." Nice touch.

Don't go to Scotland for a camping holiday, apparently.
So there are a fair number of nice little touches in this movie -- the relationship between all the squaddies is pretty fair; some of them have nice stand-out character moments; the weres are just fucking awesome: big, bad, scary, and very smart. There's a great moment during a stand-off in the cottage where the squad retreats where one young man is firing through a window at a were; he goes to punch with the butt of the gun; the were grabs it out of his hands; the soldier dives for cover; there's a moment of silence, then two rapid-fire shots from outside the window, and then gun is tossed back on the floor with a definitively disgusted growl. :)

Marshall loves him some blood and guts which doesn't necessarily serve the movie very well; the question of whether or not poor old Sergeant Pertwee could have actually survived the gut wound he receives early in the film bugged me until the closing credits. The young man who apparently has liquid insides, ditto. Perhaps my suspicion is unfounded, but I don't think some of these things would work. And so much in the rest of the movie did look like it would work and was believable that these moments really stuck out. "Like a sore thumb" simply doesn't describe it.

As a closing thought, it was nice to have a monster movie where the cast didn't have to take half the movie to figure out what was going on and be convinced of its truth. I realise it's a trope of the genre that the characters have never seen a horror movie in their lives, never read Dracula or Frankenstein, never seen I Was a Teenage Werewolf, or read a Stephen King novel, but it can get a little old. I prefer people who are a little more willing to deal with the reality in front of them.

Final man and...dog?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Photo Monday

Part of a new Harry Potter set? Nope, new Copley inbound station.

Copley Square.

Inexplicable witch hats in the BPL courtyard.

Ditto.

The fountain made it look so cold.

Ditto.

This is what happens when you come home late and your cat is pissed.

But this is what happens when you feed the cat lots of 'nip. :)

And this is what happens in non-nippy hours.

Friday, November 5, 2010

friday fun times

This is like what would happen if Jabba's band and Pixar ever did work together.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's a good trick

Y'know, every now and then -- just about every spring and winter -- I intend to go through a wardrobe sort.

Sometimes I even do it.

But I've never come up with anything this clever to say about it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Arthur couldn't get the hang of Thursdays; I can't do Mondays

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen!

For the last three weeks or so, I have been working as a last-minute hire on a huge processing project at the Countway Library, part of the Harvard library system.

We have now arrived at the point in the project where myself and my co-processing assistant need to rearrange something in the realm of 140 boxes worth of material.

For those of you who are not archivists, this means taking boxes approximately the size of those in which Staples sells its reams of printer paper which are full of file folders -- anywhere from 15 to 160 -- and putting them into order.

What order, says you?

Why, into series, subseries, alphabetical, original, and numerical order, depending on decisions made many moons ago by our processing archivist, says I.

What does all this mean and why am I telling you this?

It means there is no real blog post here today because my left wrist is totally tweaked out what with heaving boxes to and fro (mostly fro); picking up folders from here and putting them there; picking up folders from there and putting them here; and so forth.

Therefore, expect no brilliance this week, folks -- I'll try to find some nifty things for Wednesday and Friday, though. Watch this space! (Well, not this space precisely -- a space sort of slightly above -- oh, forget it.)