The Word of the Day

Hindsight being 20/20, it’s not surprising to me that I ended up a voracious reader, a listener of linguistic podcasts, and a general word lover.  Off and on, with great inconsistency but frequent recurrence, I have kept a list of “excellent” words inside my head.  They’re usually just words that sound good to say, which have a good feel on your tongue and give a little buzz of pleasure just to hear them spoken.  I’m horrible at keeping a diary, but I have been pretty good about remembering my words of the day/moment.  So, in the interests of posterity, here are some lists:

Classics:

1. corrugated (this was my favorite word for about a year, right around seventh grade)
2. apse
3. fisticuffs
4. corpse (see: apse)
5. isthmus
6. hummock
7. eclipse
8. renege

Recently:

1. redolant
2. recumbent
3. apsis (a relative of apse, with a pretty cool meaning to boot!)
4. fricative
5. jocular
6. apiary
7. adroit
8. habillements (ok, technically French, but Shakespeare used it, so.)
9. occlude

James Moriarty: Mr. Sex

In the source material of Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty only appears twice, and is further mentioned 5 times. This is almost exactly mirrored in Sherlock, aside from the physical appearances. In the strictest sense, however, Sherlock only comes face to face with Moriarty while he admits to that identity twice: once in “The Great Game” and once in “The Reichenbach Fall.” The other two times, Moriarty is “Jim” Molly’s “office romance” and “Richard Brooks,” the actor Sherlock has hired to “play” Moriarty. This Moriarty isn’t a professor; he’s something much more dangerous: an actor. Moffat and Gatniss have not chosen, thus far, to play up one prominent aspect of the “classic” Holmes: his abilities as an actor and his prowess in disguising himself. (Ironically, some of the Holmes’s best examples of these talents are found in “The Final Problem” and its follow-up, “The Empty House.” It will be interesting to see how Holmes chooses to “reappear” in series three.) Instead, they have given those talents to Moriarty, who is, of course, presented to us as the other side of Holmes’s coin.  It’s not that the modern Holmes cannot act, it’s that he doesn’t feel the need to bother concealing his motives.  So, on one level we have a man who never seems to reveal his real intentions and a man who cannot keep from saying what he thinks and feels, even when it would be expedient to do so.

It’s tempting to see the Holmes-Moriarty relationship as purely one of order versus chaos (though which is which?). However, again, Moffat/Gatniss Inc. complicate this dichotomy. Instead, the opposition that most stands out to me is one of sexual energy versus intellectual energy. Irene Adler may have proved to the audience that the two are not always incompatible. Irene’s employment of her sexuality has pure intelligence behind it – she even reveals her body in the most strategic way possible. For her, seduction is a weapon. Moriarty’s sexual energy is not seductive. He oozes sex, but in chaotic way. I don’t even only mean sex as in intercourse; Moriarty plays with his own sexual identity just as readily. In “The Great Game” he is gay, straight, and every permutation in between. He can seduce women handily – as evidenced by Molly and Kitty Riley – but also, as he admits, flirts with Sherlock: “But the flirting’s over now, Sherlock, Daddy’s had enough now!” Despite the flamboyant and feminine overtones to his character – “Honey, you should see me in a crown.” – Moriarty ultimately fancies himself the dominant partner in his and Sherlock’s relationship.  The audience is meant to think he’s right too, until the very end of “The Reichenbach Fall.”

And what about Sherlock? Desire is not unknown to him, as Adler again demonstrates, but he only understands seduction as a concerted effort toward one end (presumably, the object of one’s affection). A seduction is, in many ways, like a deduction. In one, the seductress reads the beloved to discover what he most wants and lures him in using that information, while in deduction, the detective reads the criminal (and the victim) to discover what they have done and ensnares them using that information. Both are types of puzzles, and a logical puzzle is something Sherlock understands. However, Moriarty’s application of sexuality is only meant to confuse, not to seduce. As he admits to John and Sherlock in “The Great Game,” “I’m soooo changeable. It is a weakness with me, but to be fair to myself, it is my only weakness.” Weakness, indeed. Rather, against Sherlock it is Moriarty’s greatest strength.  As Sherlock himself admits, “I never liked riddles.”  A puzzle has distinct pieces you can fit together, but riddles require you to extrapolate, to think outside the box, as it were.

Something else that struck me, perhaps only because I used to be an Irish studies student: Andrew Scott, the actor that plays Moriarty, is Irish (from Dublin originally) and does nothing to disguise his accent while playing the character. I won’t go into it too much, because I think a large part of my analysis probably adds nothing to the show or this article, but it has me thinking… especially: why not get the actor to affect a British accent, like the rest of the characters? On one side of the coin: the British audience is going to be able to recognize the “foreign” Irish accent even more than American audiences would. On the other: maybe the Irish are considered such “near relatives” that Moriarty’s origins as an Irishman are considered unimportant. Practically, maybe it sounded too silly or didn’t fit the character, if the casting folks and Gatniss/Moffat ever had Scott try it out.  Knowing what I know about the history of Irish-English relations, however, those bombs Moriarty sets off in “The Great Game” have IRA and revenge against the oppressors popping in and out of this ex-scholar’s addled brain. If John and Sherlock represent the English’s “stiff upper lip,” Moriarty represents the Irish cliche of wildness and emotionality. It’s all part of the above, but with a historical reading.

To add one more cultural/historical angle, there’s this quote from Sherlock as well, which is quite close to a quote from the original stories: “James Moriarty isn’t a man at all.  He’s a spider.”  In some African mythology systems, Anansi, the spider, is a trickster figure.  Moriarty is most certainly quite the trickster.

A further side note, not about Moriarty but about a Sherlock Holmes-based novel I happened to be reading when I re-watched “Reichenbach.”  The book is called The Disappearance of Sherlock Holmes by Larry Millett, who is known for the Shadwell Rafferty series of Holmes novels, mostly speculating on the detective’s adventures in America (specifically, Minneapolis/St. Paul and its environs.  Recommended!  But anyway… the plot of this particular Holmes riff involves a different enemy of Sherlock’s (Abe Slaney, of the Dancing Men mystery) trying to discredit the detective by framing him for a kidnapping and a subsequent murder.  He does this by planting fake evidence at several scenes Holmes just happens to show up and hiring an actor to impersonate Holmes so that a great many people can say they saw him later in places he had not been.  Also, as a (possible) coincidence, Sherlock had just made the police force incredibly angry by discrediting them in a very public case.  So, soon the police are after Holmes for two murders and his name is besmirched on the pages of most major newspapers.  Sound familiar?  Just saying, “there is nothing new under the sun…” etc.

I’d Like to Draw Your Attention…

… to a new Tumblr I’ve set up: Heartifacts.  Pardon the portmanteau, I couldn’t resist.  It’s on the “Elsewhere” list now.

I’ll be putting together some weekly anthologies of things I like (mostly as a kind of Tumblr-based multimedia inspiration board), posting poetry, writing down snippets of thoughts too long for Twitter and too short for this blog, and reblogging pictures of hot dudes.  Well, it can’t all be serious work, right?

Also, I’m working on my third Sherlock post today.  The next subject: Moriarty, of course.

An Officer and A Sociopath

Spoilers follow. You’ve been warned.

Even the name of the first episode sounded silly to me: “A Study in Pink,” what’s that all about? And you’re going to take away one of the best parts about Sherlock Holmes, which is the setting, and make it modern? I just… I just didn’t know about this new show that everyone had started talking about. House was one thing, a broad nod to Joseph Bell, but it made no pretentions about trying to recreate the Holmes stories in a modern setting. That was always where I drew then line with my fan-fiction reading habits: modernity. I can stretch my mind for Holmes living to see the start of World War II, but even that is pushing my tolerance to the limit. I gave Sherlock a shot once, in the early days of the show, made some appropriately disgusted noises about it being not as good as the originals, and went back to my Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica (both of which I hadn’t started watching until well after the rest of the world had caught on to how good they were).

So, really, how hard was I trying there, to fool myself? I knew I’d be back, even though you would have had to rib me pretty hard then to get me to admit it. By the time I sat down to watch Sherlock, there were 6 episodes out, and what had made me make the U-Turn back to the first episode was a) the fact that I’d found out two of my favorite Doctor Who writers were behind the show, b) the first series was on Netflix and thus easily accessible, c) I was intrigued by Benedict Cumberbatch’s face, and d) I have loved Martin Freedman since the original, British Office. Guess how long it took me to get through all 6 episodes? If you guessed less than a week – in fact 4 days – congratulations, high five yourself.

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Girl Meets Detective

I was never really a fan of anything until I was a fan of Sherlock Holmes.

Frederic Dorr Steele

I think with the Livejournal, then Blogger, then Tumblr generations, being a fan of something has taken on a different sort of meaning. It now seems to be skewed far more towards the creationary aspect then the consumptive. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter – using a popular “for instance” – it’s now not enough to read all the books and watch all the movies (again and again ad nauseum). You dress up like the characters, go to conventions and press events to meet the actors in the movies or J.K. Rowling, create blogs dedicated to the universe, the people in it, and the stories, and – god forbid – you fall into the seemingly endless pit of Pottermore. If you’re artistic in any way, you create fan art; if you’re not, you endlessly reblog the fan art of those who are. There’s a little more “meat” with superhero things like the Avengers (whence my devotions go) and X-Men, which have been around for longer, but still the re-creation, and re-living of the movies tends to happen, for most people, before they’ve even gotten into a fraction of all the background material. I suppose, in a lot of ways, the good old stuff is not the same world they are accustomed to, and with the power of the internet they can rehash the familiar scenes with their friends and fellow fans in hundreds of ways. One tends to think with these varieties of fandom that the passion is likely to burn bright, and burn quickly. It never feels like it from inside your devotion to a piece of entertainment, but it will probably happen sooner, with so much saturation.

I hate to lead off an essay with a “back in my day” statement, but there you go. Maybe I had the internet when I was young-ish (around 11-12), but instead of animated gifs and complicated PhotoShop graphics, there were message boards and text-based fan communities that had carved out server space here at there. People could go and talk and talk and argue about plot points and adaptations and which was the best chapter/book/episode/movie of such-and-such series. An only child, I was always, behind my politeness, wary of playing with others. So, I never really engaged in any fan community online beyond reading the threads and agreeing or disagreeing in my head. I didn’t want to create conversation, I just wanted to sit and read my books.

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Dungeons & Dragons

I play D & D now.  What a nerd!

D & D night was last night, so I thought it might be a good time to check in with some first impressions on the game and on attempting to role play in general.  We’re still in the very early stages  (and had to miss a couple weeks due to various party members taking real-life awesome vacations!).

I was nervous about role playing from the beginning, mostly because I had never done it before, but, logically, I thought I had the potential to be good at it, because I write and am pretty good at making up stories.  In reality it’s very, very different.  As different as writing poetry and writing fiction, I suppose.  I take a long, long time to write the latter (expect my first novel in 2020, oy) while the former just kind of come out all at once when I find a topic I want to write about.  The story never bothers me with fiction, it’s how to express it in fiction form.

I had the same problem in real life, especially when I was a teenager.  I used to sit silent for a long, long time in a group conversation until I finally thought of the “right” thing to say, and how I thought best to say it.  It was always a race with my brain and my self-consciousness to see if I could squeak out whatever comment it was before the conversation around me moved on to something different.  Role playing is, at best, off the cuff.  I can riff with my buddies now for sure, but making decisions and coming up with dialogue and figuring out how you’re supposed to interact with multiple people, NPCs, and the world around you? Well, I’m back to spending a lot of time sitting quietly and figuring out a good way to interject, at least so far.

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Fez

Hot. Damn. You guys, did I ever love this game.  When I first started playing it (a little over a week ago), and tried to explain to people what I liked about it, basically just sounds of joy and buzz words poured forth from my babbling maw.  So, I needed to give myself a cool down period, to hopefully translate all that loquaciousness into something coherent.

The quickest, best description I’ve heard of the game is that it’s a “2D game set in a 3D world.” How I like to think of it is this: the whole world is a cube, but you can only see one side of the cube at a time.  You switch between the sides of a cube in order to access the entirety of the world.  Sounds simplistic? Well, Fez is designed so well that it almost seems like there are more than 4 sides of the world’s cube for you to explore.  This isn’t a perfect description, but it will do until you decide you want to go pick up the game yourself.

Your protagonist is Gomez. He is white and blobby and wears… a fez.  Yes.

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Playtesting: June 2012

Something I had been anticipating finally happened a couple weeks ago – I got bored with playing the Mass Effect franchise.  After an eight-month stint with Oblivion (which I was trying to plow through in preparation for Skyrim), I decided to blow through ME1 & 2 before the third game came out in March.  To put in perspective how attached I got to those three games, I just now (two days ago) bought Skyrim.  I played through ME1 once, and ME2 & 3 twice in about four months’ time.  There were just so many options in the world, and in those 3 different ways you could go – and the third way, neutral, could go any thousands of ways depending on the personality/decisions of the person playing the games – that I found enough to keep me very interested through two almost complete play-throughs.  I started that third play-through (Paragon) of 2 (I wanted to skip 1 and use the little genesis/creation comic instead) and almost immediately wanted to put down the controller and walk away.  Luckily, since I own the games, I can come back to it anytime, and probably will one of these days!

The last few weeks have been hectic with getting everything together so I can blow the currently popcorn stand I’m inhabiting and move in with some of my two-and-four-legged buddies.  In 5 days, that will become a crazy reality.  To distract myself a little bit from the emotional fur flying around, and the stress of trying to make sure the packing and moving will go smoothly, I’ve been play testing some X-Box Live Arcade games to see if there’s anything that’s the right combination of relaxing and challenging for some light gaming.  Instead of the usual immersive experience I seek out with games, I’ve been wanting something I can pick up, play for half an hour or forty five minutes and put back down.

SIDEBAR/ Weirdly, I’ve been seeking out the exact same thing in a book, in a sort of sideways way.  I do have one Kindle book from the library that I’m almost done with, but mostly I’ve been re-reading some fantasy books I’ve owned forever, and have read at least 3 or 4 times.  I really want to make no big commitments to anything until after I move, not even a book! Really, reading these books is like a big ol’ brain tranquilizer, not at all thought-provoking or challenging. /SIDEBAR

Anyway, here are some of the games I’ve been playing recently, and what I think about them.  Maybe you’ll find a good little time-killing game for yourself!

1. Solar 2

Maybe someone out there remembers the first Solar game? If not, Google it, it’s a fun little browser game now, if you want to kill a few minutes.  Both games were developed by Murudai, which does not seem to have done much else of note, but has made a good little game in Solar 2. Instead of me explaining the game to you in great detail, scope out this game play:

The game is essentially about the universe, from beginning (Big Bang!) to end (Black Holes!), and all the broad strokes in between.  A die-hard astronomer will be pretty disappointed if they’re expecting detailed examinations of the science behind stars and asteroids and solar systems, or realistic physics.  With a very soothing background soundtrack as your soporific lullabye, you zip around a seemingly endless open universe as an asteroid, star, and, eventually, black hole, alternately slamming into things or sucking them into your orbit in order to advance to the next state of being. An entire round can be played in about half an hour.  Also, since every round is different, and there are many, many hidden “tasks” the snarky, invisible narrator has left around for you, replay value is pretty high.  Plus, it’s only $5.oo on the arcade, so why not?  You can also download on your computer, via Steam.

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What’s Goin’ On

List Time – GO!

1. I went to New York City 2 weeks back, and I think I’m in love with Brooklyn now.  It really reminded me of Cambridge/Somerville with the mix of ethnic backgrounds, tax brackets, restaurants/bars, trees, parks, and just general vibe. If I was going to move to New York, I’d move there in a hot minute.

2. Related – I got to meet one of my favorite bloggers, Amber from The Amber Show! We had brunch at Dizzy’s, I got to meet her wiggly, adorable dogs, and she took my picture.  A picture that actually looks good, see?   This woman knows how to treat a random internet visitor right, y’all.

3. I’ve seen The Avengers twice since it came out. I think I have a problem.  I know what I’m getting for Christmas.

4. Books books books books. Check out my reading list, yo, it’s been updated a couple times.  Pick up the Hyperion series, by Dan Simmons, by the way.

5. All systems are just about go for new apartment launch.  I don’t want to say much more, since the details are just nitty gritty and boring, but it’s been a full-time job the last two weeks trying to get all those little loose ends tied up.  But, I can’t wait to get into the new place, get all my furniture placed, sleep on my new bed, and take some pictures.  I moved around so much when I was a kid, and, hell, since I’ve been an adult, that it always feels good to make even a move down the block.  I’m going to be bunking with some old old friends, and am so excited.  I’d move tomorrow, if I could.

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