Monday night miscellany, part 4

In which I really mean it when I say I’m going to be (relatively) brief:

— As a left-handed person, I was morbidly fascinated to see a throwaway paragraph in a review of a book on left-handedness with a theory on the origins of the southpaw-dom that I hadn’t heard before. There are, researchers say, odd connections between left-handedness and twins:

Not only is left-handedness twice as common among twins as among regular siblings, but left-handers are twice as likely as right-handers to produce twins.This eerie link lies at the heart of another modern theory: … that “being a monozygotic [from the same zygote, or “identical”] twin is a precondition of being left-handed.” In other words, only someone who has had a twin in utero can be truly left-handed. The twins are mirror images of one another; one is left-handed, and the other right-handed. Of course, left-handedness doesn’t require that one ultimately be born with a twin. If only one fetus results at the end of term, that means the other died in the womb and was absorbed by the mother: a “vanishing twin.”

In other words, if you’re a lefty and don’t have a twin, it means you DID in the womb — but your twin embryo didn’t make it. Plenty of fertilized embryos don’t make it through the early stages of pregnancy, for whatever reasons, though scientists don’t know exactly how common this is. As the book (summarized by the reviewer) notes, there’s major reasons to doubt this hypothesis and a very real lack of evidence to back it up.

But in the absence of conclusive evidence one way or the other, I may run with this: being a lefty means I had an identical twin for a few days or weeks until he fell off the mortal coil. OR WAS PUSHED… (Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.)

— It’s a good time to be a Sherlockian. On Friday, the sequel to 2009’s big-screen Sherlock Holmes hits theaters. It’s getting mixed-to-positive reviews, with some critics saying its better than the original. People who didn’t like the original don’t seem to have come around to Guy Ritchie’s stylized, action-y interpretation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective. Myself, I enjoyed the original Sherlock Holmes. Though some of the slow-mo and rewind effects maybe didn’t work perfectly, Robert Downey, Jr., and Jude Law captured the characters of Holmes and Watson perfectly — not definitive interpretations, but plausible ones. And many of the criticisms about turning Holmes into an action hero ignore the fact that Conan Doyle himself wrote Holmes as a physical man. In the second Holmes novel, The Sign of Four, Holmes meets a prize-fighter named McMurdo and insists that the two know each other. “I don’t think you can have forgotten me,” Holmes says. “Don’t you remember that amateur who fought three rounds with you at Alison’s rooms on the night of your benefit four years back?” McMurdo recognizes him at once. “If instead o’ standin’ there so quiet you had just stepped up and given me that cross-hit of yours under the jaw, I’d ha’ known you without a question. Ah, you’re one that has wasted your gifts, you have!” (The Sign of Four, Chapter 5) So seeing Holmes take down a brute at a Victorian fight club is true to the character, as well as being entertaining. I’ll definitely be seeing the new one and hopefully will review it here.

Then, just a little over two weeks later, a second, very different but arguably even better version of Sherlock Holmes hits the small screens. The BBC will unveil the second season of its show “Sherlock” on Jan. 1. “Sherlock” is a retelling of the Conan Doyle stories in modern-day London, where Holmes has a website and is an obsessive texter, Watson chronicles Holmes’ adventures through a blog, not books, and people are constantly asking if Holmes and Watson are a gay couple. Despite the setting shift, the characters read as if they’re ripped straight from the Victorian originals. Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) is still a consulting detective, unspeakably brilliant but insufferable and incapable of relating to other people. Watson (Martin Freeman) is still a veteran of the war in Afghanistan (albeit different wars…), a steady, reliable friend and a medical doctor. Written and produced by the all-too-clever Steven Moffat of Doctor Who fame, last year’s three 90-minute episodes were consistently witty and entertaining, and I’m greatly anticipating another three starting in the new year.

— Speaking of 2009 films, the movie G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was a terrible — albeit highly watchable — action movie, featuring hokey, one-dimensional characters, a plot as predictable as it was outlandish, and a bunch of well-done, mindless action sequences. American culture being what it is, the movie made over $300 million and was instantly greenlit for a sequel.

The trailer for that sequel (due out next summer) hit the web today, and it’s very striking. The franchise’s producers did not take the safe Hollywood approach and just regurgitate the second-rate pap that had made so much money last time. I’ll discuss this below, but first, give the trailer a watch:

For the sequel, the G.I. Joe producers fired the first movie’s director and almost all of its cast (including the co-star, the two female leads, the two principal villains and most of the secondary characters) and brought in two A-list* action movie stars: Bruce Willis and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

*They may not be A-list movie stars, but they’re A-list action movie stars.

And this was for a movie that was a financial success — and one with very low critical expectation since it was inspired by a line of kids’ toys.

The movie itself is unlikely to be remarkable, and I may or may not make time to see if, but I find the shakeup noteworthy.

— Finally, George Takei — famously Lt. Sulu from the original Star Trek series and movies, and less famously a voice actor in a Star Wars cartoon series — views himself as uniquely situated to broker a truce between the feuding William “Captain Kirk” Shatner and Carrie “Princess Leia” Fisher, saying sci-fi fans need to unite against a much more pressing theat: