Sunday, October 23, 2016

E:5. 3. The baseball bat murder and the book review.

EDITOR'S NOTE: At his request, Don Murillo, the "Tiger of San Pedro" and "the most Canonical man in the Canon, will be reviewing CBS's Elementary for Sherlock Peoria this season. As the rest of the staff at Sherlock Peoria quit watching the show last season, we could not help but take advantage of his generous offer, spoilers and all. Take it away, Don Murillo! 

Don Murillo found the opening minutes of tonight's Elementary to be the most gruesome in any of the show's five seasons! A man in a trailer park was holding a bloody baseball bat over his next victim, who was vowing revenge for a friend who, if the gore on the ground was to be believed, lost their life to that horrible piece of sports equipment, much like the wooden clubs used in the American World Series which Don Murillo hears so much about!

But then Lopez informed Don Murillo that his eagerness for tonight's episode had caused Don Murillo to turn on the television an hour early, and to the wrong station! Joan Watson and her partner will be confronting the Andrew Dice Clay impersonator with the baseball bat another night, it seems!

Don Murillo turned off his television and went back to reading his copy of About Sixty, and Mark Hanson's essay on Don Murillo, whom he calls "Don Juan Murillo." To this, Don Murillo must quote another less popular, less successful dictator and cry: "Wrong!" Those closest to Don Murillo know that Don Murillo's true full name is Juan Don Murillo! And those who know Juan Don Murillo the very best know that "Juan Don" is a much more complimentary name when it comes to romance than "Don Juan," as Don Murillo's one-time butler Brunton was known.

Don Murillo finished Hanson's essay and ordered Lopez to change the station to the CBS . . . but what sorcery it this? Madame Secretary still holds sway? Ah, clever CBS! After Don Murillo's post of last week informed them that many fans were thinking they needed to change channels after Madame Secretary and missing Elementary, the network potentates let the earlier show run into Elementary's time! Clever!

So it was that Don Murillo turned back to About Sixty, and "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder," the other story in which the most Canonical man in the Canon, Don Murillo, is mentioned. Don Murillo carefully and slowly scanned the words of Mr. Vincent W. Wright, and though many good words were there, none of those words were "Don" or "Murillo." (Don Murillo does not consider "Don't" a form of "Don," regardless of what the search engines would try to tell us!)

Finally, at about that hour when a man gives his first yawn and glances at his personal secretary to be told the hour, Captain Gregson's voice is heard in recap, speaking of his girlfriend. Captain Gregson and his girlfriend, who turns out to be actress Virginia Madsen, are then having a date in Gregson's office, eating from boxes! Captain Gregson is certainly no Juan Don, Don Murillo can tell you that!

Virginia Madsen leaves to speak with El Sherlocko, giving him a false name, so as to keep him from speaking of the sequel to Highlander that she acted in, as she must often do. A naked man is murdered for some reason, and then Joan Watson appears in her pajamas as ironic juxtaposition.

Then, in the best mystery tradition of A Shot in the Dark, El Sherlocko and Joan go to a nudist colony at the request of Detective Bell. Joan wears a suit and tie, sans jacket, to bedevil Bell's obvious goal.

The quiet, soothing conversations of Joan Watson and El Sherlocko bring Don Murillo to that minute in Elementary when a man gives his first yawn and glances at Lopez for some entertainment. Lopez does the traditional dance of San Pedro, which the citizens are expected to perform for Don Murillo's amusement whenever he starts to drift toward slumber during the day's tyrannical chores.

Virginia Madsen does not enjoy that El Sherlocko investigates Gregson's romantic partners in this adaptation, which the Sherlock Holmes that Don Murillo knew in the Canon did not do. Don Murillo had the displeasure of meeting Mrs. Gregson when he came to London to . . . alas, that is a tale for another time. 

Joan Watson sleeps in sleeveless sleepwear the second pajama morning of the episode, when she was wearing much warmer sleepwear the night before. Those Elementarian chronologists like my editor will surely find this a clue as to New York weather changes, but Don Murillo is more interested in that the Elementarian pajamalogists will make of this twist in Joan's sleepwear patterns.

But it has been a long night of baseball bats and reading About Sixty, and Joan's bed looked so comfortable that Don Murillo cannot put his own peacock-down mattress and New Zealand dandelion fluff comforters out of his mind. So he must leave you now for sleep.

"You will not join me in pouring scorn upon her racist tale of woe."
                      -- El Sherlocko, from tonight's Elementary wind-up

"A Spaniard would write to a Spaniard in Spanish."
                       -- Sherlock Holmes, from Don Murillo's future collection, Quotes No One Ever Quotes.

Sherlock Holmes and the Chicago Cubs . . . hmmmm.

Feeling a bit like Sherlock in "Missing Three-Quarter" this weekend, when Cyril Overton came to Baker Street babbling in another language. Well, more of a dialect than another language actually, that dialect known as "sports."

Since Peoria is midway between St. Louis and Chicago, our baseball fans are split in their loyalties, often like Hatfields and McCoys, but we have enough fans of the Chicago Cubs that the word "historic" is being thrown around quite a bit in reference to the Cubs making it to the "World" Series for the first time since 1945. It has something to do with a goat, which is a part of that sports dialect I mentioned earlier that I don't speak.

But, given that I am a Sherlockian, when history rears its ancient head, I turn to the Canon to see just how the matter connects to Sherlock Holmes and thus whether or not it truly matters to those who speak my particular dialect of Sherlockiana. So . . . Sherlock Holmes and the Chicago Cubs.

Well, for starters, Sherlock Holmes retired from detection sometime in 1903. The Chicago Cubs also had a historic moment in 1903, when they changed their names from the Chicago White Stockings. You'd think that would mean the two had nothing to do with each other . . . but, nope!

Sherlock Holmes travelled to Chicago in 1912 pretending to be an Irishman named Altamont, as we know from "His Last Bow." The Cubs were in their heyday during that period, finishing third in the National League over such teams as the St. Louis Cardinals (sorry, Rob) and the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers. Tinkers and Evers of the well-known "Tinkers to Evers to Chance" double play combination were still playing their positions and Chance was in his final year of being player-manager. With Old St. Patrick's Church being not much more than a mile from West Side Park where the Cubs played, the idea of an Irishman taking in a game is not without possibility.

Sherlock Holmes was not much of a sports fan, of course, but he was in Chicago at that time to make connections, and as most males know, sports is a social lubricant as great as any other among our gender. As a guy three hours away from Chicago, I still have to pretend to care about such things now and then, and I'm not trying to infiltrate a secret society. Without any corroborating documentation, I would bet my life's savings on Sherlock Holmes having to converse about the Chicago Cubs sometime during his time in that city, even if he didn't make it to the ballpark.

So if Sherlock Holmes had to connect with the Chicago Cubs, I guess I will have to allow that their current attempt to win the World Series for the first time since 1908 (which Holmes surely got tired of hearing about, four years later) is somewhat "historic." I'm sure some of Chicago's many great Sherlockians have tracked Holmes's potential experiences in that city at far more detail than I, and could probably tell you what games he might have attended. (And if they haven't, get to it, current Chicago Sherlockians!) But I will end upon Holmes's great line from "Missing Three-Quarter."

"You live in a different world to me, Mr. Overton, a sweeter and healthier one. My ramifications stretch out into many sections of society, but never, I am happy to say, into amateur sport, which is the best and soundest thing in England."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Worthy of Canonical villain status? Nope.

A word of warning, I'm going political today. If you are weary or sensitive to such things, it might be in your best interest to head elsewhere for distraction. (Such warnings, of course, are rarely heeded.)

We seem to be in a news cycle where conspiracy theorists are having their day as we approach America's next presidential election. And some of the more excited of those theorists would have us believe that we have a Moriarty running as a major party candidate . . . not a mild-mannered mathematics professor, but a former first lady, who, if the theorists are to be believed, is a criminal mastermind of the first order. Capable of Mycroftian power plays and getting away with actual murders, the level of competency if those Moriarty theorists were correct is almost enough to make you want to support such a candidate, just because, hey, in a world without a Sherlock, a Moriarty might look awfully good.

But those are just crazed conspiracy theories. Looking at the other presidential candidate, however, for a Canonical doppelganger, one finds . . .  well, my mind first heads for James Ryder, the sad little villain who stumbled into providing Holmes a mystery and then was chased out of Baker Street with a simple "Get out!"

Sherlock Holmes didn't have time for overly-pompous blowhards who had no close relationship with the facts. His disdain for a Scotland Yard man or two who fit that bill was very apparent, and he had even less time for those of higher status. Had Sherlock Holmes run into a two-bit charlatan from a wealthy family who rose to media prominence in the lowest sort of entertainments . . . well, it might have been very amusing to watch, but it would have hardly provided the mystery for a decent case.

And that is what we find ourselves presented with this fall. Someone that Watson wouldn't even find worth writing about dominating our national stage. Sherlockians are a very inclusive group as a fandom, so I don't doubt we have a Trump fan or two out there. But I don't think I will ever quite understand how any mind could hold Sherlock Holmes up as an ideal and consider that man a viable candidate for even a Baker Street client, much less anything higher.

Unless, of course, you're really, really, really into wanting there to be Moriartys out there. And even in that case, one would think you could find a better champion to go against said mastermind . . . which we all know took a Sherlock Holmes.

And we know Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes is a friend of ours. And that huckster on the national stage is no Sherlock Holmes.

Monday, October 17, 2016

One dog who didn't make it to heaven.

To this day, I have still not seen the 1989 animated feature, All Dogs Go To Heaven.

It's not that I have anything against cartoons from Don Bluth studios or dog characters based on Burt Reynolds's vocal talents (with all of Burt's 1980s chums along for the ride). Or the plotline about a pound-escaped pooch who used to run a casino and gets murdered while drunk. (Though, that sounds like a wonderful reason to dodge the film.)

It's simply due to the title, and its seeming argument with The Hound of the Baskervilles, which had just come out in its Jeremy Brett edition the year before in 1988. You remember that story, with its line like:

". . . and there ran mute behind him such a hound of hell as God forbid should ever be at my heels."

So if a curse upon a country squire raises a hound from hell, it only follows that said dog had to go to hell to start with, unless he (or she) was born there, in which case a doggie mother had to emigrate to the nether-depths at some point, which denies the title of All Dogs Go To Heaven just as much.

Now, Googling "hell-hound" brings up the definition of "a demon in the form of a dog," which would suggest that the Baskerville curse beast was not a dog at all, but a demon. And yet, unless that demon turned back into some other demonic form before returning to hell, it would still be a dog who certainly wasn't going to heaven, to get technical about it.

Wikipedia goes much deeper on hell-hounds, and definitely calls them "supernatural dogs." Wikipedia also notes that the main dog character in All Dogs Go to Heaven does have a nightmare where he goes to hell and meets a hell-hound, so within the movie's own logic it would seem to acknowledge that hell-hounds are a part of dog culture.

Maybe only one dog went to hell and became the hound of the place, long before even Viking times, and all dogs since then went elsewhere, giving movie-makers free reign to make a movie called All Dogs Go to Heaven with an implied asterisk.

Thus endeth one of the more ridiculous lengths a lazy Sherlockian blogger might go to to post on a regular basis.  Sigh.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

E5:2. There is no debate!

EDITOR'S NOTE: At his request, Don Murillo, the "Tiger of San Pedro" and "the most Canonical man in the Canon, will be reviewing CBS's Elementary for Sherlock Peoria this season. As the rest of the staff at Sherlock Peoria quit watching the show last season, we could not help but take advantage of his generous offer, spoilers and all. Take it away, Don Murillo! (And don't use it to torture the citizens of San Pedro, as has been suggested you might.)

Don Murillo was pleased to learn that last Sunday night, CBS was the most-watched network with over ten million watchers of the television tuning in when they heard the Elementary was not on the air. It is a tribute to the fans of Joan Watson and El Sherlocko that when CBS chose to schedule the same program as every other network in that time slot, the fans turned out by the ten million to say to CBS, "Yes, we support this Sunday night time slot in which you usually show us Elementary, but did not tonight!" That is four million more fans of Elementary than watched the season premiere the week before!

CBS has learned its lesson! Now they just have to explain to that third of Elementary fans who watch Madame Secretary the hour before and then change the channel that Elementary is conveniently on the same channel as the earlier show. No channel changing required -- convenience is one of Don Murillo's top reasons for loving this show! And what are the other reasons?

Did you not see what Don Murillo saw this night?

El Sherlocko has been kidnapped by drug smugglers who want him to solve a murder, and better still, they are both more tattooed than El Sherlocko and call him "homes" in a fashion favored by gang members from the old movies! Most comical!

El Sherlocko agrees, is let go by his captors, and looks at the shipyards over the internet long enough to see a ship, then it's back to the conference room at NYPD to work with the police, even though he has a "private client."

Eventually we get to Joan Watson helping Shinwell Johnson with a lease agreement, and some Asian men come to the door to reveal a shocking revelation! "Joan Watson" is not Joan Watson's real name! Just as seasons before we found that El Sherlocko went by "Scott" when he was younger, yet another mask comes off! As Don Murillo cannot write Chinese characters, he cannot spell Joan Watson's true name here, so he shall continue to call her "Joan Watson." It does seem to be her preference.

 But Joan Watson has been hired by these men for her own case! I, Don Murillo, have often complained to my secretary Lopez that it was quite the indulgence for the Sherlock Holmes and the Dr. Watson to always work on the same investigation together in their original sixty cases. Just imagine getting to read "The Adventure of the Speckled Band AND the Beryl Coronet" as Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson split their energies to work two cases at once, only running into each other when they took suspects to their regular Scotland Yard conference room for questioning. Elementary has fulfilled so many wishes of its fans!

International intrigues and constant threats to painfully kill El Sherlocko are playing to Don Murillo's soft spots this week, and the constant dialogue reminds Don Murillo of the Gilmore Girls. And the Imperial Jade Seal Of China is like the Maltese Falcon or the Golden Bird, from Sherlock Holmes and the Golden Bird -- a true object worth pursuit! El Sherlocko even reminds Don Murillo of a much-less-active Jason Statham this week and merely threatens to have someone else murder the villain horribly to elicit a confession.

Can this season get any better?

You tell Don Murillo, for next week, Joan Watson and El Sherlocko go to a nudist colony! 

Friday, October 14, 2016

An Algonquin on the Styx.

Way back in 1891, Sherlock Holmes died. Viewers of BBC Sherlock had it easy compared to readers of The Strand Magazine, because when that Sherlock took the fatal fall, even Arthur Conan Doyle was convinced he was dead and gone. So dead and gone was Holmes that Doyle even allowed him to go to the afterlife created by John Kendrick Bangs in his A House-boat on the Styx series of novels. (Sherlock appears in The Pursuit of the Houseboat and The Enchanted Type-writer.)

In Bangs's Styx novels, the whole point of the after-life records was to show how various characters from history might interact with each other, and it's a joyous mash-up. Sherlock, Socrates, Noah, Sir Walter Raleigh . . . you never know who will turn up in the afterlife, and that's half the fun of it.

Which brings me to a few happy little tears I felt welling up today.

As mentioned earlier in the week, we lost a great Sherlockian friend on Monday, and I saw "we" because even if you hadn't met Gordon Speck of Waterloo, Illiniois, had you met him, you most likely would have called him friend. He was that sort of guy, friendly like the world was his home and his was just being a gracious host. And at his memorial service today, as at many a memorial service, there was some mention of the afterlife.

Which put me in mind of Bangs's houseboat on the river Styx and all the souls that showed up there . . . ALL the souls. The pastor speaking of the afterlife quoted a popular passage about all the rooms there, and it made me think of a hotel, like the Algonquin hotel, where the Sherlockians gathered in New York every year for Holmes's birthday made their headquarters for many, many years. And if Bangs could have a houseboat on the Styx, then why not a hotel . . . a version of the Algonquin more like the Royal York in Toronto, with its seemingly endless hallways?

And who would be in such an Algonquin on the Styx?

Every Sherlockian ever.

Ronald Knox. Newt Williams. Dorothy Sayers. Marlene Aig. William Gillette. Jack Tracy. Edith Meiser. William S. Baring-Gould. Vincent Starrett. John Bennett Shaw. Bob Burr. Eve Titus. Bart Simms. The list would go on and on, through the famous, the infamous, the local, the international, more than any of our poor brains could handle.

And when I thought of the one man I know who would be equipped to walk into the lobby of such a place, this Algonquin on the Styx, and start happily interacting with this crazy quilt of Sherlockian post-humanity?

Gordon R. Speck.

Never was a man so perfect for a teaming afterlife cocktail party of Sherlockians from all of history. I may be a little biassed, 'tis true, but the thought of Gordon in the midst of a heavenly host of Sherlockians just felt so, so utterly perfect. And the fact that I had this thought amidst a very great presence of Sherlockians from five or six Holmes societies at his memorial just made it resonate all the more.

Unlike Sherlock, Gordon isn't going to show up in a few years with some cockamamie story about llamas in the Alps, but you know what? If Sherlock had stayed in that houseboat on the Styx, we'd still love him all the same. Not the same as having him around with us, but if we can't have him, or Gordon, the thought that they're surrounded by fascinating folk is a sweet one to hold on to.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Animating the gaps?

One of my cosmic wish lists of Sherlockian items is a fully restored cut of Billy Wilder's original lengthy vision of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. We'll probably never see it, as surviving pieces that didn't make the trimmed-down version only exist in audio-only, video-only, or script-only states. But the news about Doctor Who's recreated Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks gives hope.

Our culture's growing acceptance that animation isn't just for the kiddies any more has opened up some real opportunities for using that medium to fill gaps. Sad that Adam West and Burt Ward are too old to play Batman and Robin anymore? Create a new animated movie like The Return of the Caped Crusaders and let their voices carry on with new material! Have a lost Doctor Who episodes whose negatives were destroyed? Rebuild it with the parts and pieces that survive as an animated series!

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is a prime candidate for some animated treatment. Mixing animated segments with live action can work great, as was demonstrated by Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, where Lucy Liu's character's tragic origin was completely done as a cartoon. With the right style, a flashback to Holmes and Watson on a case would fit perfectly in Private Life's already somewhat tongue-in-cheek style.

I don't know if the old Billy Wilder movie has enough fans to warrant the investment, or if Sherlock's popularity from his new incarnations help that cause, but it sure would be great to finally see The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes re-created closer to Wilder's original intent, with whatever tools are available, including animation.