Monday, August 29, 2016

A preview of coming distractions.

October is coming, a busy month no matter how you stack it, and I'm already planning for some additional help with the blog. Since I know many of my readers prefer when I stay with the original Canon of Sherlock Holmes in my meanderings, I thought, "Why not get someone from the original cases of Sherlock Holmes to do the job? In fact, why not get the MOST Canonical character from Holmes's cases to take a few blogs?"

No . . . not . . . yes, I know, Dr. Watson appears in more stories than anyone. And he's a great writer. Not disputing that at all. But, y'see, John H. Watson never claimed to be the most Canonical figure in the whole Holmes legend. And he certainly would have known if he was, right? He had plenty of time to write "I am the most Canonical character in the Sherlock Holmes Canon." But he didn't, so no. It's someone else. Just ask him . . .

EDITOR'S NOTE: The rest of this blog is written by Sherlock Peoria's sometime October guest-writer. The thoughts, opinions, and facts cited by the writer below were not approved or even considered sane by the usual staff and management of this blog.

I am the most Canonical man in the Canon, am I not? 

What? You do not recognize me at once? 

Though you may have seen the dog whip in my hand shiver slightly in that moment, you were in no danger. My passion at the thought of the rebellious artist Sidney Paget always causes such a passionate reaction in me. It is his fault this handsome face is not as well known as it should be. He did not capture my good side at all.

And, it is true, you may know me as "Henderson of High Gable," the eligible family man with two charming daughters who travels extensibly. You undoubtedly stay at the finest establishments, as I do, do you not? Our paths may have crossed in Paris, Rome, or Madrid. Such grand hotels! Was it the Hotel Escurial where we met?

That bad business there. To learn that the Marquess de Montalva and Senor Rulli, his servant, were both murdered just down the hall. We checked out immediately after that, and perhaps you did as well. I heard my description was circulated, as our abrupt departure seems to have made us suspects, and that some even mistook those descriptions for those of the victims.

1892 was such a very strange year. I could tell you such tales!

And perhaps I will. Let us dispense with all this charade of poor recognition skills on your part, who could not recognize me, the most Canonical man in the Canon?

Yes, it is I, Don Murillo, the Tiger of San Pedro. You know me.

And I shall be back in October. Why? One might as well ask "Why are you the most Canonical man in the Canon, Don Murillo?" Everyone knows the answer, even the littlest of children.

Until then!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Your first Sherlockian weekend?

A friend brought up Sherlockian travel yesterday, considering his first bit of journeying into the Sherlockian world. I was about to write a lengthy reply with some thoughts on that, but then realized it might fill up a little blog space just to talk about first event choices in general . . . as the options are starting to get interesting. Symposium or con? Classic pilgrimage or celebrity meet-n-greet?

Sherlock Seattle 2016 is still coming up this year, part of the new world of Sherlockian cons that BBC Sherlock has gifted us with. While I have yet to attend this one, it's definitely on my "someday" list, as 221B Con in Atlanta has become a big favorite . . . and I'd just like to get to Seattle one day, in any case. Cons make a great Sherlockian entry point these days, as you can typically find a bit of the old and a bit of the new and see which way your interests lie. One tip -- if you really abhor the new and want to stay immersed in the old, the cons may not be for you. But if you love to see energies abounding about Sherlock Holmes in any incarnation, you can have a good time at these much less expensively than the two bigger 2017 outings on the horizon.

The first of these, of course, is that long-standing tradition, the Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend in New York. Happening January 4-8, 2017, full details about the next one haven't come out yet, but everyone pretty much knows the drill: an ala carte menu of Sherlockian dinners, cocktail parties, a guest lecture, book shopping, a Morley walk, random and oft-spontaneous hangouts, along with whatever suits your fancy about a trip the New York. It's the classic, where you can meet the big Sherlock Holmes fans who have been big Sherlock Holmes fans for a very long time, as well as the bright new lights. It's long been one of the pilgrimage points of the Sherlockian world.

But would you recommend the Birthday Weekend for someone's first foray into the Sherlockian community? Better saved for dessert after a few symposium meals? My personal thought would be to save the Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend until one has a familiar to act as a handy guide, but everyone's approach is different. Some like a solo dive into the deep end. And if you're that person, which appropriate funding . . . well, grab all you can. But if you want to make sure you do it right the first time? Get a familiar.

Next year's other big alternative is the offering that puts the price tag on the Holmes Birthday Weekend in a relatively better place -- Sherlocked USA at the LAX Marriott, May 26-28, 2017. Now as much has this has to do with Sherlock Holmes, it's definitely an event outside the Sherlockian world in terms of who's putting it on, and its intentions. It's commercial nature is going to want to pry every Sherlock-loving penny out of you, and it's probably not where you go to make friends you will see again next year at next year's con. It's a grand event with a lot of hardcore Sherlock Holmes fans making their way there, but as an entry-point into the Sherlockian community?  No. This one is for seeing stars. Which could be a very cool thing, but, wow, that price tag!

A little searching isn't bringing up any of the more regional weekend symposiums for next year just yet. Even Scintillation of Scions is still in 2016 mode on their web page, but they'll all be coming along. Some places, like Maryland or Ohio, have them annually, others like Minneapolis or Indianapolis, get around to one every few years or so. The Baker Street Irregulars even have a big weekend event now and them, like their Chautauqua conference in a couple weeks. These weekends are always hard to beat as an initial entry point into the longtime Sherlockian world, but offer a completely different vibe from the cons. Smaller and tending to be more lecture-oriented, the symposium weekend might be a little more relaxing for some than the panel discussions and party atmosphere that can rev up a con. (Not to say that things don't get stirred up at any Sherlockian meet-up, especially once the official program is over.)

We really have an abundance of opportunity for Sherlockian travel these days . . . more than I can certainly take advantage of. But where would you suggest a first-time traveller get their Persian slippers wet?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

That quiet sanctuary for a mental retreat . . . now open for business?

Some days the sheer noise of the Sherlockian internet can be a little much. A little social media over-promotion, a wave of non-information about some trending topic, the perpetual click-bait headline traps, always out there ready for curiosity and a weak moment to deluge you with ads . . . a person can desperately want to find a quiet place to wander off of the electronic byways for a while.

Happily, most of us have just such a place, the good old original Sherlockian Canon.

The sacred sixty. The Complete. That full set of tales that have satisfied so many for nearly a hundred years. The original Sherlock Holmes works that exploded like some crazy multi-media pinata spraying art and commercial products of every sort across the world. There is so much Sherlock shrapnel from that ongoing explosion of entertainment that a person can spend their entire lifetime chasing the bits and pieces that came out of it, but unlike a real explosive device or pinata, we still have the original item in pristine form to go back to.

And that is where you have to go sometimes.

Back in the 1990s, I decided to see what it would be like to share one of my retreats into the Canon with someone else in a sort of written virtual reality form, and the result was The Armchair Baskerville Tour, a book that sits on many a collector's shelf but probably doesn't get too many new readers at this point. Looking back on it now, it seems like a sort of genius loci fan fiction. Instead of writing about Holmes or Watson, I just wanted to write about the place they inhabit in our minds . . . or my mind, at least.

I made a second run in September 2013, in this very blog, reading The Hound  of the Baskervilles during the time of year it first occurred. But I never took such a wandering look at the Canon outside of Hound. Too lazy to put another book together, and I just enjoy blogging too much . . . .

Which is why I had a sort of "duh" moment this week, and realized that a full Canon walkabout is actually the perfect thing for a blog. It would take a little bit away from this particular blog, yes, but it would also give a nice channel for those who'd like to read some Canonical commentary without any elements related to modern Sherlock spin-offs entering in. (Elementary hunting season is coming up again. Oh, yes.) And so, this week I'm adding "The Mind Palace of Sherlockitude" to my blog channels.

Will I make it through the entire Canon on this marathon trek? Will it eventually languish from lack of attention like Action Sherlock Brain Theater?

Well, there's only one way to find out. On we go.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Over-exposure week.

You know how the saying goes . . .

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

When you're tired of lemonade and the lemons keep coming, get away from the lemon grove.

Because it's a lemon tree, my dear Watson!

Well, if nothing else, the over-promotion of a pair of Nevada actresses' fan-targeted work gave me the chance to use that chestnut this week.  I really don't want to disparage some real talent and energy from anyone taking up Weird Al Yankovic's chosen art form, but after a couple of my internet channels became a little too infatuated with the Sherlock based entry, to the point where I was blog-tied about even mentioning it here.

Said Sherlock parody video is the perfect example of both the greatness and the pain of internet culture: The chance for artists of any stripe to do great work and have it seen by a million people -- good thing. The chance for a single person to be over-exposed to a single thing by both highly enthused fans and content algorithms that alter your feed based on what a chunk of code thinks you like -- maybe not so good.

But it isn't really the internet's fault. We've had pop songs and commercial jingles battering our brains as long as radio and television existed. The internet is just one more powerful medium for us humans to exploit, or over-exploit, to the point of sometimes irritating our fellow humans.

But when life hands you Sherlocks, you do get to make Sherlock-ade.

The desire to get away from the over-promoting this week actually set me in a direction I might not have otherwise gone, Holmes-wise (more on that to come), so it's all good.

Because the Sherlocks are never going to quit coming, pre-apocalypse. Post-apocalypse, we'll see.

(Oh, Brad, why did you have to bring it down at the end by mentioning the apocalypse. Well, when life hands you apocalypses . . . .)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Picking new detective tricks up as he went.

Name a Canonical character who seems to have taught Sherlock Holmes something that he used to solve a later case . . . .

Surely, Holmes came to his detective career complete, one might think. He seemed so on top of it when Watson first met him. And yet, it only makes sense that Sherlock Holmes, who took so much from so many fields to form his bag of work-tools, who add a few things as he went along.

Got the answer yet? If you do, you were ahead of me on this, until tonight.

Looking over The Sign of the Four, pondering a question on a certain other test of Sherlockian knowledge, I ran across Thaddeus Sholto's explanation of what a clever fellow is brother Bartholomew is.

"How do you think he found out where the treasure was? He had come to the conclusion that it was somewhere indoors: so he worked out all the cubic space of the house, and made measurements everywhere, so that not one inch should be unaccounted for." A lot of detailed explanation later, we learn Bartholomew found four feet in the house that was unaccounted for.

Just like the six feet of hallway that Sherlock Holmes found unaccounted for in "The Norwood Builder." As he tells Watson in A Study in Scarlet, "There is a strong family resemblance about misdeeds, and if you have all the details of a thousand at your finger ends, it is odd if you can't unravel the thousand and first."

And in "The Norwood Builder" we see that in action. Finding a man hidden in a house works on the same basic principle as finding a good-sized treasure in a house, and Sherlock Holmes was not the sort of man to let Bartholomew Sholto's cleverness go un-noted, especially after his untimely demise before Holmes could even make his acquaintance.

So the next time you want to celebrate "Norwood Builder," remember to tip your cap to the late Bartholomew Sholto, the guy who basically solved it first.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sher-ply and demand.

Just for kicks, I decided to check out the price tags on SHERLOCKED USA tonight.

And boy, nothing will make you feel like you grew up in the Great Depression quicker than that. Want to live like a Baker Street Irregular at the official U.S. Sherlock con in L.A. and get to "go everywhere, see everything, overhear everyone?"

That will be $2, 995, please. Airfare, hotels, meals, tax, tips, dealer's room purchases, and that mysterious $1 fee they tack on, not included.

Old news to anyone who dealt with the con in London, I know, but let me tell you about the olden times, before celebrity autographs were a revenue stream and cons where corporate enterprises. No, I'd better not. Because it just hurts too much to think about how much it's all changed. (But for the record . . . autographs of the entire main cast of classic Trek in Wrath of Khan days, plus a morning jog with George Takei, just for the cost of a standard ticket.) It's a different day -- a too-favorite topic of those of us who remember things being another way once.

It's hard to find a fan niche that isn't being exploited by somebody looking to make a few bucks off of that enthusiasm. Funko "Pop!" vinyl homunculi. Convention corporations. A version of Monopoly or Clue tailored to any TV series that gets above a certain ratings number.

And I can even remember the time this all started . . . they seemed to go after the Trekkies first. Collector plates, making them buy their DVDs episode-by-episode when complete series sets were coming out for other shows, and the first pay-for-an-autograph cons. But eventually the eye of the great hive-minded beastie called commerce saw Sherlockians.

Americans have a lot more time to kill and a lot more folks willing to take our money to give us little moments of fan or collector happiness than ever before, and the days of Jeremy Brett touring the larger PBS cities are past, but we still have this . . .

Of course, I was on my way in to pay an extra six bucks over normal movie ticket prices to see a Rifftrax Live screening of Mothra because the good Carter wanted some MST3K fan fun. So even standing next to cardboard Cumberbatch is not without a price . . . ah, well. Remember when they used to say "the best things in life are free?"

They still are. You just have to figure out how to get past all the people willing to charge you for them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What if Donald Trump were a Sherlockian?

It's been an interesting week.

And the thing about interesting weeks, they don't just get over and done so quickly. In talking about things political and Sherlockian, I have, perhaps, been a little politic myself and held back from going full bore ("bore" having the perfect double meaning for the situation). But it does make one think, raising the question, "What if Donald Trump were a Sherlockian?"

From the start, our American political fireball has been loved by his fans for being plain-speaking and not holding anything back, no matter who it might offend. No filters. And we do have a few Sherlockians like that, whom you may have met at some meeting or banquet. Yet those folks don't tend to be running any major publications, well-known podcasts, or having their every wacky comment featured in every stream of Sherlockian social media.

So what would Donald Trump be like as a Sherlockian? Not too hard to imagine, you start with that standard line, and just go . . .

"We are going to make Sherlock Holmes great again. We're going to take him off those charity networks like PBS and CBS and put him on HBO, right after Game of Thrones. And we're going to get a real American Englishman to play him, like that Chris Hemsworth . . . have you heard him do that accent he does . . . fantastic. And Doctor Watson . . . we're going to make him so much smarter than those other guys. A brain surgeon, like my friend Ben Carson. Maybe even a rocket science brain surgeon who uses rockets to perform the surgery . . . a real genius. And I know genius. No one is smarter than me . . . except maybe Sherlock Holmes, but we all know he's fictional, right?"

"We print up some more books, get some really great writers on that. We get Holmes and Watson to stop flirting with each other like those British TV guys made 'em do. You know the British . . . (does offensive hand gestures) . . . Sherlock Holmes was never great until his books got over here, you know that. Mr. Lippincott paid Conan Doyle some good American dollars for him, and the detective thing just took off! Sky high! And that's where we're going to take Sherlock Holmes again."

"What else, what else . . . I have this idea . . . we should have a big fancy dinner once a year. I mean real fancy. And just let the best Sherlock Holmes people come to it. The best! You don't know who Frankie Hays Molsons is, you don't get in. I don't care if you're Canadian. Okay, we might let you in if you're Canadian. They have some good Sherlock Holmes people in Canada. But you still have to pass the test. And we get a real looker to come in and be THE woman every year, like my daughter Ivanka. And I can hand out some kind of fancy coins to the other lookers in the room . . . gold coins, of course. Old doubloons or something. Just like Sherlock Holmes did. I've got all the best ideas."

"We can make a list of all the best Sherlock Holmes people and put it in a vault at Harvard or Yale, so those guys know who to come to when they want to ask a question about Sherlock Holmes. Because you don't want them to just go to anybody. You walk up to some guy on the street, say "Tell me about Sherlock Holmes!" and he says "Oh, he's a junkie from New York!" We can't have that. Nobody thought Sherlock Holmes was a junkie from New York before the Baker Street Babes had a podcast. I blame them for this. We need to make Sherlock Holmes great again!"

Sherlockian Donald Trump is quite a free spirit, it seems. I think his hometown scion society must consist entirely of servants and other paid functionaries, because he seems to also be free of corrections.

"People like to ask me about the Canon. I've got the best Canon. My Canon has all the stuff right in it. Dr. Watson's wound? In the shoulder. There, done, no need to thank me. But my Canon isn't public domain, so if you use that, you have to pay my estate. Look, you can be some poor loser and have an estate when you're dead and try to get people to pay to use your Canon, but I've gotten around that. You want to use my Canon, you pay my estate. And you'll be getting some of the best Canon you ever got, trust me on this."

There's something very therapeutic about channelling a Sherlockian with no boundaries or limits or facts. And the thought of just not holding anything back is very attractive, especially when you do have a few facts on your side. But is it a good idea?

Well, let's ask Sherlockian Donald Trump.

"Hey, do I have anything but good ideas? Sherlockians love me. The best Sherlockians . . . beautiful people, you should see them . . . they turn out by the thousands when I speak at a symposium. And they love my ideas! Like the one about stopping those Canadian writers from stealing all the jobs writing for Canadian Holmes and making them pay for our subscriptions! Great ideas!"

That was a mistake. I think it's time to slip quietly away before he says anything more.

It's been an interesting week.