Sunday, November 11, 2018

Canon or Non-Canon?

Been taking a few days off to celebrate my annual festival of self-indulgence, so to prime the pump of getting back to blog-posting mode, here's a little quiz we had fun with at the last gathering of the Sherlock Holmes Story Society at the North Branch Peoria Library. We ran it like a spelling be, and you got to stay in as long as you were one of those with the correct response to each of the following.


Canon or not-Canon? If you have doubts on any of these, put your guess in the comments, and I'll let you know what's what.

1.    A woman shoots a man at least five times and is never arrested for the murder.

2.    A music box hides the secret to a major theft from the Bank of England.

3.    Sherlock Holmes discusses Jack the Ripper.

4.    Holmes and Watson catch some trout.

5.    King Oscar II,  ruler of the combined Sweden and Norway, uses Sherlock Holmes for a confidential matter.

6.    An ex-Mormon crashes through the window at 221B Baker Street.

7.    Watson enjoys a cookie, except it’s called a “biscuit” because it is England.

8.    Sherlock Holmes shows he has read “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving.

9.    A madman in Carfax asylum wants to help convince a woman that her relationship with a nobleman is a very bad thing.

10.   A stair-rod is a rod or strip of metal used to hold a carpet in place on a staircase step.  Dr. Watson once hit another man in the shins with a stair-rod.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

BORRRRRNNNN in a Canon way!

We take a few things for granted as we read the cases of Sherlock Holmes. One of our biggest assumptions, perhaps, is that every single person in the Canon was actually born. I only raise this question because the first birth alluded to in the Canon never happens: "He is after the secretary Stangerson, who had no more to do with the crime than the babe unborn."

Inspector Gregson was undoubtedly speaking of a hypothetical babe unborn, but it suddenly makes me wonder about everybody else in the Canon: Were any of them never born?

Some would say that many of them weren't, and sprang fully-formed from the mind of some almighty creator whose great powers of imaginative detail brought them to life. But many had places of birth: Pershore. New Jersey. London. Greece. Posilippo. Brazil. America. And many had birth years: 1846. 1856. 1840. 1845. (This makes it only possible to do Chinese Zodiac calculations on those four, as far as astrology is concerned, and imperfectly at that: Was Irene Adler truly born in the year of the Horse? No wonder the guys at the stable liked her! Moran in the year of the Rat? Sounds right, he did crawl into a sewer quite handily to chase a tiger once.)

Birth in the Canon seems to define a person, as the phrasing hints at national stereotypes. "Brazilian by birth." "Greek by birth." Perhaps it's national pride, if like Mr. Melas, one is making the statement about one's self. But when Holmes says of Reginald Musgrave, "Something of his birth place seemed to cling to the man . . ." one starts wondering if he might be hinting at smell or something else less than complimentary.

Birth judgments occur: Professor Moriarty had a "good" birth, but Fitzroy Simpson had an "excellent" birth. What's an excellent birth? Personally, I picture Fitzroy strutting out of the birth canal with a top hat and cane, singing "Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my rag-time gal!" but I'm sure that's just me.

Others seem to be born with a special quality.

Mary Fraser was "born for all that is beautiful and dainty." What all those things are specifically is a good question. Tiny houses and flowers come to mind. Von Bork was a "born sportsman." McMurdo was a "born boon companion."

Poor Inspector Bardle of the Sussex constabulary was treated as a farm animal, as he was "born and bred." Wouldn't "bred and born" be the proper order? Or was Bardle raised to manhood and immediately set to stud by wicked Sussex eugenics proponents?

John H. Watson perhaps had it best, as he was told by one very smart fellow: "My dear Watson, you were born to be a man of action."

And with all of the data above, however, only one person in the Canon has an actual birthday. James Armitage, who celebrated turning twenty-three with chains on, below-decks on a prison ship, and working out that birthday's date is still a challenge. But we at least have evidence that he was born.

Otherwise he might run afoul of the villain Wilson Kemp, who liked to tell people "You had better never have been born." So perhaps there was a secret cabal of those who had never been born in the world of Sherlock Holmes, and if you were a member, you got special privileges from men like Wilson Kemp. They were certainly must not have been good folk like any of those mentioned above.

Or those of us who enjoy a good birthday celebration. So when your birthday rolls around, give Wilson Kemp the finger and accept a big "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" from me. You must be one of the good ones!


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The "liberal" candidate


"The recent death of Sir Charles Baskerville, whose name has been mentioned as the probable Liberal candidate for Mid-Devon at the next election, has cast a gloom over the country."

-- The Devon County Chronicle,  May 14th of the year of
The Hound of the Baskervilles

We don't speak much of the political assassination that takes place in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Apparently, according to the media, Sir Charles Baskerville had raised hopes among the citizens of Dartmoor as the man who was going to Parliament to change things for them. A Conservative Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, had been in office since 1885. 

Of course, don't relate to such terms as "liberal" and "conservative" by modern standards when dealing with all this. The thing that Salisbury was most charged with early on? Being "in favor of state socialism." But let's hear what Lord Salisbury had to say about that:

"Do not imagine that by merely affixing to it the reproach of Socialism you can seriously affect the progress of any great legislative movement, or destroy those high arguments which are derived from the noblest principles of philanthropy and religion."

Doesn't sound like a modern Conservative at all, does he?

Politics is a very tricky business. You actually have to pay attention to things. You actually have to be like Sherlock Holmes and both use your brain and actually get out there and take action. Somebody has got to make these decisions in the voting booth, and if you're willing to let others do it, you're going to get what you deserve in the end, whether you're observant enough to realize it or not. 

The residents of Dartmoor were politically aware enough to have hopes from Sir Charles Baskerville, and his death before the chance to be elected was probably more on their minds and discussed in the pubs than a silly spooky ghost dog story. They sound like voters to me.

Did Sherlock Holmes vote in elections? His brother was in the government, I suspect he had to just to appease Mycroft, if for no other reason. John Watson definitely was a voter, embodying the best ideals of a solid British citizen. So even if you're not feeling like Sherlock Holmes when considering elections, you can at least feel like John Watson and get out and do the most basic of services for your country. You won't even get a war wound from it.

And unlike the residents of Dartmoor, nobody on your ballot this year probably got assassinated by demonic hound.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Sherlock Holmes Is Not Like

And now, in the interest of balance, a list of sixty beings whom Sherlock Holmes is not like.

1. King Kong
2. Booster Gold
3. Renfield
4. David Hasselhoff
5. Cain
6. Harvey
7. Major Healey
8. Trigger
9. Rapunzel
10. Governor George Wallace
11. Bozo
12. Captain Morgan
13. Mary Sutherland
14. Grendel
15. John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
16. Mona Lisa
17. Ally McBeal
18. Humpty Dumpty
19. Tarzan
20. Londo Mollari
21. Ted Nugent
22. Stimpy
23. Rodney Dangerfield
24. Hades
25. Rondo Hatton
26. The Garbage Pail Kids
27. Helen of Troy
28. Jim Kelly
29. Calvin Coolidge
30. Milky the Marvelous Milking Cow
31. Rita Repulsa
32. Moroni
33. Sandra Bernhard
34. Babe the Blue Ox
35. Stephen King
36. Captain Jack Harkness
37. Thumbelina
38. John Wayne
39. Thor
40. Chidi Anagonye
41. Whitley Strieber
42. Toonses
43. Jean Claude Van Damme
44. The Colossus of Rhodes
45. Snow White
46. Trix Rabbit
47. Brock Lesnar
48. Lou Costello
49. Pia Zadora
50. Major Tom
51. Peter Brady
52. Yuri Geller
53. William Hung
54. The Star Child from 2001: A Space Odyssey
55. Scrappy Doo
56. Johnson & Johnson
57. Brett Maverick
58. Lady Godiva
59. Buford T. Justice
60. Itsy Bitsy Spider

Consider your palate cleansed.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The final choice for Miss "Sherlock Holmes Is Like"

Reading sixty essays on why Sherlock Holmes Is Like sixty different other beings in the book of the same name, one can gather some distinctly different insights on the great detective. Trying to make those same sixty beings compete with each other for a Miss "Sherlock Holmes is Like" Crown is a decidedly different mechanism for inspiring insight. And a long and tortured metaphoric mechanism at that.

Now, as Sherlock Peoria comes to the end of its latest run of battling essays, the final round holds these contestants remaining:

Brigadier Gerard, presented by John Baesch.

Professor Henry Higgins, presented by Fran Martin.

Robin Hood, presented by Mark Hanson.

Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, presented by Vincent Wright.

Gandalf the Gray, presented by Tatyana Dybina

Huck Finn, presented by Rob Nunn.

Alexia Tarabotti, presented by Courtney Powers.

Hermione Granger, presented by Amy Thomas.

O.Z. Diggs, the Wizard of Oz, presented by Beth L. Gallego.

Peter Pan, presented by Bob Coghill.

Looking at these ten finalists, one can note two very distinct trends in the judging of Miss "Sherlock Holmes Is Like."  First, that Sherlock Holmes is very much like a magical being, as half of the above have either some magical bits to them, or can fake magic very well. And second, if one remembers the list of sixty as a whole, is that Sherlock Holmes is not like any real person, which actually kind of amplifies the "magical" part.

A third of the finalists are not adults, which says something about the fresh, youthful nature of Sherlock Holmes. As much as he is often seen as an older man, since such sage wisdom as he has is something we like to ascribe to elders of the tribe, Sherlock's curiosity, his ability to come into a situation with the objectivity of an innocent, his enthusiasm and energy -- all those are features like that of a child.

Forty percent of them actually are older chaps who set themselves above their fellow men for one reason of another, with two of those four looking down in what I believe is a much kindlier fashion. Sherlock Holmes is definitely like that.

And, we have a fool. Because anyone as brilliant as Sherlock Holmes knows more than anyone else what a fool they are. (If you don't ever suspect yourself of being a fool, I might have some bad news for you. Sorry.)

With all of the above qualities brought out in looking at commonalities and who seems to fit in the least, but still does, there is one character who stands apart from the rest. One character I haven't really included as yet, and still, one character who Sherlock Holmes is very, very much like. Sixty beings entered this larger-than-Miss-America pageant for Sherlock beauty, and only one can take the crown. And yes, I'd give this one a crown any day.

Because when you sort through all the rest, even if you've already hit the target dead-on, there is one person who can still hit that target even more skillfully than you. Yes, Miss "Sherlock Holmes Is Like" 2018 is . . . . .

Robin Hood.

Sherlock Holmes is literally like Robin Hood, so much so that if Conan Doyle could have written about Robin Hood instead of Sherlock Holmes, I bet he'd have enjoyed it. Fighting British crime, no matter what the station of his opponents. A legend who lives on for centuries. A hero who knows when the laws of the land need to be skirted to do what's right. A loyal band of friends following him gladly into the fray. Good with a sword, but, goddamn, don't we want to see what Sherlock could do with a bow and arrow?

Boy, I hope I didn't spoil Mark Hanson's essay for you with that paragraph, but even if I did, you've got fifty-nine others to buy the book and read. And you'll want to see what else Mark had to say. Thanks to everyone who stuck it through this series of posts, apologies to all the writers who might have gotten a short shrift due to outside circumstances impacting my week, and congratulations to all the finalists and Mark Hanson in particular -- you chose well!

We now take you back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Miss "Sherlock Holmes Is Like" Talent Night!

The ill-concieved and poorly manage beauty pageant celebrating the release of the book Sherlock Holmes Is Like eventually had to get to the talent portion of the program. And as the preliminary rounds come to their final line-up, that page from the pageant playbook finally came due.

And what talent should someone who is like Sherlock Holmes compete with?

Well, there's always sword fighting. Sherlock Holmes was an expert swordsman. And who among our contestants tonight will be competing with the sword?

D'Artagnan. Zorro. Peter Pan. Doctor Who.

We're going way off book for this one, so hold on. Doctor Who learned the sword from Cleopatra's guards, and practiced with Richard, Cyrano, and Errol Flynn. D'Artagnan learned sword from his father. Zorro learned swordplay in Spain. And Peter Pan just learned swordplay through an immortal life of fighting other boys and pirates, over and over again.

In the four-way duel that comes from this part of the contest, Peter Pan rises quickly to the fore, as he is not only a superb swordsman, he's the most experienced of the lot, a smaller target, and his ability to fly makes up for his shorter reach. (I tried not to make the characters fight this time around, but with Karen Ellery, Bob Coghill, and Monica Schmidt's choice of characters facing my own, it just had to be).

Our next talent on display is that of oratory, something Sherlock Holmes did well in front of the small groups of clients or Scotland Yard officers he provided explanations to.

Competitors for this half of the round are the Mighty Oz, Lucy Van Pelt, Alice Liddell, and the Third Little Pig.

Well, the Pig likes to respond with a rhyme and is famous for "Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin," which was not original with him, so he's not faring too well. Lucy Van Pelt prefers an audience of one, and that one having low self esteem, so she's not really pulling here either. Alice just tends to exclaim things in a very declaratory manner. And Oz, the great and powerful politico who both ruled a city and worked in a carnival with one's livelihood depending upon vocal skill . . . well, there you go. (Beth Gallego, Steve Mason, Resa Halle, and Gayle Lange Puhl are all much better at this that the bulk of the contestants they put into the Miss "Sherlock Holmes Is Like Pageant.)

With Oz walking away with oratory and Peter winning at swordplay, tonight is a double naming of finalists, and they both move into tomorrow night's finals.

Will this competition finally come to an end? Does Brad get to blog about something else? And how many words is this stealing from his NaNoWriMo marathon?

We shall see.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Miss "Sherlock Is Like" disqualification day

T'was a dark day for the Miss "Sherlock Is Like" pageant.

Instead of the usual theater full of hopefuls, parading across a brightly lit stage, sparkling like the Sherlock-diamonds-in-the-rough they are, this evening's contestant list was simply that . . . a list.

Read by a disheartened pageant spokesperson, who had obviously spent the better part of his time beginning his NaNoWritMo novel instead of starting a Movember moustache, (You can only do one, you know. State law!) the list was of all the candidates who had been disqualified for a variety of reasons.

"Peter Cushing. Played Sherlock Holmes due to a genetic anomaly that makes him look like Sherlock Holmes. DNA disqualification."

"Gregory House. Thought the name 'House' was a valid connection to Sherlock Holmes. Bad pun disqualification. Also, Wilson."

"Arthur Conan Doyle. Has made so much off of Sherlock Holmes already that his appearance here is just plain greedy. Family member disqualification."

"Eugene Vidocq. Sherlock Holmes hated that guy. Mistaken-for-Lecoq disqualification."

"John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Over-the-character-limit disqualification."

"Elon Musk. Elon Musk. Elon Musk disqualification."

Rejoin us tomorrow for the final preliminary round, where, hopefully, we'll at least get to see a little more of the contestants without buying the book Sherlock Holmes Is Like, edited by Christopher Redmond, which you really should buy anyway, just to read the work of some great writers like Lyn Adams, Ashley Polasek, Daniel Stashower, Joanne Chaix, Ian Bennett, and Carlina de la Cova, none of whom got the treatment they deserved in this pageant.

Beauty pageants always have their issues, don't they?