Saturday, June 29, 2013

This is the story of a happy Kickstarter result.

It's not a big book. No, it's not.

It's not a thick book. No, it's not.

It's not even an original story. No, it's definitely not.

But it's such a pretty little booklet . . . perhaps the prettiest little bit of Sherlockiana I've seen for quite a while. I've read it about fifteen times already.

Wonder what I'm talking about? The final result of the Sir Boast-A-Lot: A Fanbook Kickstarter came in the mail today. And it's a beautiful thing.

The funding phase of this Kickstarter project took place back in February and March of this year, with a very simple goal: raise $5,000 to do an art book illustrating the children's story that Moriarty tells Sherlock in the cab in "The Reichenbach Fall" episode of Sherlock. It was a beautiful notion, the sort of idea that was a no-brainer, in the weeks of the funding phase, it raised a final total of $32,096 . . . which would lead me to believe that this little booklets aren't going to be a rare collectable. But getting my hands on a rare collectable wasn't what I kicked my fifteen bucks into the Kickstarter pot for. I just wanted to have a copy of this book they were proposing.

And now I do.

My first Kickstarter venture was Steampunk Holmes, which despite all its flashy Kickstarter front end, wound up being a rather weak re-telling of "The Bruce-Partington Plans." Had there been a mention in the original funding push that it was simply a genre adaptation, I doubt I would have donated to that one. I'm sure everyone had good intentions, but in the end it felt like all the talent was used up in the creation of the Kickstarter project proposal and not really in the creation of the work itself. (To be fair, I am just talking about the print edition, without all the bells and whistles of the final iPad version. But all the bells and whistles in the world can't help "The Bruce-Partington Plans," which even Conan Doyle had a hard time keeping from being a bit slow.)

This Is The Story of Sir Boast-A-Lot is a mere twenty-six pages between its roughly five by eight and a half inch covers. It has less than one hundred and twenty-five words in its tale. But the fifteen artists who had their work included in this collection should be very proud -- nothing shoddy or amateurish here at all. There will be a good time to be had looking them all up online in the days to come.

Kickstarter funding is always a gamble, to be sure. But with a few more hits like Sir Boast-A-Lot, I could see myself becoming a bit of a gambler.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Perfect casting. Perfect.

Okay, Elementary, you've got me! You're actually more entertaining when you're not on the air than on!

Summer should be a time when we can take a break from our normal routines, enjoy the sun, and think of better things. But every week it seems like some bit of news on CBS's faux Sherlock show, Elementary, is hitting the web. And tonight, they finally produced a tidbit that I just couldn't pass up commenting on:

Rhys Ifans is going to be playing Big Brother Elementary this fall.

Yes, Spike from Notting Hill. Adrian from Little Nicky. Xenophilius Lovegood from Harry Potter.

It's incredibly perfect casting. Just as the part of Mycroft Holmes requires an actor who can be conceivably be better at observation and deduction than whoever is playing Sherlock, the part of Big Brother Elementary requires a talent for scruffiness that transcends Jonny Lee Miller's. And who can do scruffy like nobody's business?

Rhys Ifans. And if they want to borrow notes from Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, here is a Big Brother Elementary who can do buck naked. His James Hook from the delightful mini-series Neverland already gives him revisionist TV cred. Here's an actor who can bring the good stuff to a project, just like . . .

. . . Lucy Liu. Oh.

Suddenly the flashbacks to Star Wars: Phantom Menace begin. So many fun actors. Such a  . . .  .

Ah, but it's summer isn't it? Back to our regularly scheduled vacation fun!

Grasping for Sherlockian blog-straws.

Well, yesterday I wrote about the old school Sherlockian American mainstream, and now I feel the need to cleanse my blog palate. But alas, some nights, there is just nothing that inspires the Sherlockian soul.

Comparing an episode of MTV's Catfish to the story  "A Case of Identity?"

Nawww . . .

The new PDF versions of The Illustrious Clients News? Well, it kind of looks the same, but it's PDF. PDF! I don't know how many blogs there are about PDFs there are by people who aren't creating PDFs or instructing other people about creating PDFs. I may start getting it that way to save space . . . and with hopes that someday I'll have a virtual library to virtually go into and read it.

Still, PDFs . . . not a lot to chew on there.

A headline from Vanity Fair: "With Decoy Babies, Kim Kardashian Has Basically Become A Modern Day Sherlock Holmes." Well, I hate to say "I told you so," but the bar has definitely been lowered on what constitutes a "Sherlock Holmes." Thanks, CBS!

Oh, yeah, I'm taking the summer off from a certain subject . . . .

And SherlockeDCC comes down to the final day of raising funds for the big San Diego Comic Con party, currently at $5601 of its $7500 goal. Tonight should be some interesting web-watching as the various organizers rally the fan troops to help give Sherlock Holmes fandom a presence at the iconic San Diego event. San Diego Comic Con has become a huge touchstone of entertainment culture in the past decade, and having Sherlock fandom there is no little thing. This is actually a subject worth blogging about!

Unfortunately, I've just run out of time for the moment. Tonight, however, may be another story!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Nothing lasts forever, even a shilling.

I thought the aftershock tremors from Shrefflergate were over.

I thought the manifesto that added the term "elite devotee" to our lexicon was done providing us with new terminology.

I thought wrong, and now I'm a little nervous.

Members of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York were treated to a reminder of that January 2013 scandal this week, along with a brand new term to sit alongside the now-notorious "elite devotee:" The "lapsed Irregular."

Mike Whelan, the Wiggins-in-chief of said group, sent out his 2013 mid-year letter to the membership this week, and came out strongly against the attitude displayed in the infamous article. He didn't name names, he didn't use words as strong as "serious Sherlockian bullshit," which it totally was. But the big man brought the hammer down on not just the writer of the piece, but those involved with its publication.

Referring to them as "lapsed Irregulars," as well as "a tiny group of self-estranged members," he commented on their rampant narcissism, divisive criticisms, "uncivil disruptions" and emphasized the phrase "a final expiration of societal goodwill." Were they kicked out of the Baker Street Irregulars? Hard to say. I don't know if people can get kicked out of the Irregulars, but that's as close to a public exhibition of giving someone the boot from the B.S.I. that I've ever seen.

Later in the letter, Mike discusses the nomination process for new Irregulars and challenges the membership to do two things in the very least: subscribe to The Baker Street Journal and recommend new members for consideration. He comes down on the side of the Free Sherlock movement and the lawsuit to hamstring those who seek to own Sherlock Holmes as intellectual property. And then he does a little more underlining in quoting Edgar Smith:

"More narrowly, a Baker Street Irregular is a member, in good and accepted standing, of that small band of zealots which grouped itself together, one June  evening in the far-gone year of 1934, for the avowed and unashamed purpose of keeping green in perpetuity the name and fame of Sherlock Holmes." 

Good and accepted standing.

Yes, it seems to be come-to-Jesus time in the land of Irregulars, and to tell the truth I'm feeling a bit like a nervous Buddhist. I mean, in no way was I ever on the side of the elite devotee class, but when if comes to narcissists who seem to produce divisive criticism . . . well, I kind of have to hope that Mike Whelan isn't a fan of the TV show Elementary. And the term "lapsed Irregular" already brought me to the mind of one fabulous Sherlockian. No attendance at the B.S.I. dinner in a long time. No articles written for The Baker Street Journal in a long time. No suggestions for membership in a long time. And the occasional open criticism of the group's membership policy on the internet and elsewhere over the years.

But you won't hear me saying, "First they came for the elite devotee, and I said nothing . . . " because I really don't have a problem saying something. Let's cut to the chase: People get thrown out of places all the time for bad behavior. Kicking people out of a club is just the flip side of hand-picking the members, which has been an accepted practice in the B.S.I. forever. If you can justify one, I think you can also justify the other. In fact, I think giving people the boot might even be  more justifiable than only giving select folk the chance to be members. 

If they did actually get kicked out, the elite devotees would probably just declare themselves "the true Baker Street Irregulars," declare only shillings issued by a certain past head of the B.S.I. are valid, or some such silliness.  People have an amazing ability to reconstruct reality to suit them, especially Sherlockians. (Sherlock Holmes really lived on Baker Street, remember?) I'm sure they'll be fine.

And, ironically, most Sherlock Holmes fans these days don't care a whit about everything I just wrote, and of those that do, a few are going to tell you I don't know what I'm talking about. Which may be the case. I live in Peoria, after all, and don't get out nearly as much as I probably should. But I get these mid-year letters, you see . . . well, at least for this year . . . .

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Three musically different views of Sherlock.

When comparing the three big Sherlock Holmes incarnations we have at present, most discussions start by focusing on the man in the lead role. Or the Watsons. Eventually, we get to the head guy behind the scenes, discuss the work of the writer, and even compare the minor characters. The place we don't go too often, perhaps because it's harder to find the words, is the music.

Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock, and Elementary all have very different musical views on the great detective that is just as interesting as the work of the writers, directors, and actors, as it's the one piece of each work that you can pull out to stand on its own. Listening to the music from each of the big three incarnations of Holmes evokes three very different characters.

Hans Zimmer's themes for Sherlock Holmes are very steampunk in their way. They have the driving feel of a locomotive engine, chugging forward, the sound of an industrial age at full production. Overlaid on this powerful workhorse of music is a lively rinky-tink musical hall bit that seems to give us Sherlock Holmes as a playful spirit in the age of industry, which is how Robert Downey Jr. tends to play Holmes.

The work of David Arnold and Michael Price for Sherlock is interesting in how it works a sort of Victorian sound into things to tie the modern Sherlock Holmes of that series to his Victorian roots as he goes through his paces. In the opening title music, drums start off like running steps before a leap into the grand and dramatic heart of the theme, which has a powerfully emotional feel to it, with a tinge of melancholy. Here is the Sherlock Holmes that will cause feelings, as a certain Tweet artist likes to say.

Sean Callery's theme for Elementary has a sort of obsessive-compulsive drive to it that almost makes you nervous just to listen to it. It foregoes any Victorian elements for a basic rising intensity that gets the listener all worked up and then just leaves, like dropping you off a musical cliff. The music makes a definite statement about the main character the show is trying to present, driven and abrupt.

Of the three, I definitely prefer the Sherlock theme for its heart and drama. What's interesting to note, however, is that when I tried to call each one into my head for review before I turned to CDs, iTunes, and YouTube, the Elementary theme came up first -- having an episode every Thursday night tends to drive that little "mousetrap" opening into your skull. Another point of interest: trying to find the Elementary theme on YouTube yielding several versions where someone put the Sherlock theme music behind the Elementary visuals . . . which made that mouse seem a little more poignant on his wheel somehow.

Music, however, is one of the most personal and varied tastes we humans have, so I'll leave you to decide upon your own preference of the three. It's a wonderful thing to have this much music to ponder and actually have choices, no matter which way your ear is drawn.

The rise of eye candy Sherlock.

I recently saw some criticism of BBC's Sherlock as being all about Benedict Cumberbatch.

Nothing new there, of course. And that's a load that will fertilize a garden, to be sure, as the writing and direction target Sherlock Holmes in a way that even a Holmes connoisseur can appreciate. But I do see where it comes from. The ladies can make a fuss about the Cumberbunny, which has given lazy male critics a stick to beat it with from the start. After getting to fawn over Irene Adler for a century, it's a bit disconcerting to some men to see a man getting that sort of attention.

Sherlockiana, being one of the most ancient fandoms (especially since we don't count religions as  fandoms -- though sometimes I think we should), reflects social change as well as any other mirror on society.

If you go all the way back to the early 1900s, the only fan voices you see captured in print are those who had the time or money to be writers. The average person is nowhere to be seen in early Sherlockiana.

As the century rolls on, we see the rich and celebrated joining the writer-classes in producing Sherlockiana. The Baker Street Irregulars of New York start up, and of course, it's male-based, as such was the culture of the time. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are seen as peers of a sort to the Sherlockian, fellow guys doing guy stuff.

A few women start to enter the picture from the writerly class, Dorothy Sayers being most notable. But seeing more than one woman in a Sherlockian venue is rare. The aforementioned B.S.I. even institutionalize that with their annual toast to "the" woman. One woman allowed in their company for a time as a weird tribute to Sherlock's attention paid to Irene . . . even though he himself wrote how much he liked Maud Bellamy and events like his mission teamed with Kitty Winter demonstrate that there was more than one woman in Holmes's life. (And we can't ignore the clients -- some of his best clients were women.)

By the 1960s, you can see the rise of the all-woman Sherlock Holmes club, mostly where there's an all-man club that isn't letting women in. The 1960s saw social progress in the gender arena across the board, and actually having women pipe up and say, "Hey, let us into your damn club!" was a big moment in the hobby, even if they didn't get into the damn club for a few decades.

With those kinds of issues to deal with, one could understand why women weren't going, "Hubba hubba, that Basil Rathbone can light my pipe any time!" in Sherlockian media of the day. It wasn't until Jeremy Brett took the stage that we actually see Sherlockians of the opposite sex showing appreciation for his looks in any great numbers. But it was there, and hard to miss.

So now we find ourselves in a new millenium with Sherlocks that women are happily gazing at with much appreciation, just like men have done with Irene Adler for all this time. They get to be a little more vocal about it, just to make up for lost time.

Because it isn't all just about Benedict Cumberbatch. It's about doubling our numbers by letting both sexes be who they are in our fandom, not just limiting ourselves to the one that doesn't like to look at cute boys, like it was in the past. It's about social change for the better. And most of all . . .

It's about Sherlock Holmes. And hooray for that.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

That good *old* Watson.

Once upon a time, when I was young, I compared Sherlockians to Watsons. This was back in a day when Nigel Bruce was still a prime imagine of Watson, so there were those, I'm afraid, who took it as an insult, thanks to that wonderful character actor.

But Nigel Bruce, as much as we like to criticize his goofiness, was still a very loveable Dr. Watson. And he is a prime example of one other trend in Watsons that has been ringing true to me of late.

While the younger Holmes and Watson buddies rule the day in modern incarnations, one of the non-Canonical trends one can't help but see over the last century is the Watson who is an older gentleman. You never see a Watson who is younger than Holmes, and if one of the pair is going to have gray hair, it's going to be Watson. Sure, Holmes may be old enough to look wise in many an incarnation, but Watson? It's not just that war wound that has him sporting a cane.

There's a certain sense to an older Watson, if you think about it. A sense that one can appreciate more deeply with time. We all grow older eventually, and no matter how smart we might have been at one time, eventually, anyone who is not deluding themselves has to give ground to the generations coming along behind us. Sure, they've got stupid members, just as our generation did and does. But there are also those bright lights among them that anyone with eyes to see has to admire. A little quicker than we now are, a little more perceptive, with minds as active as we thought our minds still were . . . and might still be, on a good day.

The older, admiring Watson is not something Hollywood made up just to make Sherlock Holmes look good by putting a dummy next to him. It's also a display of a relationship that crosses generational lines, one where the veteran can appreciate the new methods of the upstart. And the younger fellow still finds the elder worthwhile to have around.

Eventually we might all find ourselves in such a situation . . . if we're lucky. "Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself," Sherlock Holmes once said in The Valley of Fear. (I'd also add that narcissism knows nothing higher than itself, either.) "But talent instantly recognizes genius."

And even old Nigel Bruce Watson had that sort of talent. We should all be so lucky one day.

Biting my tongue.

Among my other personal peccadilloes is a habit of saying that there's something that I'm not saying.

Most folks might have a thought that they know will offend or upset, and then take one of two courses. They blurt it out without thinking or think better of it and say nothing. I have, to the vexation of my spouse, discovered a third path: saying I'm not saying something. Which inevitably means I'm probably hoping someone will talk me into saying it, because it's usually something I find very funny and want to say anyway.

What does this have to do with Sherlock Holmes, you ask?

Well, there's a certain group of fans who aren't happy with me on a regular basis, and even though I'm trying to stay away from the subject that sets them off this summer . . .  

You see, this is the part where the trouble starts. If I say what it is that is causing me to grin malevolently, I'm starting down the path to actually saying what I probably shouldn't say.

But I'm really trying hard this summer. Holding back, saving it up, letting the kettle simmer.

So I'll just say this: there is a bit of information out there that is worth several rude and amusing comments, one that's making me laugh right now. You may find it, and you may make them yourself. 

But me? I'm taking the higher path for summer vacation. Because there will be plenty of time for getting out the monster truck and going mudding on the lower path this fall. 

Plenty of time. Have a great summer!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

To paint or not to paint . . . times six.

The grand high chancellor of Indianapolis Sherlockians, Vince Wright, came up with a Facebook post yesterday that just keeps haunting me:

"Random thought - I am going to try and find six Napoleon busts (for obvious reasons) but I am thinking of finding them individually of the same piece. Some will be painted, some may not be, but they will all be the same one. Now, I skimmed the story in The Canon. I don't think it says anything about the smashed ones being painted. It seems logical that they were as they were adorning mantels and shelves in different people's houses. What say you? All unpainted, or a mix? (I say mix.)"

For all of my Sherlockian career, I have envisioned those busts from "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" as white marble works of art. Since Sherlock Holmes took place in Victorian times and was a class act, I always tend to think of Sherlockian props as classy antiques, hence the white marble bust image. I doubt I'm the only one.

But the key word for those busts of Napoleon that appear in the great Borgia pearl case is "plaster." While white to start with, plaster cast reproductions of sculptures have a great tendency to be painted. And the people of the Victorian era, as a whole, weren't any classier than the people of our era, as a whole. There is always somebody out there who likes the garish, brightly colored version of something, and I bet Napoleon busts were no different.

Searching the web for actual Victorian plaster busts yields all sorts of paint schemes: black, bronze, marble-ish white, and, yes, those painted in life-like colors with flesh-tone skin and colorful clothes. Considering that the plaster bust is not so far off from the action figure (any large comic book store these days has a selection of superhero busts), it's not hard to envision a collector of Napoleon-iana, as we find in the tale, having at least one full-color plaster bust.

Whatever the case, having found unpainted plaster busts of Napoleon on the web, it now seems like an interesting little project to get one and paint it in some style that means something to me. In Vince's comment thread, I suggested a Sherlockian project like those of some cities, where a common statue like a cow was painted a hundred different ways by locals and displayed all over. It seems to me that it would be a very cool thing to have six busts of Napoleon painted in personal styles by six different friends. (Of course, that means more shelf space used, which Sherlockians tend to be in short supply of!)

Could personally created Napoleon busts become the next mini-trend of the Canonically enthusiastic Sherlockian? Well, you never know.

But if it does, we're pointing at Vince when someone asks who the culprit was. Just wanted to document that here the Facebook feed rolls on, in case that post gets washed away with the FB tide.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Common problems of the caped.

When it comes to their modern movie situations, I realized this week that Sherlock Holmes and Batman share similar problems.

The train of thought started after discussing Man of Steel with a good friend of mine. Superman saves the world a lot -- he's Superman, so world-sized crises are right up his alley. Super-strength, super-speed, super-breath, super-vision . . . he doesn't have to actually figure out the solutions to problems, he just deals with them head-on. Invulnerability makes that an obvious choice.

Batman and Sherlock Holmes are thinking heroes, however. They're detectives. Batman has even been said to have trained under Sherlock in some versions of his history. They're guys who solve mysteries and catch the criminals no one else can catch.

But when it comes to movies, for some reason merely solving a mysterious crime and catching the perpetrator isn't enough. No, Bats and Sherlock have to stop cities from being destroyed. They have to stop the breakdown of civilization. Suddenly, when they leap to the big screen, these detectives suddenly have Superman-sized problems to deal with.

There was a time when Sherlock Holmes used to just deal with that big scary dog that threatened one guy who lived out in the country . . . and that was enough for a movie. Now it's mystics taking over Parliament or tree-shredding weaponers setting the world aflame. Even Jack the Ripper was just one serial killer with a knife and victims in the single digits, and that used to be a big movie for Holmes. Now he's expected to pull a Batman-sized load on the big screen, and even Batman is in a weight class so far above detective-work that he's constantly required to fly. How many more movies until Sherlock has to start flying every . . . oh, wait, Young Sherlock Holmes is rumored to be soon remade, isn't it? Flying Sherlock, here we come.

It's nice that Sherlock Holmes is in big movies these days, but a good writer and director could actually put together a worthwhile movie about Holmes for a very small budget. No special effects needed. No epic destruction. No massive cityscapes. A mystery story can be small and personal . . . of course that requires a little more skill. No need for Mycroft, Moriarty, or Adler. Just Holmes, Watson, and one person with a problem.

Just like Conan Doyle used to do it.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Holmes and Watson's baby? This guy!

Suppose Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson had a love-child.

Yes, technically, it was probably impossible for two Victorian men to combined their DNA in a mutual offspring, no matter how much man-love they had or indulged in. And then there's the whole time they would have had raising the child to make sure their nurture was as powerful as their nature. But suppose they could have, and would have, and did.

The detective and the ex-military man. The genius and the fellow people could relate to. The man on a hiatus, travelling all over, and the steady, reliable, good man.

Put all those things together, and who do you get as the Holmes and Watson baby, out of all the other characters in fiction?

Well, before I name the name, you first have to put all images of Mr. "I can play any part" Tom Cruise and his movies out of your head. Just like you have to do with the vampire Lestat and the book Interview With A Vampire. Movies are good for some books, but sometimes a celebrity ego and the business side of cinema can try to force some movie star's image over the top of a well-drawn character. (Yes, we have Downey, we've had Moore, we've had Plummer . . . Holmes is pretty much movie-star proof at this point.) So, with that disclaimer, here is who I'd like to propose as the child of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Jack No-Middle-Name Reacher.

Lee Child's character from a string of best-sellers may not have the flash of Holmes, but getting Watson's common touch gives Reacher a different spin on determined detective work. Jack Reacher has near-perfect powers of observation AND an equal appreciation for a good woman. (Hey, what good are powers of observation if you can't observe for pleasure now and then?) On point after point, Reacher combines the best of both members of one of the world's greatest partnerships . . . seemingly balancing out the "weaknesses" of either.

But given that this is a theoretical fictional hybrid of two legendary creatures, I wouldn't presume to say that he is the only candidate for an example of what the two could produce by such imaginary procreation. Surely there must be other possibilities out there.

Any thoughts?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ten Holmes adversaries I'd like to see.

Irene Adler and Professor Moriarty.

Irene Adler and Professor Moriarty.

Irene Adler and Professor Moriarty.

Bored yet?

When it comes to adversaries on film, on television, and in pastiches, a fan of either Irene Adler or Professor Moriarty should be one happy person. After considering "the Moriarty cliff" of the Holmes story cycle a few days ago, I'm now starting to wonder at how all of the recent adaptations are completely ignoring that rich stock of Sherlock Holmes adversaries they have available to them, many of them much better characterized than Irene or James.

So, this being the internet, where we have to list things out in tens (and also put every item on the list on a separate web page, just to jack up hit counts), I decided to come up with my own list of the ten Canonical baddies I'd love to see well portrayed in upcoming media. It wasn't hard at all.

1. Grimesby Roylott.

I mentioned him last blog, and his love of exotic animals, manipulation of family members, fearsome temper, and the fact that he makes Holmes show his mostly hidden super-strength bending that fireplace poker make him a character well worth developing.

2. Tonga.

A child of the wild set loose in the urban jungle of London? If the Downey movies want action, Tonga is the one guy who can supply it in spades . . . of course we might need the younger Cumberbatch to chase his energetic self across the city's fire escapes and rooftops.

3. Wilson Kemp.

Sure, he's kind of a low budget Moriarty, but I think with a little development, this creepy guy could stand on his own.

4. Baron Gruner.

What can I say? The guy has sex appeal and plays in a venue that Holmes is very unfamiliar with. A good Gruner story could give Holmes plenty of character work.

5. Black Peter.

What, you say? Black Peter was a victim, not a villain! Some of the Canon's most threatening villains are ones we first encounter after they're dead. Which is why I'll also list . . . .

6. Black Giorgiano.

Just for kicks, somebody might combine "The Red Circle" and "The Six Napoleons" to get some Italian gang action going . . . but not too much.

7. Culverton Smith.

Killing people with diseases isn't all that action-filled, but this guy was one devious bastard, and as far as anyone knew at the time, came the closest to actually killing Sherlock Holmes of anyone. Elementary even borrowed his tale to catch their Moriarty, so what does that say about him? (Well, yeah, I know. But still . . .)

8. Isadora Klein!

Please, please, please, Isadora Klein! Holmes may have called Irene Adler "the woman," but really, as adversaries go, I think Isadora could probably have kicked Irene's ass, just because she's actually nasty. Very nasty. Beat-you-while-breaking-your-heart nasty. A great villain.

9. Professor Presbury.

The monkey-man thing may have seemed far-fetched a few decades ago, but we've got genetics on our side now. Who knows what Presbury could come out like these days, with his mix of academia, romantic motives, and primate biology?

10. Dr. Leon Sterndale.

A man who has existed outside of society and has all the different rules, exotic resources, strong passions, and still a good bit of brains. Always a good challenger for the urban detective.

The original Canon of Holmes is so full of plum characters ripe for picking that it's amazing all of the folk adapting him find time to give us Lord Blackwood, "The Blind Banker," or  . . . well, that whole other series . . . without them. I suspect it's just that the more a character appears in movies or TV, the more they're going to appear in movies or TV, because movie and TV people watch movies and TV and thus think that Irene and the Prof are mandatory. But hope springs eternal.

And, c'mon! Isadora Klein!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Moriarty cliff.

Ah, Conan Doyle . . . always the troublemaker!

His half-hearted attempts at continuity spawned an entire area of study just to try to right it. His tossed-off statement "You may marry him . . ." gave justification to all sorts of craziness. And then there's his attempt to kill the goose that was the golden egg, resulting in a climax that comes mid-way through the story cycle.

We have three major Sherlock-related franchises right now, all facing the Moriarty cliff. Not the Reichenbach fall, which "kills" Sherlock, time after time, but the drop that must inevitably follow when Sherlock Holmes has faced his greatest foe . . . and is done.

The Canon of Sherlock Holmes wasn't built as a sixty-story arc, being a pioneer in serial-storytelling with a continuous main character. It wasn't like Doyle sat down and went, "I'm quitting after sixty, so fifty-five through fifty-nine will be the run-up to Moriarty, then in sixty, Sherlock Holmes will face his greatest foe!" And given that Doyle seemingly didn't wait, it gives modern producers of Sherlock material ample excuse to rush to the good part. Guy Ritchie got to Moriarty in movie one, then took him to Reichenbach in movie two. Moffat and Gatiss did likewise with their three-episode series. Introduce Moriarty in series one, kill him in two.

Moriarty makes for a really great battle, yes, but it's kind of like having Superman fight General Zod in his first movie . . . where do you go after you've met your match? Go after somebody who's even greater than your arch-enemy? The whole point of an arch-enemy is that he's your greatest enemy, the top of the line, the big challenge. Sherlock Holmes spends the rest of the stories missing Moriarty, because he knows he's never going to get that challenge again.

Can either the Ritchie or Moffat/Gatiss franchises sustain an ongoing series, even if their cast is all agreeable and doesn't go anywhere, once they've jumped off the Moriarty cliff? Other ongoing characters get additions to their lore over the years. (Take Superman and General Zod, for instance. That guy came very late to the party, after decades of Lex Luthor.) Will Sherlock Holmes eventually get an arch-nemesis greater than Moriary, simply given the fact that some really talented creator will want to keep going after killing the professor? Will Holmes get a Zod? (Or a Doomsday, if you really want to geek out . . .)

American television, of course, being the medium of drawing things out as long as possible, transformed Moriarty into a Catwoman figure, who's too much in love with her nemesis to kill him. And if she's not trying to kill him, he can't really kill her in self-defense. So off to prison she goes, to bedevil him another day, and, really, not truly filling the arch-nemesis role. If your arch-foe isn't coming at you with a full one hundred percent effort, well, you really need to pick a new villain to add the "arch" to. By turning Moriarty into a sort-of Catwoman and pulling her teeth, Elementary kind of winds up at the same Moriarty cliff as if she died . . . needing someone who can really come at their hero with villainous guns a'blazing.  (When it's your ex, there winds up being all sorts of relationship overtones to mortal combat that just spoil the fun.)

Of course, modern cinema has shown us a whole new go-to plan for such things: the reboot. If Holmes never gets a better foe than Moriarty, he can just keep rebooting every few years with a new cast and a new start, and repeat the cycle all over again. But we're never getting to a whole lot of other great Holmes villains with that plan . . . Grimesby Roylott, anyone? . . . Baron Gruner? (And I'm not counting any "adaptation" that slaps one of those names on some serial killing kid working at a McDonald's and calls it done.)

The Moriarty cliff is a big one, and unlike Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach, we're not sure we're going to see a survivor at this point. I'm looking forward to seeing if we get one.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The grocery store threshold.

Two major motion pictures. A BBC hit with a cult following. A CBS procedural with ratings success.

I don't think anyone would dispute that Sherlock Holmes is as popular worldwide as he's ever been. So tonight, as I was out of other bloggable ideas (contrary to the opinion of many, I do hold back on some topics), I went to the grocery store to pick up milk and search for Sherlock Holmes. A test, if you will, of our hero's current popularity. Would he show up anywhere in the grocery store, that one ubiquitous crossroads of the everyday?

Well, I won't say I scoured every single aisle, or the deli, but he didn't turn up. Not among the breakfast cereals, the household cleaners, the chips and munchies, scratch-off lottery tickets, nor even books, magazines or DVDs. But I did see Superman all over the place, as his most recent movie attempt is this week. And then it struck me, the first of mountains left for Sherlock Holmes to climb: Two successful feature films, yes. Summer blockbuster? No.

If the theory is true that we can't have too much Sherlock, there are, I realized, many, many mountains left for Sherlock, even in his Sigerson persona, left to climb.

Benedict Cumberbatch may have many a girl swooning, but he's still a bit old for the teen heart-throb magazines. Sherlock Holmes has yet to conquer the country of the tweens. (And that is certainly, as the title of the movie says, "no country for old men.")

Supermarket tabloids, the former residence of Liz Taylor, now the domain of Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, and Angelina Jolie, have yet to show a Mycroft's cellulite on their covers, nor bother with one of our Irenes or Watson's marital questions. What, you say that Liz, Brad, Jennifer, and Angelina are more real than Mycroft, Irene, or John? Well, you probably didn't, but if you did, think hard on that.

A best-selling, mass market paperback like the Jack Reacher novel I picked up at 40% off . . . when's the last time we saw Sherlock Holmes in anything like that? The seventies? That was nearly forty years ago now. (Yikes!)

So if you're ever sitting around thinking, "This is as good as it gets for ol' Sherlock. I can die a happy fan now," well, you may just want to think about eating healthy and getting a little exercise. Because Sherlock Holmes still has heights we've yet to see. And you might just want to be here when he hits them.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Irregular powers.

Ah, to be imbued with the powers of the Baker Street irregulars . . .

Not as a dirty little street urchin depending upon Sherlock's shillings to feed the family or one's self. And not as an investiture-carrying member of The Baker Street Irregulars of New York. But a true Baker Street irregulars as defined by Sherlock Holmes himself with the words:

"They can go everywhere, see everything, overhear everyone."

He was speaking about the young corps of irregulars as a whole, of course. Individually, no one of them could go everywhere, etc. But as a whole, they could and they did.

If I could, indeed, go everywhere, yesterday I would have teleported out of the office and to Maryland, where the Scintillation of Scions was just starting to summon its energies. Minneapolis in August, New York in January . . . if the ability to pop in for an evening or a day without having to arrange an entire trip (with all the requisite time allotments and delegation of responsibilities needed to be away) were something one could pick up with a magical shilling, oh, the places I would go.

And this weekend, it would be the Scintillation of Scions in Hanover, Maryland. It's going to be an excellent time, because gathered Sherlockians having a bad time has been a very, very rare thing in my experience. In fact, over the course of over thirty years, nothing springs readily to mind. Oh, there might have been dinners that didn't taste very good or an over-heated, over-populated room on occasion -- minor discomforts -- but the camaraderie and conversations always win out in my memories.

"But, Brad," one might think, "you're an overly-opinionated lout of a blogger, who surely has heated disputes in large assemblages of Sherlockians, and is sure to get bopped in the beezer!" (Hey, I said "might" . . . somebody out there might have "beezer" in their lexicon.)

And that's the cool part. I've always had a few incendiary opinions and a sometimes thoughtless manner of expressing them, but my experiences with my fellow Sherlockians in travels from New York to New Mexico have never been anything but good. So while I'm a bit envious of my friends who are having a great time at the Scintillation today, the undertone of that envy is the certainty that they are having a good time. And that makes me happy.

Because, as I said, that's the thing about Baker Street irregulars, past and present. No one of us can go everywhere, see everything, and overhear everyone, as much as we might try. That would require superhuman abilities, including the power to be multiple places at once. But as a group, we can be just about everywhere a Sherlockian needs to be, and thanks to the wonders of our modern networked society, that means getting juicy tidbits in real time more than ever before. We have our irregulars, even if we can't have the powers of the whole.

And as Sherlock Holmes did with the first Baker Street irregulars, we can hear what they have to say and use their leads to follow up in days to come.

Next year!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

But is he "brave," "bold," or "and?"

Since Dick Sveum kindly offered to watch Elementary for me tonight, I thought I'd use my free evening to hit Netflix and watch "Trials of the Demon," the episode of The Brave and the Bold cartoon that teams up Sherlock Holmes with Batman.

"But, Holmes, are you certain it's not that Moriarty fellow?"

"Stop being an imbecile, Watson. Moriarty's weapon of choice is a unique air rifle assembled by a blind german mechanic. I fear they might be . . . supernatural."

The first two lines from Holmes and Watson is like a "spot the differences" puzzle for Sherlockians, superficially Canonical, but so, so wrong. I'll leave those for you to work out. I find at least three issues immediately, and one point of debate.

The larger question I come to first is this: How old is Sherlock Holmes in all these cartoon incarnations?  Forty? Fifty? He's not a young man, but also not a gray-headed old timer like Watson usually turns out to be. He's looking rather craggy this time out. Timeless, I guess?

Otherwise, Sherlock Holmes is apparently able to deduce hero status from the "bright colors" in Batman's outfit, and not "circus performer." But this is Batman's show, so he's quick to top Holmes's deductions, with banter at first and knowledge of anagrams later. Sherlock Holmes, one has to admit, was definitely less experienced at working out puzzle clues from riddle and joke obsessed baddies, so we'll give him that.

Holmes gets ahead of Batman after dumping Watson (with a desiccated woman in his arms, of course), but just can't cope with super-powered villainy. Apparently this is a Batman/Demon team-up and not Batman/Sherlock Holmes as anticipated, so they start hogging the stage, so blah-blah-blah, fight-fight-fight, and Sherlock Holmes stops in for the post-climax wind-up.

Luckily, this adaptation of Holmes is only a twenty-three minutes one-shot, so much can be forgiven, though mainly just forgotten. Our favorite detective was more stage dressing than an actual part of the story, which well would have proceeded the same with a Scotland Yard man in his place. An argument might be made that such appearances help draw children toward Holmes, but after seeing him come in second to Batman (or third, given the Demon's part), I think they're just going to go with Bats.

Since the advent of Netflix streaming, it's much easier to be a Holmes video completist, but boy, am I glad I'm not depending upon such stuff to keep me awake. Otherwise, I might have to turn Dick Sveum down on his offer next time.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

An all-nude Canon.

I had forgotten about Mycroft.

Through a curious chain of events, I found myself watching Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows just the other evening. And as I was enjoying becoming reacquainted with how charming Robert Downey Jr. can be as Sherlock Holmes, I saw something my mind had apparently blocked from convenient memory:

Mycroft Holmes in the nude.

As much mention has been made of naked Sherlock and nude Irene in the Sherlock episode "A Scandal in Belgravia," few really want to bring back the thought of Mycroft's bare-bottomed encounter with Mary Morstan-Watson in the Holmes home. But the thing of it is, now that we've seen three nude Canonical characters across two adaptations, the collector impulse in the Sherlockian brain suddenly is inspired to want more.

Of course, some characters take more easily to naked than others. Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes both have their clothes off in the first Downey Sherlock Holmes. And Gabrielle Valladon, the almost-Irene of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes has a scene that's quite "rewarding," according to Holmes, making up for her not-quite-Canonical nature. Irene is an adventuress and Sherlock Holmes is quite beyond social proprieties when it suits him, so those two don't seem quite the big deal.

But I think it's Mycroft who is the dam-burster that truly sets the idea of an all-nude Canon in motion. It's just seems so unlike him. If he can run 'round the house in the buff, then why not Mrs. Hudson? Jabez Wilson? Helen Stoner? Why not an Oh! Calcutta! style version of . . . hmmm . . . The Hound of the Baskervilles? Really, it does have one of the more gender-balanced casts in the Canon, and enough implied and otherwise references to various sexual relationships without going full-on Gruner.

If Inspector Clouseau can have an all-nude segment of one of his greatest cases (A Shot in the Dark will forever remain one of the movie classics of my childhood.), then why not Sherlock Holmes? If he's modest, like Clouseau, he can always walk around with his violin, as Clouseau did a guitar. (Not passing any instrument-related judgments there, of course.)

The original Canon, of course, just gives us a lot of naked feet, some naked eyes, a couple naked truths, and one naked knife, but that was the Victorian era after all. This is the . . . oh, yeah, the post-Janet-Jackson-Super-Bowl era . . . perhaps we're going to have to wait another hundred years for the all-nude Canon.

And if it's a hundred years before we get another naked Mycroft too, well, maybe that's okay.

(And yes, ladies, I'm sure fat old guys are sexy, too. Just not to me. But who knows, I might get bored in my old age. I mean, as it is I'm ending blogs with rambling parenthetical statements, and who knows what that's the first step toward? G'nite, everybody!)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Collectors, Coke, and commons.

This week's podcast listening revealed an unexpected treat. Penn's Sunday School, once you got past a lot of talk about bacon, doughnuts, nakedness, and atheism, featured Penn Gillette talking about a recent visit to David Copperfield's private magic museum. (It's at about the sixty minute mark, if you want to take a listen.) The Sherlock Holmes related part is early on, as Penn tells of how David Copperfield's collection contains both sides of the correspondence Conan Doyle had with Houdini. But if you listen further, you can hear an appreciation of one of those super-collections that a devoted collector of means can put together -- the sort of thing that one can relate to after spending much time in any great hobby.

When the discussion came around to the question of private collections versus public ones, Gillette came down on the side of private, citing the concept called "the tragedy of the commons," wherein the needs of the individual, en masse, can act counter to the good of the whole regarding a given resource.

Remember a little thing called "New Coke?" After decades of success with a specific recipe, Coca-cola decided to follow the method of its prime competitor and alter its formula to that taste that seemed agreeable to the largest share of the populace. Kind of a "lowest common denominator" of flavor. Was it an improvement? Well, as tested, probably so, if you counted all of society. But if you counted the people who really liked old Coke? No way. Eventually the cola version of pablum fell from favor and the old Coke returned.

The tragedy of the commons, at its simplest level, is that we just all can't enjoy the same resource without over-exploiting it. We have different needs and different interactions, and those can spoil a something like the taste of Coca-cola if we expect it to be enjoyed by every single person on Earth.

Which brings me back, once again, to a certain CBS television show whose ratings show it appeals to a certain mass taste. Sherlock Holmes is  a resource, like any other, and like Coca-cola and many other resources, he wasn't necessarily designed to appeal to everyone. Taking his distinctive detective flavor and altering it to fit the popular network procedural pattern, is a lot like coming out with that New Coke of earlier times. Something gets lost in trying to make Holmes palatable to the larger audience.

Of course, BBC's Sherlock maintained at least enough of the true Sherlock taste to keep this fan, and a whole lot of others satisfied, so maybe it isn't inevitable that Sherlock Holmes has to be less distinctive to be popular.  And is Sherlock Holmes a limited resource, or can he be stretched into as many weird and varied incarnations as necessary to satisfy different demographics and still remain Sherlock Holmes?

That's the true question, as we debate "all Sherlock Holmes is good Sherlock Holmes" versus "no it's not" in this modern heyday of Holmes. We shall see.

Reacting to reactions.

After over three decades of being a Sherlock Holmes fan, I find it quite amazing that I keep having several "first times" of late. Things that didn't exist in the world before keep cropping up, and as Sherlock Holmes spreads his influence so widely across our culture, when a new thing comes along, he is usually there. And, then, many months after that new thing is there, I finally stumble across it.

Thanks to YouTube, we now have this thing called the reaction video. I first ran into this phenomenon when my friends' kids had me looking into "Slender Man" to see what they were talking about a new video game many months ago. The point of the game was apparently to make you jump, and YouTube was chock-full of videos of people's jumpy reactions when Slender Man suddenly appeared out of the darkness.

Videos focus on the watcher, while what they're watching appears inset in the corner of the screen so you can see what they're seeing as they react. A little casual Google research doesn't easily turn up where such videos started happening, but they've certainly become a part of internet culture. And thanks to that, yesterday morning I found myself watching a four minute video of someone else watching Sherlock Holmes.

Watching a video of someone else watching Sherlock Holmes. Life had suddenly become an M.C. Escher painting. If I took video of myself reacting to the reaction and put it on YouTube, and someone else did the same, and on and on, things could get really strange . . . although I expect the reactions would get more dull the further away from the original, like copies of copies.

There's a temptation from the cranky old person side of the room to see these reaction videos as one more omen of society's downfall, that we've become so distanced from our fellows on the internet that now we have to watch emotions on video. But I think there's more to it than that -- we've now crossed a threshold of technology where we can communicate wordlessly across great distances. Watching the young lady in the video starting to weep over Sherlock's death in "The Reichenbach Fall" couldn't help but cause my own eyes to tear up, the sort of sympathetic response that usually happens face to face with friends or with a well done movie. But here was a normal person communicating their feelings about Sherlock from who-knows-where with the simplest of means of expression possible.

The great thing about such a reaction video is that Sherlock Holmes is still touching people's hearts enough to bring such a thing into existence. Not sure if I'm going to make such things a regular stop on my internet wanderings, but I was glad Howard Ostrom linked this one up on WelcomeHolmes just to know they're out there.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My one Sherlockian reader.

When writing this blog from week to week or day to day, I suffer from being completely delusional. Even though it's published in that very public area we call the internet, my delusion is that I'm writing to a friend. One individual who shares my love of Sherlock Holmes and pretty much gets where I'm coming from on the guy (or girl, if we come to that). Occasionally in the past, reading things that pop up in the comment section has shattered that delusion. A comment turns up from someone who plainly didn't catch my drift, or worse yet, takes words that I was sure meant one thing and turns them into something completely different. At which point I have to wonder about my imaginary one reader.

So, a little while back, I decided to try to connect with that person I'm writing this for, and see what he/she really thinks. I put out a little survey of ten questions.

And here is what my one reader told me, through many voices.

My one reader overwhelmingly is mad about the original sixty stories of Sherlock Holmes, and when not mad, likes them a whole lot. Not too big of a surprise there.

I was curious about that same reader's view of the Robert Downey, Jr. movie version of Sherlock, and found said reader to be all over the map, opinion-wise, trending slightly toward the positive, but still, loving them one moment and hating them the next. If there's a third movie in the series, I think Guy Ritchie and company have their work cut out for them winning my friend over completely.

Now, when it came to Benedict Cumberbatch, that one reader of mine seriously thought B.C. stood out among Sherlocks we've known, and was very strongly thinking he was the best one ever. The word "repulsive" never came up in a single response.

As for that other TV chap, "Mr. Elementary" as I like to call him, well . . . this blog may have skewed my friend's response a little, but that was to be expected. A quarter of the time, my one reader did use the word "repulsive," and at the other end of the spectrum, never used the phrase "my favorite Sherlock Holmes ever!" a single time. "Fun to watch" was heard as much as "repulsive," though, so my reader is of two minds on Mr. Miller . . . though neither of those minds gets too excited about him, only considering him a standout Holmes once or twice.

That "two minds" attitude was strongly reflected when I asked how my one reader felt about "anything and everything that has to do with Sherlock Holmes." "There's good and there's bad," was the overwhelming response, but there was a lot more happy scattered across the spectrum of those two minds that unhappy. My one reader is a Sherlock Holmes fan, after all, so that's to be expected.

Thankfully, my audience of one wanted a blog that was honest about Sherlockian matters, but more considerate than brutal in its wording. (Though apparently there is a time and place for brutal more than just me being nice.) My friend favored a daily blog, but would accept weekly or whenever, which I thought was nice of them. Comment moderation was encouraged.

That one blog reader that I write for feels like they've been involved with other Sherlockians for less than ten years, but half the time feels like it's been anywhere from eleven to forty-nine years. I can relate to that, as I do feel quite young in the field myself . . . until those moments when I feel ancient.

When asked who the greatest Sherlock Holmes fan in the history of Sherlock Holmes fans was, my friend kept throwing out name after name and seemed like they just couldn't decide. In the end, my favorite thing they said was "I don't really think that there is a greatest fan." (Other thoughts on the matter to come up in a future blog.)

Personally, though, I think that one hypothetical reader I write this for is the greatest fan of Sherlock Holmes in the history of Sherlock Holmes fans, but I might be a bit biassed.

And actually, quite appreciative that I have any readers at all.

Thanks for being my one reader.