Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The obligatory look back at 2013.

And so, a banner year at Sherlock Peoria comes to an end.

With well over two hundred and fifty posts this year, I've managed to set a new batting average of .698  for 2013. Almost 70% of the days this year with a post. Highest average since the blog began in 2002.

And what have I learned this year, based on my readership stats?

It's all about the love.

The hottest post of the year, by far, was "Love: A Finale," back on May 16. As much about Star Trek: Into Darkness as Sherlock and Elementary, that combo pack won 2013.

In a very impressive second place came "And sometimes, after a case, they cuddle . . ." on April 21.  Starting talking slash fanfic and you tend to draw a crowd.

Third place, curiously, goes to "Mrs. Hudson arrives," the April 7 write-up of the only episode of Elementary to show their cleaning lady. One critic recently suggested that I bash-blog about Elementary to get more readers, but Miss Hudson appeared in my favorite episode of the first season, and the one I was most positive about. (And as any web-Sherlockian of experience knows, it's Sherlock and the Baker Street Babes bump that will get you readers. And I'd fanboy about those two topics even if it got me nada.)

Love, sex, and liking seemed to be the top three draws in a year that surely had everything. Or at least a lot of everything. For instance . . . .

My nearest and dearest Baker Street Irregular passed on. A former BSJ editor got a taste of fangirl wrath. Our local Sherlockian society, the Hansoms of John Clayton, had a new beginning. The "Free Sherlock" court case got filed and finished. 221B Con made a splash with more Sherlock Holmes fans than I've ever seen gathered in one place, by a multiplier of three. A winery got upset with me. Holmes slept with Moriarty and Irene Adler, at the same time. The Armchair Baskerville Tour had an online sequel. The podcast I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere used a blog on the movie Bad Grandpa for its closing reading.  There was a previously unheard-of thing called a Sherlock Holmes "minisode." If this blog ever got boring in 2013, the fault certainly has to rest with the writer, because there sure was a lot of excitement to be found in the Sherlockian world, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Where do we go in 2014 after all that? Upward, I hope.

The early run of Sherlock season three is apt to start the year off with the sort of peak that could leave a lot of folk with a bad case of post-excitement-drop come February, the gloomiest month of the year. We don't get the highs of January without a little low to follow; it's just the price one pays. But then? Inspirations planted in the darker days of winter will start to pop as sprouts come spring. And from then, the cycle should really kick into gear.

We're going to have a little fun, we are. Because in the end, in 2014 it's still going to be all about the love. Of Sherlock. Of Watson. And of this little Game we play in their wake.

Happy New Year, my friends.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Watson legally gets a second wife.

This a few days back  in The Guardian . . .

When I first read that headline and the article that followed, I thought the "second wife" business was mere extrapolation . . . journalism not being what it used to be, these days. As any good Sherlockian knows, the number of Watson's marriages has been theorized and disputed by students of the Canon for years. Personally, I think he had six wives over the course of the stories. More traditionally minded folk sometimes go with just one. There was no firmly established second wife for Watson that I'd ever heard.

Looking for answers, I quickly headed for the Free Sherlock website to read the actual judicial ruling in the case of Klinger versus the Doyle Estate, Ltd. There, in the midst of a very legal summary judgment, I found the words, "Dr. Watson's second wife, first described in the 1924 short story 'The Illustrious Client.'"

Dr. Watson had a second wife, described in "Illustrious Client"?!? What the hell?

Sure, Watson writes, "I was living in my own rooms in Queen Anne Street at the time," but the only wives mentioned are the past and future victims of Baron Gruner. One has to suspect the court got "Illustrious Client" mixed up with "Blanched Soldier," where Holmes specifically said, "The good Watson had at that time deserted me for a wife, the only selfish action which I can recall in our association." But that 1926 story's statement is interesting in its words "only selfish action," which some even believe indicates it was the same wife Watson originally had, and not a second one.

Where once we just had our own interpretations of Watson's marital situation, now it seems we have a legal document in American court records that tells us he had a second wife. And what's more, she is described in "The Illustrious Client." There are only two women described in that case, Miss Violet De Merville and Miss Kitty Winter. And who did Watson spend the most time with in the course of dealing with Baron Gruner?

Well, Watson does write, "I arranged with Johnson that evening to take Miss Winter to a quiet suburb and see that she lay low until the danger was past." And six days pass. Now, one may think, upon a first, hasty reading, that Johnson was the one taking Miss Winter to the suburbs, but we know that Johnson was always the point of contact for getting in touch with Kitty Winter. And Watson, being the noble gentleman he was, would surely have felt obligated to guard a woman in danger while his friend pretended to be a death's door and had no better use for him.

And after six days in the suburbs, would one be surprised if something developed between the sympathetic doctor and the "slim, flame-like young woman?"

I'd like to thank Chief Judge Ruben Castillo, Les Klinger, and the Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. for bringing Watson's second wife to our attention through their legal proceedings. Kitty Winter wasn't on my list of six at all.  But now it seems that she and Watson are legally wed, at least in this country.

Congratulations, Dr. Watson. I always knew hoped you'd squeeze Kitty in there somewhere.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The most economical television show of 2013.

I was reading a recap of television's best shows for 2013 this morning and came to an interesting realization. For all the impact Sherlock had on us in 2013, it really wasn't a 2013 television show. The last series appeared in 2012. We did, however, get a full seven minute minisode of Sherlock on December 24th, so technically, Sherlock was a 2013 show. Check IMDB if you doubt it.

221B Con. Kickstarter projects. A goodly presence at San Diego Comicon. YouTube music videos. Fanfic drama. And that looming specter hanging over every episode of its American aftershock, Elementary. Sherlock has been with us all year long.

And yet, we only got seven minutes of it in 2013.

When compiling "Best of 2013" lists this week as we prepare for 2014, I'm sure most TV critics will leave out Sherlock and its seven minute runtime for this entire year. But if there were a category for "Biggest presence with the least screen-time for 2013," I'd say Sherlock wins that award hands down.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The trope of the connected villain.

One of the things I've always hated about Hollywood's approach to superhero movies has been one of their techniques for condensing things into a two hour story. In order to explain a superhero and their arch-enemy in such a short period of time, they simply make them both come from the same place.

Superman has to fight Kryptonians. Batman's parents were now killed by the Joker. Spiderman suddenly got bit by a spider that worked for the Green Goblin. The Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom go up in the same rocket that got hit by cosmic rays. On and on it goes, when there are plenty of adversaries for any given superhero whose origins aren't linked to the hero at all. In fact, the best villains are those who come from a completely different place than the hero, just so they can be so much more . . . evil.

Sherlock Holmes has gotten the same treatment from Hollywood and its writers. Inevitably, Professor Moriarty has to be Sherlock's math tutor or professor, as in Young Sherlock Holmes. The Seven Percent Solution even took it a step further, making Moriarty's affair with Holmes's mother the catalyst for him even becoming a detective. Elementary undoubtedly gave it the craziest spin by making Moriarty the lover who "died" and caused its "Sherlock" to dive into his drug problem . . . although there is a strange parallel to 2002's A Case of Evil, wherein Moriarty faked his death and then addicted Holmes to heroin.

What is it that makes screenwriters want to link Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty somehow? If that's something audiences enjoy so much, why not just have Sherlock Holmes born to a family of criminals and have him spend his career hunting down cousin Grimesby, cousin Sebastian, cousin Charles Augustus, and the like? Do we actually enjoy the hero-villain connection that much, so is it just a matter of screen time economy?

Personally, I'm a big fan of letting the villain have his or her own story and their own character development. Some stories have hero-villain connections at their core, like that of Thor and Loki. But adding them after the fact never seems to work out well, other than perhaps for novelty the very first time it's done.

Now that Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty have both been freed up in court (interesting how Moriarty always winds up free after a day in court, even in our world), I hope future creators will let them keep their separate backstories. There is so much more material, and fun, to be had there.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The second morning call.

"I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after Christmas . . ."

Christmas is done, Boxing Day is done, and we finally get to the Sherlockian holiday of the season: Blue Carbuncle Day, Compliments of the Season Day, Call Upon My Friend Sherlock Holmes Day . . . I don't think we've ever really settled on a name for it. But it's a special day in Holmes world, and always more memorable to me than that arguable birthday (whose celebration seems to depend upon dinner weekends, much as presidential birthdays depend upon Mondays).

And in honor of this special day, this year, I'd like to pose a few questions for your consideration. One question, really, but with a few angles to it. So here goes:

If you were going to call upon Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after Christmas, which Sherlock Holmes would you call upon?

Gillette? Rathbone? Brett? Downey? Cumberbatch? Miller?

First, consider it as a social call, as Watson is making upon this post-holiday holiday.

Got your pick?

Now consider it from a client's perspective. You're really in trouble, you want the best help you can get -- who's the first Holmes you summon?

We often talk about which incarnation of Holmes we enjoy, or which doesn't seem right to us. But we never really talk about which one we would depend upon, were he in our world and we'd come to a crisis. Maybe he's the same one to you in every case. But maybe not.

Looking at the six names above, I have a couple "definitely go-to" guys, one "I'd go but wouldn't like it," one "put him on the case and generally keep my distance," one "Thanks, but I can handle matters myself!" and one "I think I'll need some references."

And then there's that Holmes-in-my-head. You probably have one, too, especially if you started enjoying Holmes via reading before the movies or TV caught your fancy. That guy I'd move into 221B Baker Street with and write up his cases in a heartbeat. (Yes, I know, there are Watson fans out there who'd miss the guy, but they'd learn to like me eventually, just like we do with every new Dr. Who regeneration.) Any true blue Sherlockian would do the same.

So on this second morning after Christmas, take a few moments and go calling upon the Holmes or Holmeses you'd like to pay compliments of the season to, at least in your imagination. It's good to touch base every now and again to see what he's like these days.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

And the gate swings open for Sherlock Holmes.

Well, there was this on Twitter tonight . . . .

If things weren't wild and wooly enough with season three of Sherlock so close upon us, Les Klinger has declared victory in that key court case challenging the "Conan Doyle Estate Ltd." and its claim to owning Sherlock Holmes, body and soul. We're still awaiting details from free-sherlock.com, of course, and there'll be much sorting out of exactly what it all means and for whom, but it still is one fine day . . . except for that it's night . . . but still, something to babble on a bit about.

We're still eight years out from the final ten Casebook stories by Conan Doyle being in the public domain here in America, but Sherlock Holmes himself, that fellow whose best years were behind him when those ten finally appeared, gets to spend those last eight years with a bit more room to flex his legend. Of course, lawyers being lawyers and investors always wanting to protect an investment, there's probably going to be some more maneuvering and dodging and the like.  But for now . . . for now . . . .

Sherlock Holmes takes one more step away from eventually getting a bloody "TM" tacked on him for all eternity by some corporate entity.

And one more step toward being owned by the world, as a part of our common legacy.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The return of the best and wisest.

In my happy meditations of the new Sherlock minisode, which brilliantly sums up modern Sherlock's Great Hiatus in seven minutes, I once again come 'round to that topic upon which I tend to displease a few folks, so here is my usual disclaimer: Elementary fans, you might not want to be reading this. Here's a link to a lovely extended version of the show's opening credits music you can go to and then forget to come back. That is my Christmas gift to you.

And a few one-one-thousands to give them time to wander off, and . . .

The new Sherlock minisode, "Many Happy Returns," not only brings happy anticipation of season three of that original modern Sherlock Holmes adaptation, it . . . in seven minutes . . . reminded me so well of why that guy in Elementary has never been Sherlock Holmes for me, and doubtless never will.

"Many Happy Returns" has two parts. The first shows us Sherlock Holmes without showing us Sherlock Holmes. He is a faceless figure doing what he does best, because "he can't stop himself." We see a bit of the climaxes to three solved cases, as relayed by Detective Inspector Anderson, one of Sherlock Holmes's biggest antagonists at Scotland Yard, now acting the bearded prophet and what almost seems Sherlock's biggest fan. Without ever seeing Sherlock Holmes, we see the greatness that is Holmes, that ability beyond all others, that enthusiast in the art of detection who can't stop being who he is, even when he's roaming the world to get away.

That guy in Elementary? After his "Moriarty moment," he had a total breakdown, went complete drug addict, then had to have his daddy buy him a minder after he fled to New York City. Does that sound anything like Sherlock Holmes to you? Maybe you can still squint and see it. Not this little black duck.

But the Sherlock minisode also somewhat explains why we have that weird Elementary alteration of the character with its second half: the cut footage from Watson's birthday video. Even I have to admit, Moffat and Gatiss have altered the character of Sherlock Holmes for their version as well, playing up Sherlock Holmes's social awkwardness due to his genius and his penchant for brutal honesty. People often don't feel comfortable with the bald truths of life, which Sherlock is all about. This BBC version of Holmes plays up Watson's trials in being a friend to such a man, eliciting teary sympathy from viewers much more than Doyle ever had a mind to, but here's the thing: In making Holmes a bit of a social bastard, they don't reduce the character's powers or make him a lesser detective just to add viewer sympathy.

The guy in Elementary has others solve his cases. He's living off his daddy's money. He has weakness after weakness added in because the show's creators seem to go along with the American TV model in such cases: If you show a smart and successful person that might seem to wound the ego of Joe Average, you have to make them an awkward nerd, or in some other way show that those very intelligent people come with flaws that make them no better than the rest of us. Probably even lesser than the rest of us for all their book-l'arning and big-brain IQs. Probably a psychopathic killer, too . . . you know how smart they always are!

But Sherlock Holmes was created in a time when a true genius, a man at the top of his field, didn't have to be a psychopathic killer or a nerd. As we move toward the world of Idiocracy more and more with every passing day, we need more Sherlocks and less Elementarys to fight the rising tide of the lowest common denominator being our standard-bearer.

Just my opinion, perhaps, but I suspect even Detective Inspector Anderson can see that need coming. (And I never thought I'd like that guy quite so much.) It's amazing how much we got in one seven minute minisode this time around, and it has raised an already high interest level in the new series even further.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Minisode day!

It's seems like only yesterday that a whiney commenter on a past blog was calling me "anti-American" for writing about how much I like BBC's style over PBS. Well, today I definitely have to give the Brits points over our slow-witted American television networks and the audiences they feed . . . yes, Duck Dynasty fans, I'm insulting your fellow beard-fanciers . . . because it's Minisode Day!

Minisodes have been one of the great treats of watching Doctor Who, little video confections that come along when you're missing your favorite show, completely in the Canon of the show involved, completely separate and different material from anything that will be shown later. Generous extras for the fans, and what did Sherlock Holmes say about extras?

"Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers."

Flowers, minisodes . . . it is only goodness that gives us extras, whatever form they take, and I think we have much to hope from minisodes.

And now we have a Sherlock minisode. Thank you, Providence, or BBC, or Moffat and Gatiss. It is goodness.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Peoria Blue Carbuncle dinner.

On Friday night, a full seven days before the second day after Christmas, the Hansoms of John Clayton met for dinner at the home of one of our brightest lights. I don't record too much here of Peoria's revived Sherlock Holmes society, as we're still a pretty small and maturing group, and I'm curious to see what develops without all the pomp and circumstance societies often record their every event with. Suffice it to say we met to celebrate "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle."

Goose was not served, but a fine ham was, and since ham was what Christopher Morley reported could be found on the sideboard at the inn called Alpha some years after Sherlock Holmes stopped there, it seemed a fine enough feast to go with our celebration of that December tale.

We discussed "Blue Carbuncle" over drinks and sugar-cinnamon pecans, with many a challenge posed and answered, a number of good points made and mulled over, a review of the tale's cinematic and audio adaptations from Barbara Roden's compilation in the excellent Case Files series, and the eventual wandering to other topics, before we eventually wandered out into the winter night.

And for those of you who have awaited my giving some ground on CBS's Elementary, this was the first occasion I've had to meet some excellent folk who started on Holmes's path by enjoying that show, moving on to BBC Sherlock, and then starting to read the original Canon itself. I don't know if we'll consider this Christmas miracle enough for me to throw open the window and shout down to a passing urchin, "Boy! You know that boxed set of Elementary DVD's they have on display at the local Wal-mart? Take this credit card and go buy the biggest one, then run it over to Bob Cratchit's house!"

But it is, as "Blue Carbuncle" tells us, the season of forgiveness. So maybe I'll just forgive Elementary its foibles for the season.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

How Sherlock Holmes changed a world.

I suppose it bears note that a special entitled How Sherlock Changed The World played on PBS this week, to mixed reviews. Coming eight years after How William Shatner Changed The World, I think that it's not only overdue, but a little bit sad that William Shatner was somehow eight-years-ahead more inspiring than Sherlock Holmes. And the lack of the detective's last name does tend to indicate a more BBC Sherlock inspired reason for its existence.

But none of that has anything to do with why I didn't feel compelled to watch it, this week or any time in the future. For one, and not to be arrogant about it, after nearly forty years in the hobby, the slim possibility of new information doesn't outweigh the irritation factor of things they might not get quite right. But more importantly, I don't really need a television special to tell me how Sherlock Holmes changed my world.

When I think of all the cities I've been to, things that I've seen, and people I've met, simply due to Mr. Sherlock Holmes, his presence in the world is much more impressive than some possible inspirations to the fields of forensic science and policework. I've only been to Santa Fe, New Mexico once, but that was still more times than "criminals in my life needing to be caught by advanced police methods." Of course, perhaps the fact that all such criminals were caught by Holmes-inspired methods before they got to victimizing me or mine has quietly changed my world more than I know . . . but I don't know that.

What I do know is that the library at the University of Minneapolis is a very impressive place. I know that New York City is an intricate mass of concrete and steel that doesn't suit my fancy, despite a thousand places of interest there and odd, surprising moments like seeing Grandpa Munster through a restaurant window. And I know a lot about Mormons. What port wine tastes like (as well as Petri). That some places don't need screen doors. How an Arby's roast beef sandwich can be special. What it's like to be solicited by a Toronto prostitute. At least three techniques for making a book. A certain comfort level for public speaking. And I know Don Hobbs, though I don't see him hardly enough.

I could spend all day making a list of the ways Sherlock Holmes has changed my world. And I can't think of many that fall under the category "for the worse." Even the less than pleasant parts of a Sherlockian life have been growth experiences. (Insert obligatory Elementary quip here.)

So this week, with all holiday festivities and other obligations filling up my time, I didn't really feel a completist urge to add How Sherlock Changed The World to my schedule.  Simply going "I agree!" seemed like enough.

Sherlock Holmes has changed a lot of worlds. Mine included.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seven hundred miles for a secret.

June is still a long way off, especially with the snow thick on the ground here in Peoria at the moment. And there are a lot of big events before Summer Fun 2014, part of which will be the Scintillation of Scions on June 6-7. And yet, among the Yuletide, the impending and current Cumbercraze, and a dozen other joys of the season, a little bit of June's magic has already started . . . for me at least.

As question was asked and answered, and I now know what purpose I'll be going to the Scintillation of Scions for. After all, one can't just go all the way to Maryland without a purpose.

And that purpose is currently going under the name "The Secret of Watson's Six Wives."

It's the next step in an exploration that began back on the Hounds of the Internet in September of 2000, with something called "Chronology Corner." Given the task of sparking the Hounds' weekly discussion of the Canon of Holmes, I started working my way through the details of dating the sixty stories. And unlike certain other chronologers who seem to like to twist facts to fit theories, I let Dr. Watson be my guide, come what may.

One of the after-shocks of that little trip was a revelation about John H. Watson having six wives.

Sound a little ridiculous? Watson getting away with that many wives in a time when divorce was hard to come by and being that many times a widower would be a very nasty bit. But John Watson's six wives, it turns out, had a secret. A secret that makes all the pieces fit.

What's the secret? Well, it wouldn't be a secret if I told you (he said annoyingly), would it?

And I've got six months to enjoy that secret, explore that secret, and generally have some fun before the cat comes out of the proverbial bag. I won't be teasing it here too much after this, but I did want to give you a little bit of a heads up.

Because I'll be traveling well over seven hundred miles to reveal that secret come June, so it must be something. And you might just want to be there to hear it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Never mind.

Well, there comes a point when even a brazen blogger knows it's time to shut his mouth.

But y'know, you still just want to make some notes about a current event in the world of Sherlock Holmes, acknowledge that something happened, maybe even openly ponder it a bit.

But, wow . . . .

Sherlock fandom is scaring me right now. Nothing directed at me, mind you, and I truly appreciate the explanations given by commenters on my last blog. But, man, don't send me any links to editorials on the Caitlin Moran situation. Because I might read them and actually want to make a remark or two . . . and then feel all courage drain from my body.

Because a.) I have XY chromosomes, and b.) While I'm a big fan of fanfic, and have actually written some back in the days of the printed 'zine, I'm not a part of the current Sherlock fanfic community. And right now, expressing an opinion from either of those positions feels a lot like it might get a flamethrower pointed in your direction.

I've had people mad at me in the Sherlockian world. I've had some uncomplimentary things said or written about me on occasion. But even my worst day was nothing compared to the radioactive intensity of what's going on out there at the moment. And it doesn't feel like it's all focused on Caitlin Moran, some of it seeming like she was just the spark that set off a lot of pent-up feelings that were out there already.

So I'm not saying nuttin'. Except what I just said. Which I probably shouldn't have said.

Never mind.

Perhaps I should just go do something a little gentler on my nerves . . . like preparing to give a talk at a con full of rabid Elementary fans.

Monday, December 16, 2013

In the very public press.

Well, this never happened with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

Sunday wasn't the first time Sherlock fan endeavors were used to torment Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Apparently the panel discussion after the BFI premiere of Sherlock season three, however, crossed new lines of humiliation for both the actors and fans, especially the writer of the fan fiction in question, as the actors were asked to read a particularly kissy scene between their two characters. The reaction in fan world was strong enough to get reported in The Telegraph, which, like the reason for the incident to begin with, was probably just there because nobody's reporting what was actually in the long-awaited resurrection episode.

Usually we tend to think of old school Sherlockians who just don't get full implications of our modern world, but I think this particular incident demonstrates that even the next generation isn't entirely ready for our newfound technological powers.

I mean, the poor humiliated fan in question published her fan fiction on the internet. Remember the internet? The very public internet? Where, if I write how much I hate Elementary in great detail, week after week, I shouldn't be surprised if a producer from CBS television walks up to me and goes, "So, I hear you don't like Elementary." Which did happen in one mildly uncomfortable moment. Not nearly as uncomfortable as having your demonstration of fondness for a characterization of Holmes used to ruin the moment of the person who helped create that characterization, of course. And not even the most uncomfortable moment I've had being read by anyone who gets pointed this way.

But here's the thing: as much of a (insert your preferred profanity here) as Sunday's BFI panel discussion's chairperson was being by mocking someone's Sherlock creative effort, there's a side to this that was hitting the fandom lottery. At the end of the day, once the emotions have lost their potency, somebody got their words read by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, and has that story to tell for the rest of their life. There's a reason we have the phrase, "We'll laugh about this one day." Because what else are you going to do? Live in a bell tower the rest of your life?

Nobody wants to be the cautionary tale for the rest of the Sherlock fan universe, 'tis true. But there is a cautionary tale to be seem there. Anybody can read our stuff on the internet. Our friends, our foes, utter villains who may use it in ways we never could have conceived of. It's something we all have to consider as we put electronic words to server.

Because we're playing a whole new game these days, boys and girls. Some of it may seem like the same stuff that's been going on for decades, but there's these wrinkles to it we ain't never seen before.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

And so it begins . . .

Finally, this weekend, we were treated to the return of seeing Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman combining their talents again -- though some more than others.

Here is Peoria, as in most of the world, it was on the big screen's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which also featured a certain Mycroft from another Sherlock Holmes franchise. But while most of us were seeing the hobbit and the dragon do their stuff, there were those lucky few who got to see the first episode of Sherlock, season three, at the BFI National Film Theatre in London . . .

. . . which means there are people out there like ticking time bombs of spoiler devastation, otherwise lovely souls who are now targets of bitter jealousy, and a whole lot of patience and avoidance testing for the rest of us.

Seventeen more days for residents of the United Kingdom.

Double that for those located in the United States. Thirty-four days.

Thirty four days of deciding whether or not to dodge the normal internet trails Sherlockian news and opinion. The holiday season may make that easy for the first half, but once early January and the UK premiere hits, then things really get obnoxious. And while there are those Sherlockians who are probably about as concerned about the new Sherlocks as I am about last Thursday's Elementary (that I still haven't gotten around to watching), I'm not one of them.

Thirty four days.

Going to be an interesting time.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

An uncollectable age?

Just for fun this week, I went out browsing the reviews on Amazon.com of Conan Doyle's assorted works of Sherlock Holmes. Didn't know what I might find there, some creative comments, some unexpected insights from random readers . . . but what I chanced upon was something like looking up at the sky at night. A vista of unimaginable breadth. Maybe the Amazon listing for Sherlock Holmes isn't quite as countless as the stars in the universe, but for all practical purposes regarding my little brain, rather similar.

Looking at the little write-ups, wondering about how their authors came to be inspired to spend time describing Conan Doyle's classics, I was struck by how ephemeral they all suddenly seemed compared to how well collected similar commentaries in print would have been only a few short decades ago. Scrapbooks, file folders, boxes of clippings -- it wasn't just books that Sherlockian collectors gathered.

Now, I suppose the collecting bug will never go away. Deep in the hunter-gatherer DNA lies something that will drive some of us to try to complete sets, to catalog categories, and to fill shelves. The old Sherlockiana is still out there to collect, of course, with its self-published print runs of 221, myriad journals and newsletters from pre-internet days, but a lot of that is very had to come by. In most cases the current owner has to actually die for anyone else to get their hands on it.

So what do you collect if you've got the collector bug and you're starting now? Well, there are pastiches a'plenty out there, I suppose. And there are more Sherlock Holmes t-shirts than ever. But so much of the greatest stuff, the things produced by ardent fans, tends to be digital these days. Videos, art, fan fiction . . . one could have a collection bigger than that of the biggest Sherlockian collector in the world in 1980 and store it completely in the cloud. Theoretically, you could be the greatest collector of Sherlock Holmes materials on Earth, and no one would ever know it by walking in your home.

It almost seems to be an uncollectable age, a day where the prominence of the collector in the hobby of Sherlockiana loses stature next to the creator -- and the internet loooooves creators. Sherlock fandom seems to be creator-heavy, but it's a little early on that one to see the big collectors emerge. Collectors always wind up being the first historians on any subject, and they are out there, starting or continuing their archives even now. Given digital rights and all, some of that collecting may even be technically illegal. But I remember the illegal nature of the first copy of The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes that I ever got my hands on back in the days of print, via the "don't tell anyone where you got it" network. Collecting and collectors is a force that's very hard to stop.

Even in an uncollectable age.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Making the mistakes of a true Sherlockian.

I don't think the Holmesians of England will ever truly understand how much Sherlock Holmes can ruin even an American English major's ability to spell.

If one reads the words of Conan Doyle enough times, memorizes lines, studies passages, and generally ingests the Canon of Holmes as totally as possible, one starts to think like Conan Doyle, at least in one aspect.





The British spellings start creeping in, and I find myself backspacing to get rid of the "u" every time I type "behaviour . . . behavior." Did it in an e-mail just before I left work today.

Jacquelynn Morris brought the subject up on Facebook today, when she caught herself using "postman" instead of "mailman." (Which, it turns out, is still acceptable in American English.) Still, as Jacquelynn and many another American Sherlockian has surely noticed over the years, Doylean English starts creeping into your American whether you like it or not. Some Sherlockians affect it on purpose, to be sure, but even if you don't . . . spend enough time in the hobby, and you might as well have spent a few years in Britain, in some respects.

Sherlock Holmes knew the feeling.

"My well of English seems to be permanently defiled," he comments after catching himself using the word "stunt," after his American spy days leading up to "His Last Bow."

Well, if our country corrupted Holmes's verbal skills, he has certainly had his revenge on the Americans in his fan following.

Better living through Elementary.

Well, Mr. Elementary may not be the Sherlock Holmes I want or need, but apparently he's raising somebody's standard of living. A mention by Stephen Colbert on last night's The Colbert Report brought the thought up.

In her article, "Who Needs a Raise When You Have TV?" Virginia Postrel writes on Bloomberg.com:

"Too tired for an intense cable drama -- which you prefer to experience in immersive weekend marathons of at least three episodes each -- you stream a first-season episode of 'Duck Dynasty' from Amazon.com, then run last week’s 'Elementary' from your DVR queue." 

The argument Ms. Postrel uses that example to start making is that modern standards of living are not being adequately measured as the all of the fabulous video we now have at our disposal is not being factored in. Being poor isn't as bad as it once was, it seems, because we now have more TV to watch.

"Yeeeee-haaawwww, Ma! We'uns got Duck Dynasty and Elementary!" (Sorry for characterizing the economically challenged as hillbillies. I grew up on The Beverly Hillbillies . . . which seemed entertaining enough for our standard of living at the time.)  The classic "bread and circuses" metaphor from the Roman empire comes to mind, though I don't know where Virginia Postrel thinks the bread is coming into her equation.

She also apparently thinks Elementary is what you watch when you're "too tired for an intense cable drama," and then only after you've squeezed in a Duck Dynasty and are probably getting really sleepy. Not sure how murders make you sleep better, and I'm not sure how many people actually put procedurals into the part of the evening usually reserved for Leno and Letterman. Perhaps Virginia Postrel's imaginary person is a big Lucy Liu fan who sleeps better just knowing she's still in the universe every night.

But then, Sherlockians have considered the ripple effect that Sherlock Holmes has had on our world as a beneficial force for over a century. So in the end, I guess even Elementary raising standards of living should come as no surprise.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The dream teams.

On January 1 in England, BBC Sherlock brings what some would call their dream Sherlock back for season three.

On January 2 in American, CBS Elementary brings an entirely different sort of Sherlock Holmes dream back from mid-season hiatus to finish season two.

You can call Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman "dreamy" after looking at the pics released for their upcoming show, but those fairly mundane shots don't come close to matching the dream-like quality of a single still released from Jonny Lee Miller's franchise this past week at EW.com. It's been haunting me like some nocturnal vision of disconnected elements one's subconscious concocts from the day's events.

In the photo, we see Sean "Sherlock" Holmes visiting Jamie Moriarty in her obviously non-prison place of residence, where she seems to have painted a giant portrait of Joan Watson, the sort one usually reserves for memorial services.

A trip out to The Futon Critic for details on the episode makes things stranger still. Moriarty apparently has a henchman, Joan has a date, but is that John Clay from "The Red-headed League" I spot in the cast list? All for a kidnapping case on which Jamie Moriarty is brought in as a consultant, which as you may recall, is the job title of the two main characters.  Detective Bell, we are told, still struggles with his recovery from being shot, which is the only part of the whole description which seems to follow logically from previous data. (Poor detective Bell. Can't help but feel he just got screwed in the subplot department.)

That giant painting of Joan Watson, though, is like something the Joker would have in his lair. (Put some bright red lipstick on Natalie Dormer who plays Moriarty and her exotic looks can have a bit of a Joker-esque quality.) She's obviously focussed on poor Joan after her seeming rival for Holmes's attentions outfoxed her last season with a twist on the ol' "Dying Detective" trick, but probably not the "you're so unique I can't kill you" sort of attention Jonny Lee Miller gets. It doesn't bode well.

Why is Jamie out of prison? Is the unfinished concrete of the room's walls a sign she's still in prison? Why do the most important women in Mr. Elementary's have "J" names? Why is his mug of tea sitting five feet away from him? Why doesn't the EW interviewer think Moriarty has any power in her situation with Watson? What is it with giant paintings, anyhow? They don't look good on a standard sized wall, do they? Will Mycroft show up for a surprise cameo and sleep with Moriarty, too?

Well, we have to wait until January, Elementary fans. Just one day longer than the British Sherlock fans, but their country has seniority after all.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The strip-tease continues.

These days, one might think the art of the strip-tease is long gone. Warrant's in-your-face "Cherry Pie" has replaced David Rose's wait-for-it "The Stripper" as the signature tune for portraying strip club music in the media, and identifying the modern incarnation of Gypsy Rose Lee seems nigh impossible. Tonight, however, I would like to nominate the gang behind BBC Sherlock as the likely successor to Gypsy's throne.

A handful of pictures last week, an interactive preview today, a mini-sode coming on Christmas . . . one could do a time-lapse video of the promotional roll-out of Sherlock season three, put David Rose's classic tune behind it, and Voila! The strip-tease is back.

The key to the strip-tease is two-fold. First, obviously, is the slow reveal. A little bit of something here. A little bit there. Rearrange the bits, let slip a little bit more. And second?

You have to have something your audience really wants to see.

And no gang of college boys was ever so eager to see a nightclub dancer get to her naughty bits so much as fans of Sherlock are about the upcoming "Empty Hearse." The current movie-level status of its two leads. The puzzle we were left to solve at this Reichenbach hiatus. I'm tempted to say "the moustache," as I don't ever remember such ado about a moustache, but instead I'll say "the fans themselves." The sheer love that gets poured out for this incarnation of the master detective stands alone. (We saw the portents of it with Jeremy Brett, and maybe his fans could have matched this level had they the internet to work with . . . but that is a blog discussion for another day.)

Anticipation can be one of life's keener joys. And as much as I will be happy to get to see season three of Sherlock, I will certainly miss this little period in our Sherlockian lives when it's done.

The Sherlock strip-tease. If it only led to Lara Pulver strolling around in a Cumberbatch-Freeman remake of the "Blurred Lines" video, then . . . well, excuse me for ending the blog here, my mind just went blank.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Mr. Elementary on trial.

Dear fans of CBS's Elementary,
    The following is written for Sherlockian non-fans of Elementary, who like an occasional update of what is going on with that show they don't watch. You might want to do yourself a favor and just close your browser now. I'm really quite a nice person and don't want to ruin your day. Go find another site and write about everything you enjoy about the series. You'll be a much happier person for it.
     The Staff and Management of Sherlock Peoria

I remember a day when a fellow who called himself "Sherlock Holmes" was a consummate professional. The very top of his field. A man so admired by the men of Scotland Yard that if he came down to that London institution the day after a certain case, every man there "from the oldest inspector to the youngest constable" would be glad to shake his hand.

These days, there's another fellow who calls himself "Sherlock Holmes" on the CBS network, who seems to be the very opposite of everything that the name used to be represent. He's not professional. He's not good with people. He's not at the top of his profession, depending heavily on the work of others to obtain successes in most cases. And if that difference was not entirely clear before, this week's episode of Elementary, "Tremors," went out of its way to lay out its main character's deficiencies for all to see.

For much of this season, Elementary seemed content to play out wacky comic soap opera scenarios of its main character, his brother, his partner, and their mix-and-match sex partners. But that light touch has been left behind of late, and this week Mr. Elementary's incompetence actually cripples one of his closest associates. And the NYPD then proceeds to put him on trial . . . a trial which he actually loses. Unfortunately, he doesn't go to jail or even lose his job as a result. Pity.

One might say, "Isn't it great to have a show that explores the premise of Sherlock Holmes being a complete failure at so many things! It makes him so human!" But Sherlock Holmes was very human back in the day when he was created as a successful professional . . . and that is was what made him such a great character. This dismal wretch being trotted out on Elementary each week would have left Arthur Conan Doyle totally dependent upon his medical skills, had he been written this way to begin with.

I understand the show has its fans, a fact I just can't entirely wrap my head around. In fact, it was one of their very positive reviews that inspired me to watch this week's episode, as I was well into considering giving it up for a month or so. We've got Sherlock coming on again soon, and why drive through McDonald's on your way to a favorite cafe?

So if you are wandering the internet, discover one such review and get tempted, you know better. Remember why you're not watching Elementary to begin with. And go spend that hour on something you'll enjoy.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hat's on to Benedict Cumberbatch!

The word is spreading acrossing the internet lines . . . the deerstalker may be in for a big-time comeback in season three of BBC Sherlock.

The deerstalker.

That completely ridiculous, "Hey, I'm a nerd!" hat that I've never felt good about putting on my head since day one as a Sherlockian. I've owned one forever, sure, but actually wearing the damn thing, even if I'm dressing as Holmes? Give me a top hat any day!

A batch of pictures appearing today show quite a few deerstalker shots and Martin Freeman himself tweeted, "The deerstalker looks like it's a 'thing' now."

And all I can hear in my head is a paraphrase of a Matt Smith Dr. Who line: "Deerstalkers are cool."

Deerstalkers are cool?

Maybe not yet, but if Benedict Cumberbatch actually wears the thing for a decent amount of time in the next season of Sherlock and makes it look cool?

If the guy pulls that one off . . . well, I know this might upset a few fans of this actor or that actor, but . . . I'm totally giving him the Basil Rathbone crown of Sherlockness. (Yes, I'm a Rathbone guy at heart. At least until B.C. makes the deerstalker cool.)

The damned deerstalker hat. Who'd have thunk it?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The December one. And why it's just one.

Welcome to December, the month with one Sherlock Holmes story.

While we all know that "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" is the story for the season in the days ahead, the thing we don't often stop to think about -- much like the dog who did nothing in the night-time -- are the stories that aren't taking place during December. Like every other one of them.

With a Sherlockian Canon of sixty stories taking place in a twelve-month calendar year, one would expect an average of five cases in a given month, and that is what the average is. August and September meet that standard, going by my personal chronology, having five cases starting in them. The rest of the year varies from nine cases per month down to three cases per month.

Except for December.

December, by my reckoning, only sees the start of one case in the chronicles of Sherlock Holmes.

That case, "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle," is so perfectly holiday-ish that it must have begged to be told, but without it's existence, well, it's almost like Dr. Watson had a moratorium on publishing cases that began in December. Every other month has at least three published cases starting in it. December is a blue carbuncle away from zero.

It could be coincidence, sure. But sometimes things are the way they are for a reason, even if it isn't obvious at first. Sherlock Holmes has taught us that above all else.

So why might Watson have avoiding December stories? Well, it doesn't take much of a search on mentions of the month of December in the Canon to see one potential reason.

On December 3, 1878, Dr. Watson's one-day wife lost her father in one of the most traumatizing ways imaginable: he vanished, taking nothing with him, and leaving no trace of whether he was alive or dead.

The one other time outside of "Blue Carbuncle" that Watson mentions the month of December is in an 1895 case that was published in 1903, well after the time when most biographers consider Mary Morstan Watson to have died. And "Blue Carbuncle" itself, with its comic elements and non-violent themes, is the one case that Watson might have even presented to a troubled spouse to try to cheer her during a holiday season that had to be a major source of sorrow to her every year. It's no wonder that Watson doesn't call upon Holmes in that case until the second day after Christmas -- the good doctor would never leave his wife behind during such a troubled time. Especially after she'd had one loved one go missing during that chilly month.

Fortunately for her, Mary Watson didn't have to suffer through a holiday season alone filled with downer Muzak like "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" (didn't come along until 1944) and "Blue Christmas" (1948). She didn't get called "Grinch" or "Scrooge" for not showing the requisite cheeriness to the holiday police. She just got the company of good old Watson in front of a cozy fire, until the month was almost over, and she could happily look forward to the promise of New Year's.

And so, as we enter December and anticipate the latest coming of Mary Morstan this January on the BBC, let's honor December for the month it truly was in the lives of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: the month where the domestic partnership of ex-army doctor and ex-governess took precedence over the partnership of the biographer and the detective.

It's Dr. and Mrs. Watson's month. And if you want to throw a goose into that, feel free.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First to die.

Watching tonight's episode of The Walking Dead, I realized that there is one thing about Sherlock Holmes I will never experience.

Like many of the more intense television dramas these days, The Walking Dead has a reputation for killing beloved characters. And that reputation is so well known that "Kill Daryl and we riot!" has become a popular slogan with fans of a certain crossbow-wielding zombie fighter. The fans are constantly aware of the mortality of the series's characters, but even in that state, a sudden death comes as a shock. They're in zombie world, being alive at all is a minor miracle, and yet seeing one of them fall is still so very hard to take.

Which is why it's almost inconceivable to me how fans of Sherlock Holmes felt in 1893, when the star of their favorite monthly serial suddenly fell off a cliff . . . and was gone. Not "seemed like he was gone, but was standing hidden in the graveyard a few minutes later in the show." No. Dead. Gone dead. Not coming back dead. Really quite completely dead.

And when Sherlock Holmes did it, it was a complete and utter surprise. The serial short story was a pretty new thing, Sherlock was the guy who solved the occasional murder, not supposed to be the victim. It was as horrible a loss for the readers as anything that wasn't a part of their real lives and families could be.

But by the time I got to Sherlock going over Reichenbach Falls, the mere fact that there were still five books I hadn't read was pretty much a giveaway that he wasn't really dead. Pick up the next book and keep reading, and there he is! And while the BBC Sherlock episode "The Reichenbach Fall" really came close to making me feel what that loss would have hit the unsuspecting reader like, the certain knowledge that Reichenbach is always temporary kept even that well-constructed drama from having its full effect.

So, ironically, I'm winding up feeling the loss of characters from The Walking Dead more than I'll ever feel the loss of my favorite character of all time, Sherlock Holmes. But once upon a time . . . yes, once, Sherlock was one of the first in a series to die.

And thus, thinking of a particular character from The Walking Dead tonight and transferring some of that emotion back to sympathize with folks in 1893, I have to say, "Rest in peace, Sherlock Holmes."

P.S. Kill Watson and we riot!