Saturday, March 29, 2014

The random podcast reference.

While hard at work, as I so often am these days, I sometimes listen to a lot of podcasts. Most of them, of course, aren't Sherlockian podcasts, as The Baker Street Babes and I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere can only take up a scant few hours of the month. So it was a special treat today when I cranked up the Off the Air Podcast and found the show's opening moments to be all about Sherlock Holmes.

Or more precisely, about BBC Sherlock.

As one of those aging souls who prefers The Bob & Tom Show for his morning drive radio over some of the more obnoxious fare, I've long been a fan of Chick McGee, my favorite among the show's regulars, and I was especially delighted when he started up a podcast a year or so ago. A rambling, personal, very casual podcast, Off the Air feels a lot like hanging out with old friends, just like the best podcasts Sherlockian or not, seem to do.

I can't remember any episodes where Chick just opened up the show, pre-introduction, by telling his pod-mates that they show watch a particular television show, so to hear him right out of the gate recommending Sherlock was a treat.

Of course, the first part of the discussion centers on pronouncing "Butterdick Cumberbun" and its related joke connections -- it's that type of show -- but quickly gets to Chick telling his friends that as much as he liked his previous favorite show, Six Feet Under, "Sherlock is better."

"Every episode gets better than the episode before it," he praises the show, and then threatens to go off and watch it instead of doing the podcast.

It was a small enough moment in a podcast-filled day, but just one more confirmation for the bias of us fans of Sherlock. It is a great show, and it's just fun to hear someone new discovering it. And I feel like that's a gift that will keep on giving for years to come.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The grand gift of silence?

"You have a grand gift of silence, Watson," said he. "It makes you quite invaluable as a companion. 'Pon my word, it is a great thing for me to have someone to talk to, for my own thoughts are not over pleasant. I was wondering what I should say to this dear little woman tonight when she meets me at the door."

We rarely hear of the positive side of silence, outside of Sherlock Holmes's remark in "The Man with the Twisted Lip." Elsewhere in Watson's writings alone, we more commonly find things like "deathly silence" and silences that are broken by sudden turns of events. Even when Holmes talks about Watson's silence in the statement above, he quickly adds that he's glad Watson's not talking because he wants to talk . . . only he seems to want Watson to talk, too, to get him out of his own unpleasant thoughts.

Which is because silence can be either one of two things . . . a peaceful signal of uneventful times . . . or the dread warning that something is so horribly wrong that no sound can be made. "It's too quiet!' and "the silent treatment" are just a couple of common phrases of the latter. Sometimes we are silent because we have nothing to say, but sometimes the same silence occurs because we can't say what's foremost on our minds. Except perhaps in the company of a friend like Watson.

And since writing an ongoing and frequent blog on Sherlock Holmes requires a lot of stream-of-consciousness, say-whatever's-on-your-mind rambling, if you can't write what's on your mind and that subject won't leave your mind, well, you can't write. 

Which is the position I found myself in this week, as I tried to work out the chances that I was still going to be able to go to the Scintillation of Scions in June against some oppositional forces of circumstance, to put it all too vaguely. Especially after having sacrificed my attendance of the ever-near 221B Con this year, for that later event. My thoughts, as Holmes's in TWIS, were not overly pleasant.

After all that, I am down to not attending the Scintillation or 221B Con this year, which is really bad when one is blogging about Sherlock Holmes on a regular basis. Not that I need the material so much as the actual contact with other Sherlockians. The written word only gets one so far, and a friendly moment or two in person can make a big difference down the line when one or two of those words misfire, as they are apt to do now and then. Because the silent moments that follow can be filled with such dreary thoughts . . . .

"God help us!" said Holmes, after a long silence. "Why does Fate play such tricks with poor helpless worms? I never hear of such a case as this that I do not think of Baxter's words, and say: There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes."

Silence is a tricky thing, and sometimes not the grand gift at all.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Data! Data! Data! Data! Data! Data! Data! Data! Data! (SIgh.)

My Google newsfeed pulled in an article from The Daily Beast today that its engines seemed to think had something to do with Sherlock Holmes.

Sure, the headline read "The Best Apps for Developing Sherlock Holmes-Like Reading Skills," and there was a stock photo of a ridiculous person with a deerstalker and magnifying glass, which makes me think the headline was written purely because the photo was in hand. The little blog post of an article made no mention of Holmes in its content, and seemed mostly concerned with running as much information through your head as possible on a daily and weekly basis.

An analysis of Sherlock Holmes's reading skills, sadly, is nowhere to be found. And that is truly sad, because if I remember correctly, a Sherlockian or two has made a case for him being somewhat illiterate based on all the times he had Watson read something for him.

(The first Sherlock Holmes-like reading skill that the article then misses is simply: Have Watson read stuff out loud for you.)

One wonders if the author really understands what reading fiction is about, as he seems to think apps that either email you one page of a book a day or 20-to-30 pages of two books each month are going to let you lose yourself in the characters and lands provided. Any book that doesn't inspire you to read at a greater pace than that probably isn't worth your time, and you're probably just forcing it down because "it's s'posed to be good for you" as a notable commercial waif once remarked about Life cereal.

(The second Sherlock Holmes-like reading skill that the article misses: Don't worry about fiction unless it's your room-mates romanticized accounts of your own life. Which means it's not really fiction, right?)

But the largest thing the piece completely overlooks, which is why I think Sherlock was just trotted out for the sake of a headline and a photo to pull some mouse-clicks in, is that classic Holmes "brain-attic" analogy. You know the one . . . .

"I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it."

We live in a world where the data flow is more intense than Sherlock Holmes could ever have imagined. But even in the Victorian era there was an entire British Museum full of information that a man could have spent his entire life trying to take in . . . and failing. Holmes knew that selectivity was a key component of a knowledgeable man, and that still holds true, moreso than ever, today.

(And the third Sherlock Holmes-like reading skill that got missed by said article: Well, everything else. Apparently the apps that dole out pages like rations on short supply haven't got around to handing the writer any actual Sherlock yet.)

Unfortunately, new technology hasn't quite caught up with Sherlock Holmes just yet, or maybe Google  News wouldn't be trying to pawn off this latest Beast article as something a Sherlockian wants in his brain-attic.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The pond isn't small any more.

As a writer, I think one of my major de-motivators has always been Barnes & Noble.

Once upon a time, bookstores were a sort of specialty shop. Small, often quaint, with a genre sections that were very small as well. And within those genres, there weren't too many surprises.

But along came Barnes & Noble, the size of a K-mart and full of so many, many new books. So many books, that I started going, "With this many books, is it really worth the effort to add one more to the pile?" Where once it seemed like reading was starting to become a thing of the past, at some point (and I do give Harry Potter a little credit for this), it started to come into fashion again. And where there are a growing number of avid readers, there will also be a growing number of avid writers. And a growing number of really good writers at that.

Yes, there are those with those mediocre and fanzine-level writers that somehow hit the literary lottery and catch a tween fad over their dreck, but like I said, that's playing the lottery. Sure, "you can't win if you don't play," but odds are you just wasted your dollar. And if you've ever sat alone for the time it takes to write a book, you know that you're spending much more than a dollar for a ticket to that gamble.

But I've wandered off my point. Sherlockiana, like those quaint little bookstores, was once a small and specialized pond. And now?

The estimable Silke Ketelsen passed along a link to a miniaturist blog by a lady named Orsi Skulteti that just blew me away. Miniaturists have been a part of the Sherlockian world for decades. There's even a Sherlockian society based around that hobby, the Mini-Tonga Society, that's been all about building tiny 221B Baker Streets. But the work described and shown in the blog Orsi's Minis is some Olympic level miniature work, and here's the kicker: it's all about the kitchen in 221 Baker Street from Sherlock.

A very specialized piece of art inspired by a very specialized corner of the Sherlockian universe. And the collector that manages to somehow convince the artist to part with it will have a very unique treasure indeed. But spend much time on the internet following Sherlock these days and you'll discover a lot of treasures out there. More time and talent are being spent in the celebration of Sherlock Holmes today than any time in our history. And like being a writer walking into a Barnes & Noble, it can be a little demotivating for the lazier or world-weary old creator like myself. What was once our small little pond to be big fishes in is now a goodly-sized lake with the occasional monster swimming through.

Lucky for us, there's a generation out there that contains folk who aren't lazy or world-weary just yet, as well as some Energizer bunnies (Now a dated reference. Sigh.) with a little age on them, who use the sparks Sherlock Holmes emits to build some roaring fires.

A new golden age of Sherlock Holmes may be a bit challenging to the individual ego, but all one has to do is take a step back and look at the big picture to find some great delight in the power of Holmes. And this morning I'm just delighting in that power evoked in one teeny-tiny kitchen.

Amazing.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Madness? Wellll . . . not this week.

Over on the Baker Street Babes website, Liz Giorgi is making a good go of reviewing Elementary each week, and I've gotten in the habit of reading her after putting my own odious thoughts to digital storage on the subject. Her positive spin on each episode is like a palate cleanser after each sip of CBS's concoction, which has long been the television equivalent of beer in my world. Millions enjoy it, yet I can't seem to develop the taste. So I'm recommending Liz's reviews as a perk-me-up to those few Elementary lovers who seem to come to this blog each week to punish themselves, much like an albino in a Dan Brown novel.

Because it's Elementary night again in Sherlock Peoria . . . .

No, wait. What's this? March Madness?

Go to the standby Elementary episode guide on Wikipedia, check the list . . . .

Nope, nothing for two weeks. And then in three weeks, another episode with a Canonical title, "The Man With the Twisted Lip."

Wouldn't it be curious if, without warning, Elementary just totally did a Granada-faithful adaptation set in Victoria London using exactly the same cast one week? But alas, it's a serious show with no supernatural elements to throw it into a wacky, timey-wimey alternate future thing. (Well, serious when it's not making penis jokes.)

A wander through YouTube looking for a replacement entertainment quickly takes me off Sherlockian rails and into some nice comedy bits, so the mind quickly moves from Sherlock Holmes after the standard mental checklist of subjects I dare not blog about.

March is a very strange month in the modern day, but somehow Sherlock Holmes managed to stay seven cases worth of Sherlockian during it back in the day. Leprechauns and basketball did not get in his way, which should be a lesson for at least one rambling Sherlockian blogger.




Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Well, I missed St. Altamont's Day . . . or did I?

For some reason, Monday is just not a day for celebrations.

St. Patrick's Day fell upon Monday this year, which made no difference to the hard-core paraders and such, but many a celebrant did their feasting and green-decking on the Saturday before. The clan of Keefauver, which has a share of Irish blood in the mix, chose that course, which left Monday open and mostly ignored, having had our fill of corned beef and cabbage, as well as leftover corned beef and cabbage by then.

But my Sherlockian side now looks back upon that situation as a missed opportunity -- since St. Patrick was already feted, it seems like a good time to honor another Irishman of note, "Saint" Altamont of "His Last Bow" fame. 

Sure, he was *SPOILER ALERT* a certain Baker Street detective in disguise. But we aren't completely sure of that fellow's bloodline, and Altamont's Irish life was years long upon this Earth, so he should be at least an honorary Irishman, for all he did for the English-speaking folk of the world, the Irish included, at the onset of the first world war.

The different thing about celebrating St. Altamont's Day from the normal St. Pat's shenanigans, however, would be green wine needing to replace the green beer, as Altamont was known for his "nice taste in wines." He also smoked cigars and looked like Uncle Sam, which would add some different touches to the celebration. But as I contemplated just how one would celebrate St. Altamont's Day, I realized something else . . . .

The true holiday hadn't happened yet. 

"His Last Bow" is one of those rare Canonical tales we can put an exact date on, as it tells us specifically in the story's opening, "It was nine o'clock at night upon the second of August - the most terrible August in the history of the world," which is followed by the safe combination keyed to the current month, August 1914.

And this is 2014. The hundredth anniversary of Altamont's triumph comes this year, as well as the hundredth anniversary of Sherlock Holmes's last recorded presence upon this Earth. So August 2, 2014 is the true St. Altamont's Day, whatever we choose to call it by then, and a time to celebrate largely. And best of all . . . it's still many months away.

So you might want to hang on to your Irish gear a little longer this year. St. Altamont's Day is coming. And it should be a good one.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pick your own reality . . . it may not be mine.

Ah, history, you royal pain in the ass.

As a devout Sherlockian, I love history on most days. History lets us expand the world we find in the Canon of Sherlock Holmes to encompass the entire Earth of the Victorian era. It makes the decades of 1880 through 1910 (and some parts beyond) a virtual playground for us, seeking connections to Sherlock Holmes's life from the nitrate cliffs of South America to the tattoo styles of China. So much fun to be had; it's why we call it our Game.

But occasionally, even within our own ranks, we have those folks who seem to love history just a wee bit more than Sherlock Holmes. And another of those moments rolled into my newsfeed this week, and sitting there as a daily buzzkill, waiting for the next big Sherlock story to come along and displace it. This latest dead bird in the punchbowl comes in many flavors, one of which was:

"The real Sherlock Holmes revealed: Historian finds Victorian investigator Jerome Caminada . . ."

So, yeah, not even dignifying that by adding a link to it. Why? Because a.) Some author is using Sherlock Holmes to promote their history book, b.) We all know, by Conan Doyle's own words, where the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes came from, and c.) IT'S NOT THE REAL FUCKING SHERLOCK HOLMES!

Please excuse my language, children and schoolmarms of the internet, I can be a bit passionate in my fandom. And I didn't use foul language at all before listening to Baker Street Babes podcasts, so you can totally blame them. (Wink.)

"Real" is one of those evil words people like to use as a tool to demean something else. "Well, it wasn't a real relationship." "The vacation's over, back to real life." "I'm getting real, here!" Some days, I think we could do without it, it gets used to pompously.

But the great thing about Sherlock Holmes is that he was, is, and will forever be the real Sherlock Holmes. He's as real as real can be, in the best way. I've got hundreds of books on my shelves that proclaim his existence as Sherlock Holmes, whether you like to think of him as myth, legend, or prototype for homo superior, and not a one of those books say, "Oh, by the way, his other name was 'Jerome Caminada.'" Nope.

I bet if we could resurrect smelly old historical Jerome Caminada, even he would go, "I'm Jerome Caminada, isn't that good enough for you? Why do you have to call me this 'Sherlock Holmes' thing?"

Like I said, Sherlock Holmes is the real Sherlock Holmes. And for an hour and a half at at time, Basil Rathbone or Benedict Cumberbatch can even be the real Sherlock Holmes to us. And if outright swearing wasn't enough to convince you how much I hate this "real Sherlock Holmes" publicity trick, I will even allow that, for some folks, Jonny Lee Miller is the real Sherlock Holmes for an hour each Thursday night. But Jerome Caminada? Sorry. He's the real Jerome Caminada.

So as much as I love you, history, tonight I'm calling you a pain in the ass for giving one more writer fodder to drag out that "real Sherlock Holmes" line again. Cut it out!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Putting your money where your fandom is.

For all those folks who have wondered what it would take to make me stop watching CBS's Elementary, I think we have found the answer.

Make me pay for it.

Reuter's had an article this week about CBS CEO Les Moonves discussing cutting off the network's broadcast transmission and going totally internet based if a certain court case didn't go their way. It sounds like an unlikely threat, but if they did they would turn the channel into another cable network. Which could be one of those "included in the main package" things like USA, or a premium channel like HBO. Even though it would probably be the former, the idea of "pay for play" that it brings up is worth a little discussion.

One of my friends is a big supporter of getting rid of commercials and individually buying every TV show you want, as iTunes will let you do. As I quickly discovered, via Netflix streaming and my own iTunes purchases of a few special shows, life without commercials is a wonderful thing. But it also makes you really consider what you're watching.

I've bought the DVDs of Sherlock, to watch it whenever I choose, so obviously I'd pay for that one. I've bought tickets for Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, so plainly I'd pay to see Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes. But Elementary . . . well, the day they start charging for that one, I'm out.

And I'm betting a goodly share of its eight million viewers go with me.

There's a reason HBO wins award after award for its programming: they have to make shows good enough to get people to pay for their network. With the big four networks, it's usually the strategy for outrunning a bear -- you don't have to be faster than the bear, just faster than the other guy the bear is chasing. Network TV just has to be good enough to draw eyeballs away from whatever else is on in that timeslot for that mass of viewers that are just going to be plopped down watching one thing or another anyway.

Which, I guess, knocks Robert Downey Jr. out of my "pay for quality" test, as I tend to head for the movie theaters every weekend to see one thing or another anyway, just as those habitual TV viewers do. I'd have made the trip anyway that weekend, even without Game of Shadows.

So what Sherlocks would you pay for, if you're not a Sherlockian collector who'd buy it all anyway?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Nomenclatural real estate.

At some point, later in the Sherlockian life, one begins to feel a bit like a career criminal.

"Brad Keefauver, alias James Phillimore, alias Winwood Reade, alias The Birlstone Railway Smash, alias Frank Moulton, alias Something Hunt, alias Sherlock Peoria, alias The Jabez Wilson, alias . . . ."

And those are just the aliases I will admit to. Upon first entering the Sherlockian community with my first Sherlock Holmes society at the tail end of the 1970s, I was asked an innocent enough question: "What would you like for your Canonical title?" Modelling themselves after the Baker Street Irregulars of New York in that respect, many a new Sherlock Holmes group decided that their members should all have pseudonyms chosen from the Sherlockian Canon.

Back in those pre-internet days, one would even sometimes see folk whose goal seemed to be getting the same alias staked out in every possible Sherlock Holmes group, like intellectual property gang turf . . . only it was before "intellectual property" became a thing. (We just called it "copyrights" once upon a time.)  Back then, though, it was mostly a Sherlockian affectation. One didn't usually have a lot of non-Sherlockian friends with contextual nicknames.

But then, along came Twitter. And tumblr. And Gmail. And all those other web networks that suddenly made personal branding a thing. And people started to get creative.

Which was a very good thing, because we were going to run out of Canonical names very quickly in the recent boom, just like the Baker Street Irregulars ran out of the sixty stories when they originally gave their members story titles for their club investiture. (Which kind of implied one might become an expert on that particular story -- a cool idea actually, having a sixty-person encyclopaedia of knowledge on the sixty stories. Somebody should organize a new secret society based on that concept, if there isn't a secret one out there already, being all secret and stuff.)

These days there are probably more people out there with aliases just based on "Cumberbatch" than there ever were Baker Street Irregulars at any given time. To some they are masks, to others they are name-enhancers, serving all sorts of clever purposes. But nailing one down to claim completely as your own across the board has become harder than ever. Luckily, as that earlier statement implies, I've never become too attached to any one Sherlockian pseudonym, and I kind of like moving from persona to persona in that bit of verbal costumery.

And in an ever-changing Sherlockian landscape, aren't we, like Jim Moriarty, the most changeable things of all? 'Tis very hard to draw up a deed on ground that moves beneath your very feet.

Yours, bloggingly,
Bradsherdict Keefumberlandfusilhatch

Friday, March 14, 2014

"Starving" for Sherlock?

Okay, this is different.

The current wave of Sherlock Holmes infatuation in the culture has taken us to some new places, but -- what's this? A Sherlock Holmes parody that doesn't involve a deerstalker hat? Well, yes, now we get parodies with Cumberbatch coiffure and coat, but how about a new Sherlock Holmes parody moment that doesn't involve a costume change of any kind?

Allow me to present The Starving Games. As a person known for watching some very bad television and reporting on same, I took it upon myself tonight to watch one of those awful parody movies that seem to make just enough money to keep new ones coming to investigate Netflix's claim that it contained Sherlockian material. So here's the scoop:

Somewhere between minute 41 and minute 42, Kantmiss Evershot is cornered by a group of foes, only to assess their weaknesses, work out her strategies in a step-by-step walk-through, and then perform same in realtime. Just like Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes . . .  well, except it involves "motorboating," and such.

There you have it. Now you don't have to watch the whole thing . . . unless you want to . . . I mean, well, we all don't have to have high standards for watching vaguely-related-to-Sherlock-Holmes material . . . and so if you do want to, that's totally cool and all . . . so go ahead . . . it's not like The Starving Games will be on again next week . . . though it is on Netflix, so you could, if you really . . .  but that's okay, too.

Anyway, enjoy!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Hound with an entirely new curse.

A really offensive term for Elementary fandom came into my head again today. I'm sure I'm not the only one to think of this particular title/fan-commentary mash-up. It seems just a little too perfect for usage by haters of the show. But I'll never know, because I'm not going to ever be using it in a documentable forum.  So why mention it at all?

Well, just to serve as an opening warning to all said fans of said Elementary. It's just been that kind of day. The kind of day when you just want to find a socially acceptable outlet for taking out all of life's frustrations and proceed to  . . . ah, but we're all civilized beings here. We can deal with problems without kicking the neighborhood dog. Or "The Hound of the Cancer Cells," as the mangey pooch that wandered into my living room this evening was identifying itself.

What does it say about any nominal Sherlock Holmes production when one finds one's self truly and sincerely missing Inspector Lestrade?

"Detective Bell, Joan Watson, and a paint can shaker!" Karnak proclaimed as he touched the long envelope to his forehead this week.

"Detective Bell, Joan Watson, and a paint can shaker," Ed McMahon faithfully repeated.

The end of the envelope is torn off, a bit of breath to blow the two sides apart, and Karnak reads the contents:

"What elements comprise the opening moments of this week's Elementary?"

For you young whipper-snappers out there, that's the kind of comedy that was on The Tonight Show, two guys before Jimmy Fallon. It's also a curious beginning to another CBS procedural drama. For that's what the Bell/Watson opening to tonight's Elementary brings out: the procedural color of its eyes. One can almost imagine Gregson, Bell, and Watson as the core of a homicide squad, with a quirky British sort added for color. 

If the paint shaker wasn't random enough, for some reason, Mr. Elementary is keeping his voice to low tones this week, not so excitable and squeaky as it's been in the past. He seems calmer than he's been in . . . forever. In some scenes, Joan Watson is even louder than he is. Curious. As the episode goes on, it's almost soothing. Detective Bell is speaking very quietly, too. Even the suspects are speaking softly when confronted with their secrets revealed.

It's nice that this relaxing police procedural show titled its episode in tribute to a Sherlock Holmes novel. But that's not enough to keep me watching past the midway point this week. Goodnight, gentle police procedural show. I hope you catch your killer. I just can't bring myself to care who he is.

Did I mention that CBS has announced that Elementary has been renewed for a third season today? Yep. It's been that kind of day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Back to Nigel Bruce.

Nigel Bruce.

Seldom has a name meant so many things to so many Sherlockians. Warm and fuzzy memory. Offensive caricature. Comic genius. He's the sort of figure from our past that inspires further thought when he comes up, as he did today. Especially as considered next to some of our more recent spins on Watson.

Dr. Watson, in the original print entertainments, was our narrator, our guide, a role not so necessary in film or video. We saw very little of Watson's personality in those tales, as he was simply the man holding back the curtain for us. Only when he's reflected by the mirror of Holmes's words or deeds do we get any sort of look at him. Movies, as we well know, changed all that.

When one watches The Scarlet Claw or some other Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce tale of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, one really doesn't identify with Bruce's Watson. He's our not-so-bright but lovable friend, not us. No, we identify with Basil Rathbone's Holmes, clever and in control during those adventures. Watson is along for comic relief.

In the less satisfying modern attempts at capturing Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on film (though we don't actually use film any more, I guess), Watson is given to us as our character to identify with, while the fellow called Sherlock Holmes is the goofy friend, taking up Nigel Bruce's mantle. Which always makes me wonder . . . if Watson is who creators think we want to identify with when watching Sherlock Holmes, now, as opposed to the films of the 1940s, is it because they think we're seeing ourselves as the less intelligent of the set?

Are we now Watsons instead of Holmeses in the American mass market?

Sure, Nigel Bruce's Watson was happy with his Holmes, comfortable in his own skin, and didn't care if some guy showed up at Baker Street bringing Petri wine instead of the good stuff. If he had his cookies and a comfy chair he was as serene as a Buddha of Baker Street. He wasn't us, but he was our friend, and he'd let us be Sherlock Holmes. Because we sure didn't want to be him.

Nigel Bruce does cause a certain imbalance in the Sherlockian Force. His ying does not fully match Rathbone's yang to the modern mind. But the current adaptations that take things the other way don't really improve upon that mix.

I consider one of the great achievements of Sherlock is the fact that they've given us the best balance of Holmes and Watson we've seen since the original stories. Jeremy Brett and his Watsons made great strides in that direction, but then, they were trying to hit the Canonical nail right on the head as closely as possible. Holmes still tends to take center stage, even without a Nigel. Yet with the updated Sherlock, it actually seems possible to relate equally to Holmes and Watson, both as strong personalities, relatable characters, and even as both Cumberbatch and Freeman serve as Nigel Bruce, often at the same time.

So in a way, we're back to Nigel Bruce. But this time, there's a sharing of the load.

An asterisk in the record books.

Les Klinger recently tweeted a fact that's come around more than a few times of late, "To be clear: Jonny Lee Miller & Lucy Liu will soon have appeared ON SCREEN as SH & JW more times & more hours than anyone else!"
And technically, that's correct. They will have appeared on screen as characters with the initials "S.H." and "J.W." more than any other characters with those initials. But we immediately come back to the original question that has been raised from episode one of Elementary: Are Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu portraying Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson, M.D.?

I know at least one Sherlockian film expert who would lean strongly toward the side of "no" on that one. As past blogs would indicate, I am also of that opinion. While I've reached the "acceptance" stage of the K├╝bler-Ross model of confronting death, be it actual death or the killing of a beloved character, when Jonny Lee Miller comes on-screen, there is still no part of me that reacts, "Hey, it's Sherlock Holmes!"

Interestingly, CBS, the network behind Elementary, has even acknowledged that there might be a Sherlock more popular than their Sherlock in an episode of Two Broke Girls, a fact that I take great delight in, having used that show to prove a point about Elementary early on, substituting the names "Sherlock Holmes" and "Joan Watson" for its main characters and still finding the plot made as much sense as any episode of Elementary. But CBS is probably just comfortable enough in their ratings at this point that they just don't see the BBC version as a threat. They're not looking to make their mark on history, after all, just to get people to stay tuned to their network for one more hour on one more Thursday night.

And yet, there is history being made. More screen hours than any other character with the name "Sherlock Holmes" is a record for the books. But I can't help feeling it needs a big ol' asterisk after it.

Monday, March 10, 2014

John Watson, M.D., the 1.0 version

When The Baker Street Irregulars Manuscript Series published Angels of Darkness in 2001, almost nobody in the Sherlockian world considered it a part of the Sherlockian Canon . . . and why should they have? It didn't have Sherlock Holmes in it.

But what of the Watsonian Canon? John Watson, M.D., San Francisco practitioner, certainly appears in its pages. It was written by Arthur Conan Doyle. It was the little secret from Doyle's closet that John Dickson Carr mentioned in the same work he wrote of those debated black mourning bands at the time of Holmes's death. Before John H. Watson of Baker Street, there was definitely a John Watson of San Francisco.

The same John Watson?

It is so, so easy, just to say "no," and let it go at that. A lot of folks are into easy these days. Unless it's spelled out in black and white, able to be footnoted and indexed, it's not worth considering. But that wasn't the spirit that brought Sherlock Holmes to life, that has had Sherlockians of old looking for the house in which he lived, that explained how a war wound could be in two places at once, or brought Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler together to produce at least one literarily viable offspring.

Once I finally read Angels of Darkness, though, I had to consider the evidence of that John Watson whenever I've counted John Watson's wives. Even with the recent wedding reception in Sherlock "The Sign of Three," the Angels of Darkness, despite all its odd racisms, is the one place we get an actual Watson wedding on record, as Watson's lady love is asked to swear, "That he is yours, and you are his until death do you part."

Reconciling Angels of Darkness and "The Country of the Saints" (part two of A Study in Scarlet) is no little feat, but as the original title of Angels of Darkness, crossed out by Conan Doyle himself, was indeed A Study in Scarlet. So if facts were altered, one would tend to believe it was in the second draft. It makes for a very interesting study of the Conan Doyle/John Watson relationship as well.

The best studies of Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Watson have been those willing to make that initial stretch to connect the little evidence we have of them to our historical records, and the opportunities offered by the pre-Canon apocrypha has its charm as well. And what is that charm's name?

Lucy Ferrier-Watson. The first, and most American, of Watson's wives. And like all of Watson's wives, she shared a certain secret . . . that I'm saving for June.

And June is the month for brides, after all.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

He hath made us his Cumberbitch.

At some point, we're all going to be Benedict Cumberbatch fans.

It doesn't matter whether you like the Cumberbunny or not. It doesn't matter if you're a hardcore Jeremy Brett fanatic. If you keep yourself connected to the Sherlockian data streams at the levels of the average internet user, you're just going to find your brain filled with facts about the photobombing otter of the thespian world. In our omnivorous hunger for more and more Sherlock-related data, the Sherlockian community has whole-heartedly accepted Benedict Cumberbatch as one more collectable icon of Sherlock Holmes.

In other words, if an article is about Benedict Cumberbatch, it's about Sherlock Holmes.

While actors sometimes despise type-casting, or being over-identified with a character, there's also a reverse upside to it . . . at some point, the fans of that character will add you to their eternal playlist from here on in. At some point, a hyperactive Holmes fan starts having an interest in every movie Basil Rathbone did, or going back and watching My Fair Lady just to see Jeremy Brett seem to sing. It's the marker of a truly iconic Sherlock Holmes actor, that point at which Sherlockians adopt them whole-heartedly as a part of Sherlockian culture.

And I'd say good ol' Benedict has arrived.

Comparing him to Robert Downey Jr. and Jonny Lee Miller especially illustrates the point. Downey is Downey is Downey, playing Holmes or not, and his fandom is a separate thing. Miller . . . well, Miller is yet to make that impact, to cross that line . . . is it in the future? His chances are definitely lessened by Benedict's presence, but there are always those niche Sherlockians who will adopt the odd Holmes actor as a specialty, so he won't be left completely in the cold.

But as for Mr. Cumberbatch, I don't think I'm over-estimating things to say that line has been crossed. And if you're a Sherlockian, you may not be a fan of his now, but one day you will be.

Or at least seem like one to any outside observer, despite any protestations to the contrary.

Welcome to Cumberland. Gap or no.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

June is coming.

Are we done with winter yet? Doesn't matter. June is on my mind.

In June, I'm going to haul my aching carcass to Hanover, Maryland. Said carcass's natural disposition has always been against eastward travel, toward that coast where civilization has been entrenched a bit longer than is comfy for a lad from small town middle America like myself. But I'm doing it with a purpose, and purpose means laying out the groundwork ahead of time.

And there's a lot of groundwork to be laid.

A Scintillation of Scions VII, being held in Hanover on June 6 and 7, is providing me with my first opportunity to speak in front of Sherlockians in almost four years. (Not that I've been completely mute in the presence of any Sherlockian company in all that time. Individual encounters and small group gatherings have taken place, despite the sometimes "crazed hermit in a cave" vibe that may occasionally emanates from this blog.) And I've got twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes to lay out a case exposing a secret that I've been on the trail of for nearly my entire Sherlockian career. Twenty minutes to lay out a case built upon blocks I first started laying in September of the year 2000. Am I complaining? Do I want more time than that?

Hells no.

Twenty minutes is all one needs for a surgical strike upon the very foundations of Sherlockian scholarship. Twenty fast-paced, action-filled minutes.

But groundwork has to be laid.

June is coming. And I'm not making my way all the way to Maryland to talk about Sherlock's use of tea cozies. And so it begins.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

"Ears To You," Elementary!

Oh . . . my . . . god . . .

Yes, this week's cynical recap of our American Sherlock show begins with stunned amazement.

Lestrade and the chickens are still there. It's actual continuity on a non-continued plot. Elementary is scoring points straight out of the gate this week. Still making rooster/sex organ jokes, but hey, Rome wasn't built in a day. Different writer, different director, but same Lestrade.

And a cardboard box with severed ears. Two points scored before the opening credits. If they'd have left out the cock joke, I might have forgotten I was watching Elementary.

It's Sarah Cushing who seems to be missing the ears this time, a nice twist on the original tale of Sarah Cushing and the ears. Only it's a kidnapping this time . . . so far.

On the "writing fan fiction into your show" side of things that Sherlock has gotten known for this season, we get a lovely scene between Joan Watson and a drunken Gareth Lestrade about how she's the special one Holmes's life now, Lestrade sounding like a jealous ex-lover. Sean Pertwee is still a treat this week and that little scene was like a fanfic come to life. It's interesting how the relationship between Jamie Moriarty and Joan Watson has that in common with Gareth Lestrade and Joan Watson. Both Lestrade and Moriarty seem to prefer they were with Holmes instead of Watson. Odd, but fanfic point.

A triangle within a circle tattoo? Wow, another point. Staying on point with an actual sobriety symbol that's also a Canonical reference . . . that might even be a two-pointer.

Lestrade gets to wander off and work a second case this week, which works better than Watson always having to split off for the secondary story. Only Lestrade gets to punch people. And he also gets to have his own little victory moment. And is that a second detail purloined from The Valley of Fear? Points all 'round.

There are a couple of right silly bits this week, one outrageous visual, and, of course, Gareth Lestrade can't stay around forever. Still, I think this is my favorite episode of Elementary to date.



When less that great won't do.

After reading an agreeable Sherlockian review of Sherlock from the Seattle Weekly this morning, I was struck by a particular comment on Elementary when viewed next to Sherlock:

"Here let’s stipulate that the pedestrian, New York–set Elementary comes across as a pale copy ofMonk or House ; Miller is mostly wasted playing yet another eccentric detective with a ho-hum drug habit; he’s not helped by Lucy Liu’s female yet otherwise unremarkable Watson; and the scripts are utterly mundane."

After spending the last couple of years and thousands of words trying to nail down my issues with that show, it was quite refreshing to see writer John Longenbaugh sum it all up so succinctly. Despite the show's obvious attempts at sensationalism, like making Holmes a serial womanizer for no apparent reason, it does remain pedestrian and mundane to my mind, without a single mystery plot that remains in one's brain once the hour is done.

Were this the pre-Jeremy Brett 1980s, when we were desperate for any Sherlockian television content, Elementary would have been a fabulous, must-see show, the Star Trek: Next Generation of the Sherlockian world. But in the post-Sherlock 2010s? The bar has been raised. Fans are making shows for fans, and throwing random TV show-folk at an established and beloved character like a Sherlock Holmes just doesn't quite cut it any more. There was a reason Joss Whedon's Avengers made more money than any movie ever -- comic book movies were being made by grown adults who understood why comic book superheroes were cool, instead of schlockmeisters thinking they could make a buck off something only little kids liked.

I've taken some heat for my unrelenting dislike of Elementary in the past couple of years, and a lot of it takes a tone as if I'm berating a beloved local handicapped child. But Elementary is no poor under-achieving victim of circumstance. It walked into the arena knowing full well what its competition was, and under-equipped to deal. These are times when less than great won't do.

Welcome to another Thursday. The aforementioned Star Trek: The Next Generation was a real stinker for its first season and a half, too, but then figured itself out and became a very palatable part of the Trek franchise. And every Thursday, my hopes spring eternally up for Elementary's rise to a Sherlock Holmes level of cool. Let's see what happens tonight.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Miss Hudson, where are you?

Jared Leto's transgender controversies following the Oscars telecast Sunday night have made me think of Elementary's Miss Hudson this week. Remember her?

Ushering in an interesting new character and then dropping them has always been Elementary's MO, due to the fact that their episode-to-episode continuity isn't the strongest. But over time, we've see good characters return. Alfredo Llamosa, the addiction sponsor, was most notable in this spot, as he was a new creation of the show. Old stand-bys like Mycroft, Lestrade, and Moriarty are people we'd expect to see time and again . . . as would be a show's Mrs./Miss/Ms. Hudson character.

And yet, while all the others have found reasons to return even though they had to cross the Atlantic to do it, in the case of the Canonical sorts, Miss Hudson remains unseen. And she was supposed to be Mr. Elementary's housekeeper, coming by the house on a regular basis. Of all the Canonically-based characters, she's the one we would have expected to see the most of.

But, no.

When she first appeared, CBS seemed very excited about Candis Cayne's part as Miss Hudson on Elementary. She had appeared as a regular character on eleven episodes of Dirty, Sexy Money on ABC, so she wasn't some walk-on non-actress, but we still had to wonder if Miss Hudson's character was more of a novelty choice than a serious commitment to having someone transcending normal gender roles in the cast. Now, most of the way through season two and after the return of Gareth Lestrade, we are left to wonder even more.

If Candis Cayne is now unavailable for some reason, Elementary will take heat if they don't recast with a similar actress. But from a Sherlock Holmes fan's point of view, leaving Miss Hudson out entirely is a loss to the show as well.

While Elementary might be about to set records for "Holmes/Watson" airtime, as far as that lady named Hudson is concerned, I'm afraid it will always be lagging behind about every other serial spin-off of Sherlock Holmes. And that is a shame.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The magical elf pays a non-December call.

We all know the story: the magical elf that slips into your house in the middle of the night to deliver presents. And we all know that's just a story, right?

Well, we used to. As I tend to write about a lot in this blog, times have changed.

For last night, while I slept a magical elf crept into my house and left me a present on my usual workspace: Sherlock: Music from Series 3.

Sure, I got some iTunes gift cards this Christmas, and sure, I used part of them to pre-order the soundtrack music from the latest set of Sherlocks on iTunes. But when my morning e-mail contained a note reading: "The item you pre-ordered, Sherlock: Music from Series 3 (Original Television Soundtrack) by David Arnold & Michael Price, is now available. If you have set your iTunes preferences to automatically download prepurchased content, this item may already be in your library." I mentally scampered over to my iTunes library like a kid on Christmas morning.

And there it was.

The first track, named "How It Was Done," had been in my head since my first viewing of "The Empty Hearse," and I immediately played it three or four times. For me it summed up much of the greatness of season three (which some found appalling, of course, but not me) -- messy, movie-level quality of the ride, whether it was action movie, romantic comedy, or personal drama. And there it was, dropped onto my computer when I woke up in the morning, in a neat and tidy little electronic package.

Because, yes, Sherginia, there is a Santa Claus. And he's still bringing good stuff.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sherlock Holmes had one word for snow.

While I've been blythely blogging about Sherlock this winter, there is one important word that's been suspiciously absent from my musings, and that word is this: "snow."

I probably didn't include it, because it you spend any time on Facebook at all, you know that at least a third of its content for the last few months has been people East of the Rockies bitching about snow. We seem to be having record amounts of it this year, and so now, before I head out to shovel for my first time in March 2014, I thought I'd take a moment to look at Sherlock Holmes's relationship with snow.

As one would expect, Sherlock Holmes's relationship with snow is primarily about footprints in the snow, and at that, primarily in "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet." But if one steps back and looks at the larger picture, a more ominous pattern develops.

Looking at the Sherlockian Canon from a chronological point of view, the last time we hear the word "snow" mentioned is in "The Final Problem." When Moriarty is gone, the snow is gone, too.

Snow appears in "The Gloria Scott," A Study in Scarlet, "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet," The Valley of Fear,  and "The Final Problem." It is with Holmes from the beginning of his career in GLOR, the beginning of his partnership with Watson in STUD, his first bout with Moriarty in VALL, and his final battle with Moriarty in FINA. BERY has the distinction of being a case that actually involved snow in its casework, so we can knock it out of the pattern. The beginnings and endings that show up in this pattern are very intriguing.

I was wondering how Sherlock Holmes's two years in Tibet post-Moriarty might have fit into this, but a quick bit of research on that mountain country shows its average snowfall isn only 18 inches. It seems that in the world of Sherlock Holmes, snow only existed when Moriarty was alive on this Earth. And while we know that's not a true fact, the number of people viewing snow as their personal Professor Moriarty this year would lend a certain weight to that little coincidence.

But while snow may be our Moriarty at the moment, we can always turn to Dr. Watson for a little hope: "For a charming week we wandered up the Valley of the Rhone, and then, branching off at Leuk, we made our way over the Gemmi Pass, still deep in snow, and so, by way of Interlaken, to Meiringen. It was a lovely trip, the dainty green of the spring below, the virgin white of the winter above . . . ."

As Moriarty's career came to an end, Watson and his friend made their way down from the snowy heights to the green places below, as we will soon do. We can only hope that our Moriarty snow is of the Canonical variety and not that of BBC Sherlock, about to pop up again in full force going, "Did you miss me?"