Friday, July 31, 2015

Regarding quizzes . . . .

Ah, the Sherlockian quiz. From almost the first breath of two Cro-magnon Sherlockians meeting, they were testing each others knowledge upon the Canon of Sherlock Holmes. It is an abominable practice, one I doubt would have come about so quickly had the original Baker Street Irregulars been an all-female troop -- geek testosterone has been known to enter into it. And yet it persists, and yet even those of us who know better find ourselves drawn in once more, handing over the reins of our happiness to the domination of some quiz-ruler.

Do I seem a little bitter about the quizzes? Ask a devout ex-smoker how they feel about cigarettes, and you might get a similar reaction. For the Sherlockian quiz and I . . . oh, we have danced.

One of the worst occasions came early in my career at a local club meeting, where our every meeting featured a test upon one of the tales. I had determined to go home in the winner's role that night, so I had memorized every noun in the story, and a great many of the adjectives and verbs. And when the quizzing was done, I had scored one hundred percent. My trusted companion, the good Carter, had studied alongside me, and also scored one hundred percent. And the notorious cat-man, Ed Connor, who had apparently also decided this was his night, scored one hundred percent. During the rounds of tie-breaker questions that followed, the good Carter fell from the winning ranks, but Ed and I continued, tie-breaker after tie-breaker, not missing a question, until all the club members were bored to tears and it was apparent there was nothing in the story we did not know. The winner was awarded by random coin toss or some other such meaningless gesture.

And then there was one of the greatest Sherlockian quiz tournaments the world has ever seen, the Shaw Bowl in Kansas City, where Sherlockian societies from all across the land competed with teams of three in elimination matches. The final round saw Peoria's Hansoms pitted against the Stranger's Room from New York and the Norwegian Explorers from Minnesota, and as the round progressed, Quizmaster Shaw actually ran out of questions. In a make-do attempt to finish the tournament, he opened the Canon to a particular story and began tossing out questions from that story . . . a tale that happened to be the basis for the recited ritual of a club one of the Stranger's Room team members belonged to. As the Explorers first fell away, and then my own team, I remember there being some bitterness, alcohol, and rude behavior later stemming from that loss. (Though I won't say from whom or just what, in case I was among the guilty.)

And now comes "The Annual John H. Watson Canonical Treasure Hunt" and I find myself back in the thick of Sherlockian quiz world tomorrow. I had been asked to help with a particular question or two in years past by a participant or two who shall remain nameless, and then I remember the questions being particularly tormenting. And I think I heard that Regina Stinson is on a team, a quiz-taker extraordinaire whom I have never beaten at the massive quizzes they used to have in Dayton (and perhaps still do . . . I've been away a while).

Not exactly sure how the game is played, but it all starts at noon tomorrow and I'll be taking a "hare" approach from the Aesop's fable . . . though not by choice. Due to a particular event at my job, my time won't be my own until three and then the latest Mission: Impossible movie may have me for another two hours. But such is my hare-like confidence that I'll let others have a head start (Sorry, team-mates -- didn't look at the schedule when I said "yes.")

Will this go-round end in joy, or more alcohol and rude behaviour?

Or perhaps finally going the route of the Occupants of the Empty House, and swearing off quizzes forever. We shall see.

Lowering the bar for Sherlock, lowering it for ourselves.

Among our recent Sherlock Holmes representatives, we now have one suffering severe mental infirmities from old age, one rewritten as a complete heroin addict, and a very popular one that a lot of folks like to place somewhere on the Asperger's/autism spectrum.

Of the latest, one headline even went so far as to say, "'Mr. Holmes' makes Sherlock seem real."

And to a lot of people, giving Sherlock Holmes a diagnosis or disability is the equivalent of "making him more real."

Because, certainly, accomplishment, pioneering a field of endeavor, intelligence, and skills born of study and practice aren't just things normal people have, right?

One of the great things about Sherlock Holmes from day one has been how real he seems to such a large number of his fans. The great Sherlockian Vincent Starrett even immortalized that thought in poetry form with the line "How very near they seem, yet how remote . . ." Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson have long seemed close enough that we half-expect to see them, should we find ourselves wandering down Baker Street.

But as Holmes's has a resurgence beyond his loving fans and into the current public consciousness, it seems like his reality must constantly tie to issues, prices that have to be paid.

He can't be that observant without having to do drugs to dull his super-senses. He can't solve cases that take too much brainpower, or else writers might have to use their own brains too much to come up with stories. Whatever the excuse, lowering the bar for Sherlock Holmes lowers the bar for the rest of us.

Sherlock Holmes is a legendary character, of the sort we are meant to look up to. An embodiment of our dreams and aspirations, a vision of humanity at its very best. Has it become so hard to relate to the idea of humanity at its best? Are we so beaten down in our modern world that we have to have a Holmes who can barely get it together?

Or is it just that so many of us aren't thirteen years old anymore, without a wide open future and the hopes and dreams that make a pinnacle Sherlock Holmes someone we can look to as what we can become? All these failing Holmeses just represent our own failings, so we can just nod and go, "Well, that's the way life is . . ."

Yet those thirteen-year-olds are still out there, hoping and dreaming of being better humans than those that came before. I hope that the future makes sure they have a Sherlock Holmes that they can look to for inspiration, just as so many of us once did.

Because they are the new us, and who can't help but wish for good things for them?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A second manuscript from Mr. Holmes.

Before this year, few people knew of the manuscript written by Sherlock Holmes in his much later years. Many of those hearing of that business of the lady in gray might have thought that was all that he had written in that time. Recently, however, a Sussex historian named Chalmer Chops turned up a stack of other manuscripts written by Holmes during that period, and he was willing to let Sherlock Peoria reprint one of the more representative samples here:

The New Adventure of the Blue Diamond
by Mr. S-something (add that later) Holmes

Some readers of the many cases recorded by Dr. Watson might have wondered why it was that I left the business of consulting detection and retired to the downs of Sussex for such a prosaic past-time as the keeping of bees. I have often wondered this myself, a good three decades having passed since the decision was made. The good Watson wrote down the details of the matter in a tale he entitled "The Adventure of the Blue Diamond," which he then published in a book I keep in a wooden box with his other works. I could, perhaps, read that book and remind myself of some bits of the story, but I would rather sit here and puzzle it out myself as I attempt to ward off my random generic mental decline.

It was the winter time, and Commissar Petrov had brought us a goose that he found on the street. This was a great many years before the invention of the automobile brought along the invention of roadkill, and found street-meat was something we enjoyed on a regular basis. Mrs. Hudson cooked up the bird, and we were sitting down to a nice dinner when Petrov returned to enjoy the fruit of his discovery. As he removed his hat, a fine blue diamond fell out of the hat-band.

I have to stare into space for a time as I picture that falling gem, as it makes me more dramatic, a habit I developed when attempting to inspire Dr. Watson's own writings. It doesn't inspire me, so I think I shall make an excuse to visit East Lothian and the site of the tragic deaths of over a thousand people who were cannibalized by the Sawney Bean family. There is a particular turf that grows upon the Muirfield links nearby that I find packs a pipe most excellently, yet provides a steadfast reminder that we might all be eaten by our fellows at any time. Life is not a happy thing, and should not be enjoyed too much, even during a good pipe.

Which brings me back to that excellent goose dinner, Watson and I shared with Petrov as we looked over the amazing blue gem that fell out of his hat. The hat, it turned out, was found on the same thoroughfare as the street-meat, and we all decided to visit a pub on that street after our dinner for some beer and pretense at making a case of it.

The pub was called the Alpha Inn, and it was near the British Museum. Watson suggested we donate the gem to the museum, but Petrov thought we should just sell it and retire upon the split profits. He was a simple man, and just wanted to spend the rest of his days writing a book about the difference between wasps and bees, as a service to the general public, whom he didn't think were familiar with such a thing. As I picture Petrov taking another big sip of his beer, I pause and look dramatically troubled at the public menace of wasp/bee confusion.

During my reverie, I hear young Billy the page shrieking outside my window. He's apparently stumbled into the honey badger nest again, and I grab up my fireplace poker and head out to his aid. At the bottom of the stairs, I ignore Mrs. Hudson, whom will surely be very dramatic with me later, when I come back in to ring up the animal control people. Women can be so unreasonable where badger-nibbled children are concerned.

Which brings me to the unreasonable lady of the evening who recognized Petrov in the Alpha Inn, and began to plague him over "her cut of the goods." Watson chevied her off with a wicket to the shins, as was his particular skill with the trollops, and we returned to Baker Street, where Watson also chevied Petrov off and we kept the diamond in my safe.

Looking back, I am still not quite sure why I retired, random general mental decline and all that. But if Billy can stay out of trouble with the local vermin for long enough, perhaps I shall write yet another tale of the possible reasons before my inevitable passing. Life is not a happy thing, and should not be enjoyed too much, even during detective stories.

Funko-y Sherlock.

After all this time as a Sherlockian, it's very still strange to me to find Sherlock Holmes being all hip and trendy.

I don't know why I should be so surprised, since all those Marvel comic book characters that only true comic book nerds had heard of are now the stuff of blockbuster movies, but Sherlockians have always lagged far behind comic book fans and even Trekkies for sheer numbers. But it's a different world now. The latest evidence?

Sherlock has a Funko figure.

John Watson has a Funko figure. As does Irene Adler, Moriarty, and Mycroft.

If you've wandered through any pop culture convention, or now even a Barnes & Noble, you've probably seen the vast array of licensed characters that Funko makes big-headed vinyl dolls of -- so many that I feel sad for those hoarder/collectors your know are out there filling their basement with these things. And while they haven't hit Beanie-baby-in-a-Happy-Meal status yet, it's probably coming.

Happily for me, the collecting urge can actually lessen with age. Twenty years ago, I'd be snapping these silly things up without a second thought. Now, my first reaction is trying to think specifically where I would put them in our already over-populated-with-action-figures house. Books even have a hard time getting in the door sometimes these days, so these little guys will have to find younger Sherlockians with more available space to adopt them.

Still, it's good to see our hero represented in a pop culture arena like Funko toys. Now if we could just get that Lego Sherlock off the ground.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Movie day.

The coming of Mr. Holmes to theaters has been a Sherlockian event in many a community. Here in Peoria? Well, since our Sherlockian society organizational skills are somewhat lacking, along with a few other important factors, no such luck. For many a Sherlockian, going to see Mr. Holmes is probably their first time in the theater in quite a while. ("They're charging how much for popcorn!?") But not for me.

For a huge "movies in theaters" buff like me, this latest little Sherlock Holmes release came at a time when I was taking a movie vacation day out of all my normal responsibilities, and had worked out a plan to see it in the center of a rare three-movies-in-one-day event. "What?" one might ask, "You're not giving sole focus to such an important Sherlockian event and allowing time for the consideration it deserves?"

Well, if your mind is Sherlockian enough, they're all Sherlockian movies.

My first stop for the day was Paper Towns, a coming-of-age tale of a young fellow's quest to find a larger-than-life person in a town that only exists on a map. "Been there, done that," I thought as this movie found its footing. Literally. Sherlock, Texas. Except Sherlock, Texas isn't really a paper town, it's more of a digital town, appearing on Mapquest, but not so much in reality.

And as in both Paper Towns and driving to Sherlock, Texas, it's really about the journey and the travel companions than the actual destination. The movie was very nostalgic for me, on several levels.

My second stop for the day, as I mentioned, was the big summer Sherlock Holmes event movie.

(And then the blog accidentally got posted, half-finished. Come back later for the rest.)

Well, that's done. Now, if you're the sort that doesn't like people to criticize those things you happily enthuse over, you might want to bail on this particular blog now. Right now.

Now I remember why I didn't like the book Mr. Holmes is based on. Not enough Holmes, too much melodrama. And a horrible final message. (Lie to people. They can't deal with the truth.)

There was a moment in Mr. Holmes where Sherlock Holmes is in a theater watching a Sherlock Holmes movie and commenting upon how over-done it is. At some point late in the movie, I found myself kicked out of the movie's world as the movie still went on, sitting in a theater having the same thought's as the Ian McKellen's Holmes did earlier in the film -- t'was very meta.

I didn't buy the reason Sherlock Holmes quit being a detective, as though years of dealing with crime and horror had not prepared him for one woman's suicide. The Japanese subplot seemed mainly there so nuclear devastation could add more drama.

(And then it became time for a third movie . . . and this prematurely posted post gets updated again before finished. Stay tuned.)

Now comes the part where I hand a handy ad hominum argument to those who don't understand it's a logical fallacy and won't allow that any reasonable human being could seriously dislike Mr. Holmes.

Here's my final rating scorecard for my movie day, which, it turns out, goes exactly opposite of Rotten Tomatoes percentage order.

Worst film I saw today: Mr. Holmes (88% critical favorite on RT).

Enjoyed a lot, but second in fun: Paper Towns (58% critically acclaimed on RT).

And my most enjoyed movie of the day, despite possibly the worst presidential casting in history:

Pixels (disliked by all but 19% of RT critics).

Yeah, I just gave Adam Sandler higher marks than Ian McKellen. I love me some Sherlock Holmes, but that name gets no one a free pass . . . especially on movie day!

P.S. One last minute thought: The alternate universe that Mr. Holmes existed in did intrigue me. His world's Canon had more books in it, and I wondered what the title of the glass harmonica story was.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Just another flower laid on Sherlock's empty grave.

Re-watching BBC Sherlock this summer has been a lot of fun.

So much has been written about the TV series, which is really more of a set of movies than a standard television trudge, that I never feel the urge to jump in and add my thoughts to the pile, unlike lesser quality productions that no one seems to write about. Similarly, I'm still questioning whether or not to even blog-chronicle after finally seeing Mr. Holmes this weekend. So many thoughts out there already.

But that show.

Such a lovely entertainment. Re-watching a magician perform the same tricks over and over again is usually a mistake -- the eye wanders to places the performer would rather it not go. Mystery Science Theater 3000 made it's name redirecting the eye during films so dull no one would re-watch them without added commentary. But BBC Sherlock (and I will forever call it "BBC Sherlock," as the first name alone might be confused with anything Sherlock-y) has charms even in its places one shouldn't look.

The over-the-top Moffat moments. The odd little behavioural moments. All that meta.

I never begrudge a newer fan of Sherlock Holmes their use of the word "Canon" in reference to this show, because it's as rich in detail as the original written Canon, with that mix of our real London and that higher plane London where 221B Baker Street and the Diogenes Club exist. So many lovely little points worth exploring. So many quotes worth pulling out for fun use.

While Guy Ritchie's movie Sherlock Holmes was a fine entertainment-of-the-moment, BBC Sherlock brought us a new ongoing standard for Sherlock Holmes. It has become our Holmes to start the new millennium, a bookend to the Holmes that closed the last millennium, the Granada Sherlock Holmes. I don't think BBC Sherlock could exist without Granada Sherlock Holmes having definitively wrapped up Victorian Sherlock Holmes on film.

And then there's Molly Hooper. The one person we might have once thought didn't matter at all, who really does matter the most in considering the place of BBC Sherlock in our world.

Molly Hooper is probably the first break-out character in the world of Sherlock Holmes who wasn't created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. You can throw around names like Anderson or Bell, or any other random coppers thrown into Holmes mysteries, but Molly is something else entirely . . . a character that literally could not have existed in the social climate of Victorian 221B London, but fits so perfectly in the world of a modern Sherlock Holmes.

If Molly wasn't enough, Andrew Scott's Moriarty is now my Moriarty, having overtaken Conan Doyle's under-used professor of mathematics as the perfect foil for Sherlock Holmes. How the hell does that even happen? Original-Canon has been my Sherlockian core my entire life. How does another Moriarty sneak into that?

Ten years ago, twenty years ago, I would never have seen this day coming. I knew it was possible, believed with all my heart that Sherlock Holmes on film could be this good, but given all the lackluster attempts in the past, I had become a bit jaded, a bit pessimistic. Granada was lovely, but it wasn't new. It's charm for me was entirely in that it recreated the originals. I still craved new Sherlock. And then it came.

Not everyone's cuppa tea, yes, but I hope everyone else gets one good treat in their lives that means as much as BBC Sherlock has meant to me.

Even during a summer re-watch.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Genre shift.

Earlier this week, a friend and I were walking the mall for a little lunchtime exercise, and I started getting nostalgic for a day long past when B. Dalton and Waldenbooks were my reason for regular mall visits. My first encounters with such Sherlockian treasures as The Encyclopaedia Sherlockiana and Baring-Gould's two-volume boxed Annotated Sherlock Holmes happened in those stores, along with so many other pieces that remain in my library to this day.

Barnes & Noble came along and killed those two smaller booksellers, of course.

And even in this day of Amazon's two-day shipping, I still like to wander among the books there, just to see what chance might turn up. The new Sherlock Holmes and Henry James team-up was out, though still a little more than I wanted to spend this week. I spotted that in the new fiction section, and, even though I was there looking for a particular biography, I thought I'd wander back to the mystery corner as is my habit.

Only the mystery corner was gone.

Like the sci-fi/fantasy section before it, which gave way to "teen fantasy," the mystery section had been moved to smaller, less prominent digs. It its place?

Graphic novels and manga.

Now, I like graphic novels, a.k.a. comic books collected into trade paperback editions. And they still involve reading, so I wouldn't despair at the illiteracy of future generations. In fact, quite the opposite -- teen fantasy and manga both show that book-buying by younger consumers is stronger than ever.

But seeing both of the two genres, genres that I spent so much of my reading life in, starting to dwindle . . . especially that one Sherlock Holmes lives in, even at a time when he's more popular than ever . . . well, it's still a little . . .

I can't say "sad." Watching the world change with generations is fascinating. Bittersweet? Nostalgia-inducing? I don't know.

And the mystery section is still there. Just a whole lot smaller. Maybe it will make a comeback, once all those teen readers grow up. (Unless those shelves exist due to large numbers of adults with a tweener reading level. If that's the case, get off your lazy-reading butts, tweener-adults!)

And when it does make that comeback, maybe it will be a literary equivalent of BBC Sherlock leading that charge to take back the shelves.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

West of Baker Street . . . new this fall!

Sometimes, a person needs a project to relax one's mind when the workaday world gets a bit too demanding. When you get home at night, you need a quick vacation . . . but how far can you get away in just an evening? Well, there's always Baker Street, eighteen-eighty-something. At least to an old-school Sherlockian like myself. It's always been something of a playground for me.

In fandom, where one works for squee (even if it's one's own squee), you can get as insanely creative as you want. You can take whatever harebrained whimsy suits your fancy and run with it. Sometimes it turns into something enjoyed by others, sometimes it's just one of those completely private jokes that only makes you laugh. And there's nothing more relaxing than that.

But even a playground sometimes needs a roadmap. I may be mixing metaphors, but here's the non-metaphoric version: After three seasons, I think I've hit my limit of dragging my butt in front of the TV every Thursday night for a certain show that this blog has tracked, with a somewhat negative reaction. Said television series came full circle this spring, coming to a nice jumping-off point for those waiting for the ride to end. It is what it is, and at this point, nobody needs my confirmation of their own particular bias in that area.

Yet something needs to fill that Thursday night blog space here a Sherlock Peoria. I was getting twenty-four blogs a year out of that thing. If I'm jumping off that mugging merry-go-round, I could really use another network television show to write about every Thursday night . . . and one with a character named "Sherlock Holmes."

Except, barring a miracle, there isn't going to be one.

And then I realized something. We're all busy people. And sometimes, in this hectic day and age, we don't always get time to keep up with ongoing television shows. And with the eager internet so willing to fulfill our every lack of knowledge, the TV recap was born. The day after most shows air, you can find a play-by-play description of last night's episode. So what if we just skipped the expensive part where you make a TV show and just went right to the recap?

A recap of episodes of a Sherlock Holmes television show that doesn't exist.

So, yeah, I suppose you could say it's just another way to write fanfic. But there's an interesting thing about the twenty-four episode season that American television seasons like so much. Twenty-four is also the number of stories in the first two story-cycles of the Holmes Canon, Adventures and Memoirs. Arthur Conan Doyle already wrote a season worth of television, which makes it all the more shameful that some American TV producers haven't mined that vein.

And a fun opportunity to see what Sherlock Holmes might look like, if the first twenty-four cases got turned into a season of hour-long dramas. But we have enough recaps of those first twenty-four tales, so recapping a direct adaptation would be so boring. So where do I go from here?

West. "West of Baker Street," the new name of this TV series from a universe that's not our own.

The thought that Conan Doyle was adapting the adventures of a real Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson who somehow escaped public notice has been floating around for a long time, but what if the adventures he adapted into those first twenty-four tales weren't those of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson, but Sherlock Holmes and John H. Holliday? What would those original twenty-four adventures really have been like?

"West of Baker Street." That's the name of the game I'll be playing this fall, starting with a September season premiere recap. But who knows, a recap of the leaked pilot may be out even sooner. Watch this space.

Monday, July 20, 2015

In your own words . . . .

First came a debate in the news as to what constitutes a "hero." And I thought, "Is Sherlock Holmes a hero these days?"

Then came a discussion on Facebook as to what we call Sherlockiana, hobby or fandom? And I thought, "Here we go again."

But that's just my age showing through. We need to ask ourselves such questions, just as surely as we have to look for identifiers to our current location from time to time. A good friend of mine used to occasionally ask himself, "Am I a good Sherlockian?" He wasn't talking good and evil, fearing going down some darker path. He was looking at the people around him, measuring his own exploits in the hobby, and seeing if he was running at the pace of the other deerstalkered thoroughbreds in the race. Or at least it seemed so to me, as I'd hate to gauge what was going through someone else's head.

But he was a great Sherlockian, a fact many knew then and many have noticed since.

I like Sherlockians who ask themselves questions about who they are and what following Sherlock Holmes means to them . . . a lot better than Sherlockians who try to tell the rest of us who we are.

You might be a fan. You might be a hobbyist. You might be a cultist. Your call.

Sherlock Holmes might be your hero. Dr. Watson might be the guy you really respect.  (But c'mon, it's still "Sherlockiana," who are we kidding?) Still, your call.

You can find it of importance to have the three letters "B.S.I." attached to someone's name. You can look at podcasting as the place where the stars of modern Sherlockiana are made. Your favorite writers can analyze Conan Doyle's life and works, or your favorite writers can pen the hottest Johnlock porn. Yep, your call.

Today's Sherlockian world is bigger, bolder, and full of more opportunity than ever before. You can be whatever kind of Sherlockian you want to be. You can take the little slider bars on your Sherlockian control panel and move "YouTube video creator" up to 10, pull "Appropriate quote spouter" down to 5, set "Ronald Howard expert" at 8 and "Weekend event attendee" at 2. On and on it goes.

The point, I guess, is that we're not a marching band stepping down the street in formation. We're not fans, we're not hobbyists, we're not Cumberbitches, we're not collectors, we're not scholars, we're not, as a whole, any one thing . . . other than people who find enough significance in the man called Sherlock Holmes to call ourselves Sherlockians.

And every now and then, it's kind of fun to check yourself out and see what being a Sherlockian your way means, with the words you pick. And if you find some folks who say, "Me, too!" . . . then all the better. And if you don't?

Wait for it. Everything we have in the Sherlockian world now started with one person going, "I'm going to try celebrating Sherlock Holmes like this!" and just going with what was in their particular gut.

Like any other word, the meaning of "Sherlockian" depends upon its usage. And if the person using it is you, well . . . .

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Yup, Cedar Rapids.

Well, this is the weekend we separate the man-cities from the boy-cities, so to speak.

And I know where I am.

In the United States of America, of course, which I know because we get BBC's Sherlock weeks or months later than the United Kingdom does.

In Peoria, Illinois, as well, which I know because art films, independent films, and most documentaries don't seem to arrive here the same week they arrive in larger markets. And when they do, it's usually on the smallest screen at the smallest cinemaplex in town. Not that much larger than a good-sized flat screen TV.

We know how to wait in Peoria.

So, tonight, I'm spending my Sherlockian movie time watching Cedar Rapids.

Hey, it involves the ingesting of cocaine at one point. That counts.

Besides, I see a lot of movies, and Cedar Rapids is that rare thing I hadn't seem before. Kind of like a little film called Mr. Holmes.

I'm really curious about Mr. Holmes. Because, as regular readers of this blog may have noticed, I'm not in the "any Holmes is good Holmes" corner of our party. And the book Mr. Holmes is based on definitely hits one of my personal Sherlock-no-goes . . . a protagonist whose unique abilities are impaired for the sake of a story when those same abilities are what we look for in tales of that same protagonist.

Can a good script, a good director, and a good cast jump that particular hurdle for me? That's why I'm curious.

But for now, Cedar Rapids was pretty nice.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Maybe I'm just too competitive. Growing up with multiple siblings can do that to you. The latest flare-up of that trait came this evening, thanks to my finally getting around to checking out the "Which Sherlock Holmes are you?" quiz at

Those silly "Which [Insert favorite thing here] character are you?" have been one of the more fun things to pop up on Facebook since it's start. A bit like a backwards horoscope, a weird little dice roll for an ego stroke, and a celebration of fan fun, all rolled into one, there's nothing vital, serious, or important about them, and for better or worse, they're just fun.

I've seen which politico on House of Cards I amwhich Marvel's Avenger, which convict on Orange is the New Black, whatever looks like it might be intriguingly non-obvious at the time. (I mean, I have always known which Star Trek character I am. Some things just are.)

But which Sherlock Holmes?

Out of Cumberbatch, Downey, Miller, Rathbone, and Brett?

(Nice of them to give a "You're not Sherlock!" option in there, wasn't it, Howard?)

I had no idea. And the questions didn't seem as obvious as some similar quizzes, where one could pretty much skew the results.

But when I got done and the following showed up . . . .

A part of me jumped up and went, "I won!"

Like I said, I'm competitive, even in non-competitive endeavors. But it also seemed to reveal that good ol' Benedict is apparently now my favorite Sherlock Holmes. The Rathbone/Cumberbatch tie seems to have tilted toward the modern contender, with his unforeseeable future output. (Could coming seasons contain something so off-putting that his Sherlock falls from grace? We shall see.)

All that said, I may have a new favorite Sherlock Holmes come September. My television has started to give me promos from an AU network for a Sherlock show that may be coming in via some Twilight-Zone-ish source. And if that sentence makes no sense to you and doesn't sound like anything you've heard of, don't worry. It probably shouldn't and neither should you have.

I'm just another blogging looney of the interweb after all, and this fall, you might just get to see something old and something new, something borrowed and some part of it BLUE. Or maybe not actually see it.

For now, however, WOO-HOO, CUMBERBATCH!


Waiting for Mr. Holmes.

Well, the Peoria movie listings for this weekend aren't quite out yet, so I don't know if Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes will be making it to our local theaters this week. Oh, Ant-Man will certainly be here, as well as the comedy Trainwreck, but Mr. Holmes is at that level of movie release that one never quite knows about, Peoria-wise. It could be this weekend. It could be a couple of weeks from now.

Which seems kind of fitting.

When the novel that Mr. Holmes is based on, A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullen, first came out, I read it and didn't particularly care for it. An aged Sherlock Holmes with his powers failing wasn't exactly something I was excited to read. I read it, but can't say I enjoyed it. Characters that one is drawn to for their exciting powers inevitably have a story where those powers are taken away, and while that might seem like a great dramatic thought to the writer, it kind of sucks for the reader.

I mean, if I wanted to read a tale of a detective who wasn't all that bright, I have plenty of others to choose from. (Even among detectives named "Sherlock Holmes" these days, sad to say.) But when I look to a story about Sherlock Holmes, I'm looking for that dazzling brilliance that goes with that name.

To me, Cullen's book seemed more of an excuse not to have to write dazzling brilliance than an exploration of growing old. At the time I read it, growing old was not a concern of mine, so that may have colored my view of it. During those pre-Downey, pre-Cumberbatch times, I was also desperate for an energetic Holmes at the height of his powers, which we just weren't getting, so the book was even more of a let-down.

But now, as the onset of all that comes with passing one's prime starts to weigh upon my mind, I'm wondering if Mr. Holmes might not get a different reaction from me. We've had our young, energetic Holmes quota filled of late. At this point, Sherlock Holmes in old age will be more of an interesting change. And, to put it bluntly, the quality of a movie never corresponds entirely to the book upon which it was based.

So I wait for Mr. Holmes, kind of like I wait for the coming of growing old: Knowing it will get here at some point, pretty sure it's not going to be completely delightful, but hoping it won't be too painful, and possibly have some great moments in it.

We shall see.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A second dispatch from the Omegaverse.

"Why isn't he . . . ?"

"Where is his . . . ?"

"How is that . . . ?"

Nine chapters in to the epic Omegaverse tale I'm reading, and I finally ran into my first detailed sex scene, a wet dream that Omega Sherlock is having.

And suddenly, I'm twelve again.

Not only do I not understand the basic impulses for what is going on "on screen," but I'm not even sure how the mechanics of it are working.

Even in what is thought of as a tale with much explicit world-building, nobody wants to stop to give a "kid" a sex education class. I mean, we all understand how sex works, right?

Well, I thought I did. But somehow I think even Dan Savage would have a heck of a time puzzling Omegaverse sex out, t'were he suddenly dropped into Sherlock's wet dream.

Leading up to the first full-out chunk of Omegaverse porn in this novel, I wasn't really having too much trouble being a male reading a work plainly intended for a female readership. Yes, occasionally there might be a scene where John Watson seemed to forget he had a penis (Somehow "penis awareness" was not something I thought this blog would ever touch on . . .), but overall, it read pretty good. And since this is a fantastic universe with a wholly different biology, who's to say that those bits weren't out of place.

The problem is that I'm still not sure of how this biology works. The Gilded Cage did an excellent job of exploring the social ramifications of Alpha-Beta-Omega life, but I'll be damned if I have any clue what a "knot" is at this point, only that Alphas have one and Omegas want it inside them.

Like I said, twelve all over again.

In the novel, Sherlock Holmes wants a new mystery to distract him from being in heat, and I'm starting to sympathize with him, as a new mystery would be something I understand . . . and The Gilded Cage has done its casefic bits pretty nicely so far.

I just think I needed an "Omegaverse Sex Ed for Dudes" course before I started this little adventure.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Impossible not to comment, but so not wanting to.

Remember the day when the biggest comic book convention in the world could happen and most people didn't even know there were such things as comic book conventions?

And a psychic, like the notorious Amazing Criswell could go, "And there will come a time in the 2000s when a comic book convention shall be the source of all prophecy, and all the faithful shall look up and wait for visions of what is yet to be . . . ."

With its teasers, spoilers, quips exploding info-shrapnel across social media this week, San Diego Comicon brought a few minutes of entertainment and a few days of boredom to Sherlockians as everyone's Twitter-feed, Facebook, etc. filled up with links and comments to and on those same few minutes.

All about an hour or so of television that will be coming out late this year. (Well, with the addition of movie theaters worldwide showing that single episode,  BBC Sherlock may be making its first transtional step to just being a movie series, which it kinda-sorta has been all along, rivalling the Basil Rathbone films.) In one short clip, we saw echoes of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes and Granada television's Sherlock series, heard some truly meta comments about Watson's published works, and saw that fan-tweaking moustache appear. What all this means for the whole of the thing will give grist to the fan-mill for easily six months.

I mean, what the f'hell? Literally, what the f'hell is this?

"A dream, a hoax, an imaginary story?" as the Silver Age comics used to tout when their covers showed Superman or Batman in some off-norm character-altering situation. And these days, with creator awareness of fan fiction and all its varied splendor, just telling an alternate universe Sherlock tale would not be out of place.

From all indications, it's a light-and-happy one-shot before we get into the dark and tear-filled drama of the next season, where three killers try to deal with the birth of a baby.

Hmmm, "Three Killers and a Baby" . . . there's a dark upgrade to that old Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and Steve Guttenberg comedy of its time. That, however, was a comedy. (Of its time.) The season of Sherlock that follows this Victorian oddness? Betting it's not so funny.

But on we go, having gotten our summer cookie and waiting for a real meal.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Into the Omegaverse . . . .

Being a Sherlockian these days is a real opportunity.

For those who love things past, we have things like that re-discovered William Gillette film to delight, as well as lesser bits of history being discovered and shared by the network of Holmes fans connected more than ever before.

And for those who love the future, the new, the uncharted territory?

Oh, this is a brave new Sherlockian world indeed.

I've been tentatively dipping a toe into the pool of fan fiction for a few months now, trying this and that, seeing the various levels of skill and interests of the writers, but for the most part observing it as an outsider on an alien world. Sherlock fan fiction, for the most part, was not written for my sort of brain . . . there are  triggers meant to be tripped by a lot of it that don't seem to be as developed in my too-male mind. Yet hope springs eternal, as writing, at its core, is always an attempt at one mind to convey its truest thoughts and feelings to another mind, to make that other mind understand.

It's a connection every writer hopes to make, and one every reader delights in.

And after months of looking for that connection -- though I will admit they have not been months fully dedicated to the task -- I hit it. I found a book I couldn't put down. And I found it in the oddest of places . . . the Omegaverse.

One thing I love about the Three Patch Podcast has been its interviews with fanfic writers. Even if I'm not interested in what a particular writer is writing about, hearing them talk about the process can be rewarding in and of itself. This month, however, I found a writer who goes by "BeautifulFiction" striking a particular chord, so I went and checked out her massive, nearly 327,000 word work -- bigger than the largest Harry Potter volume, bigger than any two of the three Lord of the Rings books combined -- on a whim.

I started reading that book, The Gilded Cage by BeautifulFiction,  on my computer, but quickly moved to reading it on my phone for portability. And I've been reading it while I do things like brush my teeth, which is one of my tests of any novel for that much desired "can't put it down" quality. I am, I will admit, only three chapters in, but they are very long chapters, the first being a case unto itself, and enough that I have a feel for the thing, and that I'm actually getting what the author is writing.

So lets talk Omegaverse. The Gilded Cage is good science fiction, the sort that doesn't feel the need to dump every detail of the new universe you find yourself in up front, but lets you explore it through the characters and what's going on in their lives. What is going on in their lives? Well, typical John and Sherlock and Inspector Lestrade stuff, just like you're watching BBC Sherlock. But underneath that, hidden like a secret held by one of those three main characters, is an overlay of a reality that makes this a science fiction tale and not a flat-out Sherlock mystery.

I don't want to spoil much, just in case you're as much a newbie as me and wanting to explore this tale on your own, but here's where BeautifulFiction is getting it right: Part of the fantasy of Omegaverse rules is rebuilding human sexuality to create new ways for two men to have crazy sex with each other and actually get pregnant, and it gets used a lot for porn, as I understand it. (Total newb taling here, forgive me if I over-generalize or mis-state.) But The Gilded Cage is written so well that it uses that mechanic to explore the relationship between Sherlock and John without diving into sex right away. Like any good book, it holds back on the big impacts, letting tension build. BeautifulFiction takes even that a step further . . . she uses Alphas and Omegas in a way that can communicate to even a male like myself aspects of what it is to be female.

Sure, it's a science fiction world and the role of the Omega is an extreme caricature (well, I hope) of female cultural roles, but it's there's more than just a gay male love story going on here. It's the sort of work that makes you think about your own life and world while walking your mind through a fantastic fictional one.

From everything I'd heard about Omegaverse, from podcasts, at cons, I had pretty much assumed it was a girls-only club. Something I'd never really get simply because I'm not really into guy-on-guy romantic entanglements. But a good writer . . . and BeautifulFiction started well and seems to be growing even as the chapters move along . . . can take you out of your personal headspace and move you closer to theirs. And that is what I'm getting out of The Guilded Cage: Something new.

Like I said, being a Sherlockian these days is a real opportunity. Everything in it might not appeal to you, but it's big enough, diverse enough, and so full of fascinating stuff that something out there is apt to capture your interest.

And you just never know when that might come along. Even in the Omegaverse.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Believing in Sherlock Holmes . . . still.

Remember that great Sherlock meme from a couple of years ago?

"I believe in Sherlock Holmes."

It was a very cool thing that sprang out of the finale to season two of BBC's Sherlock, in which Moriarty had completely discredited Sherlock Holmes as a fraud and the detective had, to the world's eyes, committed suicide at being ruined so. But the idea that someone out there still knew the truth, even when superficial evidence pointed otherwise, resonated with fans of the show, who did know the truth. And the best way to express that?

"I believe in Sherlock Holmes."

I was watching a documentary called "An Honest Liar," about a well known skeptic named James Randi last night, and it made me think of that meme again. At the point in the film when it got to his debunking of a prominent faith healer of the day, I was at first reminded of Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle . . . Randi is a big Houdini fan . . . and how no matter how much Houdini tried to debunk fraudulent spiritualists, Conan Doyle wanted to believe that such a thing existed.

That's the problem with debunking frauds, myths, and mass delusions. Usually those things exist because they fill a need in those people that hold tight to them. Belief is a very irrational thing, a tool the human mind uses when it doesn't have all the facts, when choices must be made without the proper tools to make them. And if we use belief too much to make our choices, eventually we start making that single aid our go-to shortcut instead of using rational analysis.

So what do we believe when we believe in Sherlock Holmes?

At the time that meme was going around, it was a bit of a cult of personality. A love of the character Benedict Cumberbatch played for two seasons, a way to hold tight to the anticipation that the character would be back for a season three and restore his good name. But Sherlockians have believed in Sherlock Holmes for a lot longer than just the between-seasons time of a single TV show.

Watching "An Honest Liar" and seeing James Randi's battles with Uri Geller, the spoon-bending trickster who claimed he could bend metal with his mind, I couldn't help but thinking of what was always at the core of our friend Sherlock Holmes . . . the triumph of truth over falsehood. But even as Randi demonstrated how Geller performed his frauds, there were still people who wanted to believe a man could bend spoons with his mind. Even "scientists" in the field of parapsychology, who thought Randi's exposing flaws in their methodology set back the study of psychic powers they steadfastly believed to exist.

If you think about it, the same thing probably occurred when Sherlock Holmes solved The Hound of the Baskervilles. You can bet there remained Dartmoor locals who still held that the demon hound from Hell was still real, even after Stapleton was exposed and his dog shot. "The Hound is still out there!' they might claim, keeping their lives a little more exciting, reinforcing their religious beliefs in a waiting Hell, or just because their father always told them the story when they were young. And, of course, there would still be those who said, "I believe in Sherlock Holmes's explanation."

These days we see a lot of those kinds of disagreements. And because the word "believe" can be used in describing both notions, some would even say they are equal. But all beliefs aren't equal.

Saying "I believe in Sherlock Holmes" is a funny thing. It sounds a lot like you're saying "I believe in Santa Claus," and that you're a child who naively thinks a story they heard when they were too young to know better was true. It's not something any politician would say on record, not something anyone who was jittery about what people think would state publicly. It worked as a fandom meme, but beyond our happy Sherlock-o-sphere?

What does it mean to believe in Sherlock Holmes?

He started out as a fictional character. He grew to a fictional character with a resonating reality that touched a great many people. He came a legend, and beyond that . . . a symbol.

Sherlock Holmes is a symbol for our hope that a person can find out the truth in a given situation. A symbol for our confidence that our studies, our sciences, and our simply paying close attention can show us the hidden truths of so many mysteries. Sherlock Holmes isn't just a symbol for drug addiction or Asperger's awareness or magically smart geeks who do things we can't. He's the symbol for the best of what we can be when faced with seemingly unsolvable problems. A symbol that reason can win our over superstition. There are no vampires or ghosts in the world of Sherlock Holmes, no matter how many pastiches try to shove them in there as a creative crutch. Because Sherlock Holmes solves ghosts and vampires.

He has the explanation.

Believing in Sherlock Holmes is believing that there is an explanation.

Which has always made him the coolest guy ever, wrapped in a Cumberbatch package or otherwise.

I believe in Sherlock Holmes. You probably do, too, or else you wouldn't have finished reading this little discourse. Every now and then, it's good to think about just what that phrase means to you.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The changing images of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Summer doldrums can mean a lot of sorting, cleaning, and generally looking at new projects. And as I was playing with Photoshop anyway this week, it seemed time to look in on Action Sherlock and Whatever-I-Called-That-Watson again, to see if they had any new material. The answer, unfortunately, was a steady "no."

Watson, it seems, is having body image issues. Martin Freeman has pretty much messed with his head and his once-workable "I'm like Nigel Bruce, but fatter!" line just doesn't cut it now. Even Mycroft Holmes has weight challenges these days, not being allowed by TV networks to be his old insanely-obese self. ("'I am glad to meet you, sir,' said he, putting out his broad, fat hand, like the flipper of a seal." How Watson got away with writing that about the most powerful man in Britain once upon a time is far beyond our modern sensibilities.)

And Action Sherlock? Well, his height was never as great as he thought it should be, and the deerstalker and invernesse just have fallen out of fashion. Even when Benedict Cumberbatch time travels back to whatever happens in the upcoming BBC Christmas episode of Sherlock, he's wearing a top hat.

In short, what seemed like two actors who could play Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson only a decade ago (Hey, don't say "They're not actors, they're action figures!" That kind of prejudice against plastic Americans does not help matters whatsoever.) are now hopelessly out of fashion. Holmes and Watson have to be all sex-ay now, and Channing Tatum has a better chance at taking a Watson role than an out-of-work Kingpin action figure. (Even Kingpin isn't as fat as he used to be. But that's another issue for a non-Sherlock blog.)

As Elementary winds down it's non-Sherlock-Holmes take on someone who uses the name "Sherlock Holmes" and Sherlock produces new episodes at a pace that makes glaciers look like cars on the interstate speeding by, one has to wonder where the next fun to be had with Sherlock Holmes is going to come from. But wherever it is, you just can't predict what the detective and the doctor are going to come out as in another decade or two.

Or can you? The Cumberbatch-Freeman era is far from over, and I wouldn't be surprised if they bring Holmes and Watson to the big screen eventually. The effects of the Moffat-Gatiss vision of the two are liable to be with us a while.

But you just never know.