Tuesday, March 31, 2015

For the last time? Oh, no, definitely not.

Sometimes, we just enjoy treading familiar ground one more time.

Steven Moffat got a few good quote on Entertainment Weekly's site this week with the lovely headline: "Sherlock co-creator: For the last time, Holmes is not gay!"

Moffat goes on to explain that his particular incarnation of Sherlock Holmes has a very Victorian mindset about asexuality helping keep his mental powers at his peak. "He's not gay. He's not straight."

Billy Wilder, in his classic film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, had fun playing with that issue, raising the question of Holmes possibly being gay then using it as a springboard to explore why it was that Sherlock didn't care for women.

In a way, the question goes all the way back to William Gillette, who caught Conan Doyle in an "I don't give a damn about Sherlock Holmes" moment and got permission to have Holmes fall in love and marry him off, in his 1899 play Sherlock Holmes. It's almost like Gillette wanted to give him a beard to just ignore the question entirely.

As long as Sherlock Holmes abstains from romantic involvement of any kind, a key point in the original character's make-up, there will be those who want to fill that void. The black market of stories, fanfic, has always been quick to head there, as that genre has long been about scratching itches that the more mainstream channels held back from. And some more clueless creators will always just blindly give Holmes a relationship because they don't fully understand the character. (And yes, I will include William Gillette in there, along with Rob Dougherty. Clueless does not mean unpopular.)

Will the question of "Holmes, gay or straight?" ever be resolved?

It can't be. Because it's not the real question. Just an answer that some of us like to see played out now and then.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The kayfabe of Sherlockian scholarship.

My fondness for Sherlockiana and my fondness for professional wrestling are almost a matched set in my life. Both glimpsed as a child, taken up whole-heartedly in college, and occasionally combined in writings as an adult.

On the surface, the two interests would seem mutually exclusive -- the raw physicality and simple conflicts of pro wrestling versus the bookish intellectual nature of detective literature. But one doesn't have to to dig to deep to find the commonality that makes me love both areas of endeavor when they are performed at their best level.

In wrestling, they call it "kayfabe." In Sherlockiana, we call it "playing the game."

In wrestling, it's the happy illusion that the events and outcomes of those dramatic battles between "faces" and "heels" is real. In the late 1970s, when I first saw live professional wrestling in a local high school gym -- Bobby "the Brain" Heenan versus Dick the Bruiser -- there were still a lot of people who actually still thought the illusion was real, even though my friends and I enjoyed the fact that it was obviously not. (And in one special moment with wrestling newbies, I even won a battle royal betting pool by just working out the best plotted result instead of gaging actual physical prowess.) But as time has gone one, almost every modern wrestling fan knows for a fact that the "sports entertainment" is scripted and staged . . . and they don't care. They still love it.

In Sherlockian scholarship, the happy illusion has always been that Sherlock Holmes was real, that Dr. Watson wrote those biographical tales about him, and Conan Doyle was merely Watson's agent. In Sherlockian circles, the worries that came up were always the opposite of those in wrestling kayfabe -- many a more serious fan thought that pretending Watson wrote the stories would actually discredit Conan Doyle, because some people actually would believe Watson wrote the stories. Having some more determined (and sometimes less artful) Holmes fans steadfastly stick to the "Watson wrote the stories line" even seemed to give evidence to that worry.

Attempts to push Sherlockiana as a serious "literary" pursuit and not just a fun fandom have intruded on the great game of Watsonian authorship over the years as well. Gleefully diving into Watson's work as an author without at least one aside to pay respects to Saint Conan just wasn't done as much, and Sherlockiana's entertainment value, for at least this commentator, suffered as a result. The early days of Sherlockian culture, when Doyle was current enough to still be viewed as a bit of a wacky celebrity instead of a revered historical figure,  was a part of what created the Watsonian authorship game, and the best humor always contains a measure of frank disrespect, the needle to keep the too serious at bay.

As wrestling has evolved, the general agreement that it is "sports entertainment" and not "sports" has not hurt it at all, and its rise and fall in popularity depends solely upon the scripting and plotting of current shows. When I see the fun newer Sherlockians are having with "disapproving Doyle" snapshots and comments, it seems like the evolution on our side of the coin might be working in the favor of "scholarship entertainment" as well.

Me, I just like playing in constructed realities. Pro wrestling. Sherlockiana. Not all that different, really.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Which lap is yours? A quiz built with pre-internet technology.

One of the newer innovations on social media has become the "Which [Insert Popular Media Set of Characters Here] person are you?" quiz. You answer a bunch of indirect multiple choice questions and the web page's mechanism seemingly computes which character is the most like you based on your answers. We don't know how those quizzes work behind the scenes, whether they are well-built or fraud, but we delight in finding ourselves identified as some favorite character.

Being a decidedly low-tech blogger, this morning, I have created a quiz of my own, where you can see which character from the original Sherlock Holmes stories is closest to you, just by identifying what is most likely in your lap. It's pretty straightforward, and has just one question. That question, of course, is:

"What is most likely to be in your lap?" (Like I said, straightforward.)

Pick one . . .

1. Handcuffed hands.

2. Needlework.

3. A dog whip.

4. Just your hands.

5. A worked antimacassar.

6. A horse's reins.

7. The metaphoric fruit of a solution.

Decided on what would most likely be in your lap?

I wandered into this thought because I had a cat on my lap this morning and was thinking about Martha from "His Last Bow." But Martha's big black cat, it turns out, was on the stool beside her and not in her lap, so she didn't make the quiz. (Which is really too bad, because I wanted to pick her.) The answers that did make the quiz are below, and instead of letting a web page cipher it out for you, you can just scan the list for what character your answer above ties you to. (Like I said, low-tech.)

Jonathan Small, with his handcuffed hands on his lap,  in the The Sign of the Four.

Mrs. Watson, with her needlework on her lap, in "The Man with the Twisted Lip."

Dead Grimesby Roylott, with a dog whip on his lap, in "The Speckled Band."

Mrs. Rucastle, with just her hands in her lap, in "The Copper Beeches."

Mrs. Susan Cushing, with a worked antimacassar in her lap, in "The Cardboard Box."

Dr. Watson, with a horse's reins in his lap, in "The Solitary Cyclist."

Sherlock Holmes, with the metaphoric fruit of a solution falling into his lap, in "The Veiled Lodger."

Surprised at your result? Proud to be akin to the Canonical character whose lap contained the thing most likely to be in yours? Go ahead and post it on your favorite social media, but you'll have to do it the old-fashioned way, as there are no buttons here for that either.

Just words, which in there way are perhaps our oldest technology.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Giant Sherlockians.

One oft hears it said, in certain Sherlockian circles, that "there were giants in those days." People like to do a little hero-worship of their forebears, and giving them a metaphoric increase in physical size is a traditional way to do it. But they really don't mean they were giants.

The subconscious mind, however, works slightly differently.

Last night, I dreamed I went to a grand Sherlockian function, a mutant hybrid of the Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend in New York and 221B Con. It was a grand event, with hundreds of attendees in one large room, and eventually, some plucky souls said, "Hey, let's get a picture of everybody!"

In the dream, everyone crowded together to get in the picture, and suddenly I found myself surrounded by Sherlockians two to three feet taller than me, and I come in at a little over six feet tall. One of those nearby was apparently Chris Redmond, about whom I remember thinking, "He wasn't short the last time I saw him, but he had to have grown!"

Eventually Scott Monty saw the issue and rearranged everyone with the shorter people in front, where I wound up, and a second picture was taken.

As we near 221B Con, and all of the circumstances that have kept me from getting to Sherlockian functions in recent years are lining up to try to prevent me from attending this one as well, I guess my subconscious is making a pretty obvious statement on my feelings about being away from the community for so long, and existing solely in the Sherlockian world as an online spirit.

There weren't just giants back in those days, apparently there are quite a few out there now. At least my subconscious thinks so.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sherlocks no matter what the age.

First we had Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as two peers in a Sherlock (or Sherlock-ish) role in a position to comment on the other, and now Sherlocks of another generation are in a spot to say a word or two about the other's Holmes.

Christopher Plummer has been commenting on Sir Ian McKellen's performance as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings movies, and with one of those actors playing Holmes in an upcoming movie, while the other has played him in the past, it makes one also wonder how things would have played out had history been reversed.

What if Ian McKellen had somehow gotten the part of Sherlock Holmes in Murder By Decree? (And the short Silver Blaze.)

And what if Christopher Plummer had held back on Sherlock until the upcoming Mr. Holmes?

Two actors of the same generation, coming to Sherlock Holmes at different points in their career just show how, unlike James Bond, Harry Potter, or so many other characters, Sherlock Holmes isn't limited to one age or one point in his life. He can be Sir Ian McKellen's age in Mr. Holmes, or he can be Nicholas Rowe's age in Young Sherlock Holmes. He can be Benedict Cumberbatch's age or Tom Baker's age or . . . well, have we hit a limit yet? I bet a good director could get Sherlock Holmes out of any actor of an age that can speak. (And if we want to go the Look Who's Talking telepathic baby route, a good director isn't needed at all.)

It would be fascinating to see a graph of all the ages of all the actors who played Sherlock Holmes at the time they played Sherlock Holmes . . . and then cross referenced with the year they played Holmes. As time goes on, we know he's getting younger in some productions . . . and yet, we still have Sir Ian McKellen coming in at age seventy-five.

Interestingly, our female Sherlocks are starting their chart a bit younger than the males did. And that will be a whole 'nother graph of interesting, but like the boys, I bet there won't be an age restriction there either.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Waffles for Ettie.

Sometimes the concerns of career and community draw one away from Sherlockian pursuits for a few days or weeks, and one has to find a re-entry point to get one's head back into the game. But sometimes that re-entry point doesn't come easily, especially when it needs to fit a certain personal standard of blog-worthiness.

Yes, yes, I could review one of a billion stories in a myriad of mediums, but that would just lead to a possible less-than-positive experience. So many personal versions of the Great Detective out there that getting one to match one's own is never easy. The best thing, then, is to just head back to the Canon for a spoonful of original Canon.

But where to head for that?

Well, today, it turns out, is Waffle Day in Sweden.

And we all like the occasional waffle. But what has that to do with Sherlock Holmes?

Well, James Mortimer of The Hound of the Baskervilles was a member of the Swedish Pathological Society, but surely that doesn't rate waffles. So we turn, very quickly to another novel, The Valley of Fear.

John Douglas, the seeming murder victim of that tale, had a Swedish first wife. And when we get to the extended flashback of his former life in America, we find out what a wife . . . .

"It was a woman, young and singularly beautiful. She was of the Swedish type, blonde and fair-haired, with the piquant contrast of a pair of beautiful dark eyes, with which she surveyed the stranger with surprise and a pleasing embarrassment which brought a wave of colour over her pale face. Framed in the bright light of the open doorway, it seemed to McMurdo that he had never seen a more beautiful picture . . ."

Yes, Miss Ettie Shafter was that classic Northern European fairy princess old school standard of beauty that gave us such cultural touch-stones as the "Swedish bikini team." She has a touch of a Swedish accent, but not a full-on one, as she is second-generation Swedish. Her father came from there, but apparently she had never been. Her contrasting dark eyes surely came from her mother, whose origin is never told.

Ettie Shafter became Ettie Edwards after marrying Birdy Edwards in Chicago, with her Swedish father as a witness. From there, the couple moved to California under assumed names, and it was there she died of typhoid and her husband changed his name yet again to "John Douglas."

So this morning, now that I've finally got a little break in the concerns of day-to-day life, I'm headed to Peoria's finest waffle-serving restaurant for a waffle in honor of the late Ettie Edwards, nee Shafter.

Except I'll have to do so under an assumed name, as a tribute to that adventurous lady of Swedish extraction. 

Postscript: And while I was enjoying my caramel apple cinnamon waffle, Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" starting playing over the restaurant's sound system. Sherlockian Waffle Day was complete.

Here's to you, Ettie!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Breakable Mr. Elementary

I was watching another episode of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix this morning and marveling at the pure genius that went into constructing that particular half hour of television, as has happened more than once with that show. (The simple touch of a Cosby sweater! Genius!) When I was done, I checked my normal internet channels and was brought back to Elementary-land by an exchange I'd been having with Rob Nunn about that fiesty post on Rick's Cafe Texan from January.

The sudden mental juxtaposition of Elementary and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was fascinating, in that it revealed in stark contrast, the two New York Citys we're given in media.

In Elementary, we're given that bleak, uncared-for urban sprawl, where it often seems like there must be no paint stores, as everything looks dingy and abandoned, even where people live. (Unless, of course, they're very, very rich and a suspect.) And it's winter a lot of the time.

The New York of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a different place, the sunny New York City of opportunity and colorful characters, where visits to Central Park are an integral part of life, and spring and summer prevail.

The song "New York, New York" famously declares, "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere!" and in Kimmy's case, one feels she is going to make it. In Mr. Elementary's case? He came there broken and is all about just managing to barely hang on. The seeming message: "Yes, New York is so big and bad that it actually can bring London's greatest detective down to our level."

And that's the message I often hear in praise of Elementary over other Sherlock Holmes adaptations. He's painfully flawed, and thus relatable. We should not aspire to better things, like the true Sherlock Holmes who was at the top of his field for a reason. We should content ourselves that life is hard and we can't see we're sleeping with Moriarty or that we may or may not have killed someone in a drug-addled haze. The dingy loser version of movie and TV New York is the perfect city for someone like that.

But the opportunity-filled city, where the hopeful come to win, that we see in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? I'd like to see the Sherlock Holmes who was created to exist in that town. Of course, that guy probably never had to leave London.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Go Conan Doyle, go!

The very idea of a Fox network show about Conan Doyle just makes me grin.

Entertainment Weekly online just came out with a tidbit about Fox ordering a show with Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini investigating supernatural crime. And Fox doesn't do anything by halves . . . if this thing makes it to the air, it's going to not just be a dusty, slow historical bit. I'd even bet the supernatural on the show turns out to be actually supernatural.

And why not? Conan Doyle believed in the supernatural. Sure the fairies got debunked, sure Houdini could shoot down Doyle's mediums, but in a TV show world? Conan Doyle could actually have some of what he believed in turn out to be real!

Truth be told, Conan Doyle lived in a much more fantastical world than that of Sherlock Holmes. In Holmes's world, the demon dogs turn out to be frauds, the vampires are just kids tormenting their brothers, no ghosts need apply because they don't freakin' exist. But in Doyle's world? All sorts of supernatural possibilities existed, just waiting to be photographed.

The world of Sherlock Holmes was much more down-to-Earth than that of Arthur Conan Doyle, and for that reason, and that reason alone, Conan Doyle has a better chance at pulling off a lively, entertaining weekly TV series on an American network.

I'm still a little worried about Harry Houdini, though. In a show with much action, I just know I'm going to wince every time he takes a punch to the gut.

And then there's the inevitable Conan Doyle/Houdini slash fanfic (Does one need to say "slash" if there's an actual slash symbol already there?). The potential for bondage fan fiction for that show is . . . . well, kinda obvious.

Somehow this show's possibilities remind me of a line from Michael Keaton in that old Batman movie: "You wanna get nuts? C'mon! Let's get nuts!"

Go for it, Fox!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sherlockos and Elementaros.

Back in January, a Texas fellow named Rick penned a blog post named "Sherlock, Elementary, and Me," which got a little traction on the Sherlockian internet this week. Despite the writer's kumbaya suggestion that fans of BBC Sherlock and CBS Elementary should get together and hug out their differences, he seems to be carrying enough anger against Sherlock fans to keep that battlefront stirred up for a little while longer. It kinda-sorta invalidates the comparison of the two shows that was laid out before it, but that's not the real issue the blog brings up.

One of the most notable things about the essay is the way it refers to BBC Sherlock fans as Sherlockians. All of the disparaging remarks that use the term, like "Sherlockians, who believe the Canon is rubbish . . . ." (a sentence that has probably never appeared before January in the eighty-plus year history of our cult), come off as a bit ridiculous as a result.

It brings to light an interesting thing that one might notice after three years of Sherlock and Elementary co-existence: We don't really have names for the fans of either show yet.

"Cumberbitches" just doesn't cut it. Sherlock has male fans, those who prefer Martin Freeman to Benedict, and those whose love of the show doesn't fit any of those categories. And c'mon, it's derogatory, even if it's used as humorous self-deprecation by the fandom itself.

Texas Rick likes "Elementarians" for Elementary fans, but its internet usage seems to be currently dominated by elementary school references. If we were to go with the "Cumberbitch" style, I suppose we'd call them "Millwhores," but that is more problematic than the Cumberbitch issue.

And what about poor Robert Downey, Jr.? Two major motion pictures and he can't get "Downgirls?" But we humans like our binary "us and them" groups, good and evil, Democrats and Republicans, Holmes and Watson. So I guess we'll leave him out of this discussion for the moment.

Were we to try to put Sherlock and Elementary on an equal plane, something like "Sherlocko" and "Elemento" might work for the individual fans, but the two shows are not on an equal plane and never will be. Find a Sherlockian who enjoys both shows absolutely equally and I'll show you a sociopath, someone who hasn't seen either, or a politician. Every single one of us is going to view the two different shows with two different reactions, even if those reactions are reasonably close.

We all have a sliding scale of like/dislike for Sherlock and Elementary, just like we do any pastiche, actor who played Holmes, or individual Canonical story. At the end of the day, we're all just Sherlockians, which is why, I think, we have yet to see a name emerge for fans of specifically Sherlock or specifically Elementary. Anyone who started as one of those and somehow remained distinctive from fans of Supernatural, C.S.I., or any other TV show has probably let enough other Sherlock Holmes material into their life to be tagged "Sherlockian."

Our ancient fandom is a tent that brings us all together, no need to hug it out. And sure, some of the people on the other side of that tent might be a little farty, or otherwise un-huggable, but they're still in the tent. Whether Sherlockiana took in the fans of Sherlock and Elementary, or they invaded, the "Sherlockian" monicker is still the one that sticks.

As it has for a very long time, whatever our personal likes or dislikes.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Elementary goes Victorian?

Now that we're all pretty sure that the BBC's Sherlock Christmas special is going to be Holmes and Watson back in Victorian London instead of the modern era version they so successfully pioneered, one has to wonder:  Suppose . . . just suppose . . . that the bigwigs at CBS decide to go, "Hey! Let's copy Sherlock again, but make it different enough that they can't sue us! It worked once!"

What would that ensuing Elementary Christmas . . .  oops, make that Thanksgiving . . . Special look like?

First, it would be set in New York City. That's where Elementary must be set, regardless of the era.

Second, that era would definitely have to be Civil War times. Why? Because it can't seem to be copying Sherlock, even though it is. And in Civil War times, the show can have Abraham Lincoln, who is referenced in the Sherlock Holmes stories, and thus makes it defensibly relatable to Sherlock Holmes for post-showing Elementary apologists.

Third, time to pull in some Wild, Wild West doo-hickeys! Remember that crazy robot mosquito? At least one steampunk element is a must!

Fourth, opium. Mr. Elementary is totally about the opium. It even makes more sense for his wealthy father to hire an Asian expert in opium addiction as a nursemaid for his man-child son, which which helps deal with the whole "woman of Chinese descent in Civil War times" issue of squeezing her into that sexist, racist time as a Watson.

Fifth, well, speaking of which, things might be a little rough for Detective Bell in this Thanksgiving Special. And Captain Gregson has to be Irish, which makes him slightly more interesting.

Sixth, what about the mystery? Ah, it's a CBS procedural, who really cares? Feed some random Civil War facts into the formula and you've got that part.

Seventh, Irene Adler turns out to be Jamie Moriarty, who then turns out to be Queen Victoria herself! Only in her early forties, the genius monarch had a lot of other sidelines going to keep herself from getting bored in the palace. And, what the heck, if Mr. Elementary can't recognize he's sleeping with a criminal mastermind, he might as well not recognize he's sleeping with the royal MILF. (And a Natalie Dormer version of Queen Victoria? I'll buy that for a dollar!)

Eighth, Mycroft doesn't appear in this Elementary Thanksgiving episode, because he sucks. Gareth Lestrade can appear, however, because he's cool. But he has to be Irish, too.

Ninth,  as a subplot, Lewis Carroll meets Clyde the turtle and says he wants to include him in a story he's working on. Maybe it's the opening five minutes before the credits, which often has nothing to do with anything else.

And tenth, and last, somebody named Professor Presbury will appear, but he will be an astronomer who sculpts. Why? Traditions must be honored, and one new "in name only" character from the Canon of Sherlock Holmes must appear to make it an official Elementary special.

All things considered, a Civil War Elementary Thanksgiving Special would have to be the show's highest ratings booster outside of the post-Super Bowl slot -- I'll bet you an Angus bust!

Go for it, CBS!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Anthropomorphic conversations with Canonical objects.

Okay, here's a question that hasn't been asked in a Sherlockian venue before: If you somehow moved something from the Canon of Holmes to the world of PeeWee's Playhouse, could we talk to it?

Take Black Peter's sea-chest, for example. A sea-chest has kind of a mouth to it, to open and close its lid as it talks. If a part of the carvings on Captain Peter Carey's chest could pass as eyes, it would quickly fit right in. One imagines its voice to be something like the pirate that sings the SpongeBob Squarepants song. So how would that conversation go?

"So. Black Peter's sea-chest. You're probably full of stuff, right?"

"Yes. But no South American securities, no, sir. None of those."

"How would you know if you had South American securities in you? You have some papers in you, certainly. Papers are papers."

"They taste like yams and peanuts. South American papers always taste like yams and peanuts."

"Not sure I believe you, but okay, let's move on. Did anyone dig through you after Captain Carey got harpooned? Stanley Hopkins? Some other policeman?"

"I'm a sea-chest, but I have my pride. I'm not going to discuss the intimate details of who I open my lid for. Bad enough that Watson guy publishes that a land-lubber banker was using me for a stool."

"I always wondered about that. You had the tantalus sitting on you, too, correct?"

"That's different! That tantalus and me, we have been mates going way back. And don't look at me funny about that -- liquor cases and sea-chests are always pal-ing up at sea. It's a lonely life in the captain's cabin! Things happen."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply anything. I'm just trying to find out if the crime scene got a full investigation. It seemed like they paid more attention to the tantalus than you."

"Yeah, yeah, everybody always eyes the tantalus. That's why he's so locked up tight. Look, I'm traumatized, here. I saw the captain, a man I'd spent all my life with, harpooned like a great gray whale."

"The crime scene layouts I've seen had you pointed the other direction. I don't think you saw anything."

"Okay, okay, I have South American securities in me. Here, they're right under the sewing kit on the right. Just reach in and move it over . . ."


"Serves you right, you nosey Sherlock-lover. Now get out of here before I bite down on something more important, like that thing you think with."

Maybe it isn't such a good idea to start moving items from the Victorian crime world of Sherlock Holmes to the anthropomorphic land of Peewee's Playhouse. Some of them probably wouldn't have pleasant personalities of Chairry or Mr. Window. But it does give a different perspective on certain elements of the Canon, and as Sherlock Holmes once said:

"It is, I admit, mere imagination, but how often is imagination the mother of truth?"

Be careful of sea-chests, in any case. You never know where they've been.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Evidentally, I'm writing a blog post tonight . . . .

"Evidently, Flower Mound resident is an expert on Sherlock Holmes."

Thus ran a headline on the Dallas News site this week.

The wording of it made me chuckle. Even though "evidently" basically means the same thing as "plainly" or "obviously," it has a connotation of a Nigel Bruce-like cluelessness, a bit of surprise at the discovery of the thing.

Sort of a "What? Don Hobbs knows something about Sherlock Holmes?"

And that made me laugh.

News articles about Don Hobbs like to get to his collection quickly. Twelve thousand items, one hundred and eight languages . . . impressive numbers. But the numbers describing a room in his house are just that, numbers. They make a nice shorthand in an eight hundred word article trying to get its head around the complex workings of a devout Sherlockian.

My favorite write-up of Don Hobbs is still the five-hundred-and-twenty-part exploration of his thoughts on Sherlockian life that appeared between 2002 and 2012 in his Maniac Collector's blog. So many travels. So many people. So many books. And more than those countable things. So many thoughts on what it was to be a Sherlock Holmes fan, and the changes that take place as the years pass in a Sherlockians life.

News articles like to focus on the massive number of books, but Don was always at his best when talking about just one of those books and what he went through to get that book. Friends made, connections sought. A collection that spans the world isn't something one picks up at the local Barnes & Noble.

Evidently, there's a Flower Mound resident who is an expert on Sherlock Holmes.

I guess not everybody knows that yet. But one of these days, well, you never know.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

E3: 17. "Not the Sherlock! Not the Sherlock!"

"What makes Joan special is that she's not Sherlock."

But that's what makes all of Elementary special, isn't it? The "not Sherlock" quality of it all. And I don't just mean "not Sherlock," but you know that by now.

The electricity is off at the Elementary brownstone. There's trouble in the refrigeration industry. Joan Watson's brother might be having an affair. And Mr. Elementary is droning on pseudo-intellectually about family ties.

There is no "happy" here, on either side of the screen.

Ah, CRYO NYC, the shoddy cryogenics firm enters the picture, in an attempt to make things more interesting with a lot of frozen corpses whose demises aren't a mystery. But it leads to another murder mystery with one of the cryogenics customers, so basically, we just wasted a half hour to get to the murder mystery whose solution will solve in initial murder mystery. Unless, of course, one enjoys listening to the voices of Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller rambling on and on with no real excitement.

Oren Watson, Joan's brother, displays the most passion on the show this week, and he's literally phoning his performance in. On a phone, so it's just voice. But then, Warren is having an affair, so he actually has real relationships with people who are just letting him hang around with their pretend career. At least Oren got to call Watson on the phone, and not just be a voice in her head while she read a letter from him, like Jamie Moriarty a few episodes ago.

Having looked up the spelling of "Oren Watson," it finally, three seasons in, occurs to me that he's a tribute to O-Ren Ishii, the Lucy Liu character from the Kill Bill movies. I think I thought his name was Warren Watson. He probably could have been called John Watson, since Joan's mother is Mary Watson.

And Mary Watson is apparently in denial about her failing mental faculties, but then, that's pretty much going on with every character on this show. And the creators. And the . . . oh. Sorry. Boredom can make one a bit mean. But this subplot about Joan and her mother just seems like the random flailing of a show that doesn't really know what its point is.

And what is the point of Elementary, really? To be a show about Sherlock Holmes? Well, since they aren't actually using much of anything from any past Sherlock Holmes creation, and there aren't many solid touchstones other than the occasional name, it isn't really about Holmes. To be another bland CBS police procedural? Well, since Mr. Elementary and Joan seem to work as if they're a part of NYPD, using their offices and interrogation rooms freely. That's definitely their minimum requirement to stay on the air.

In the end, Mary Watson's illness is a way for Mr. Elementary and Joan Watson to have a little bonding moment as he helps Joan deal with the issue. Because they have to do bonding moments, just to show they have a relationship, since nothing else about their weird psychic Siamese twin pairing makes any sense on a human gut level.

I miss Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on these Thursday nights.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Sherlock Holmes ice cream flavor.

There are actually fields of endeavor untouched by the legend of Sherlock Holmes, as impossible as that may seem.

Take ice cream flavors, for example. Ben and Jerry's, Baskin-Robbins, any of the great ice cream flavor creators . . . have any of them come up with a "Sherlock Holmes" flavor? I don't think so. And why should they? Tobacco is probably the flavor most associated with Holmes, and there's an ice cream variety that no one has ever gone looking for.

So what would the perfect Sherlock Holmes ice cream flavor be?

Watson seems easy. Described as "thin as a lath and brown as a nut," something with thin strips of caramel laid through a nut-filled ice cream would work just fine for Watson.

And brother Mycroft? Well, occasionally he is "the British Govern-Mint." Something with a solid minty flavor would do nicely.

But Sherlock Holmes. Good old Sherlock Holmes . . . what flavor would we concoct for him?

Something tied to that little "chocolate and silver volume" he pulled down from his garret to look up "The Lion's Mane?" Too minor a reference, and "silver" doesn't bring anything tasty to mind.

Something with teeny-tiny red licorice pipes mixed in? Little gummy trouts in the ice milk?

Ah . . . milk.

As in "milk and biscuits," something served to a client at Baker Street in "The Adventure of the Priory School." Biscuits, that thing Sherlock Holmes used to break his fast in "The Dying Detective."

Biscuits, or as we say in America, cookies. And milk, well, it does contain cream in its unhomogenized state. So if we go for "Sherlock Holmes's Milk and Biscuits Ice Cream," we're basically getting a "cookies and cream" variant. Throw in a touch of Sussex honey into the recipe, and I think we have a winner.

"Sherlock Holmes's 221-Bee Biscuits and Milk." And that's my final answer.

Have any Sherlockian ice cream flavor ideas of your own? Give it a go, because nobody loses with more ice creams.

Monday, March 9, 2015

At Least One Hundred and Five Shades of Sherlockian Gray.

Occasionally, one gets a very dull week Sherlock-wise. True, one could go on-and-on about that last little thing, or maybe actually dive back into the Canon, but eventually one starts getting truly desperate. Like "Maybe I should go see Fifty Shades of Gray at the theater and look for Sherlockian references!" desperate. But that road leads to sheer insanity, and besides that, I hadn't seen Will Smith in Focus yet.

But given what I had heard about the dismal literary level of the novel Fifty Shade of Gray, the thought occurred to me that the Canon of Sherlock Holmes, being of a much higher quality of writing, had to contain many more than fifty shades of gray -- double that number at the very least!

So, in order to amuse myself during this otherwise dull Sherlockian week, I set about a rough enumeration of the shades of gray in the sixty tales of Sherlock Holmes. Nothing sexy about it as you will soon see. Also, I decided to use the Jay Finley Christ abbreviations to those stories to blatantly mock newcomers to the Sherlockian world whose intellects cannot be bothered to suss out that "HOUN" equals The Hound of the Baskervilles. (Yes, mocking. With an evil laugh, even! BWAH-HA-HA! BWAH-HA-HA! HOW I RELISH MY ABBREVIATION SUPERIORITY!)

So, anyway, on with at least one hundred and five shades of Sherlockian gray:

1. Pearly pill gray -- STUD, Part 1, Ch. 7
2. Summer saline alkali dust gray -- STUD, Part 2, Ch. 1
3. Dull earth gray -- STUD, Part 2, Ch. 1
4. Shawl parcel gray -- STUD, Part 2, Ch. 1
5. Background rocks gray -- STUD, Part 2, Ch. 3
6. Wedded hair gray -- STUD, Part 2, Ch. 1
7. Dawn gray -- STUD, Part 2, Ch. 6
8. Sombre dress beige gray -- SIGN, Ch. 2
9. Turban gray -- SIGN, Ch. 2
10. Cold, distant light gray -- SIGN, Ch. 7
11. Portly man's suit gray -- SIGN Ch. 6
12. Side whisker gray -- SIGN, Ch. 9
13. Curly hair thick shot gray -- SIGN, Ch. 11
14. Keen Mortimer eye gray -- HOUN, Ch. 1
15. Common envelope gray -- HOUN, Ch. 4
16. Lawyer head gray -- HOUN, Ch. 5
17. Melancholy hill gray -- HOUN, Ch. 6
18. Boulder gray -- HOUN, Ch. 6
19. Grim impression gray -- HOUN, Ch. 7
20. View of the place gray -- HOUN, Ch. 7
21. Small hamlet gray  -- HOUN, Ch. 7
22. Lonely road gray  -- HOUN, Ch. 7
23. Between age thirty and forty suit gray  -- HOUN, Ch. 7
24. Plume of smoke gray  -- HOUN, Ch. 7
25. Circular rings of stone gray  -- HOUN, Ch. 7
26. Clothes gray  -- HOUN, Ch. 7
27. Stapleton neutral-tinted eye gray -- HOUN, Ch. 7
28. Stone hut gray -- HOUN, Ch. 8
29. Burned letter writing gray  -- HOUN, Ch. 10
30. Wreaths of rain gray -- HOUN, Ch. 10
31. Franklin whisker gray -- HOUN, Ch. 11
32 Dull that goes with green gray -- HOUN, Ch. 11
33. Slope-side shadow gray  -- HOUN, Ch. 11
34. Great bird soaring gray  -- HOUN, Ch. 11
35. Dancing Holmes eyes gray  -- HOUN, Ch. 12
36. Grand meenister hair gray -- VALL, Ch. 2
37. Peculiarly keen Douglas eye gray -- VALL, Part1, Ch.3
38. Moustache gray -- VALL, Part1, Ch. 6
39. Heavy reefer jacket suit gray -- VALL, Part 1, Ch. 6
40. Tweed suit gray -- VALL, Part1, Ch. 7
41. Graybeard gray -- VALL, Part 2, Ch. 3
42. Shepherd's check trouser gray -- REDH
43. Worn gloves gray -- IDEN
44. Harris tweed trouser gray -- IDEN
45. Sharp and penetrating eye gray -- IDEN
46. Long travelling cloak gray -- BOSC
47. Wall gray -- BOSC
48. House on the right gray -- BOSC
49. Blotted ink gray -- TWIS
50. Street dust gray -- BLUE
51. Drawn face gray -- SPEC
52. Premature hair gray -- SPEC
53. Gables gray -- SPEC
54. Lichen-blotched stone gray -- SPEC
55. Long dressing-gown gray -- SPEC
56. Balefully lit eye gray -- ENGI
57. Pavement gray -- BERY
58. Pearl trouser gray -- BERY
59. Carpet gray -- BERY
60. Little roof gray -- COPP
61. Tiled outbuilding gray -- SILV
62. Faded reds gray -- SILV
63. Slate paper gray -- GLOR
64. Archway gray -- MUSG
65. Old footworn stone gray -- MUSG
66. Peculiarly light watery gray -- GREE
67. Steel gray -- GREE
68. Mist gray -- EMPT
69. Dull plumage gray -- DANC
70. Country doctor head gray -- DANC
71. Flannel suit gray -- DANC
72. Old building gray -- SOLI
73. London slate gray -- SOLI
74. Bearded man gray -- SOLI
75. Dark trouser gray -- PRIO
76. Low village gray -- PRIO
77. Limestone boulder gray -- PRIO
78. Haggard woman hair gray -- BLAC
79. Keen gleaming brightly eye gray -- CHAS
80. Anger and mortification gray -- CHAS
81. Wonder hair isn't gray -- MISS
82. Inn Road gray -- MISS
83. Pair of brougham horses gray -- MISS
84. Iron hair gray -- WIST
85. Broad opium-drugged iris gray -- WIST
86. Thick winter curtain of gloom gray -- REDC
87. Grown in the Service gray -- BRUC
88. Sullen, menacing eye gray -- DYIN
89. Cold face with fiery soul gray -- LADY
90. Morning gray -- LADY
91. Ashen gray -- DEVI
92. Irish eye gray -- ILLU
93. Awful London castle gray -- ILLU
94. Straggling beard gray -- BLAN
95. Fierce eye gray -- BLAN
96. Very loud check suit gray -- 3GAB
97. Old gentleman gray -- 3GAB
98. Austere eye gray -- 3GAR
99. Irregular masses gray -- SHOS
100. Stonework gray -- THOR
101. Cold eye gray -- THOR
102. Quick eye gray -- THOR
103. Intense eye gray -- CREE
104. High-stepping carriage horse gray -- SHOS
105. Tinted sun-glasses gray -- RETI

Well, that's that. It occurs to me that Fifty Shades has been around so long that some much quicker sort probably came up with this idea already months ago, but like Sherlockian chronology, sometimes it's just entertaining to do it for yourself.

It's just been that dull a week.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

E3:16. Jubal Early versus Mr. Elementary! Hooray!

Watson's basement lair has lighting that does her no favors.

Mr. Elementary is doing ridiculous Salvador Dali experiments to make himself smarter, the way a very stupid person would try to make their self smarter.

Weird sad cello music is playing over the soundtrack as Mr. Elementary experiences self-doubt and is plagued by the suspicion that he killed someone without knowing it. Mr. Elementary takes a beating on the street, almost like he wants it.

This is one of the TV episodes where the protagonist is well off his game, for whatever strange reason. Mr. Elementary actually interviews a witness by offering his hand to have the bones broken with a wrench in exchange for answers. There's something a little sick and wrong with this episode, in the direction, in the camera-work, in that weird, sad cello music.

And yet, whenever an actor named Richard Brooks shows up on the screen, speaking in a particularly distinctive character-actor voice, I'm finding myself filled with delight.

The final episode of the cult favorite space opera, Firefly, was called "Objects in Space," and it featured a marvelous character named Jubal Early. And Jubal Early was played by one Richard Brooks.

Mr. Elementary is being pathetic, loser-y and as much not Sherlock Holmes as he's ever been this week. T'were Richard Brooks actually portraying Jubal Early and not Detective Demps, this would be Elementary's last episode, as Jubal would have easily killed the wretch. He's the kind of fellow that would have made a worthy adversary to the real Sherlock Holmes.

Side note: Culver's claims their tartar sauce is a 40-year-old family recipe. When I was in high school, I figured out you could make tartar sauce our of mayonnaise and pickle relish . . . which makes my combo an over 40-year-old family recipe, at this point. Suddenly I am not as impressed.

And just as I'm getting more interested in Culver's commercials than Elementary, Jubal Early is back and dragging Mr. Elementary off to Alliance prison. Oh, River Tam, where are you when I need you?

Well, for a few moments tonight, Elementary reminded me of a good hour of television I saw once. So if it can't remind me of Sherlock Holmes, I suppose I'll take that.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The unexpected importance of Nimoy.

The passing of actor Leonard Nimoy this week could be seen, from a distance, as a minor blip on the Sherlockian radar. He played Sherlock Holmes in the William Gillette play in the 1970s. It wasn't a performance that would have been especially remembered by Sherlockians were it not for who he was, and that is the key to the Sherlockian importance of Leonard Nimoy. Who he was.

Leonard Nimoy was an actor ahead of his time. Not in the thespian sense, but in the position he was put into. Nimoy took a role in a single production that would set the course of not just his entire life, but the lives of literally a million others. He wanted to be an actor, known and respected for his work as an actor, and not typecast into something cartoonish, like a George Reeves or Adam West. But fate chose his role to be something much more than that, to be not just an actor who played a character, but to be an actor whose character became a wild fan favorite, and then a cultural touchstone, and eventually, an icon.

And this is where we come back to Sherlock Holmes.

In the late 1800s, no character expressed the forward-thinking, "logic and science will save us" optimism of the time more than Sherlock Holmes.

So in the late 1900s, when another logic-centered character was created in a hopeful vision of the future, that character could not help but be thought of as the modern version of Sherlock Holmes.

To an entire generation, Star Trek's Mr. Spock was our back-up Sherlock Holmes. If we couldn't have Sherlock Holmes to watch on TV, Spock was not a bad alternative. He wasn't a spin-off detective who was sort-of like Sherlock Holmes, like TV's Monk. He was a completely new, original character who had nothing to do with Holmes, and yet was so very Sherlock Holmes.

Articles were written in Sherlockian journals comparing how close the two were in their habits. Stories in Star Trek fanzines were written where Spock would either act as Sherlock Holmes, be transported back to Victorian England to meet Sherlock Holmes, or somehow actually wind up being the real Sherlock Holmes. No two so different fictional characters have ever been so close as brothers as Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Spock.

Over the decades it was interesting to watch Leonard Nimoy's path as he fought to resist typecasting and being identified solely with that role, going so far as to publish a book early on called I Am Not Spock. But as the years passed, and he saw his character becoming more than just a cartoon, as he saw Spock inspire a generation of scientists, developers, and tech workers of all stripes, Leonard Nimoy took on a sort of gracious custodial view of this gift he was allowed to give the world. He didn't milk it. He didn't keep doing "Hey, look at me!" grabs for attention like another Star Trek actor we all know. He set the kind of example we'd love to see a Benedict Cumberbatch follow, not leaving the character behind, and also not hurting that character by trying to make it more like him.

Benedict Cumberbatch looks to have a fine acting career ahead of him, but on one level he's going to be following a trail that was pioneered by Leonard Nimoy. Being a top-level fandom favorite who will always be able to supplement his income with a convention appearance any time he wants. Having news articles constantly tie his character to him. And oh, the fan art, the slash fiction (oh, yes, Leonard Nimoy was one of the two actors they invented slash fiction for), all of that stuff that follows having your TV creation be worshipped like a god . . . Leonard Nimoy is the guy that had to deal with all of that first. 

Because in the pantheon of our modern media Olympus, Mr. Spock joined Sherlock Holmes as a "deity" some time ago. And Leonard Nimoy is who we have to thank for so much of that.

So, thanks, Leonard Nimoy. You gave Sherlock Holmes his true other brother besides the fat guy. And that makes you a big part of our Sherlockian world, though the play was nice, too.

Rest well and prosper.