Thursday, January 17, 2019

Sherlock Holmes, hero for a hateful day

"This looks like one of those unwelcome social summonses which call upon a man either to be bored or to lie."
-- Sherlock Holmes, not liking people in "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor"

"What is it that we love about Sherlock Holmes?" a great Sherlockian once asked as the theme for an essay of warm Sherlock fuzzies. Well, let's be honest. Sometimes we just love Sherlock Holmes because he thought the rest of us were foolish dullards. Not because we think that we are particularly dull or particularly foolish . . . but those goddamn other people.

So here we are mid-winter, post-SH-birthday, amidst a governmental break-down in both the US and the UK, and all those other people . . . even some of our friends . . . are just . . . ugh.

It's a great time for Sherlock Holmes!

Because Sherlock Holmes wasn't the guy who liked everybody. He cared about people. He tried to help those poor sods whose foolishness got them into this mess or that. And his prime mission in life was calling the world on its bullshit. (Yes, we can call such things "mysteries," but, really? A demon-dog with eyes aflame? A league to promote keeping redheads alive? A man who'd leave Mary Sutherland at the altar? Bullshit! Bullshit! And, c'mon, she wasn't that bad . . . bullshit!)

My apologies for being a bit swear-y tonight, I'm in that sort of mood. Humanity just needs to get its act together right now, including me, the swear-y blogger who should be working on other projects, and the cat on my lap that wants to bite my arm as I'm typing. We're all in a bit of a mid-winter mood right now.

Which is why this, too, is a good time for Sherlock Holmes. The detective who could end a successful case with "What object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must tend to some end, or else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable." Murder was an awful thing, not a puzzle game, and Sherlock Holmes got that. Murderers suck.

One might almost think that finding a literary hero that gets "in the dumps at times and won't open my mouth for days on end" is not a healthy option, but all of those very human, very unsociable qualities, that make Sherlock Holmes kind of a jerk are qualities that the rest of us tend to possess as well. The fact that he can stir himself to rise above them, to help humanity, and put forth, as Deadpool would say, "Maximum effort!" . . . well, that just makes him more of a hero for us than we could hope for, a hero who gets it.

And gives us the hope that we might rise past our lower attitudes as well. Any quest for the facts can take you down a dark road. Some people do things that make them unworthy of the time it takes to deal with their social summonses. Bad days are gonna come.

On those days, we still have Sherlock Holmes, bless him. A truly beautiful misanthrope who manages to get the job done despite it all.

And on we go toward better days, where he's good to have around as well.

When you find your favorite writer of old books.

If you collect old books, and wander the bookshops looking for familiar names, as time goes by, you may start to develop sets of non-Sherlockian books from an author with ties to Sherlock Holmes.

Over the years, I've piled up sets by a few such names. Christopher Morley . . . the easiest of the old Irregulars. Vincent Starrett . . . the harder one, though it helps to be near Chicago. Father Ronald Knox. Dorothy Sayers. Isaac Asimov. Even that Conan Doyle fellow. And, as time went on, I've gotten rid of a few as well, once I decided that, if not for their connections to Sherlock Holmes, I really didn't care for their style.

Tonight, I was bumbling about the library, knocking things over, and realized that one such old author has wound up holding a place of honor among my shelves. While others have come and gone, not a single copy of this fellow's books -- that wasn't a duplicate -- has ever left my library. And why has he made it to this cherished place? 

Not for great literary stature. Not for importance to the Sherlockian movement. Not because anyone else told me he was somebody I just had to have. Just a writer whose little hardbacks make me smile, both in premise and execution . . . and he just happens to hold a very special place in the history of Sherlock Holmes.

Mr. John Kendrick Bangs. The man who told Victorians what Sherlock Holmes was doing in the afterlife after Conan Doyle killed him.

Bangs' tales of ghosts and gods, writers and lovers, emperors and idiots, are light and lively and never tax one's brain overmuch at the end of a long day. He's just having fun and churning out books like an old sci-fi favorite of mine, Ron Goulart, the sort of writer who seems to like to play in their imagination more than the tortured emotions of their soul. (Those who still wonder at my joy in Will Ferrell's work may note that I've gone for light and silly for a very long time.)

How long does it take for a Sherlockian book collector to realize their old book author of choice? How many books does it take before the fix in in? With less bookshops to browse, and on-line buying having a laser focus, I wonder if future collectors will even sample some of the old authors -- most of them came my way after finding nothing directly Sherlockian after a day's search and settling on something tangential in an author or subject with any Sherlockian connection I could make. Quite a few odd old books have wound up in my library that way. Things like The Story of the Gypsies or The Pipe. But I digress.

Having a favorite author from another era who doesn't have a currently popular character gives you a certain literary mystique, I should think, so if you don't have one, you might want to give it a try. Lord knows there are enough of them out there. And the things you might learn along the way can be almost as much fun as the reading itself.

Good luck!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The politics were there . . .

Sherlockiana sometimes seems like its own little island, far from the coast of mainstream human interactions, where Sherlockians can sit back with their figurative tropical umbrella drinks and relax and enjoy the sunshine that radiates from the master detective.

That's not true at all, of course, as current events, trends, and even our latest adaptations, born of current culture, have always affected us very deeply from our earliest writers on. Yet Sherlockiana has, until now, not really had its "kneeling during the national anthem moment," when fans of football started decrying that politics had entered their get-away-from-it-all hobby.

The Baker Street Babes tweeted a link to an essay involving the #MeToo movement by one of our current literary lights, Lyndsay Faye, this week that moves us in that direction. Whether or not it catches fire well enough to become a point of contention in our ranks has yet to be seen. Sherlockiana is a fairly conservative hobby on its elder side, but so liberal on its up-and-coming side that we're probably going to see a few more of these issues come up before things transition to future generations.

An un-named editor of the BSI's manuscript series seems to have rejected a pretty solid essay in its entirety instead of suggesting any tweaks, which says to me that said editor hit one segment of that essay as a roadblock and didn't consider its entirety. That also suggests that the deal-breaker may have been something which disagreed with said editor's worldview.

The point that inevitably comes up in these situations is "Why didn't so-and-so quietly discuss this with so-and-so, instead of making it a public issue? Why bring politics into our hobby?"

Well, politics comes into our hobby all the time, behind the scenes. When editors pick what gets published in journals, when a society head decides who can become a member, when a writer decides what he is going to post in his blog that morning. Which brings in the question: If a political choice is made in the forest where no one can hear it, is it still a political choice?

We usually only hear complaints about such issues becoming public when one disagrees so heartily with said issue that one wants to pretend it doesn't exist. And that mindset isn't good for anyone's future, as one can see playing out real-time in modern America right now.

My friend Rob and I have been having a very interesting discussion on this latest little issue, and a thoughtful discussion is always worth having . . .

Even on our tropical island in the Sherlockian sun.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Sherlock Holmes's other birthday

Once upon a time, the aging blogger began, we had regional soda pops. Taking a vacation a day away from your home meant pop machines with an array of bottled liquids bearing names and colors you'd never seen before. A few, like the now omnipresent Mountain Dew, survived and went national. Others now reside as "Who remembers this?" photos on Facebook.

When the subject of Sherlock Holmes's April 5th birthday came up this week, I was put in mind of such regional variations, as I wondered if that date ever gained traction beyond the Southern Illinois/St. Louis area where its evangelists spent the most time.

In the early 1980s, when Father Raymond L. Holly first championed April 5 as the true date of Holmes's birth, William S. Baring-Gould had already heartily embraced January 6 in his cornerstone annotated, and the Baker Street Irregulars had well settled in with their own traditions. But the Southern Illinois scion society, the Occupants of the Empty House, went their own way, following the arguments of Father Holly, and began to celebrate that holiday on April 5.

Those arguments were based upon Holmes's rebirth in "Empty House," Anglican customs, and the detective's very name, "Sherlock," and can be most easily found in the book Commanding Views from the Empty House, in an article titled "The New Beginning." They make much more sense than Christopher Morley's flimsy hangover premise for the January date, but those early Irregulars did like their drinking jokes, as evidenced in the B.S.I. "Buy-laws."

But the reasons why one might think Sherlock Holmes's birthday is this date or that really aren't as important as the celebrations of that date which follow. Members of the Occupants of the Empty House did a very clever thing in picking their own date -- they could have a marvelous celebration at their own meetings and still attend the New York celebration of the other date with never a conflict to be had. Other dates, such as one in June, have also been proposed for similarly functional reasons, June being a better time to do most things than January.

At its core, though, is a premise Sherlockians have always held dear: Look at the original texts about Sherlock Holmes and figure things out for yourself. And then embrace those choices with all your heart. Before we even knew what "headcanon" was, with that concept acknowledging that another head might hold another fact as Canon, we let our hearts hold some things to be true, as Vincent Starrett wrote in his poem "221B."

And sometimes, specific areas of the country held those ideas as one, just like the regional soda pops of my childhood, for a similar reason . . . they were very tasty, and enjoyed by both locals and visitors.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Comedy is hard, so put a disclaimer at the front!

"It may have been a comedy, or it may have been a tragedy. It cost one man his reason, it cost me a blood-letting, and it cost yet another man the penalties of the law. Yet there was certainly an element of comedy. Well, you shall judge for yourselves."

Ever realize that you are Canonical before?

Our old pal John Watson speaks directly to us in that opening of "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs," asking us to decide something for him. He thinks this might be a funny story, but whether he's unsure of his own ability to tell the joke or just concerned about how some of us might take his getting shot or Nathan Garrideb winding up in a nursing home. But in his own mind, the events of "Three Garridebs" was funny enough that he has to at least mention that there was comedy there.

Maybe he's just giving us permission to laugh at this particular criminal matter before we get to the serious parts. Because even Sherlock Holmes, both before and after Watson takes a flesh wound, has to laugh at parts of it.

This is the tale where we get the phrase "crazy boob of a bug hunter." We get a visitor showing up at Baker Street who recognizes Sherlock Holmes from his pictures (perhaps one of the reasons Holmes retires not so long after this). We get that lovely quote from Holmes that could be used very neatly of late, "I was wondering, Watson, what on earth could be the object of this man in telling us such a rigamarole of lies."

Rigamarole. Sherlock Holmes says "rigamarole." If you're in a state where pot is legal, you can probably get ten minutes of giggles our of that word alone.

And a villain who says things like "Here am I, a wandering American with a wonderful tale," and expects people to take him seriously, something Sherlock Holmes doesn't from the outset. And once he's caught, even after shooting at Watson, admits, "I'm a soft-hearted guy that can't begin shooting unless the other man has a gun also." And follows it with "I've not hurt this old stiff."

As "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" wasn't published until twenty-two years after it occurred, and Watson refers to Nathan Garrideb as "our old friend," there seems a likelihood that Watson, and possibly Holmes, continued to see Garrideb once this case was over, which is perhaps where the "cost one man his reason" part came in. With the sanctum of his home and collection violated, there's a strong chance Garrideb started seeing intruders and threats to it everywhere and coming to 221B Baker Street over and over again as a returning client, to the point where Holmes and Watson saw him as a bit of a joke. (And, perhaps, gave Sherlock one more incentive to retire to Sussex.)

But there was something Watson found very funny in all this, hence the words at the outset, yet, as with all comedy, might not have been sure everyone would laugh at it. With all the other funny moments in the Canon, this is the one time he thinks it funny enough to call it out, though, which gives us a hint as to where the doctor's funny bone truly was.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Sherlockiana in the wind

I often get philosophical around this time of year.

For instance, I just remembered a time in the late 1970s when my younger brother went to his senior prom, and his classmates had decided upon the theme "Dust in the Wind." They plainly enjoyed the current hit by the group Kansas, but at the fact that a bunch of high school kids picked such a dreary nihilistic tune for their prom just seemed bizarre to me.

I mean, prom, that time when see if you are of appropriate status to get picked to go, put on a tux, and make sure you get the official picture to add to your personal permanent record . . . it's important, right? Not dust in the wind, right? And tonight is that Sherlockian prom among proms, the B.S.I. dinner. A black hole in our current social media universe, an untelevised awards show, a thing of mystery to those who haven't been, a thing of mixed emotions to those who have.

The B.S.I. dinner doesn't have advertised themes, like "Under the Sea," "Moonlight and Ham," or "Dust in the Wind." The Baker Street Babes charity ball has been going that route to great success (though still no "Moonlight and Ham," sadly). And all we hear in the aftermath of the elder event is usually new-member lists, but as with proms, it's about that moment. Either you're there or you're not. It's all about the moment itself, and luckily, no one function has the monopoly on moments.

Sherlockian moments can be such great moments, and happen all over the place, even tonight. Because like the secret of those high school kids and their "Dust in the Wind" prom theme, moments are pretty simple: "Life is short, so we'd better have sex now." (You know how proms are.)

So whatever you're doing with Sherlock tonight, I hope your moments are warm and welcome tonight, and whether or not you are getting to go to the prom, I hope you get to have sex*. Because, "Dust in the Wind," y'know?
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* Or your equivalent peak experience.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Ice Cream and Sherlock Holmes

One of my fascinations in the movie Holmes and Watson is a momentary flash during a dream Sherlock Holmes has, where he and his new love Millie operate an ice cream stand together.

Yes, Sherlock Holmes dreams of ice cream.

His dream ice cream shack is called "Sherlock Cones Ice Cream," and in its brief moment on the screen, I have only been able to identify three of its six advertised flavors, even after seeing the movie six times. The three I have are:

"The Game Is Afruit"

"The Six Neapolitans"

"The Sign of the Four Flavours"

And I have a vague recollection of something based on The Hound of the Baskervilles, but that may elude me until the DVD and its ability to pause come around.

Sherlock Holmes and ice cream, though, is not as odd a combo as one might think. Good ice cream is a chemistry of sorts . . . in fact, in the 1890s, Agnes Marshall, England's "queen of ices" thought liquid nitrogen might be used to make ice cream, long before Dippin' Dots, "the Ice Cream of The Future," was invented by a Southern Illinois University grad using a similar process.

The cone part of "Sherlock Cones," is, of course, another sign that Holmes and Watson is an alternate history Sherlock, as the ice cream cone wasn't popularized until a decade or so after Sherlock's dream on our Earth, at the St. Louis World's Fair. (Funny how many ice cream innovations occur not so far from here. Soft-serve started in Kankakee, and Dairy Queen in Joliet.) Of course, since Sherlock Holmes winds up in A-mehr-ica at the end of Holmes and Watson, his post-Moriarty activities and all that midwestern ice cream business could have been intertwined.

This, of course, is excellent fanfic fodder for the American adventures of Sherlock and Millie, but trying to tie Sherlock of the Doyle Canon to ice cream is a real reach. Sherlock of the Doyle Canon seems to be all about the cheese as his dairy product of choice, and even non-iced cream is nowhere to be seen.

Still, something about that chilly, tongue-coating, flavor-rich delight seems like it should have a kinship with Sherlock Holmes, like his "spirit animal of food" or something.  But as with so much about that master of detectives there are wilds here to explore.

Yet another universe's chronology

My paper in the Fall 2018 issue of The Watsonian, entitled "Conan Doyle's Curious Collection of Continuitites" put forth my multiverse theory of Watson's dates in the Sherlockian Canon. Why does Watson have Holmes investigating "Wisteria Lodge" in 1892 when he was supposed to be thought dead and on hiatus? Simple -- that was a Watson whom Conan Doyle channelled from a parallel Earth to the one which held the Reichenbach Falls moment.

So you will understand one of the reasons I found the movie Holmes and Watson to be a Sherlockian treat: It gave me dates and another parallel Earth to chart in my multiverse theory of Sherlock Holmes's lives.

The movie begins with young Sherlock starting school in 1867. He meets young Watson in that same year (at least in the American release of the film -- which might indicate a second universe for the other version) and goes on to solve his first crime, which is reported in a newspaper dated November 24, 1867.

How old is Sherlock Holmes during that formative year? Well, there we find another indicator that this is a universe quite alien to our own, where humans not only have the ability to "uncry" . . . they also look what we would see as ten or twelve years old when they are twenty-one years old. That is the case, at least, unless this Sherlock Holmes played by Will Ferrell lies about his age in his moment of revelation:

"Watson! I've discovered my emotions! And I'm only 46!"

He makes that statement in 1892, which means he would have been 21 when he started school. Given, however, that almost immediately started solving crimes, perhaps that was also the year this Sherlock started lying about his age to get into crime scenes, making him almost ten years younger than his declared 46.

Want some more cross-universe chronology fun? Not only did this Sherlock's Moriarty escape to America in 1892, his universe's RMS Titanic also set sail for America in that year, which it did about twenty years later in our universe. Of course, their Mahatma Gandhi was a shave-headed, newspaper-quote-worthy older man in their 1892 as well, when in our world he was only a newly-minted lawyer headed back to India at age 23.

Getting into the respective ages of Mrs. Hudson's many lovers -- Einstein, Houdini, Mark Twain, and Charlie Chaplin -- is a whole 'nother kettle of fish pie and swamp. Our Chaplin would have been only three years old when hanging out with Hudson.  Twain, in his late fifties, might be close enough, but Harry Houdini would have been only eighteen when Hudson is calling him "dollface" and he is starting the gears that she hoped would crush Watson's head. Albert Einstein would have been thirteen when his full shock of white hair came in, but being a lover of that particular Mrs. Hudson might just age a man severely, given her seeming desire to bed all of those gentlemen simultaneously.

Before anyone complains that I'm spending far too much time considering the ramifications of utter nonsense, I would make one simple statement: Welcome to the world of Sherlockian chronology!

Our Watson(s) may have not gone quite so far astray with is dates as Holmes and Watson's newspapers and title cards, but trying to get those dates to line up requires exactly the same amount of imagination and parallel universe theory as making sense from this particular non-sense. Being a Sherlockian chronologist does a lot to mentally prepare one for a movie like this one, given that both Sherlockian chronology and comedies this wacky should have the same motto written over their doors:

"Abandon hope all ye who enter here."

Because that's definitely where the fun starts.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Adventure of the Five Ticket Stubs

It may be said of my friend, Mr. Brad Keefauver, that he was not someone who did those things he enjoyed most by halves. And when the commitment to a cause took him, he became a force beyond what might be considered reasonable or rational to his fellow man. (The insights of women being so much more keen of course. And other genders doubly so.) Then it was not surprising that, early in January of 2019, we found ourselves seated for a fifth showing of that remarkable film Holmes and Watson . . .

Sorry for the royal "we," but when you "chronicle your own adventures," as it were, or "third-person narrate your own biography" . . . you know, "pound your own keyboard?" "Post your own blog?"

In any case, with only one more night of screenings left in Peoria, tonight was the night I went to see Holmes and Watson in the theater for a fifth and final time. So I feel like I might need to explain myself to those who are, perhaps, less enthusiastic about movies in general. How can a person sit through any movie five times in a few short weeks?

Well, this won't be the first time I've done such a thing -- in college it was not at all that unusual. The summer Star Wars came out, I saw it thirty-two times in the theater. And the key to seeing a movie more than a couple times is quite simple: Beyond just making you enjoy its story, the movie has to provide a world that you enjoy existing in for its run-time.

And, boy, do I enjoy the world that Holmes and Watson creates.

It's a world where Sherlock Holmes is England's greatest hero and everyone knows it. It's a world of lavish Victorian vests and long coats, giant cakes with hidden corpses that still are worth eating on your way to the morgue, and a long-suffering Mrs. Hudson whose accent is so thickly layered that its depths might hold megalodons. A world where Lestrade is properly vexed by Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft is properly superior to his brother, and the signs on institutions explain exactly what their attitude is. It's a world where folks can break into song, have sexual dreams that betray their hidden feelings at exactly the wrong moment, and invent social conventions ahead of their time while relishing the problematic viewpoints of their own era.

It's faux Victorian London via Hollywood and theme park, populated by a cast of charming louts, ladies, and street urchins of the most enjoyable sort.

At this point, I truly think John C. Reilly is in strong contention for my favorite John Watson of all time, filling out all the qualifications of a "Watson wanted" ad like a champ. Holmes and Watson is totally his story and its world is one he practically creates, loving it all from its Queen to its corpses with Watson-tinted glasses. He loves the world he lives in, and that comes through the screen as the original Canon's Watson comes through on the printed page.

And that, American ladies, filthy news kids, and wankers, is how I've come to see this particular Sherlock Holmes movie five times in the past few weeks. Your prime Earth-Sherlock may have the word "Granada" attached, or be set in the present day, but for a no-qualifications-needed good time that leaves a smile on my face during every roll of the credits, Holmes and Watson is where I haven't minded spending nearly eight hours of late, with no regrets at all.

One night left in many a city or town, so get out and see if it's a world you can handle, if you haven't already!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Sherlock Holmes Birthday Stayweekend begins!

Well, I didn't get any selfies of my fresh haircut as I boarded the car to make my way to the start of my Sherlock Holmes Birthday Stayweekend, the book release party as I released Lyndsay Faye's The Paragon Hotel from it's corrugated cardboard shipping case, the happy e-mail encounter with a Sherlockian friend, but that's okay. The Keefauver selfie skills seem to have skipped a generation, because I know my nieces and nephews have it down.

So here we are. Even if one doesn't feel too envious of those travelers gathering in New York this week for Sherlockian purposes, one definitely can get a feeling that one isn't keeping up with one's Sherlockian "duties." It's not that Sherlockian life has any requirements that can only be met by attending the New York weekend, but it's the focal point for enough Sherlock Holmes fans of the old school that it can come to feel like that way.

For those of us who, for whatever reason, are doing the Sherlock Holmes Birthday Stayweekend this week, however, it might be good to do something a little special to enjoy the week in a Sherlockian way. This year, for example, (DON'T SAY IT! DON'T SAY IT! THEY'RE GOING TO THINK YOU'RE OBSESSED!) Holmes and Watson is hanging on in theaters until at least Thursday, and possibly longer. (I CAN'T HELP IT! THE LOA POSSESSED ME!)

This early in the year, however, those of us with fresh Sherlockian goals can look at this as a fertile time to put our excitement toward breaking ground on new projects. This is such an exciting time to be into Sherlock Holmes, with paths available to us that our forebears didn't even see coming and would have loved to have at their fingertips. There may be a really good party or four, some good folks to meet, some good books to buy, and other diversions in NYC, but we're not exactly adrift in a void if we're not there.

(And those who are there have to have somebody to send their social media postcards to!)

So, if you're Stayweekending like me this week, have a little Sherlock fun of the kind you love most and know that you're not the only one. Our numbers are greater than ever before, I'd wager, and one of these days somebody'll get a virtual equivalent figured out. But in the meantime, there's a lot of Sherlock to be grateful for, even in the place you're at right now.

Let me know if you have any good Sherlock Holmes Birthday Stayweekend ideas to share, because it's starting now!

Monday, January 7, 2019

The perils of panel!

There are a lot of parts of 221B Con that I love. Most of it, actually. The one part that I have the worst time with? Panel application time.

I mean, when you're at the con itself, you have the delicious agony of wanting to go to everything, but having to squeeze in meals and deal with the simple fact that you can't be two places at once. It is literally impossible to do all of 221B Con. Choices have to be made. Once choices are made, though, all you have to do is then walk into a room and sit down. Easy peasy.

But panel application time is looking at a list of about seventy panel topics and picking not only a few that would be fun, but also finding the ones that you are also qualified to sit on. And if you don't get down to "Insecurity, Imposter Syndrome, and other Creative Pitfalls" and know exactly why that panel exists, well, believe it or not, it is possible to feel insecure enough to apply to a panel whose very theme you suggested back in the fall.

But enough whining. Time to buck up, remember that I might be qualified for a panel or two, and hit that list. One technique I've learned over the years is that sometimes, you have to charge headlong into the thing that frightens you the most. So "Holmes and Watson -- We think the Queen is Stunning Too," here I come. I know Howard Ostrom is going to walk into that panel specifically to tell me how unfunny he thought Holmes and Watson was, as I know his penchant for going after Elementary panels, and he's liable not to be the worst of it. But just as John C. Reilly's Watson gave his all to protect his Queen, so, too, must I stand for that 2018 Queen of Sherlockian Films.

Going to pass on "Arthur 'Continuity' Doyle" this year, after doing it last year and before. Enjoyed the last couple, but I went hard on continuity at last year's "Holmes in the Heartland" conference, and need some rest on that topic.

I had to check my e-mail to remind myself what panel topics I suggested and might want to support -- and it looks like "The Unreal Podcast" made the list. Doing "Sherlock Holmes Is Real" has been a curious little trip and I'd love discussing that with some other travelers on the fictional podcast road. Hoping I can get a key Academicasaurus podcaster to apply for that one as well.

Turns out "Sherlock Holmes AUs Before They Were AUs" and "Sherlock Holmes Users Group" were things I sent in, so I put in for those as well, but man, four panels seems like a lot -- I mean, I go to 221B Con to absorb info from panels more than to prattle on about my own business (which I certainly do plenty of right here). So hopefully one of those will get enough potential panel-folk that I can take one off and not miss too much else. But we shall see. As with everything else 221B Con, I want to split myself into four and do as much as possible.

Okay, I've hit the send button on that thing.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Observations upon a fourth observation

Going to see the same big-screen movie four times in two weeks is a ridiculous luxury. Even if you have one of those film deals where you can see a dozen movies a month for a set fee, seeing a movie four times means that you spent at least six hours viewing the movie itself, and at least another four getting to-and-from the theater and sitting through previews, etc. And ten hours of your time in a given two week period, is not a cheap price to pay. (Spoilers will be the price you pay if you read further, so be forwarned: SPOILERS! [Foghorn noise])

And yet, after four viewings of Holmes and Watson, I find myself still as pleased as I originally felt walking out of the theater. It still surprised my with laughs a few times, and Will Ferrell's performance started reminding me of a very dear friend's delivery. And after four times, I also came to realize that one of the things that endears me the most about Holmes and Watson is the story it tells.

John Watson, the best and most loyal friend on the planet, sees the greatness in Sherlock Holmes beyond even the cheering throngs of Holmes and Watson's London. He goes along with whatever outlandish idea Sherlock has for him, including the disguise "down-on-his-luck horse shit salesman," in which, rather than protesting having manure smeared on him, Watson immediately drops into character, calling out "Horse shit for sale! Who will buy my horse's shit?" In pushing Watson to such limits for parody's sake, Holmes and Watson is putting one of Watson's most endearing qualities right out in front: He believes in Sherlock Holmes. Always and devoutly.

Things start to turn, ever-so-gently, when Watson meets the woman of his dreams, Dr. Grace Hart, whose admiration for him brings up the possibility that he should really be a true partner to Sherlock Holmes, and not just "the guy who gets sent to the companion's chamber at the Diogenes Club." It's Mycroft, of course, who sparks an opposite reaction in Sherlock, implying that someone as close to Sherlock as John could simulate Moriarty's genius by just observing Holmes himself.

Classic story, one party wants full partnership, the other's family sews seeds of mistrust. And, once separated, they realize their true love for each other. Whether or not you agree that Holmes and Watson is a comedy, I think we can all identify it as a romance. Watson finds love, Holmes finds love, and their giving into those loves makes them able to finally love each other. Who'd have thought that a nominally non-Johnlock film would break ground with Sherlock singing the words, "Why do I ache with shame while moaning Watson's name? I can-not deduce the reason why . . ."

Coming back together, Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson are a better, more solid detective duo than ever before. They quickly save the day, blow up the baddie, and bid bon-voyage to their lady friends (interesting how Grace and Millicent open the boys' hearts and they shuffle off to leave the boys alone together). Holmes and Watson's final appearance, in Professor Moriarty's frontier saloon and subsequent ghosting him, is the perfect shorthand to their attaining a level that makes even that criminal mastermind no match for the abilities of an integrated Sherlock and John.

That simple story, told in such a silly manner, is still a very good story of the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson. I could completely have seen other hands shaping this thing as a drama with the very same plot beats and coming out with a magnificently epic tale. Would I rather have had that movie? Maybe for some other Sherlockians who missed out getting enough joy out of this one, but for me, this was a tale of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson that meant something.

What didn't I get out of it after four viewings? All the dates on all the newspapers. It seems to take place late in 1892 -- the perfect year for something so non-Canonical in its Moriarty take. I also wasn't able to catch all of the flavors that "Sherlock Cones Ice Cream" offers in the dream sequence! I got "The Sign of the Four Flavors," but there are five others, all Canonical!  Also, exact quotes! "Back to your monkey-work, Hudson!" stuck with me on day one, because I like monkeys. But there are some others, including the whole musical number, that I'm dying for exact wording on.

But it does lift my spirits. I will say that for it. "The game is a-starting!"

The things we share, and the moments we don't.

The last couple of weeks have been an interesting ride. And an informative one.

You know this hobby we share. It has the best people in it. You can go to an event, talk to people who like to talk about what you like to talk about, and feel like you're part of a greater thing. Bond and connect in ways that don't occur ever day. It's what makes Sherlockiana special, even though there are a legion of other interest groups and hobbyist leagues out there that, rightfully, might make the same claim. These are the places we connect.

Except when we don't.

A Sherlockian life is defined by both sides of that coin -- the brilliant moments when you connect with complete strangers over this common miracle we call Sherlock Holmes, and those moments when folks in that group you thought of as friends and peers divide sharply with you. We glory over the former in our writings and memories, but the latter are always present, and if we intend to stay within the hobby, we have to deal with them, especially if we trend more toward the sensitive empath side than the narcissistic sociopath end of the spectrum.

And most of us have a bit of both, I suspect. It's a tricky business.

For example, my Sherlockian career will forever be defined by the moment I got made a Baker Street Irregular, and what followed. Sherlockians were the coolest people I ever met . . . until I got to New York and met the men-only B.S.I. of the late 1980s. Suddenly, I felt like I wasn't really a part of this hobby I had whole-heartedly joined, and went from a climactic point in my Sherlocking to an isolating, disconnected one. Still not a big fan of either the group's membership policy or NYC, which makes me a baffling enigma to any fans of the January rituals who bother to kindly contemplate the outliers.

When CBS's Elementary came along, I got to be the bastard on the other side of that coin. Oh, how plainly non-Sherlock-y that show was, surely no Sherlockian found such a thing acceptable as a Sherlock Holmes adaptation. I was connecting with a lot of Sherlockians who felt like I did, big-time. But after a few years . . . a few years, yikes! . . . I finally began to sympathize with those . . .  to me . . . outliers who actually enjoyed the show. Not that I liked the show, but I came to understand how banging that drum too hard might hurt their ears, whether I was agreed with by a goodly number or not. And we don't really bond over our shared negatives like we do over our shared positives, do we?

These divisive bits come along more with a new, internet-fueled speed these days, but they still can leave a lasting impact. That last season of Sherlock played hob with folks, and only two weeks ago, we came to Holmes and Watson. And it made me laugh. I was excited for 221B Con, as it's another one of those times when we get to share enthusiasms, especially the rarer ones. And within two short weeks, the phrase "I laughed during Holmes and Watson," definitely puts you in that rarer group.

Yet 221B Con panels can be both lovely sharing times, and lightning rods for those folks who just have to air their grievances like they're a Costanza at Festivus. And when you love a movie that got an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes (that notorious 0% was before hardly any reviews were in), you're already weary of folks airing their grievances. And suddenly, the whole idea of being in a large group of Sherlockians feels a bit more disconnecting than connecting.

It's so very easy to stay disconnected. All you have to do is "not do." That's why depression is such a nasty bit of business, its draining power to make you "not do" robs you of the very things that might help you fight it. And while I'm not struggling with that particular beastie at the moment, I am having one of my normal bouts of wrestling with "not do" . . . which can come more frequently with age. Really bad timing with the 221B Con panel sign-up list just coming out this Friday, but I suppose I will fight through it at some point.

And I might go see Holmes and Watson again to lift my spirits. Uh-oh . . . .

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A Sherlock Holmes personality test? Could be!

How many Sherlock Holmeses does it take to build a personality test?

There is said to be a "five-factor model" in psychology for building personality tests, and it occurred to me this morning that we now probably have enough current Sherlock Holmeses that one could score people's personalities based on the amount they like or dislike a particular Sherlock Holmes. Look at this list:

Robert Downey Junior
Benedict Cumberbatch
Jonny Lee Miller
Ian McKellen
Will Ferrell

That's five big Sherlock Holmeses within a ten year span. All you had to do was live within a single decade of modern culture to experience all five. How these correspond to traits like openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism,  I am not about to state. (But I can think of a Sherlockian or two who might be good at such a thing.) But if there were enough Sherlockians in the world to make building such a model worthwhile, one could actually use those Sherlocks to study personality.

Oh, wait, I can see one solid statement I can make in looking at that list: Anyone who loves all five of those scores high in "agreeableness." Because those are five very different Sherlocks, and most folks who are willing to be honest are going to have one clunker in that batch. And ranking them on a scale of one through five, even if you have no clunkers, should not be that hard. They're very different, which gives you an interesting perspective on our friend Sherlock Holmes.

Working in corporate America, I've been blessed wtith HR department personality tests a few times. One of those, the "True Colors" sort of test, is always given with the stated goal of showing us how our co-workers have different personalities and that we might want to take that into account in dealing with them. (Seriously.  HR departments like to spell things out to folks as simply as possible, but you know how it is -- the one bad kid in the class always spoiled something for the rest of us.) The basic principle is one that is applicable to our hobby, though, as it has grown of late: All Sherlockians do not have the same personality, a point worth considering on occasion.

Whether it's preparing a talk or admitting someone into your exclusive club, there are a lot of variations of the species Sherlockian that it helps to bear in mind. ("Yay, verily, blogger, attend to thine own words!" Don't know why my conscience speaks like Thor this morning.) And having such a cultural abundance of Holmeses gives us one opportunity for charting those variations.

And we have spares, as well, like Ben Syder and Johnny Depp (Gnomes counts!) to tweak such a scale even further.  Even if no one ever develops a personality scale based on Sherlocks, the sheer ability to do so right now should tell us one thing:

This is truly a golden age for screen Sherlocks. We may not have something for absolutely everyone, but we sure are getting there!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

That golden moment that is "Holmes and Watson"

When BBC Sherlock came across the airwaves and cable feeds, there was a particular place in the universe that no one could have laid claim to: that of BBC Sherlock's Number One Fan. So much fervor came on so intensely for the show that any grand show of devotion, be it in study or in performance, was immediately matched or improved upon. In a throng of thousands racing across the battlefield of fandom, it was impossible to see who might have been leading that charge.

Now, as we look at the possibility of Holmes and Watson leaving theaters at any moment, the fan of this particular incarnation of the pair can see a golden opportunity appearing. With a Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson seemingly so unpopular, this could be the one opportunity for someone to step up and claim the title of "Number One Fan."

I know that at least two of us, Noreen Pazderski and I, have seen Holmes and Watson three times since it came out, and the clock is ticking on bragging rights for "seeing it most in the theater." I may be done with my attempt to claim that, due to a booked-up schedule and the fact that I really have to see a different movie in a theater at some point. I'm falling behind in my normal viewing habits.

And while there are always those deep-pocket Sherlockians who can waltz in and come up with a prime collection of anything, Holmes and Watson is apt to have a very short window of collecting its best memorabilia. Timing and ardor could be key on this one. (Some of us being post-Christmas broke will also open that window up a bit for the opportunist.)

Sherlock Holmes has, for most of his hundred-and-thirty-some years, been mostly a niche fandom. Sure, the general public likes him, but when 221B Con attendance got around the thousand mark, it was a first that experienced eyes had to marvel at.  The lower three digits had been the norm for even the biggest Holmes gatherings forever. We've had folks like John Bennett Shaw or Ron DeWaal or Peter Blau, whose accomplishments you could look at and go, "Yep, that might be the number one Sherlock Holmes fan!" 

Holmes and Watson fandom, once can see already, is a niche within a niche (or maybe a niche within a niche within a niche, of you count "Holmes film fans" as a layer). One might have to compete with the Will Ferrell fans for collectables, just like Holmes and Ripper fans have always fought it out for Holmes/Ripper crossover stuff, but we haven't met that group yet, so who knows?

Anyway, we'll soon be in the hiatus between theater and DVD release (and boy, does that DVD hold the potential for some extras), after which point our little Holmes and Watson fandom will get a second wave of new members, so it's still a prime moment in Sherlockian history for getting on board our latest little fad within a mega-fad.

And to all of you who didn't like Holmes and Watson for whatever reason, I say a very sincere "Thanks!" Your disinterest made all of this possible, and we couldn't have done it without you. 

(In 2018, our "glass half full" skills really got a workout, didn't they? They were good and ready for this bit!)