Saturday, October 27, 2012

I am a very old man.

The birthday is coming up. And, what one definitely shouldn’t do as that holiday nears is this: decide to immerse one’s self in Tumblr and finally take the time to see what microblogging is all about.

Blogging, as performed on this very page, is comforting and easy to grasp for those of us who are products of previous generations. It’s basically keeping a public diary out on the internet. Diaries have been around forever, so keeping one on the net, even if it’s topical, is no great breakthrough.

The post-literate world of Tumblr, however, is a little different. Every time I went to it, I found myself going “Where are the blogs?” It was all pictures, captions, and Facebook-like comments. “Visual retweets” are the best way to describe a lot of what is on Tumblr, and it’s galling to have to use a word referring to another social network just to get that far.

Why should a Sherlockian bother with Tumblr, you ask? Well, if you’re asking, you’re obviously above a certain age, like myself. Because Tumblr is the great hub of fandoms these days. And Sherlockiana is a fandom.

The thing that makes Sherlockiana unique is that we like to think we aren’t a fandom. The fact that Sherlock has been around for a hundred and twenty-five years, more or less, means we can do actual historical research about our hero and our fandom, which makes us feel all the more legit than Potterphiles or Twilighters, but truth be told, we’re still just fans. We get pissy about all the same stuff.

We have fanwank and shipwars, two words I just learned today from my Tumblr immersion. And we’ve had slash and Mary Sues, two terms I’ve known about since the Trekkie fan generation. But even Trekkies are hoary ancients these days, along with the Dungeons and Dragons crowd.

The thing that makes me laugh is that my current middle-aged state is where a Sherlock Holmes fan was just hitting his prime, only a couple of decades ago. And back then, middle-aged Sherlockians worried about the lack of younger fans. Well, the younger fans are here now and the hysterical thing is that we old-school sorts don’t fully realize how fully invested they are, because we don’t get things like Tumblr or even “the twittering.”

But there’s fun to be had in this energetic new Sherlockian world, if we long-time Sherlockians can see past the old, well-travelled paths we are used to.  It just takes a little adapting, and damned if it won’t make you feel old.

But, hey, Sherlock Holmes has been very, very old before, too. And look where he is now.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The QE2 sails by.

This time of year, I always get to see the QE2 sail by, with a welcoming blast of its deep, bass horn. I’ve taken pot shots at it from the beach with my BB gun, but they’ve mostly been for my benefit. The QE2 steams onward, its manifest loaded with captains of Sherlockian industry, artists of various media, and the odd Jack Dawson, be he male or female.

The yearly letter from the Mike Whelan came today, announcing both the accomplishments of the Baker Street Irregulars in the past year and the January weekend in New York to come. During Mike’s term as Wiggins, he has built the Baker Street Irregulars of New York into what is undeniably the Big Sherlockian Institution, well suited to Manhattan’s landscape of the venerable and the powerful. Venues like the Yale Club, a Harvard archive, and a seriously impressive and impressively serious annual slate of publishing, all form building blocks of  what is practically a fandom empire.

The yearly letter also contains a request for membership suggestions, with some pointers on what the old club is looking for. This year’s call emphasizes that clubbability and Sherlockian knowledge are merely the first test of one’s resume as a Sherlock Holmes fan. Potential Irregulars are being sought for their ability to ensure the strength of the Irregulars’ future more than their past accomplishments.

Things were different when I got inducted into the club back in 1989, and I sometimes wonder if they’d even consider me these days. Of course, back in 1989 I have the benefit of being a thirty-one-year-old with a bright and shiny Sherlockian future. They’re probably a little leery of such green recruits these days, as sometimes piss and vinegar leads to a match or two involving the former. (One reason why I haven’t really been a help in building the BSI in the subsequent twenty-three years.)  But who knows? We’ve got some really great, energetic younger Sherlockians these days.

The thing about younger Sherlockians is that they often have ideas that might not line up with the status quo. Or may even be beyond something an older mind can conceive as a workable option. And they don’t always kiss your ass or wait around for you to come around to their point of view.

I used the QE2 as a metaphor for the big and mighty ship that is the Baker Street Irregulars of New York instead of the Titanic, because I don’t see the BSI hitting an iceberg any time soon. Mike Whelan has done a great job of building up a the old girl. But like any cruise ship, its course is also well established, and hopeful passengers must honor its ports of call. And there will remain those of us who choose to sit on the beach and watch it go by, for whatever reason.

The seas of Sherlock Holmes are wide indeed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Celebrity gossip and other excitements Holmes.

When was the last time there was Sherlock Holmes-based celebrity gossip like the story spotted in the Daily Mail Online this week about a possible romance between Benedict Cumberbatch and Lara Pulver? If ever there was a screen-to-reality couple that would put that cardboard Twilight pair Robert Pattinson and Kristin Stewart to shame, that coupling of “Sherlock” and “Irene” would do it. And they’re both 36, according to the Mail Online!

SQUEEEEE!!!! (Yes, I am a paunchy, graying, middle-aged male, but I am very much in touch with my inner teenaged girl. And a good friend taught me how to squee, so I’m using it.)

And 221bCon has just announced that Curly of the Baker Street Babes is on board as not only a guest,  but a guest doing a live podcast in April in Atlanta. As a brand new fan event, 221bCon is sure to be a tale of triumph and tragedy for all who attend, as hitches and glitches do tend to pop up at such things early on, but getting a Babe podcast on the schedule is definitely a triumph, and being present for the first time of anything is always a big, bright feather in one’s fancap. Don’t know if I can possibly make that one, but just for the record . . .


And then there’s SHERLOPALOOZA. It’s coming. It’s in London. I definitely can’t go. But it exists, sound wonderfully cool, and is well worth a . . .


And those were the happy Sherlock thoughts that brightened this week, when no other significant news regarding Sherlock Holmes was out there. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A new, not-so-grand game.

Doing a little handwork on the wardrobe for this October’s vampire evening – natural, since the traditional time of the blood harvest is near upon us – and I needed a little light entertainment to occupy my mind while my hands were busy. Having worked through one of those “independent” comedies which is never a comedy in any sense other than that it isn’t a tragedy, as well as a British mini-series giving Peter Pan an Avatar-like origin story, I finally wandered into an on-demand venue that was offering CBS television shows . . . including that pesky thing some Sherlock Holmes fans keep alluding to in desperation to talk about something.

Well, as I, too, like to talk about something, and there had been comments that it was getting better, I gave it another look. Not as anything to compare with Sherlock Holmes, mind you, but just as an entertainment to compete with watching “Ramen Girl” on Netflix or some SNL rerun on VH1.  The results were not good.

The main character really wants to be House, but doesn’t have the charm. The fact that anyone even lets him at a crime scene seems as much a deus ex machine as anything else. And I kept finding myself wanting to take his charming “sober” companion away from all that and just show her a pleasant evening over dinner.

If you’d like to discount my opinions on this, I’ll give you an out: I didn’t make it through the whole episode. Probably not even half. Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t have tolerated this pretense at criminal investigation drama, and neither did I.

Such a waste of all that money and opportunity . . . I suppose if I diligently watched this CBS pretense week after week, I’d grow used to it. If you subject yourself to any bitter flavor or bad smell long enough, you either become numb to it or start to enjoy it and ponder its “subtle” nuances as a substitute for real enjoyment. But is that any way to live life?

I guess Sherlockians of old made a whole grand game of pushing Conan Doyle into “agent” status and pretending Sherlock Holmes was a true historical figure. Perhaps Sherlockians of now will find  away to make a game out of pretending that American television can produce a worthwhile Sherlock Holmes.

Hmm.  Whatever gets us through the winter.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Under the covers of yellow, it arrives.

Is it mere coincidence that The Baker Street Journal comes out four times a year, suspiciously close to the four major Wiccan sabbats? After recently learning that one of the major Sherlockian publishers of the past may have secretly been creating “force books” for magicians under the guise of Sherlock Holmes books, I’ve begun to wonder what manner of supernatural forces are truly at play behind our everyday world of Sherlock Holmes fandom.

Take this evening, for example. The “Autumn” (note how they so intently avoid “Samhain”) issue of The Baker Street Journal showed up on my mail cart, upon my return home from the day’s labours. I applied letter-opening blade to that virgin-white paper envelope it now comes in, pulled out the heart of the package, and immediately, I was transfixed by its loveliness. It truly seemed to be the most beautiful issue of The Baker Street Journal that I had ever seen. In was uncanny. It was unnatural. It was almost as if . . . I had fallen under its spell.

“No!” I cried, having been a loyal critic of the Journal for so many years, and I paged to the first article. An article which began as a reverse inset in a Sidney Paget drawing. What manner of voo-doo was this? This is not the cold, machine-like typesetting of decade after decade of past issues! No, this was something new, something from another place, another . . . .

I set the journal aside, for fear of being further drawn under its power. This is something to be encountered on another day, when I’ve come prepared.

So the new issue of The Baker Street Journal has arrived, as foretold in the prophecies upon the Facebook and the Twitter. Take all precautions.