Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Watsons through time and gender.

I was listening to a Baker Street Babes podcast of a panel from this spring's 221B Con today, called "Watsons Thru Time." It's a good podcast for anyone to listen to, but I'd especially recommend it to those who think the new Sherlockians are all airheaded Cumberbatch swooners. A lot of good thoughts can be heard there from the panelists and the audience, as well as the recognizable voice of Howard Ostrom, Sherlockian film expert extraordinaire.

Good thoughts, like I said, but despite the fact that Howard is there and there is a gentleman on the panel, I found myself noticing that the discussion was skewing hard in a traditionally feminine direction. Watson was being defined by his relationship with Holmes as much as any other characteristic, and I couldn't help but wonder if the charm of a given Watson didn't prejudice the view of that relationship just a tad.

Nobody seemed to care if Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were in a bromance. Consider that for a moment. While I'd argue the affection shown between them on screen was just as strong as any other, when the topic of Bruce comes up, the reactions to a Holmes/Watson intellect disparity overshadow any bonds the actors created on-screen between their characters. Honestly, would that reaction be entirely the same if Nigel Bruce were a just-as-stupid hunka hunka burning Jude Law? Or would the word "bromance" suddenly be back in play?

Somehow when there was more male energy in the Sherlockian room than female, I don't think we minded stupid Watson quite so much. Guys have all had stupid guy friends, and if they're good-hearted souls, you don't love them any less. And sometimes we have really smart guy friends, and we get our hand stuck trying to pull a really big cookie from a cookie jar . . . no big deal.

But if one of the members of the Holmes-Watson relationship is a stand-in for the female half of a male-female pairing . . . and sorry, Watson, you seem to always wind up the wife in that 221B prison relationship . . . it becomes less and less acceptable for Watson to be lesser than Holmes.

The alchemy of gender bias in our views of Holmes and Watson is a very complex thing, not always something we're conscious of, full of shadings and facets of all sorts. Comparing what came out of the fans of the forties, fifties, and sixties to what is in focus today would make a fascinating study, especially matching trends with changes in demographics of said fans.

Because what we're seeing these days sure isn't your grandfather's Sherlockiana, that's for sure. He had his own prejudices . . . why focus on the relationship between Holmes and Watson when Mrs. Neville St. Clair was answering the door in a nightie?  But hey, listen to the Babes podcast and come to your own conclusions. My sleepily babbling self needs to go to bed . . . .

Monday, July 29, 2013

Magnussen, eh?

This morning, I don't know if I love the way BBC Sherlock is keeping the flame alive with teasers or not. The word spread across the Sherlockian web like wildfire, season three is going to feature the villainous Charles Augustus Magnussen.

Those Sherlock fans who never read "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" can grab their Canon and see what sorts of thing may await. Those of us that know the story well can start going, "Magnussen? Why Magnussen?"

Sure, it could be as simple as not wanting to use "Milverton" now that Elementary grabbed that name first in their run. Or it could imply more.

My first thought was the Nordic association with the new name giving the tale a WikiLeaks twist.

My second thought was the mistaken notion that there was a character called "Magnussen" in Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.

My third thought, after a little Google searching, was, "Hey, Norwegian royalty! Holmes was headed for Norway at the end of 'The Adventure of Black Peter.'"

And that's just me. BBC Sherlock's fandom is a very hungry fandom, one that will analyze individual frames of their favorite show and milk every possible connotation of three individual words tossed their way by devious showrunners. Handing them a name like "Charles Augustus Magnussen" is very apt to produce entire fanfic stories before any of us has even heard the character speak a single word. Just look at how much lore got built up around Moran in the Cumberverse . . . Nature may abhor a vacuum, but Sherlock fandom is chock-full of eager godlings ready to create entire realities of Sherlock to fill even a potential void.

So now we have Charles Augustus Magnussen. Let the games begin!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

No debate.

The subject of getting me into a pro and con debate on CBS's Elementary has come up again this weekend, forcing me to consider my position on that bit of Sherlock-play once more.

My friend Bill Mason originally suggested a debate last winter, as he's fond of the show, and Bill and I have had some fun conspiring on a thing or two in the past. (A script for a Hee Haw episode based entirely around Holmes and Watson being perhaps the most notable.) But we never found a venue where we could both be present at the same time, and . . . well, my journey with the last season of Elementary was far from done.

Originally, when Elementary was new, there were those who enjoyed the show and those who didn't. Both camps were watching the show, and Sherlock Peoria seemed to provide a nice voice for those who didn't, something they could read and go, "Yeah, that bothers me, too."

But as time went on, those who didn't like Elementary wisely quit watching the show. Except for me. When you're blogging and the reader numbers shoot up whenever you express your opinions on a certain topic, you tend to be motivated to express your opinions on that topic. And writing a blog week after week, a weekly television show is natural grist for the mill. By the end of the first season, two kinds of people seemed to be watching Elementary: the fans of the show . . . and me.

I've been told I make people who like the show feel stupid. I've been told I like to rain on people's parades. And those were the nicer comments. But, oddly, those were the ones what made me feel worst.

If a rabid fan of Elementary gets on your case, well, you can write that off. They're rabid fans, and going a little nutball is their prerogative. This blog demonstrates that little fact all the time. But when you start to feel like you're bringing down some fairly normal, happy-go-lucky Sherlockians, well, then you start to have doubts about the merits of what you're doing.

Debating the merits of Elementary, at this point, isn't something I can just do for fun. I'm not a sociopath, I do care about my fellow Sherlockians more than a little bit. Sure, I can give an honest reaction to a new episode or news bit, but those are just reactions, not the basis for a political campaign. (One of a politician's greatest skills seems to be NOT giving their initial, honest reaction.) And occasionally I get lured into attempting to validate those reactions here in the blog. But actually just going up against someone who likes Elementary and arguing, "No, your show sucks, and you are wrong, wrong, wrong!" . . . . well, that would just be mean.

Maybe I've been mean to Elementary fans in the past, and maybe I'll be mean to them again. The rabid ones can get a little annoying in their delusional insistence that Elementary is good TV. See, I just did it again. And that was mean. In the blog, I can try to edit that stuff out. But in an open debate format?

So for now, when it comes to Elementary, I'm going to have to say there is no debate. Once the show has been over for a few years, and we can all step back and calmly and rationally discuss it, then I might be game for it. The interest in such a thing will have surely declined by then, but that, I think, might not be a bad thing.

Not a bad thing at all.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Canonical View of Elementary

All other considerations of its merits aside, for the traditional Sherlock Holmes fan, a Canonical  analysis of the CBS TV show Elementary is a bit of a puzzlement. As the series is more of a total rewrite than an actual modern adaptation, certain familiar touch-stones seem to be missing and possibly going to stay that way.

Take Reichenbach, for example. Downey faced a literal, if exaggerated, Reichenbach. Cumberbatch faced a more metaphoric Reichenbach, but still, plainly, Reichenbach. And Miller?

In the Bizarro Sherlockian world of Elementary, I would have to argue that Reichenbach took place before the show even began. We like to use Watson as our main marker for the beginning and end of the story-cycle of the Sherlockian Canon, but in this case, it would seem we have to let that one go. Because in Elementary world, the Holmes character meets Moriarty long before he meets Watson.

He meets Moriarty. He grapples with Moriarty (in the sheets, yes, but it's still grappling). Moriarty "dies."

Elementary, then, seems to take place during the hiatus, when Mr. Elementary has left London behind following the death of his greatest challenge.

In old school Sherlockian terminology, that post-hiatus place in his career would make Mr. Elementary the Deutero-Holmes, the Holmes who comes back after Reichenbach not quite the same. As he was described by one Sherlockian writer in 1993, Deutero-Holmes "doesn't care for the violin, isn't addicted to cocaine, and breaks the law whenever he feels like it." Sounds like Mr. Elementary to me.

Deutero-Holmes, however, is one of the first theoretical spin-offs of the Canon, a "He's not the real Sherlock Holmes!" who came back from Reichenbach and was called out by Ronald Knox in 1920. So we can't give him any more Canonical status despite those similarities that Rex Stout's theoretical spin-off Watson from his 1941 essay, "Watson Was A Woman." Hmmm . . . .

But where a Canonical analysis of Elementary is concerned, one does quickly find one's self in a theoretical area that seems to be in need of quantum physics and a few other higher disciplines.

In the Canon of old, Holmes meets Mrs. Hudson, then Dr. Watson, then Professor Moriarty, in that order. In the first season of Elementary, we learned Mr. Elementary met Miss Moriarty, then Miss Watson, then Miss Hudson. Time itself runs backwards where the female gender is concerned, even queen bees, a young Mr. Elementary takes up a hobby eventually gotten to by an older, retired Sherlock Holmes.

But then ones looks at Inspector Gregson, whom Sherlock Holmes obviously knew before the Canon began. In Elementary, Captain Gregson was also on board before the stories take place. Does that make Gregson a paradox? His traditional role as the smartest of a group of stupid men (in Holmes's eyes) is slightly paradoxical.

At some point in such considerations, it almost begins to seem that Elementary is a Canonical adaptation for the Stephen Hawkings among us, or possibly the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred.

That is all strictly theoretical, too, of course.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Those cousins-by-ink.

I went looking for something in my library tonight, turned a corner and found . . . four more Christopher Morley novels. I felt like someone who had happily cleared the house of ants, only to find a new line of them marching into the kitchen. Pesky Morleys!

Now, I don't mean to malign ol' Kit, as occasionally this blog is seen as the poo-poo-er of all things beloved by  fellow Sherlockians, but I feel like I've put in my time with that consummate man of letters. I've read his essays, poems, and a good share of his novels, and don't see a burning need to revisit them before I bite the dust. There's more Richard Kadrey I have to read, more Lyndsay Faye, and more soon-to-be authors we haven't even heard of yet. And it's not like Christopher Morley got into my library sheerly on his own merits.

When a fan runs out of new material to fill their fannish time, their energies can go in a lot of directions.  Reading-wise, this usually means moving from Doyle's Sherlock to pastiches. And as hard as it is to imagine in this day and age, a mere twenty-five years ago, it was possible to run out of pastiches to read.

So what do you do when you've read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories available, all of the Mr. Mycroft stories available, all of the Solar Pons, Schlock Holmes, Herlock Sholmes, etc., etc.? Well, you start reading Doyle that didn't have Holmes, if you haven't already. You start reading Doyle's brother-in-law, E.W. Hornung. And eventually you work your way to Doyle's cousin-by-ink and the first Sherlockian super-fan, Christopher Morley.

Once you get to Morley, you can fill a whole lot of time, once you start hunting up his stuff. He wrote constantly, and he wrote everything there was to write. I always enjoyed his short essays the best, but his novels weren't bad, and his poetry . . . well, it's poetry. Your mileage may vary.

He's a lively and interesting fellow, and you can get to know him through his works. But in my life as a Sherlockian, I've met a lot of lively and interesting fellows of both genders, so my bonds with Morley didn't stay unique enough to keep him in shelf space for his non-Sherlock Holmes material. So this past weekend, all my Morleys went to live with a fellow Sherlockian who is enjoying him anew . . . well, I thought all my Morleys had.

Pruning a library can be a bit like pruning vegetation. Past a certain point, it can take on a life of its own. So I'm back to pruning.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Going nonverbal in a time of plenty.

Well . . . .

Usually, I can pull a topic out of thin air. Usually, the blogging is quite the relaxing moment after a long hard day. Usually . . . .

But, let's see, what happened in the last five days. Nothing to write about there, right? Only:

  • The third meeting of Peoria's restarted Sherlock Holmes society, some major authorial news from one of our members, and the return of the Suellen party favor, a Hansom tradition that dates back to the late 1970s.
  • An Irish pub lunch with the current king of Indianapolis Sherlockians, Mr. Vincent W. Wright.
  • The moving of a mass of Sherlockiana to an undisclosed location by the everyday transport that would not draw attention to itself.
  • "The Adventure of the Medium, the Waterfront, and the Unmarked Bills."
  • The San Diego Comicon announcement of the next three Sherlock episode titles.
  • San Diego Comicon.
  • "SherlockeDCC," the party whose Indiegogo fundraiser I happily donated to, which turned into a Twitter-trending fan triumph, complete with Actual Celebrities.
  • Kristina Manente being Kristina Manente. I want to get a Bill and Ted phone booth time machine and get Kristina and John Bennett Shaw together with some of their friends to stage a weekend event. And then we'll all just go there when we die.
  • A summer repeat of the Elementary episode, "Lesser Evils."

Sure, there was all that to blog about . . . in fact, there was too much too blog about . . . and a necessary bit of overwork and a resultant head cold. But it looks like the internet had enough to fill itself these past few days, so I don't feel too badly about not keeping up. May have to revisit some of that one day, though.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Too soon?

This week, The Sherlock Files: The Official Companion to the Hit Television Series by Guy Adams came out in America. It's been out in Britain for a good long time under the more tidy title, Sherlock: The Casebook, but, hey, this is America. When it comes to Sherlock, it always seems like we're dependent upon things crossing the Atlantic on a slow boat.

It got raves in its UK incarnation, it looks like a beautiful, beautiful book, and yet I hesitate . . .


Because I've bought books on popular television shows before, and when is a show most popular? While there are still new episodes to be seen. And if there are still new episodes to be seen, there's a goodly chance that the book will require a second edition with all new material! With any cult show, the market is usually going to hold up for that second book, and given that Guy Adams has done other books on Sherlock Holmes, I'd bet he's going to complete this one once more episodes come available.

Still, Sherlock isn't like the standard American TV series in that we don't just have a three month summer hiatus to wait through. We've got yea . . . oh, I don't even want to think about it. So a booster shot of Sherlock may be just what the good doctor ordered, and The Sherlock Files seems like a handy thing for that. We shall see.

I said I was hesitant, after all. Not crazy.

Monday, July 15, 2013


And now, rather than waste such poetry in the comment section, I am going to feature the words of another unsatisfied customer of Sherlock Peoria:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Having a fan moment.": 

Where are the "Sherlock" fan comments who point out that 221B Cumberbatch is on a corner? While you might be "be breathing flames by September!" right now you are blow smoke out of another orifice. I look forward to the post where you explain who BBC Sherlock's corner building is different from "Elementary". Please elucidate using words under three syllables for use Munchkins. 

I understand that such comments are tossed off in the heat of the moment, so if my overly sensitive comment moderation department tends to delete them before they get to me, I understand. We really don't want you to feel bad about such outbursts later on, as I'm sure I would. But this anonymous reader does raise a very good point: What about BBC Sherlock's corner building housing 221B?

I didn't think it was on a corner.


Thanks to the wonders of Google image search, I pulled up a whole bunch of pictures of Speedy's sandwich shop and the 221B door right next to it, and neither the door, nor Speedy's, seems to be on a corner. Most shots at dead-on views of the row of building frontage.

But then I scrolled down a bit, found an angled street view, and indeed, the building to the right of the 221B door goes down and ends in a corner. If I was the rabid fan of BBC Sherlock that I often get mistaken for, I would have surely noticed this some time ago, but sadly, no.

Now that my interest was piqued, I had to see if there was a corner on the other side of Speedy's, but it sure doesn't look like it. And once you start looking at the row of buildings all packed together, you notice something else: going by the bricks in the story above the door, 221B actually seems to be in the same building as Speedy's. Which kind of means it's not on the corner.

But, hey, it's a TV show made in a country that's not my own, why should I care? But if you're gonna make a TV show here in America, well, you'd better adhere to the craftsma . . . oh, wait, I was talking about BBC Sherlock. Trying to stay out of trouble here.

Back to my summer meditations on how to keep every person on the internet happy come September. It's going to be a challenge, but as Sherlock Holmes once said, "We can but try."

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Collector to cleaner.

Many years ago, I decided I was not a collector.

Of all the ways to celebrate Sherlock Holmes, collecting was one I had decided did not truly suit my personality. But it was too late, and today I've been dealing with some of that, as I prepare to move some sizeable chunks of what I've collected over the years on to greener pastures. That's been happening a lot this year, but now I'm getting down to the evidence of true collecting madness.

Back in those days before eBay, when old bookstores and antique shops were the best way to find reasonably priced Sherlockiana, we scoured such places on a regular basis. Any Sherlockian finding a new small town old bookstore that no other Sherlockians had been in could have a field day. It was like panning for gold -- often tedious and uneventful, but there was always that possibility of striking gold. Once, for example, I bought a first American edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for a dollar in a small town garage with a hand-painted "Books" sign out sitting by the road. That was a good day.

But then there were the no-so-good days that one tried to make good. A shop would have no old Sherlock Holmes books by Conan Doyle, but it would have an edition of Conan Doyle's The White Company that I hadn't seen before. So now I have fifteen assorted copies of The White Company, a book I'm not really that fond of. A shop would have no old issues of The Baker Street Journal, but it would have a few odd books by Christopher Morley, the founder of the Baker Street Irregulars . . . close enough, in a dry collecting spell. So now I had a small Morley collection.

Eventually, you start looking around and going, "I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan, yes, but what am I doing with all this other stuff?" Stuff that has to be stored and moved and lifted and carried and . . . oh, my aching back.

Collecting is a past-time that must be approached with all the wariness of binge drinking. It may not have as obviously harmful effects, but it can sneak up on you just the same. Sometimes it's even like collecting dust, something that just naturally happens if you don't clean up every now and then.

So today, I'm cleaning and not collecting. And if I could go back in time and have a little talk with my self of decades ago . . . boy, would we have a talk.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Having a fan moment.

Well, even with the buzz about "Sharknado" filling our global electronic networks today, bits from the London filming of a certain thing I'm not talking about this summer still managed to ooze through the cracks. The Sherlock Holmes fan networks are nothing if not exhaustive these days, and if a building pops up with a great big "221" on it, they're sure to notice.

The WelcomeHolmes list and Howard Ostrom pointed me to the Baker Street Babes tumblr (a route with solid credentials, if ever there was one),  where I found a photo of a building on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, London seems to be the latest stand-in for 221B Baker Street.

First thought: "Oooooo, pretty green bricks!"

Second thought: "Hey, there's O-Ren Ishii's identical twin who's nice!"

Third thought: "What the hell? It's on a corner? All of the years of scholarship, research, trips to London by first-hand Sherlockian amateur archeologists, and THEY FRICKIN' PUT IT ON A CORNER?!?"

Phew. Deep breath.

And then I felt the full impact of it. I am a fan. That horrible, horrible denizen of our internet world, the fan. Watson has been a woman many times. No big deal. Even Rex Stout foretold that in ancient Sherlockian times. Sherlock Holmes as a drug addict? Hey, The Seven Per Cent Solution and the disturbing The Last Sherlock Holmes Story took that ride about as far as you want to go between them. But putting 221B Baker Street on a CORNER? A SON OF A COPPER BEECH CORNER?

It's like a slap in the face of all Sherlockian scholarship! It's like they're whipping out the urinary appendage and freely hosing down old series copies of The Baker Street Journal while reciting a filthy limerick about Father Ronald Knox! It's like . . . it's like . . .

Well, it's like fully understanding that you care about details most people don't really give a crap about. And care about them on a gut level. If you can step back from the surface reaction for a moment to the love that's underneath, it feels just fine, too.

That's what being a fan is all about. And if some random mundane, as non-fans get called in other venues, wants to mock your love of Sherlock Holmes in such a moment as this . . . just take a look at their spouse or significant other, and chances are you'll see that they did something very foolish-looking for love as well. We all do at some time or another.

So, yeah, I had a fan moment. But don't mess with me or I'll point out how funny-looking your mate is.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

For a moment, wicked. But just a moment.

If the regular readers of this column are not forgiving enough, I fear I must ask your further forgiveness today, as I depart from our normal topic of Sherlock Holmes for just a moment, and speak about another bit of classic literature, because I just can't stand it any more. I can't.

The Scarecrow and Dorothy have gone to the Emerald City of Oz, you see, and the Munchkins just won't quit singing. I don't know why the Munchkins are singing so merrily, because the Scarecrow and Dorothy have been quit from Munchkinland for some time now. Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder. Maybe the Scarecrow is easier to love when he just not actively in one's life. Or maybe it's that they've grown bold with no visitations by wicked witches for a time.

Would that I could find a broomstick, do a flyover of the Emerald City, and skywrite "SURRENDER DOROTHY!" in hopes of removing that lady from her brainless companion and the fraudulent pursuits some bogus wizard has sent them on. Ah, that would be a happy dream, wouldn't it? Just get Dorothy on that ol' broom, fly her back to Kansas, and let her remember how good her past times with the people who truly loved her were. Because Dorothy was so much better in Kansas. And Nebraska. And Oklahoma. And all those places that weren't paved by goldbricks. (Oops, make that "with gold bricks.")

It seems like I've been frustrated by the Wizard of Oz for an eternity now. I expected it to see monkeys fly out of someone's butt before I'd see what went on with the Scarecrow and Dorothy and the way the Munchkins keep singing about it, but there you go. Flying monkeys. Un-freakin'-believable. But like the story goes, we had what we really needed all along, didn't we?

There's no place like Holmes . . . oh, sorry! Home.

Excuse me, I have to go throw water on myself now.

Because it's summer. And it's hot.

Damned munchkins.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Exploiting or enhancing?

Suppose you were chosen by the Celestial High Assemblage Of Sherockifans to be the sole gate-keeper of all that would be Holmes, approver of all that is spawned from the legend left us by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Yes, you.

All morning long, you would sit in your grand hall while applicants took turns approaching your massive desk with their Sherlock Holmes-related creations and you, with a stroke of your pen, would approve or deny their product or service for release to the world bearing the banner of Holmes.

"This is great!" you think that first morning. "I get to see everything before everyone else, and since all Sherlock Holmes is good Sherlock Holmes, I just sign off on all of it! Woo-hoo!"

But then, every afternoon, the representative from the rest of the Sherlockian world would stop by and ask for a report, as well as your reasons for allowing each piece of Sherlock Holmes spin-offery into the world. And when that representative soul left, they'd either be gleefully delighted with your efforts, or horribly depressed about what you'd allowed into the world. Eventually you might start pondering your criteria. What makes the rest of the Sherlockian world happiest? What gets them down?

Well, we're a vast and varied lot, but I have to think you'd quickly find at least two poles of measurement for looking at Sherlock Holmes ventures: Exploitation and enhancement.

In the last century, we've all seen things that enhanced the legend of Sherlock Holmes. Not just specific books or movies, but societies, art, and events . . . things that left the Sherlockian world richer than it was before they existed. Most fans of Holmes can name a number of these off the top of their heads, because they're usually the bits that led us to the original sixty stories, or were shared by an enthusiastic friend. The enhancing bits tend to come to us from friends a lot, because there's a joy to them that must be shared.

On the dark side of the equation, however, are the exploitive bits. The pieces that thrust themselves in front of us unbidden. They come via Amazon's desperate attempts to sell you one more Holmes thing. They are pushed upon you by people whose job it is to come up with ideas, and having run dry, they borrow an iconic character they know little about. And they come as warning signs of intellectual turf staked out by those who want to use Holmes to raise their own stature in some fashion.

Enhancement gives. Exploitation receives. A very good book or dramatic production that I paid money for might give me so much that I feel it was an enhancement, while something that was completely free might make me feel exploited by using my love of Holmes to turn my attention to an otherwise unwanted product. (Curse you, Snoopy-with-a-deerstalker figures!)

While there may not be a Celestial High Assemblage Of Sherlockians and a representative of the rest of the Sherlockian world to deal with, we're all given that gatekeeper job when it comes to our own Holmes intake. And thank goodness for that, because my sliding scale of enhancement versus exploitation seems to be calibrated a bit differently than some others . . . and I'm sure yours is too.

Every now and then, though, it's good to remember it's there.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"Hey, everybody! Let's boycott the Doyle Estate!"

One of the lovely things about journaling on a blog is that you're recording your thoughts at a given moment in time. You can actually go back and edit those thoughts at a later date, but I don't, unless somebody calls my attention to a particularly egregious typo. Of course, the thing about capturing those thought-moments and publishing them on the interwebs is that occasionally some picker of nits comes along and wants to try to argue with that past moment when you're well past it.

But I'm particularly bored this evening, so when Scott Monty decided to toss a comment on a blog from back in April, I figured I might as well write about it. Scott's point? I supported a Kickstarter project in May of 2012 that was licensed by the Doyle Estate. Then in April of 2013, I expressed dismay that a vintner was using Doyle Estate licensing in its promo.

Well, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, and we do love pointing our hypocrisy in our pundits, so let me offer a minor bit of explanation for those who care to actually pay attention to the words that I am writing, and not toss me into their pre-formed mental contructs. Here's the reason I might have reacted differently on two different occasions, as people often do.

In May of 2012, Doyle Estate licensing seemed like one of those bureaucratic nuisances that we were just going to be seeing everywhere, and the promotional blurbs for Steampunk Sherlock were pretty exciting. You had to scroll through a full dozen screens of intriguing stuff before getting to the Doyle Estate logo, and by that point the nuisance was probably made much less annoying by all that came before. These days, I'm all for the possibilities of truly new ventures in Sherlock. (And I mean actually new, not copying some other new thing that came before . . . oh, wait I guess it's all copying Sherlock Holmes . . . never mind.) So the Kickstarter page sold me.

 By April of 2013, the Klinger challenge to Doyle Estate dominance was out there, and guess what? There's this light at the end of the tunnel. The nuisance of Doyle Estate licensing was finally being brought into question by someone who actually dealt in that arena. So when the little card promoting a new Sherlock Holmes wine came into my hands, I used my reaction as blog-fodder, and a tempered reaction at that. (We all know what subject I save my best outrage for by now, don't we?)

Did I go, "Hey, everybody! Let's boycott the Doyle Estate!"?

No. I hear that there's talk of such a boycott out there, but I sure didn't start it. I have my own opinions of that little enterprise, and you can have yours. The worlds of the courts and business will sort it out, and we'll deal with the outcome in whatever fashion we have to. And copyrights and license fees are really pretty dull stuff, not nearly as much fun as  . . . well, I'm taking the summer off of that topic.

The whole business just makes me feel a bit Moriarty-ish anyway, and as ol' Mr. Sexy used to say: "Sorry boys! I'm soooo changeable! It is a weakness with me. But to be fair to myself, it is my only weakness . . . I would try to convince you. Everything I have to say has already crossed your mind."

You have to be a little bit crazy to put yourself out here on the interwebs, so maybe Jim Moriarty and I have something in common.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Unleash the Babes of Baker Street!

Things I didn't think I'd hear on this lazy July morning: author Lyndsay Faye doing a fairly accurate impression of my old buddy Don Hobbs.

I'd been saving the latest Baker Street Babes podcast for a time when it would be more than background chatter during one sort of work or the other, and the third morn of a long holiday weekend seemed just the moment to catch up with the world's most open gathering of Sherlockians.

The main focus of their latest episode is "Lestrade Appreciation," but as in any good podcast, there's an element of total randomness at work, keeping things completely unpredictable. There are technical difficulties, there are moments when they're commenting on their own podcast, and there are moments of unguarded honesty . . . all of those things that can make podcasting a much more interesting medium than other carefully edited or purpose-driven venues.

The variety of voices and opinions have always been the strong suit of the Babes. Often when they get guests on, the focus on the guest's area of interest often takes away from the pure Babeness of the podcast, so it was good to see them just turned loose on a subject again as they were in this episode. And could there be a better subject to exploit their talents than Inspector Lestrade?

As they ramble from Don Hobbs and the pronunciation of "Lestrade," through Lestrades from the future and Russia, they zip from topic to topic at a speed that would keep even Sherlock Holmes himself from boredom. Their enthusiasm never wanes, they sound like they enjoy being together, and the clink of glassware comes in every now and then (or the sound of fork dropping on to plate).

In one of my favorite parts of the episode, they consider Gregson from Elementary as a Lestrade substitute, and bust out a few honest opinions before backpedalling a bit to pronounce the show "awesome" and state that any dissing of the show is not dissing of its fans. It's a bit like the "No animals were harmed during the making of this film" statement in the end credits of a movie or Seinfeld's mandatory "Not that there's anything wrong with that." But before they get to that part, we do get a particularly lovely line from Ardy: "As the series went on, I'm not sure if the series actually got better or if I just cared less." (Though Lyndsay did get in a shot that reflects my own opinion a bit more . . . but my own summer restraint forbids me from quoting it here.)

There are great little stories on actors who played Lestrade, the evolution of prostitutes in Ripper movies, the historical perspective on the Scotland Yard inspector, and "an audio description of a painting of a statue." For those who think the Babes are overly fond of BBC Sherlock, I would note that they make it fifty minutes into the episode before that particular topic even comes up. But they quickly get back to the Canon and Paget drawings of Lestrade and their contribution to the characters.

An episode like this one practically demands that the transcript get annotated, as the Baker Street Babes compress a century of Lestrade into an hour and fourteen minutes. M.J. Trow's comedic Lestrade? Check! Hopes for future Lestrade adventures and relationships? Check! Reference to the movie Hot Fuzz? Check! I could go on all day about the rampant conversational flow of this single Babes podcast, but they actually talk faster than I think as a write, so it would be much more efficient for you to go give them a listen if you haven't already.

The Baker Street Babes have long been a flagship of the current rise in Sherlockian fandom, and listening to an episode like this one, you understand why they deserve that spot. They're connecting new fans with all sorts of paths to enjoy the master detective, and reminding some of us elder-ly Sherlockians of what was fun when we first came into the hobby. Outside of the podcast, they're so active that one always wonders if the podcast itself will eventually suffer, but their "Lestrade Appreciation" episode gives not the least sign that such will ever be the case.

And I, for one, am very glad about that.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Jim Moriarty and living in the future.

This is the Sherlockian world I was waiting for.

That thought occurred to me today as I was watching a YouTube video for about the sixth time. It was a music video tribute to Jim Moriarty, set to the tune of the pop hit "Let It Rock," which may seem trivial and not to the taste of some, but here's the thing: it's a tribute to James Moriarty set to a pop hit. As in "popular" hit. And the video has 123,811 views.

Back when I started in this hobby, if you wanted to show your enthusiasm for a particular character in a Sherlock Holmes tale, you had basically one or two ways to do it. You could write an appreciative essay, get it published in a newsletter or journal, and maybe share your love of somebody like Moriarty with a hundred people (in a scion newsletter) or, if you were really lucky, a couple of thousand in a major journal. You could paint or draw a picture, but that would get even less of an audience. And both of those media require a lot of talent to convey the full emotional impact you sometimes would like to.

Music videos, however, are great for expressing the way you feel about a character, and, admittedly, they go back a lot further than YouTube. When MTV was broadcasting Madonna and Billy Idol videos, fans of Jeremy Brett were joining other fandoms in piecing together videos using actual videotape -- not an easy job, but do-able. But even then, you had to take them to a con and show them in the video room, or else drag people to your house, mail them the cassette, etc. Not easy no efficient, by any stretch of the imagination.

So when I look at this simple, one-minute-and-eighteen-second video appreciation of Jim Moriarty, I am just happy to live in this time we live in. Anybody who still wants to live in Christopher Morley's smoky world of 1930s can have it all to themselves, as far as I'm concerned. This is the Sherlockian world I want to be in.

And while we're at it, let's talk about Andrew Scott's Jim Moriarty, since this little video does such a nice job of capturing his essence. He's a lot like Heath Ledger's Joker to me in that he's nothing like the original character, but . . . dare I say it . . . possibly something greater? Some characters have to be captured by an actor, like Sherlock Holmes. Their creators drew them so well to start with that it's up to the actor to portray something that already exists. But those characters who are more two-dimensional -- traditionally villains -- can be fleshed out by a skilled actor in ways that are so entrancing that one really doesn't care that they aren't adhering perfectly to the old model. Like Jim Moriarty.

Disagree with me on that? Well, here's the even cooler thing about this day of Sherlockiana we live in. If you get out on YouTube and start browsing, eventually you're sure to find something that you do agree with, expressed in a way that . . . while maybe not as dance-able as Moriarty in "Let It Rock" . . . hits you just where you live. Our world has gotten that expansive.

And I've been waiting for this for a very long time.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

You say "Rude-mato," I say "Understandable-mahto . . ."

An old YouTube "College Humor Original" from last fall came around again this week, a mash-up of Sherlock and Blue's Clues called, quite naturally, "Sherlock Blue's Clues." (Thanks, Vince!) And as I enjoyed it's Snape-like Sherlock badgering the denizen's of Blue's 2-D world, it reminded me of one key difference between a well-written Sherlock Holmes and a bad one.

In the last few years, one of the components of certain incarnations of Sherlock Holmes is a level of just plain rudeness. The wannabe Holmes character badgers bystanders for no apparent reason, often taking the asshole course when a more normal one is available, just to show, "Hey, this guy is RUDE!"

At which point, I always have to start thinking that the writer plainly doesn't get Sherlock's point of view. Which is what I really like about the "Sherlock Blue's Clues" video: it illustrates Sherlock Holmes's perspective using a familiar old comedic staple.

To the unseen children and child-like fellow in the world of Blue's Clues, Sherlock Holmes must appear quite the rude boy. Temperamental, coldly stating embarassing truths, and showing no sympathy for their lesser intellects.

But as the world of Blue's Clues is built for the mind of a small child, it makes it a little easier to sympathize with Holmes's point of view: a man surrounded by slow-witted dullards who have to engage in time-consuming rituals when the obvious truth is right in front of them. By the time he gets to his final "OH, FOR FUCK'S SAKE!" you're laughing at his frustration, but you get it. Like Ralph Kramden shouting at Ed Norton's elaborate preparations for the simplest of tasks, Bud Abbott getting impatient with Lou Costello, or Moe Howard's "Give me that!" the final loss of patience by the regular guy putting up with the crawling pace of the addle-pated is a reliable source of comedy going way back.

But Sherlock Holmes, of course, is no regular guy. To regular guys, he's a Bud Abbott among Lou Costellos. A Dan Rowan among Dick Martins. A Tommy Smothers among . . . hmmm, why are all these examples a bit dusty? We might as well be talking about Nigel Bruce.

Nigel Bruce's old movie Watson takes a lot of criticism for being such a fool, supposedly created to make Holmes seems smarter, but perhaps he's actually there to show how Rathbone's Holmes views the rest of us. (I say "us," of course, even though I know most of my readers are of far above average intelligence . . . but let's pretend we're all average, for the sake of  . . . well, you know who.)

These days, we're getting smarter, more sympathetic Watsons, which means the Holmeses must try to demonstrate even more eccentricity, aloofness, or other behaviors that usually accompany genius, just to show he's all that much smarter still. But all of those actions from the mentally superior derive from a very logical, very understandable source, and need to be written in a way that makes sense. Geniuses aren't randomly eccentric . . . they usually have very specific reasons for what they do.

And one of the most basic of those is the irritation of being a fast-moving mind in a world of slow thinkers. If you've ever found yourself in line behind someone who was a first-timer at the ATM or automatic checkout you use every day,  you know exactly how that feels. So the next time you're about to blurt, "OH, FOR FU . . . ." well, just think, "This is what Sherlock Holmes must feel like every single day."

For now, though, I'll take being reminded in a comedy video on YouTube. Much less stressful.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The mystery of the magazine.

Here in blogland, where some seem to think we're all about the confrontational opinion, sometimes I like to just pose a question. Not to attack, not to rain on anyone's parade . . . just because I wonder about things. And, as with the evil scientist from The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, I picture someone, somewhere out there in readerland going, "I also wonder."

We're the cult of Sherlock Holmes. Ours is to wonder, even if no one else does.

So lately I've seen a few promotional bits for the new issue of Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. It's a collection of what looks to be mystery stories, mostly about Sherlock Holmes, that sells for twelve dollars. It's edited by author Marvin Kaye, who also has produced a short story anthology, or two, or forty.

I used to subscribe to Sherlock Holmes: The Detective Magazine for a time, and it always seemed a little pricey at $5.50 an issue in the late nineties. But as it was produced across the Atlantic, I could give it the imaginary excuse that one had to pay its passage across the ocean. Having this new Sherlock Holmes magazine put together by a well known collector of short stories into book form, however, makes me wonder:

Why a magazine?

Twelve bucks will buy me a book, which is a little easier to carry around, and will contain a lot more pages and a lot more words. The main draw card of magazines is photo, art, and layout, and the internet usually shows us photos before anyone else these days. And art? Well, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine has a very pulpish cover, but I'm not sure if I want to gamble that the innards are going to contain as much visual goodness as Sir Boast-A-Lot, which I wrote of a few days back.

Admittedly, I haven't seen said insides of this magazine, but that's the whole point of tonight's blog . . . do I gamble twelve bucks on some unknown pasticheurs in a format that is really meant for non-readers more than readers? And in a format that's so hard to store safely?

These days, I'm more about moving masses of paper out of the house than bringing them in, so a digital format I can read on the iPad is much more appealing. Comic books now only enter the house digitally.  And if The Baker Street Journal offered a digital alternative at a fair price, I would even transition that over. My days of collecting are done -- who wants to drag everything you ever read in the past around with you like massive albatross of print?  Books on bookshelves, I can still sympathize with somewhat -- they are like heads of trophy game you bagged. Magazines never attained that level of distinction.

So I wonder. But probably not enough to buy a copy.