Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Where I stand with the Baker Street Irregulars.

Let's try this again.

Apparently I'm wrong about the lack of interest in the Baker Street Irregulars of New York, because my last two posts upon that subject seem to be getting a few more hits than normal. And that last BSI bit was far from my best blogging, as I started with one notion and got distracted by those weird little BSI websites when I was searching for a little history of the club on the web. And the subsequent frustration about the lack of comprehensive history on the web (Oh, how spoilt we are these days!) might have altered my temper a bit. A bit.

One might notice that I always seem shy about actually writing Mike Whelan's name in this blog when referring to the BSI chief. That is a conscious attempt on my part to hate the game and not the player, as preceding players in his place have pretty much done the "benevolent dictator" thing, too. And while I'm not very fond of that term, there is another I think we should probably replace it with: "caretaker of the legacy." And I have no doubt, Mike has done the best job he knows how at filling that role. I truly don't think he's a bad guy, just as Tom Stix before him was not a bad guy either.

But we do differ in our opinions to a drastic degree, partly because I can be ridiculously radical and Mike, being at the center of the great behemoth, is naturally more conservative. At the other end of the spectrum, we find the "state unknown" Jon Lellenberg, who was always pretty fond of the way the Irregulars used to be, which even makes Mike a moderate by some lights. He might even be the Sherlockian Barack Obama that way, but not knowing anyone's politics, I shan't state that with any firmness. Where he stands is his business, though, and where I stand is mine. So I shall try to state it a little more clearly, just in case anyone got confused by the first two installments of this hap-hazard trilogy:

1.) Not really fond of the corporate-seeming "decentralization" of the Irregulars. Yes, the club may have gotten away from the original Morley vision, but once we've got divisions, one can imagine them being sold off piecemeal to the Bootmakers of Toronto or the Sherlock Holmes Society of India when times get tough. Yes, yes, I'm being silly and the horse may be out-of-the-barn-and-traded-in-for-an-automobile at this point, but there's something there that just seems all awry.

2.) If you'd like to be a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, I think you should be able to be a member of the Baker Street Irregulars. As it stands, for every happy soul who gets in each year, there are a number of good folks who feel left out, some who get really bitter, or are flat-out robbed. Those are the folks I stand with, and always will until things change. Yes, I am a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, and I could go to the dinner each year and just enjoy myself, but I know those outside folks too well. (Including one or two who bitched about Mike Whelan behind his back to high heaven until that moment Mike gave them the shilling and they became glowing little angels. And, no, my former web partner, I'm not talking about you. Relax. In fact, if you have any inkling at all this statement was about you, it probably wasn't.) As it stands, BSI membership is an award without definition, and if it is indeed a private club (whatever that really means), one has to ask why a private club is needed. Just so membership can be awarded? Universal BSI membership, eternal BSI membership, and sort the award part out in some rational manner, that's my thought.

3.) As I said, eternal BSI membership, which is really kind of the way it stands. Truly, I don't think you can even quit once you're a BSI. You've been captured by the record books as a Sherlockian. You can get an asterisk by your name, you can get cut off from receiving any communications from the official parts of the group, you can lose all privileges that may exist at any given time, yes. But Sherlockians are collectors, and once you have been collected by the cult of Sherlock, you stay collected, if only in their memory and lists.

4.) There is no four. That's it. That's my view in a nutshell. Not really that insistent on my thoughts on number one, except where it gets in the way of number two. And number three never existed, nor had to exist until recently. Not sure what's up with that, but somebody needs to work it out. Like all of you folks who actually attend the dinner each year.

Y'see, that's the thing. I got investitured as an Irregular way back when they didn't allow women in, and even though that part was fixed, it still put a bee in my bonnet. It wasn't just women who weren't being allowed in, it was people. And people still aren't being let in. My views on that haven't changed. So I'm stubbornly saving a few bucks and emptying a precious seat by not attending these days. Maybe one more person will get to go. And maybe they'll have a good time, and maybe they'll disagree with me later, but, hey, ya gotta go with what you believe.

Do I expect universal BSI membership in my lifetime? Do I think sitting in Peoria like a bump on a log instead of doing the whole "change from the inside" thing is my best contribution? Am I just a pompous ass of the internet, whose incredible narcissism just has him spouting off like a crazy man without censoring his thoughts?

Hell if I know. But that is where I stand with the Baker Street Irregulars. I'll try to be nicer about it in the future, but man, am I getting old and grumpy. It's a real battle, and in the end, my impotent old opinions will be as irrelevant to the younger generation as those of a racist, homophobic great-grandfather who can't get out of his chair. So forgive an old guy, kiddies, and I'll try to entertain you with my train-wreck antics and honest opinions for as long as my typing fingers hold out.


  1. I hope you will allow me to post this on your blog.
    If our enjoyment of Sherlock Holmes rested on membership in the BSI, many of us would be unhappy indeed. I have delighted in Holmes and Watson--both canonical and non-canonical--for decades. At no point was membership in the BSI a goal for me, and I made that clear to many friends and acquaintances. My sole purpose was to have fun, and have fun I did (and still do). An invitation to my first BSI Dinner in 2013 was a lovely surprise, and my investiture this past January even more so. I'm pleased and honored to be among so many people whom I hold in great esteem, but bottom line, it's all about fun. We are, after all, playing a game. If we believe that recognition from any group defines our enjoyment of “those two men of note” then we have lost all that makes this wonderful diversion worth spending time (and money) on.
    Because, really, what adds to our human experience is connection and interaction, not whether or not we go to New York and sit at the Big Kids Table. I said some unfortunate and unkind things about your point of view in another arena, and for that I apologize. I was reacting to the unkind words you posted--both recently and in the past--about the BSI which now included me, and it became personal.
    If the BSI never existed, would we still be enthusiastic about the Great Detective and the Good Doctor? I am confident we would. And we should, for what we celebrate more than the cases, more than Watson's problem with accurate dates, and whether there really was a full moon on that day in history, or whether Holmes was asexual or bisexual or homosexual, is the friendship between those two characters. That one of them nearly died, and another pretended to have died, and the love they shared in friendship holds the key to this enduring phenomena of two men in Victorian London, an ocean and several lifetimes away.
    I can criticize how far you've taken this aversion to the BSI and its workings, because I feel you are missing the point, and are alienating people whom you have previously reached through your scholarship and humor and enjoyment of Holmes over the years. I miss the Brad who made me laugh (“Action Sherlock Brain Theater”), and who provided interesting perspectives on the Canon by looking at it sideways and upside down and backwards. You used to add to the fun of being a Sherlockian, but now we are not even Facebook friends.
    It's not about the BSI, Brad. It's not whether or not there is an exclusive organization. Who cares? There exist male-only groups, which you referenced, and it concerns me that they continue, but they have no bearing on whether or not I enjoy Holmes. They don’t want me, and I don’t need them. If it's about groups at all, it is about individual Sherlockians who have connected and have become kindred spirits playing this crazy game of ours. It is about friendship.
    With apologies to Vincent Starrett:
    “…the game’s afoot for those with ears
    Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo…
    Only those things the heart believes are true.
    …though the world explode, these two [and their friendship] survive…”

    If we make membership in the BSI--or criticism of the BSI--our mission, then we have lost our heart.

    1. Who cares? I would say I do. And because I care, I write. I'm sorry if it's not sitting well with you. But we all have to be who we are, recognize the lessons of our own experiences, and live life to the best of our abilities . . . even if other people just don't get it.

    2. I am of course curious, Brad, did you feel the same way before you got selected to join the BSI, or did some thing happen along the way?

    3. That, John, is a story all its own, and one that is maybe even more than a blog post. Before, during, after . . . it's been a long road.

    4. That story my help explain your discontent.

    5. Hmm . . . I thought I had explained my discontent. Guess that didn't work.

    6. Okay maybe the story would explain why you are discontent.