Saturday, February 28, 2015

This was a test . . .

Now that the all the hoo-hah may be over, I still keep waiting for the "all clear" to sound and the announcement that "this was a test of the Emergency Sherlock Verification System."  I'd find real comfort in that.

Not because I'm living in a fifties-era mindset where I love such official government announcements, mind you. I'd just feel really good in knowing that we didn't just have Sherlockiana's best and brightest all running to answer the alarm and slide down the firehouse pole for something as purely silly as a Scottish event pamphlet being passed off as original Sherlock.

Modern journalism has become so shoddy that news items are selected for headline value, judged by what their potential for sensationalism is without any real investigation, and quickly thrown at the public in hopes of getting the much-desired "viral" effect. And that's what we saw in the case of "Scottish amateur historian discovers long-lost Sherlock Holmes story."

So a retired guy (and retired guys are mostly amateur historians, if you hadn't noticed) found a pamphlet with Conan Doyle's name somewhere in it, and Sherlock Holmes's name somewhere in it. He hopefully jumped to a "wishful thinking" conclusion. What passes for news media these days excitedly jumped at the chance to publish more photos of Benedict Cumberbatch, and ran his wishful thinking, along with the "story."

And before all the analysis by experts and commentary by name Sherlockians, thousands of us just took one look at the thing and went, "Yeah, right, this is crap." 

But we live in an era where the public is fed the "news" it wants and not the news it needs. In the days that followed, we saw the story evolve through sort of a "Wikipedia" model. The media passed on what it was told and then people who actually knew something made their own changes to the story and the media passed along that as well. No experts were sought when the original discovery was made, as people would love to see a new Sherlock Holmes story by Conan Doyle, so they were given one . . . even if that wasn't what it truly was at all.

While it was nice to see everything the Sherlockian community would bring to the table were a new Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes story to actually be discovered, it was also a bit disheartening to see all that energy wasted on such a silly little fraud. So the best way I can frame it all to feel a little better about it is to think of it as a test, and only a test, of our Emergency Sherlock Verification System.

Because this certainly won't be the last time it gets used, I'll wager.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Behind the times.

Well, out of sheer boredom at the "NEW SHERLOCK HOLMES STORY!" parade and some interest caused by Graham Moore's recent blog about how to write good smart people, I ventured out to the local Barnes & Noble on Saturday in search of a real book. I had never gotten to Moore's The Sherlockian, and seemed to remember them having it in stock.

Of course, I hadn't heard about Graham Moore's Oscar nomination for The Imitation Game, or even associated the novelist Moore with the guy who wrote that movie. And that meant, even if it hadn't sold out previously, The Sherlockian had surely gotten some small Oscar bump and was sold out. Disappointed, but willing to pick up a substitute, I soldiered on through the mystery section.

Eventually I came to a series of three books that I didn't recall seeing before, and the title The Baker Street Brothers caught my eye. It took a while for me to figure out which book was the start of the series -- The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson -- and quickly realized why the title hadn't tripped any triggers. Between Sherlock Holmes Letters, edited by Richard Lancelyn Green, and Letters to Sherlock Holmes, by that same editor, actually containing letters sent to the real 221 Baker Street, it seemed like a "been there, done that" on the title alone.

So this week I'm hunkering down with a head cold and reading a five-year-old book. So far so good.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Christ-centered education.

I knew I had gone too far down the Sherlockian rabbit hole the day I drove past a church, saw the phrase "Christ-centered education," and immediately thought of Jay Finley Christ. I was reminded of that moment this morning as I read Chris Redmond's guest blog on "I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere."

The Jay Finley Christ abbreviations for the sixty cases of Sherlock Holmes have been a part of our world for a very long time. Even though a few contrary Sherlockians, including an editor of The Baker Street Journal, have come out against them, the four-letter abbreviations are our shorthand, our way of communicating with our fellow Sherlockians without wasting those minute bits of time needed to write the full titles of things like "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton." "CHAS" is so much simpler.

If one added up all the seconds that every Sherlockian writer or researcher saved with Christ's abbreviations over the decades since they were introduced, I'm sure the mass of time saved for other Sherlockian work would be worth considering. And not just the writing, but the reading as well.

Critics fuss about the abbreviations not being friendly to the newcomer, probably because they experienced such issues in their own early days. But, really, how hard are they to pick up on? If you know the story titles with the familiarity of anyone who has truly crossed the threshold of Sherlockiana, they're very easy to recognize. If you don't know "THOR" refers to "The Problem of Thor Bridge," you've obviously never heard of the story, and if you haven't heard of the story, then what the hell are you doing reading Sherlockian scholarship? You should finish reading Watson's original sixty stories.

Jay Finley Christ's abbreviations are, to Sherlockians, what Latin medical terms are to the medical community, what any insider language is to its field of endeavor. One can complain that they aren't open and easy for the uninitiated, but they were never meant for the uninitiated. Christ wrote them for those who love Sherlock Holmes and know the titles of the sixty stories, at least well enough to access a title with a four letter key word. I really doubt we've lost any potential Sherlockians because they ran into the Christ shorthand and gave up on Sherlock out of sheer frustration. If they did, well, I'm guessing they just weren't into Sherlock Holmes that much to begin with.

I mean, how much can you love a guy who spent a whole story deciphering what dancing men symbols meant if you can't handle four-letter abbreviations?

Friday, February 20, 2015


I found a new, original Sherlock Holmes story by Conan Doyle on the internet today.

Want to see it?

Here it is.

The Craxton Goppage
By Arthur Conan Doyle

Winslow Purster, the duck of a thousand faces, came home one evening to find that his children had rifled the linen pantry. This defeated the entire purpose of his life savings of Bermondsey cheeses, and Purster was beside himself with dismay at the small black terrier whom his neighbours had posted at their gate, even before the linen business.
"Let us divest ourselves of these rags!" exclaimed Mrs. Purster as the sight of her lawful husband's return. The marmalade had run out earlier in the day. 
The servant girl suggested that they call Sherlock Holmes.

The End

How Conan Doyle managed to get it on the internet is not readily apparent, but the fact that he lived in a country that now has internet service should be telling. Doyle was a forward-thinking individual and in touch with many whose special focus was on communicating in ways previously unproven. The most important facts, of course, are twofold: 1.) His name is on it. 2.) It also contains the name of Sherlock Holmes. 

The fact that it is neither entertaining nor worth anyone's while other than as a novelty for speculation should not hinder our embracing of this fragment. I mean, really, it's been a slow week.

Such a slow week.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

E3:15. Well, it's not chartered accountancy.

Poor Andrew Paek. How many times must he die over and over in Elementary's "previously on" segment? Eventually he may get more air-time in his death on the show than he did with his life.

His purpose in dying on this week's Elementary isn't clear at first, perhaps to give some vague reason to Joan Watson moving back into the brownstone with Mr. Elementary, who now is practicing hitting his dummy with two sticks instead of one, which makes one wonder if that particular martial art is now called "doublestick."

In between the domestic arrangements of Joan Watson and Mr. Elementary this week, we follow the adventures of a sweet young lady whose hobby is shooting poor people with her silencer-equipped pistol and leaving envelopes of money on their bodies. She has her own reasons, of course, and I suppose we're waiting for Mr. Elementary (or Joan, as one never knows) to tell us what those reasons are.

I miss Kitty Winter.

IMDB says Kitty's portrayer, Olivia Lovibond, will be in movies entitled Man Up and Gozo. I hope they're worth seeing, as it would be good to see Kitty's face again. Of course, I've got Guardians of the Galaxy on DVD. That might be a pleasant watch.

Oh, yes, this week's Elementary. The plot seems to be revolving around insurance actuarial formulae. And that's always a crowd-pleaser, right?

I'm going to sleep well tonight. This is the sleepy Elementary I remember, not that ridiculously irritating lesson in how not to run a TV show that came along last week.

Waiting for Mr. Elementary and Joan drag themselves to finding out what we already know on this episode is a slow and painful ordeal. At least the duo break it up with a discussion of their living arrangements . . . a relationship that's probably as dull as . . . DING! DING! DING! Finally, a mention of the late Andrew, the reason for revisiting his death one more time in the opening.

"Is there something so wrong in me feeling that this is home?" Joan asks Mr. Elementary just before they decide to go back to the insurance mystery.

Yes, Joan. Yes, there is. You could have a life, helping people with your medical skills, making friends, doing so many things besides fixating on this poor excuse for a consulting detective whom you don't seem to be in love with, yet are drawn to as obsessively as a Twilight vampire's girlfriend. Flee, Joan, flee like Kitty Winter did!

Hmm. Next Thursday is the "Victoria's Secret Swim Special" in this timeslot. Perhaps this is Elementary's attempt to keep up with Sherlock's upcoming Victorian era Christmas special -- Queen Victoria's lingerie chain having a special all its own.

Oh, wait! The killer's sister is solving the murder ahead of Mr. Elementary and Joan. Those two ladies could have fought it out and saved us a trip to that dreary NYPD interrogation room and the extensive and over-complicated explanation of the killer's motive.

Come on, letter from Jamie Moriarty!

Dear Joan,
         I see you have moved back in with the only man whose brain is my equal, and that you're both spending more time in that basement that I didn't know existed at his house. You seem to have the intention of making it your play-detective office, in the manner of those teenagers who move into their parents basement and pretend it's an apartment. 
        Don't you wish you could hear my voice reading you a letter right now, to tease your much-abused readers of that blog/book/manuscript-on-a-destroyed-computer that you never seem to spend any time writing? 
        Enjoy your basement.
              Happily in a prison far from New York City,
                   Jamie Moriarty, a.k.a. Irene Adler, a.k.a. "Cressida be making bank, bee-yotch!"

Yes, tonight's Elementary did wind up in the basement. No other comment needed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A letter to Mr. Sherlock Holmes

A few days a  Sherlockian request came from Ted Cowell on Facebook . . . which is odd in itself, as I have rare few Sherlockians on my Facebook roster, seeking to keep some mystery in life. Ted's request was both simple and, at the same time, a bit of a challenge. For what he wanted was this:

A handwritten letter to Mr. Sherlock Holmes, as might have been transfixed to the great detective's mantelpiece with a jack-knife.

Easy enough sounding, isn't it? Handwriting is not yet such a lost art that we can't all do it, and sending that letter off in another envelope to Ted via snail mail is still workable enough to most of us.

And yet, consider it for a moment. A piece of unanswered correspondence that seemed worthy of sticking to the mantel for future consideration by Sherlock Holmes.

What date would the letter have? What sort of paper would be used by the writer you had chosen to have sent such a letter? Known Canonical character or new creation? Indeed, one could spend a long, lazy day just pondering such trivial matters and finding just the right, and most appropriate tale for one's letter to tell.

Unfortunately, my time was very short this week, so the letter I came up with was the mystery at the other end of a mystery . . . which short-circuited many of the detail questions I had, just by the very nature of the person involved. What if their situation had them unsure as to the actual date? What if some detail of their stationery added to that puzzle upon close examination? And what if the situation was such that Sherlock Holmes would not be able to take immediate action, due to some factor?

I've always been a fan of the Sherlock Holmes artifact, and it was great fun to try to create one, even if time might not have allowed me to put as much thought into it as I would have liked. And mantelpiece letters are a simple and fun thing that might even make a good activity for a Holmes society club night, in the right company.

My contribution to Ted's letter pile goes out tomorrow, but that is one idea I'll have to file away for use at another time as well.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

When it comes time to move the Sherlock on . . . .

Every now and then a comment gets promoted to the main blog, and the latest comes from Ian Schoenherr, who writes:

"I wonder how - 2 1/2 years after posting this - this situation panned out. I'm in a similar state: years ago I boxed up all the tacky, vaguely SH-related tchotchkes, ugly reprints, awful pastiches, multiple duplicates, clippings, etc., but I can't bring myself to cart it all to the Salvation Army, six blocks away. I still hold out hope that I'll find somebody who really - passionately - wants that Snoopy-wearing-a-deerstalker eraser, the Sherlock Hemlock finger-puppet, the grubby paperback novelization of 'Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother'... Help me." 

The blog post he was commenting on came in autumn 2012, as I was trying to figure out how to start weeding out my "everything Sherlock Holmes" collection, built up over three decades. Little did I know, at that moment, things were going to get a whole lot worse in a very short time.

My longtime friend and neighbor, Bob Burr, who had gathered a collection almost identical to mine in the same period I had, passed on and left me his entire collection as well. In a few short months, my collection, quite literally, doubled.

As Ian writes, one hates to cart such joyfully-gathered tributes to our beloved Sherlock Holmes to the Salvation Army, where the chances of them getting picked up with the love you know is out there. But it's just silly to hang on to the stuff. And nobody is getting rich selling Sherlock stuff from the 1970s and 80s, even if you want to go to the trouble of dealing with eBay. So that spring I came up with two different solutions.

In scenario one, Mohammed came to the mountain. I offered a Sherlockian friend who lived a few hours away a massive amount of Sherlockiana and Doyleana for his scion's annual auction, as well as for his own colection. In return, he offered to drive up and pick it up. If you've got anything worth a drive in your clean-up pile, this solution has its merits.

In scenario two, the mountain goes to Mohammed. I loaded up my own car with a massive amount of pastiches, plushies, and sundry items and took it to the first 221B Con in Atlanta, where I gave it for dispersal to the con organizers, panel discussion folk for giveaways, and event-holders for contest prizes.

A huge amount of Sherlockiana left my house in 2013, and I am astounded at the incredible amount that is still here. Some day when I become an ascetic practitioner of Zen Sherlockianism, I will disperse the lion's share of that as well, probably picking some other event where younger Sherlockians gather, like 221B Con, to spread things around. Sure, it takes a little effort to cart all that stuff somewhere, but you can have a lot of fun doing it.

Even before 2013, I slimmed down my duplicates, etc., but getting a dealer's table at a weekend symposium or two and running a Sherlockian dollar store. Due to the location, you know the stuff will find a good home, and people will pay a buck for about anything.The Sherlockian dollar store wasn't about making money (though it's funny how the dollars add up), but it makes the items a little more meaningful to people than if you just put a sign out that said "FREE STUFF" (in which case certain sorts would grab everything their arms can carry, whether they want it or not). You don't have to spend time pricing or tagging items, just pile up all that stuff you'd be willing to let go for a dollar. And most of us have a bit of that.

So those are all my schemes, to date, for getting rid of large amounts of Sherlockiana that you just couldn't help but collect. Let me know if you have any others, because, you know, there's always going to be another time to unload . . . .

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Time for a man-to-man with ol' Benedict Arnold Cumberbatch.

"Wow. Benedict Cumberbatch got married!"

"Don't tell me such tragic news before I start a nap."

"He's getting married, that's happy!"

"Not if it ruins my chance at him after I divorce you."

Great move, Cumberbatch. You not only ruined Valentine's Day for the millions and millions of Cumberbitches out there. You didn't do us significant others of Cumberbitches any favors either. Or guys in general.

Let's be honest now. If guys could get rid of any holiday on the calendar, make it go *poof!* and never have existed, no leave any after-effects in its wake, what would that holiday be?

Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day is a holiday a man can only lose at. There is no winning, just performing up to expectations, and those expectations can be unimaginably high. And just like bridal boutiques, every business that can milk this moment of expectation just makes matters worse for all involved. Just like you, Benedict Cumberbatch.

I mean, did you have to marry your sweetheart on Valentine's Day, of all days, giving the thing that much more power by your act of obeisance to Cupid's will? Have you not been attending your guy code meetings? What's up with you, Benny boy?

Sure, we don't expect you to be Sherlock Holmes in real life. There was a man's man. No "softer passions" without "a gibe and a sneer." Not letting such influences unbalance his keen intellect. Colonel Valentine Walter was the only card he'd accept, and then only wrapped in the box of prison bars. But getting married on Valentine's Day itself? Would even Watson go that far?

You don't see Jonny Lee Miller doing this kind of stuff. So as much as I might have had a problem or two with his Sherlock show this week, I'm afraid it's getting a few more shillings on its side of the balance scale today, thanks to Jonny Lee not getting married today.

Yep, it's like that, Benedict. Oh . . . and you're a husband now. Don't go spoiling that for the rest of us, either.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Bad pastichery tips for future TV shows having some association with Sherlock Holmes.

Pastiche: An artistic work that imitates that of another.

Bad pastiche: The same as a pastiche, but not done very well.

In the first five minutes of last night's Elementary, the recap, comprised of scenes from several episodes told us the story of both Joan Watson's boyfriend and her nemesis, Elana March. A full five pre-credit minutes were spent with Joan confronting March anew to explain how she tracked the assassin in the gap between episodes and found a tie to March . . . with no conclusive evidence.

The rest of the episode, until an epilogue-like finish to the March affair of similar brevity, had to do with unrelated missing zebras.

As has been its modus operandi, this poorly run show seems to shoehorn its character work around the already-decided mystery story of the week, and this week's specimen was one of its most infuriating examples. Any novice creative writing student is familiar with the advice that you should not include anything in your story that build that same story, and, well . . . apparently Elementary is not being run by a novice creative writing student, or anyone who was one at one time.

But in contemplating the bad pastichery of last night's Elementary, I realized what the show has truly needed from day one is an out. Some simple mechanic that makes its every flaw okay and possibly even endearing. What would such an out look like?

Simply this. Mr. Elementary, who goes by the name "Sherlock Holmes," is actually the grandson or great-grandson of the real Sherlock Holmes, and had an only brother named "Mycroft" by parents who were overly enthused about the family lineage.

Suddenly, the whole show makes perfect sense. The hiring of a Dr. Watson as a companion by a wealthy eccentric parent (whose wealth is the Holmes family fortune, started by Sherlock and the bachelor Mycroft and built up by succeeding generations). Mycroft's complete lack of mental acuity. This whole "insane criminal genius who calls herself Irene Adler one moment and Jamie Moriarty the next" thing.

The premise of Mr. Elementary as a descendant of Sherlock Holmes even adds something for the writers to work with, as people confuse/compare/comment on the famous Sherlock in relation to descendant Sherlock and give the twitchy Jonny Lee Miller character something to actually be such a jerk about, instead of just randomly doing it just because.

And I don't think I would have complained about Elementary at all, had it originated with such a premise. Bad pastiches are just a part of Sherlockian life, and a Holmes descendant who doesn't quite live up to the legend? Well, of course, he can't! We're talking Sherlock Holmes here.

Such a premise would have immediately solved CBS's worries about not treading on BBC's potentially lawsuit-sensitive toes, after it had just done a modern adaptation of Sherlock. Sure, it wouldn't have helped the weird "Aren't we not sexist!" sexism of having a female Moriarty and a female Watson who are apparently in a cat-fight of the minds over the man they both are magically drawn to, but, hey, bad pastiche! It just excuses sooooo very much.

(And on a related note, Baker Street Irregular Paul Herbert is winner of the Sherlock Peoria no-prize this week for identifying the Trivial Pursuit-like factoid around which this week's mystery was based: The quagga was an animal with a front half like a zebra and a back half like a horse, cloned Jurassic Park style out of extinction-- at least on Elementary. I'm sure Mr. Elementary explained this at some point while not trying to bring Watson's boyfriend's killer to justice, and I just missed it in my perturbance at that other issue.)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

E3:14. Elana Marching to a different drummer.

WARNING! Big Elementary spoilers ahead, if you can spoil
something that's already rotten to the core. WARNING!

Last week, between two and three percent of the total U.S. population watched CBS's Elementary.

318.9 million folks in the United States, 7.87 million of those decided to join our little society, the Thursday Night Elementals. Not sure how many of those club members came back for this week's meeting in front of the TV set, but it was kind of key to finding out why last week's episode was called "Hemlock."

Hemlock was the poison used to kill Joan Watson's boyfriend at the very end of last week's episode, a turn of events that had nothing to do with the rest of the show's plot and a poison that was not identified in said episode. So, as titles go, pretty bad title. Luckily, TV shows never put their titles up front these days, with a few pleasant exceptions.

The poisoning of Joan Watson's boyfriend has one very curious result. Not only does she not tell her former partner, Mr. Elementary, their friends at the NYPD don't seem to know about it either. Her boyfriend's father knows that his son was poisoned by someone trying to poison Joan Watson. And Joan is trying to figure out what her arch-nemises, Elana March, had to do with the murder from her prison cell, serving a life sentence that Joan was responsible for getting her.

Meanwhile, Mr. Elementary and Marcus Bell are tracking stolen zebras.

Let's go over that again: Watson's love is murdered in an attempt on her life, and the "Sherlock Holmes" in her life is not only ignorant of the situation, which occurred in his very city, he'd not even looking into it at all. He's chasing zebras.

What the hell?

Okay, i understand there are some real Watson fans out there who think the good doctor (or the failed doctor, in Joan Watson's case) should be taken as an equal to Sherlock Holmes. But splitting a Watson off as a consulting detective of equal status, giving them an arch nemesis, and then contriving a plot where the Holmes just meanders blindly off on something trivial just to allow consulting Watson to face a murderous plot by her arch-enemy as a sort of side-plot?

Are these people even trying?

So much wasted potential for . . . oh, wait, Mr. Elementary is bringing Joan some lasagna. I guess he does know that her boyfriend was murdered. HE'S SUPPOSED TO BE THE GREATEST FREAKING DETECTIVE IN THE WORLD, AND HE'S BRINGING WATSON LASAGNA INSTEAD OF TRYING TO CATCH HER BOYFRIEND'S KILLER!

What the hell, Elementary? Seriously!

Is this show even written by humans? Are we supposed to be more interested in extinct equines than a murderous attack on Dr. Watson? Or are they just trying to pad that bit out for more episodes with a zebra plot? Why not just have Mr. Elementary come out with, "I'm sorry, Watson. I will get around to solving your disposable boyfriend's murder eventually, but we have like ten episodes left in the season! Or maybe you'll get to figure it out at some point, but for now, ZEBRA BABIES!"

Okay, so they're not zebra babies, they're "kwah-hahs" or some other combination of nonsense syllables. The point is, this plot that none of us care about while Watson's life is endangered and her boyfriend killed just keeps going on . . . and on . . . could they have designed this episode to be more annoying?

Joan Watson and Elana March just seem to have been a teaser to get us to watch all this talk of "zeh-bras."

Zeh-bras, zeh-bras, zeh-bras.

Zeh-bras, zeh-bras, zeh-bras.

Oh, wait, Joan got some mail from Elana March! Mail! Now that's exciting! Sort of.

But back to the zeh-bra plot. ARRRGH!

Look, I have to be at work early tomorrow, I was hoping for a little relaxation, a sleepy little Elementary plot like so many before, to ease my way to slumberland right after it's done. But this? I haven't been as thoroughly irritated by this show's idiocy for all of the current season. And they're dragging the stupid zeb-bra plot out by having the culprit escape.

"The fire of deduction cannot be kindled without the free song of person-to-person contact." Oh, that Mr. Elementary quote was worth the frustration . . . not. Filler episode, filler episode, filler episode. Marcus Bell is the new replacement Watson, sleeping at the brownstone, going to breakfast with Mr. Elementary, helping him enjoy life while Watson stews over her dead boyfriend and the threat to her life.

And Mr. Elementary uses his pseudonym of "Sigerson" for no especially good reason, to do what Marcus Bell could have done without him. And how long have we ignored Watson's mail from Elena March . . . oh, no, Watson's arch-enemy has been killed by Jamie Moriarty, who is apparently Watson's true arch-enemy.

Lets get this straight: Mr. Elementary ignored the villain going after Joan Watson and the killer of her boyfriend, and Mori-freaking-arty solved the crime, protected Watson, and dispensed justice. (Which she explained in a voice-over.)  Of course, Moriarty is just saving Watson so eventually they can go off Reichenbach Falls together in this Bizarro Sherlock world.

If this thing were a book instead of a low-grade hypnotic produced by a TV network, no Sherlockian on Earth would be giving this silliness a thumbs up. Just another wacky pastiche by some misguided fan.

But y'know, Backstrom is on before it now, so the night's not a total loss.

Wherefore art thou, Mr. Holmes?

We all can well understand how the recently discovered the 1916 William Gillette film Sherlock Holmes is nowhere to be seen just yet. It's a rare antiquity that will be rolled out for an appropriate audience at the appropriate time. And nobody is really promoting it. What's starting to baffle me, however, is another "old Sherlock Holmes" movie that is apparently complete and getting some promotion, but no release date.

This Ian McKellen Mr. Holmes movie, that we've been seeing so much about of late, has been shown at one Berlin film festival, is getting reviewed from there, with five actual reviews on Rotten Tomatoes . . . and yet no release date for America or anywhere else in in sight.

You can check IMDB. Nada.

Does the film not have a distributor? Is some other background bit of the film industry holding it back? Is it going to wind up direct-to-video?

All we know it that there is a finished Sherlock Holmes movie out there and we're not sure when we get to see it. The Mr. Holmes folks are about to start making BBC Sherlock look like less of a tease, at this point.

One more thing we wait for, I guess.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Being nice really isn't very interesting.

Let my apologize for today's blog from the outset. I'm going to try to write about something without writing about it, and whether or not this proves to be a worthwhile exercise . . . well, I'll let you decide.

You know what I love about Sherlock Holmes products produced by corporations for the commercial marketplace?

When they're crap, you don't have to hold back. Somebody got paid to produce whatever it was for the public, and with that job comes the expectation that one can handle public criticism. As a member of the public, therefore, I feel like I can freely criticize said commercial work a bit more -- whoever paid them for the job will judge their work on its own merits and either pay them for more, or not. It's the marketplace. You produce stuff worth buying or nobody buys it, and that's how it works.

But when you get to fan productions, things produced entirely for love, because the person doing whatever it was just couldn't help themselves . . . well, that's another story. We love people who love Sherlock Holmes, and if their talents don't quite live up to their enthusiasm? You still have to give them points for trying. And being really critical of a gift given out of love seems just mean.

Well, I finally looked up something I had been hearing about this morning. It might have been a podcast, or it might have not been. It might have been an e-book, or this entire sentence might be a red herring. And it might have had something to do with Sherlock Holmes, or it might not have, depending upon a certain point of view. And . . . oh . . . I'm just sorry.

As the digital age has brought us new mediums for creativity, we've gotten to see art forms taking their first steps, learning to walk, as it were. And we've see the common mistakes that get made time and again. Some of those mistakes even get built into the format of a particular creation, as the creators apparently don't ever step back and take a look at what's working, or what isn't.

Or maybe, because it's a fan thing, whose primary consumers are friends of the creator, no one has ever sat them down and went, "Sweetie, this just has a few problems you need to work out."

In any case, sometimes you run into something that has had a whole lot of time and energy put into it, which you have to admire, but, oh, my dears, there are some problems here.

And, out of the fear of hurting someone's feelings, I can't even come close to giving an honest opinion. I mean, they're just trying so hard!

Only trying hard should also include some attempt at objective self-criticism or finding someone to give you an honest opinion on occasion. You shouldn't be over two years into something and still come off like you've been doing it for two weeks.

Because you don't want people feeling like they have to be nice. Which this morning, I am.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Sherlock Holmes's unexplored method: boredom.

What is one of the first things a modern Sherlock show likes to do to show us what a genius Sherlock Holmes is?

Show us how bored he is.

We can all relate to being bored, even if you haven't had moments of boredom lately, thanks to Netflix streaming, your smartphone, those silly little games people download and dive into during off moments . . . well, you remember being supremely bored at some point in your life, probably as a teenager.

In wandering through podcast world this morning, I stumbled across New Tech City's Bored and Brilliant project (because I was bored, of course), and something clicked.

Sherlock Holmes's boredom was, perhaps, the most important method in his entire "world's greatest consulting detective" bag of tricks. In fact, Sherlock's boredom was the reason for the rest of his bag of tricks.

"I was never a very sociable fellow, Watson, always rather fond of moping in my rooms and working out my own little methods of thought," Sherlock said of his college career, and why did he describe those days as "moping?" Because he was bored. He didn't mix with his fellow students because his interests and theirs weren't alike, and without that social element, boredom set in. And what do we do when boredom sets in?

Daydream. Mix and match the contents of our brains in a desperate attempt to find something to engage us. Work out any problem that we can pose for ourselves in whatever fashion we can possibly conceive.

Sherlock Holmes's entire career came out of boredom. In fact, Dr. Watson's second career as Sherlock's chronicler also came out of boredom as well, during those days he was lying around Baker Street trying to recuperate from the health issues of his military life: "My health forbade me from venturing out unless the weather was exceptionally genial, and I had no friends who would call upon me and break the monotony of my daily existence. Under these circumstances I eagerly hailed the little mystery which hung around my companion, and spent much of my time endeavoring to unravel it."

Boredom must be a very great thing, to inspire such men as those.

And why do you think we have all the marvelous things produced by the last hundred years of Sherlock Holmes fandom? Just ask any Sherlock fan waiting for Moffat, Gatiss, Cumberbatch, Freeman, and company to get another show out . . . once you are focused on something that keeps you wildly entertained and that thing goes away, you get bored. And when you get bored, you start getting creative on the very subject whose absence left you that way.

It's kind of silly that we hate on boredom so much, as seemingly painful as it can be, because boredom has given us every bit of Sherlockian culture, from Conan Doyle sitting bored in a slow medical practice to this very blog. (Okay, maybe we can hate on boredom for some of the things it has produced.) But as Tech City's week on "the lost art of spacing out" examined, boredom is a pretty important part of the human way of getting things done, a part of our lives we should consciously embrace in a world where distraction comes far too easily.

Boredom was, after all, the method at the core of all of Sherlock Holmes's other methods. And probably the one most accessible to any of the rest of us, no matter what our chosen field of endeavor.

Friday, February 6, 2015

He deserves to be called "Sir," just for this.

I will openly admit to my fanboy disappointment when I first heard they were doing a big screen adaptation of Mitch Cullin's A Slight Trick of the Mind. I remembered being disappointed in both that book and Michael Chabon's The Final Solution after reading them, back in 2005 because they both featured an ancient Sherlock Holmes who was not up to par. To my mind they were just two more incarcations of "broken Holmes," a version of Sherlock I've never been fond of, whether he is incapacitated by age, drug addiction, or a solid hit to the head. One buys the ticket to see Superman use his powers, after all, not be Clark Kent for the whole movie.

And in 2005, we hadn't been introduced to BBC Sherlock's younger, vital Holmes yet, so the thought that all our Holmeses from there onward were going to be doddering old fools was rather painful.

So, like I said, my first reaction to the announcement of the movie that would later be titled "Mr. Holmes" was pretty negative. Didn't care that it was coming, didn't want to see the trailers, generally decided to avoid it, sight unseen. Yes, I am that kind of fanboy, as anyone who has read enough of my screed on Elementary well knows.

But this morning, I had a little too much time to kill, and Mary Michaud Loving had posted a link to that Mr. Holmes clip that's been making the rounds on the Norwegian Explorers Facebook page, so I gave it a go.

Sir Ian McKellen has been a favorite actor of mine for a while. I mean, sure his Gandalf and Magneto are popcorn-movie favorites, but things like Gods and Monsters were very enjoyable bits of his acting goodness as well. None of those things, however, prepared me for his aged Sherlock Holmes.

The old fellow we see strolling down the country lane with his housekeeper's son in that Mr. Holmes clip is not a "broken Holmes" at all. He seems very much a true Sherlock Holmes who has lost some steps with age, yes, but is still holding it together. He's intelligent and charming . . . not that mandatory mass of socially crippling quirks that our modern stuff wants to attach to the Great Detective. (And quirks which will normally knock the capital letters off "Great Detective" at that!) And he totally satisfies that gut-level Sherlock Holmes test we all have that says "Sherlock" or "not Sherlock," at least in my case.

So, bravo, Sir Ian! I shall happily look forward to Mr. Holmes from here on in, with complete fanboy satisfaction. True talent is a fine medicine for the sour prejudgment.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

E3:13. A lighter touch.

A character named Sherlock Holmes with a heroin problem and a sexual three-way . . . ?

Tonight's Elementary begins with a scene that can't help but remind a Sherlockian videophile of 2002's A Case of Evil (a movie IMDB now mysteriously calls Sherlock . . . huh?), quickly segues into some exotic monk chat, and a nice twist as Mr. Elementary sneaks up on a secretary. WTF, Elementary? I'm actually enjoying this!

Written by Arika Lisanne Mittman . . . hmm, a new name on the Elementary writers staff. Hopes rise.

I mean, walking around in his pea-coat, Mr. Elementary looks like he's a corn-cob pipe and a squint away from playing Popeye, but still . . .  a missing persons case and not a murder, Mr. Elementary looking for a room-mate as a character subplot. There is a certain simple elegance to it, normally missing in the tries-too-hard sensationalism of so many of Mr. Elementary's tales.

Speaking of elegance, Baker Street was always a properly Victorian jumble, but it was never shabby. When the story picks up on Elementary, I find myself greedily wanting more . . . like a less shabby residence. And that NYPD office they spend so much time in . . . done completely in 1950s institutional, with those yellow block walls that have never seen paint other than what was baked on them by Elvis before he became famous, or some other denizen of that era.

But Mr. Elementary and Joan get out of the city for a bit, and things look a little better for a while.

Wait a minute . . . is Detective Bell wearing a freakin' B.S.I. tie tonight? Blue, purple, mouse. Yup, that's a B.S.I. tie. Has he been doing that for a while, or is this new? (Pause to ask Twitter.)

Clyde seems to be the one on the show from the Vernet bloodline in this adaptation, as his joy in painting is revealed this episode. Phil Simms gets a call. Mr. Elementary gives Joan a pleasant wake-up for a change (obviously trying to get her to move back in). A lot of happy little details this episode, and Elementary is always better with a lighter touch.

After a discussion started by Rob Nunn on Twitter today asked why "modern versions stress the friction between between Holmes & Watson so much," it was rather ironic that part of the pleasure of tonight's Elementary was seeing its consulting detective and his partner actually getting along better than they have in three years.

Of course, all this pleasantry could possibly just have been setting the audience up for what should have been a horrific moment in the show's final moments. But, as has been Elementary's issue for a long time, anyone besides the four main characters (and possibly the Moriarty-Mycroft-Kitty Winter one-per-season semi-regular) doesn't get enough development for us to really care about them too much. Somebody dies at the end, and the saddest part of that shocking turn is that I'd have reacted more strongly for Clyde the turtle taking a flesh-wound in a shoot-out.

But such is the stuff of Thursday nights. Oh, and by the way, speaking of Thursday nights, if you watched Elementary tonight, or on any night previous to this one, here's a little something for you . . . .

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Thursday Night Elementals.

Once upon a time, a great sage of Sherlockian wisdom was asked what one needed to create a Sherlock Holmes society. His answer has resounded through the decades: "All you need are two Sherlockians and a bottle of booze . . . in a pinch, you can dispense with one of the Sherlockians."

If that's all it takes to create a Sherlock Holmes society, what then could one create from seven million Elementarians and an hour of broadcast network television?

Well, if you put them all in one place, you'd get something either like Switzerland or Bulgaria, or maybe Honduras, on an off night. Seven million is "national population" sized numbers. But, thanks to those happy people at Neilsen, we don't have to round them all up in some European land or Central American republic to get a find out just where they are. On Thursday nights, they're at home, in front of their television sets, tuning in the formerly titled Columbia Broadcasting System.

And I am, all too often, one of that legion. John Foster, of the Harpooners' Blog, has conjectured that I am becoming a fan of Elementary, but being an old school Sherlockian, I could never quite feel entirely like a true fan unless I belonged to a society of some sort. So in order to help John's cause along, and perhaps move myself a few microns more toward Elementary fandom, I am going to propose we build an Elementarian society around the place I'm currently sitting in relationship to the show.

That society will be called, quite naturally, the Thursday Night Elementals, paying homage to the regular viewer of that show as no other title could. (You're welcome to come up with your own society name and form a scion of the Thursday Night Elementals, of course.) And rather than attempt to come up with rigorous criteria for member traits, as some clubs do, the Thursday Night Elementals has but one membership requirement: You watch Elementary on Thursday night on CBS. At some point.

No pressure at all on the membership to dress up, sweat over creating a clever enough toast, or cough up banquet fees. In fact, the Thursday Night Elementals is so low pressure that you don't even have to expend the mental energy to recognize that you belong to the club . . . precious brainpower that can now be used to savor the adventures of Mr. Elementary and Joan Watson on Thursday nights.

Now, how does the existence of the Thursday Night Elementals make the world any different from the same seven million watching Elementary on some night before the society existed? Well, what's the difference between any Sherlock Holmes society meeting and that same set of people gathered for any other social evening, as often happens with one's local friends who might happen to be Sherlockians? It's all just a question of scale, really.

So keep an eye on your Thursday nights. You may not think you're an Elementary fan, the sort of person to join the Thursday Night Elementals. But you wind up walking past an East coast television turned to CBS during the 10 o'clock hour, or one in the Midwest between nine and ten, etc., and the *POOF!* instant member of the Thursday Night Elementals. Now that's an inclusive society.

I'll start getting your membership card made up.

(And, oh, yes: Mr. Elementary. I will persist in the use of that honorific, of course. That title lifts the show's main character up, unmistakably, from any other consulting detective using that common name "Sherlock Holmes," separating him from the pack. There can only be one Mr. Elementary, as anyone who has watched the show knows. No one is quite like him, and he is not quite like anyone else. He is, to a tea, Mr. Elementary.)

Nigel Bruce's day.

It was a happy thing to be reminded of Nigel Bruce's birthday this morning, by a tweet from @CanadianHolmes. Perhaps it's just my generation, but I've always had a big soft spot for his lovable "boobus Britannicus" Watson.

As much as one might decry Nigel Bruce's character's departure from Canon, his addle-headed Watson is simply a comic portrayal like all those wacky-yet-lovable nerds that sitcoms are currently finding so useful, taking one of our less-awful mental stereotypes and working our prejudices for laughs. (Yes, yes, it all may not be as funny now, but comedy is such a personal thing that decades of time can hit its effectiveness overly hard.)

One thing I've come to appreciate Nigel Bruce's comic Watson for, in this day and age, is that because he took the hit, Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes got to be pretty normal. Brilliant, yet normal. No hygiene issues, no distractingly large personality flaws, no social issues. Bruce's Watson took one for the team, and we got a healthier Sherlock Holmes for it.

One could practically chart the rise of Dr. Watson as a functional, healthy human being coinciding with the fall of his Sherlock Holmes, as I've noted here before. One of the reasons I've enjoyed BBC's Sherlock over the other most recent versions is that its Holmes and Watson both seem to share the load equally -- both being very good at who they are and what they do, yet both taking the comic foibles hit when the funny has to happen.

Nigel Bruce, however, took it all, and was just such a big lovable teddy bear of a man while doing so, a sort of charmingly befuddled uncle one wouldn't mind having at family reunions. It was a stereotype he played in more than just Sherlock Holmes movies, but at that time, with that Holmes, it just fit perfectly. Bruce wouldn't have gone with Jeremy Brett's Holmes whatsoever, Benedict Cumberbatch's Holmes would have surely killed him by accident, and as for CBS's Mr. Elementary? Well, I'd pay to see that debacle -- somehow Watson would surely wind up mistakenly putting heroin in his tea at some point.

Oddly, I could almost see Nigel Bruce's Watson fitting in with Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock . . . if the old boy could keep up with all that running and jumping. Perhaps it's because Nigel Bruce just belongs on the big screen, as a larger-than-life Watson.

And today is his birthday. Raising a glass to you, N.B., even if it is the breakfast glass of milk. Good job, well done.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The show that we're seeing but not watching.

Are we over the Sherlock teases yet?

We're getting to the point where we separate the serious fans of the BBC show from the average viewer, I suspect, as when I saw the latest teaser leaked out (this one "officially," as opposed to the Setlock stuff), my first thought was, "Yeah, yeah, call me when you're going to put something on television."

I mean, there was a time when enthusiasm ran high, when there were questions to be answered, and it all seemed like there was a game to it somewhere in there.

But now that we've been seeing bits and pieces of a Victorian version of the modern version of the Victorian tales since filming began, that cat's out of the bag and the questions, "Is it a dream, a hoax, an alternate reality?" quit being interesting when DC Comics used them up on "imaginary" Superman stories in the 1960s.

There are some dedicated fans out there, and it'll be fun to see just who they are as the more faddy folk drop away. Sherlock love is starting to transition from sprint to marathon, and only those with steady endurance or true fanaticism will remain running alongside the hansom cab that this year's Christmas special seems to be becoming. (And if people thought that wedding episode was a change in tone they didn't like . . .)

For now, Sherlock is the show that we're seeing but not watching. Whether that proves to be a good thing this time around shall be interesting.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Immortal detective, immortal fandom?

As I was drifting off to sleep last night, I was thinking about Gunsmoke fans.

What, you've never heard of Gunsmoke, the cowboy drama that ran on CBS television for the entirety of my childhood? Well, good for you, you lucky soul! That means the Grim Reaper isn't nearly as close on your heels as he is on mine. I'd happily forget about Gunsmoke to add the number of years in your future to mine.

I mean, c'mon, part of my past and all, but it wasn't that good a show.

The point I want to make here is that like Sherlock Holmes, Gunsmoke had its fans.

Unlike Sherlock Holmes, about thirty years from now, Gunsmoke probably isn't going to have hardly any fans.

If I stroll into any venue and start speaking of a love of Gunsmoke, a judgment is quickly going to be made by anyone who recognizes the reference: "Oh, you're that old."  If I do the same thing with Sherlock Holmes? Well, if the graying hair, aging skin, and middle-aged paunch are somehow obscured, nobody is going to immediately know just how old I am. Because thanks to the latest revival, we have Sherlock Holmes fans of all ages.

Heck, if I squee about Benedict Cumberbatch, as I am apt to do anyway, I might even pass for a whole lot younger than I am.

Back when we used to celebrate Sherlock Holmes being miraculously alive after a hundred years or so of life, as that was still in the realm of possibility, his longevity was attributed to things like "Royal Jelly" from his bees. And as much as I sometimes gripe about the cranky old bastards of Sherlockiana, of which I seem to have become one, there is something about the essence of Sherlock Holmes that gives us a longer life as fans.

Do Sherlockians live longer than the average human? Well, our subset of humanity is so small that no one has found value in doing such a study as yet, and there are so many other factors involved other than just a love of Holmes (education, family income, those life perks that allow us time for pleasure reading). But as a fandom, genus Sherlockianus seems to have some staying power.

As with vampires, who claim immortality yet inevitably always die at some point, Sherlock Holmes will not carry on forever. Even if at the end of man's time in the cosmos some machine race carries the legend forward, even they will surely have a final expiration date. And all good things must come to an end at some point, even Sherlock Holmes.

Which really isn't a bad thing. Recognizing that even our fandom will one day go the way of Gusmoke should be cause for celebration -- not celebration that it will one day end (Insert mandatory Elementary reference here.) but celebration that we have it to enjoy now.

One has to dance while the music plays, whatever venue one finds one's self in. And there aren't many tunes sweeter than Sherlock Holmes to that special breed with ears to hear it.