Monday, August 31, 2015

A Study in Jelly Bellies.

These kids today!

Forget the violent video games, tonight I learned that children . . . THE CHILDREN, I TELL YOU! . . . are emulating one of the first and foremost killers of both the old Canon and the new Canon. And they don't even know they are doing it, being slowly trained in his deadly methodology without their knowing it by a corporate entity. If I was utterly paranoid and a Mormon, I would be quite concerned right now . . . quite concerned!

What am I talking about?

Well, you remember Jefferson Hope, don't you? The American avenger or the death-game cabbie who would present his victims with two pills, one harmless and one a deadly poison. And then he would let them choose . . . "You take one and I shall take one." A fifty-fifty chance of life or death! And somehow, Hope always seemed to come out on top, either proving his cause was blessed by some higher (or lower) power, or he was just one lucky son of St. Louis.

Now, the Jelly Belly company has come out with their Jelly Belly BeanBoozled line . While they previously came out with some very awful flavors in their Bertie Botts Any Flavor line based on the Harry Potter books, now they seem to be taking a page from A Study in Scarlet and matching those gag-worthy beans with tasty flavors in IDENTICAL beans.

Are you getting a tutti-frutti jelly bean, or a stinky socks bean?

Are you getting the classic buttered popcorn bean, or rotten egg flavor?

Suddenly, Jelly Belly has turned a generation into Jefferson Hopes, challenging their little friends to a starter-game of "Which pill is the poison?"

What's next? Nerf harpoons to aim at their little friends' chests?

Of course, the use by mature adults in a controlled Sherlockian gathering environment to experimentally simulate the Jefferson Hope murders for their own intellectual study . . . that could be a constructive use of these beans for higher purposes, and I would encourage students of Sherlock Holmes to do as much testing as possible upon their friends while these Study in Scarlet Jelly Bellies are still on the market.

"I could image his giving a friend a little pinch of the latest vegetable alkaloid," Stamford once said of Sherlock Holmes, in explaining him to a pre-Sherlocked Watson, "not out of malevolence, you understand, but simply out of a spirit of enquiry in order to have an accurate idea of the effects."

Having a friend try a new energy drink is doing that very thing (caffeine is an alkaloid), and jelly beans are much less dangerous than those devil's brews, so even if you're more of a Stamford than a Sherlock Holmes, your conscience might let you get away with such a test.

 If you are a mature adult of course. We don't need the kiddies getting any ideas for their future cab-driving careers.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Done and done with August.

T'were I truly a dedicated Sherlockian, I might have spent yesterday working over the remaining blanks on the annual John H. Watson Society Canonical Treasure Hunt, but instead the day was happily spent at the local Erin Feis where I could indulge those Celtic quarters of my roots and listen to a very delightful band with a bagpiper. The one moment of Sherlockian thought all day was trying to decide if I wanted to buy a keychain with the Moriarty crest on it or have another pastie.

But as with everything, there comes a time when one just has to bring it to a close and move on, so this morning I compiled a final list of answers and sent it off to my team's captain slapped my hands together in a "done and done!" gesture, and moved along. I still have to finish transcribing the leaked pilot to West of Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes TV show that doesn't exist in this reality, before September and the fall season kicks in as well. After all, what good is an episode recap of a leaked pilot if the season has already started!

It will be good to have this mad August over, in any case, and get back to more interesting stuff. I was tweeted a link to what one assumes are some kind of transcripts of some improvised cases of Sherlock Holmes from a Chicago improv group, and I'm still puzzling over those a bit. As the group performs in that area of Chicago where one finds it slightly difficult to find a place to keep one's automobile handy for escaping the city after the show, I probably won't be seeing the show in its best-consumed form. But having participated in a lot of group-writes of Holmes stories, which are basically silent literary improv of a sort, it's interesting to try to see what stage-folk produce when attempting their version of it.

And I think the last bit of this month will involved some clean-up of the old Sherlockian library room, which has been a mess occasionally referred to in this blog. When one has an extra room or two in the house and can devote the whole of one to Holmes, it would seem like a very good thing . . . at first. But once one ceases to go in there other than to find a particular book or toss something into be sorted later . . . well, the sorting bill comes due at some point.

Ah, August. What a month you were. So looking forward to September.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Where I draw the line . . . .

This question. This question right here.

61. Out of the natural order of things, these villains, one committing assault and one committing murder, were themselves intended to be used as tools in the commission of other crimes. Which assaulter and which murderer?

Followed by it's clue.

“#61: The compendiums/encyclopedias of Holmes (Clarkson, Goodrich, Tracey) have compiled lists of ‘types of death’, or ‘murders’. I would focus on these deaths as these are very specific and fewer in number, perhaps, than assaults. “Out of the natural order” is provided as a clue for you to consider. For example, Sebastian Moran committing murder or assault would certainly not be out of the natural order of things–this behaviour from him would very much be expected. So you are looking for a death inflicted upon another by an entity that would not be expected to commit murder–a death caused by this entity would be very surprising; going against ‘nature’ so to speak. Once you add the surprise to the given information that the entity was to be used in the commission of another crime, the ‘murderer’ you seek should be much easier to find. You find this unexpected death, and a similar assault will come to mind perhaps.”

We're down to the last five days of the annual John H. Watson Society Canonical Treasure Hunt, and after doggedly pounding through the questions, one by one, flipping and twirling and cranking up old devices in search of answers, driven by sheer obsessive compulsive tendencies when all else fails, it's time to play arteest, wave my lace ponce hankey and go, "No, too much clew! Too much explanation! Too much! Too much! Too much!" (And they didn't even mention the Harrington! Good god, man, the Harrington! The quiet competitor to the Goodrich, the Harrington, which even now sits open upon my desk . . . along with the Clarkson and the Goodrich. Yes, kids, there was a time before Mr. Moonfind . . .)

I'm not done with the quiz, of course. Just refusing to answer that question. Taking that one percent of control of my life back. Letting my team-mates have a go, unless they, too, decide to stand with me in protest of that villainous number sixty-one. Let others win with one hundred percent! We shall stop at ninety-nine and retain our dignity!

Or not . . . who knows what mad answers may appear in the blanks after the questions when this month is done? Indeed, I cannot think why the whole bed of the ocean is not one solid mass of oysters, so prolific the creatures seem! Owen and George agree with me, don't you, boys?

Five . . . more . . . days. Five. But no matter what brain fever this hell-quiz wrecks upon my senses, it still won't be enough to convince me to watch another season of Elementary, I promise you that. 

Owen might. And Brenda will stare at whatever is on in front of her these days. But George? No way! You go, George!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ozymandias did know how to party, but I don't see him bringing a pie to my house.

Last week, I spent the better part of a day writing an essay about the Undershaw situation that never saw the light of blog. Conan Doyle's former home is now the focal point of some ill will in among the fans of the author, and yet another article showed up about it yesterday: "Is Undershaw a House of Cards?" by Luke Kuhns. I suppose the title refers to the possibility it could all come tumbling down, and not that willful, corrupt polticians are involved, as in either of the House of Cards TV shows, and looking at the pictures that accompany Kuhns' article, one can see that there is that danger.

Undershaw is a house ravaged by time and neglect already. Its clock is ticking, and, unfortunately, it seems that those who would like to preserve it could very well cause its collapse by trying too hard to control how it passes into the future.

It's not an issue that is new to us in Sherlock Holmes fandom. If you don't count religions as fandoms, we're perhaps the oldest game out there, and we've seen our share of those who would attempt to freeze a moment in amber, keeping some aspect of the past alive well past its enjoyment expiration date. It can be as simple as taking up a credo of "No one will ever do X as well as Y did," and refusing to take in anything new in that field. Or it can be a ambitious as attempting to institutionalize one's own view of what Sherlockian culture should be.

It can be the work of our inner child, shouting, "Again! Again!" one too many times after a moment of great fun. It can be the work of our inner ancient, fighting to shape some sort of legacy to outlive our frail and ephemeral forms. The motives are quite natural and can even be noble, when one truly is trying to give something to others . . . note I said give something to others. Whether or not they take it is still up to them.

Because as we move into the future, we tend to only carry those things with us that are of use to us, in the world in which we currently exist. Conan Doyle's home, still standing in some form, can be a beacon, a touchstone, a wonderful thing. Conan Doyle's restored kitchen cupboards, exactly as they were when he lived there? Not seeing a lot of good in those.

Not far from Peoria is the town of Hannibal, Missouri, where Mark Twain's boyhood home has entertained sight-seers for over a hundred years. Mark Twain is like America's Shakespeare. (Hey, we're a young country, we take what we can get!) But England already had a Shakespeare, as well as just about every great name in English literature, for obvious reasons. Conan Doyle doesn't exactly have the rarity and tourist value of a . . . well, let's be blunt, a Sherlock Holmes . . . or a Mark Twain. If there was money in selling tickets to Undershaw, it wouldn't be in the shape it's in now.

But sometimes, we can carry the past forward into the future in a way that's still meaningful, with a few necessary modifications. The steamboat that runs out of Mark Twain's hometown, for example, has a diesel engine. Steam boilers would take far too much maintenance to provider all of the riverboating joy that that steamboat brings to tourists all summer long on the mighty Mississippi. Undershaw could still have meaning and importance with the changes that putting a school on those grounds might entail. And do good work besides.

I will admit to being far from conservative. I enjoy change, perhaps a little too much. So you really shouldn't take my opinions on preservation of historical records. (Honestly? I even think the B.S.I. archives at Harvard are a bit over-the-top.) But in recognizing my own prejudices, I also know that there's a flip side to that coin -- those who enjoy a perpetual state of sameness a little too much. Our best path always falls somewhere in between.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Time for a montage!

Ten days left in the annual John H. Watson Society Canonical Treasure Hunt.

Those who have attempted this hundred question test might be feeling a little battered and bruised at this point -- slamming yourself into an immovable object repeatedly will do that to you. And we bookish sorts are not that sturdy to begin with. Staring blankly at a question for far too long, when you could be doing something that might even be fun, is a symptom more than a few of us have had at this point, especially as one's efforts drive one late into the evening.

This is the point we give up, right? The point we say "Screw this!" to the Spartan diet of Canonical queries and gorge on life outside the sixty stories. The place where we quietly back away from the contest and hope that nobody remembers we took up the initial challenge. The moment when we remember we're just a half-wit bruiser from Philly who can in no way stand up to a title shot against the heavyweight champion of the world.

At this point, you don't even have to win. You've seen how easy it would be to just give up and not finish it. And other people are going to do that. But are you other people?

God, I hope not. Other people suck. Don't be one of them.

Just get back up, do a few push-ups to rev your engine and see what your will is capable of forcing your skinny arms to do, and finish the ten days. (Or eight. No sense in risking missing the deadline.)

Let me tell ya something, kid. This quiz was written by a human. And what are you?

As a very wise man once said, "What one man can invent another can discover." I can't tell you how often I've used that one. Personally, it's been of more use to me than any other quote from that oh-so quotable fellow. 

Who said it and when he said it, is something I'll leave as one more puzzle for you. If you don't know it, you should. Because sometimes, having to struggle with something brings out better things in us. Like reminding me where that very quote came from . . . I had pretty much forgotten where that came from, even thinking it came from somewhere else than it actually did. Until this latest little ordeal of Sherlock's own . . . .

Back to the push-ups.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Konnichiwa, Mr. Elementary!

(Possible spoilers. Stop at any time.)

It's hard for the average American to understand the anime culture of Japanese television. I sure don't get it. Buy, ya know, you really don't have to understand why something exists to appreciate it. Most great art is like that.

In a discussion with friends this evening, the subject of popular anime came up, and on the list, as we discussed some we'd seen and enjoyed and those we hadn't seen, a show called Death Note came up. I didn't learn more than the name, and that it was "a little dark," so when I found a little time on my hands when I got home, I pulled it up on Netflix.

The premise, in the first 22-minute episode, was simple, supernatural, and well laid out: A good student comes upon a notebook that will cause the death of anyone whose name is written within it. And he decides that he can use it. Not a bad little premise, and one stripped bare for its short run time. A live action American show would have added a goofball best friend and an unrequited love interest and padded it out to double the twenty-two minute run time. This, however, was rather simple and elegant in its lack of such stock trappings.

So, supernatural show, you wonder . . . what does it have to do with Sherlock Holmes?

The second episode, which I immediately watched after the first, laid down the central conflict for the show. The greatest detective in the world takes an interest in the mysterious deaths caused by the notebook. Is the greatest detective in the world Sherlock Holmes?

Well, no. Because if he was named "Sherlock Holmes," and someone wrote that name in the notebook, he'd be dead, right?

No, in Death Note, the greatest detective in the world is named "L," and the one person who can contact him is named "Watari."  Close enough for me.

But "L" having a Watson isn't just what makes him the Sherlock of his universe. He's a clever fellow, and after watching the first two episodes of this show, I'm eagerly awaiting the battle of wits to come.

Just after watching forty-four minutes of what many in this country would dismiss as "a cartoon."

Yet a cartoon that gets right much of what a lot of shows with live actors just can't seem to pull together. Not sure where the show goes from here, good, bad, or indifferent, but I'm looking forward to finding out. There are those who like to say "any Sherlock is good Sherlock," but I've always stuck with "anyone as good as Sherlock is good Sherlock." I don't need the name, just the spirit.

And I think I've happily found that spirit once more. Your mileage may vary, but, hey, it's your mileage. Go where you like, and I shall as well.

This season, following Death Note for a time.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Oh, torturous August!

At the end of last month, I wrote about my little bitterness with the Sherlockian quiz and past encounters with that devilish device. I thought I had seen the worst punishments a quiz could inflict. I thought there was no more damage a quiz could do.

I thought wrong.

Every other quiz I cited in that previous post had one thing in common: They were administered live and in person, and the quizmaster was forced to stay in the room for us for every minute that their tortures were going on. At the point the quizmaster could take it no more, time was called, and we were all free to win or lose and go on with our lives.

I've seen long-form tests of Sherlockian knowledge before with no time limit, administered by one entity or another with the inducement of some title or honorific bestowed by the quizmaster if one completed the test. Sherlockians who want to prove themselves are never in short supply, so such things do get done . . . eventually . . . and often with the help of every ally the test-taker can muster. But I've avoided those monsters, choosing to spend my time enjoying Sherlock Holmes in other fashions.

But as I wrote back in July, this year I thought "what the heck" and agreed to participate in the Annual John H. Watson Society Canonical Treasure Hunt, not fully considering the fact that the hundred-question quiz goes on for the ENTIRE MONTH OF AUGUST. And as one plays this game on a team, it's a little less conducive to just walking away . . . one can't let one's team down, can one?

My team has got most of the questions done, but now we're coming down to those vexing matters where one is just trying, not to test one's knowledge of the Holmes stories, but to just understand what the question-writer is getting at. And putting down PRECISELY THE RIGHT ANSWER. We've all been busy this month, so time is a hot commodity and one can only comb through a particular story so many times. And let's not even get into matters of editions.

Straight-forward questions have never been the staple of the most notable Sherlockian quiz. John Bennett Shaw was famous for tormenting attendees of his workshops with trick questions like "Case history of a character in Gone with the Wind" or "If baseball was played in southern England, the man who would 'call em' would be?" Shaw liked puns and word-play, and it helped to have a certain looseness of the mental faculties to pick up his train of thought. But, as I mentioned earlier, Shaw was usually there, giving you the answers within an hour or less, and letting you laugh at the places he'd tricked you.

Perhaps Shaw knew that Sherlockiana contains among its ranks some dangerous obsessive-compulsives who would gnaw at a puzzling bone for years on end, should you challenge them just so. So he didn't put out his quizzes WITH A MONTH LONG TIMELINE.

My fellow Peoria Sherlockian, Melissa Anderson, commented earlier that "my team could not always maintain generous feelings toward [the Treasure Hunt's previous quiz-master] during the Hunt," so I hope that she and Margie Deck, this year's interrogator, take my all-caps statements with the understanding that THEY'RE BEING MADE UNDER DURESS.

And this is just the mid-way point of August.

I should have known better. Truly, I should have.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Oh, Sherlock Holmes was no nerd.

Woke up to a great little bit of internet Sherlockiana, thanks to Vince Wright, one of the very very few Sherlockians left on my Facebook feed (what can I say, I kinda like Vince's non-Sherlockian side, which is the part of me that lives on Facebook). The article had the very fun title "Sherlock Holmes could kick your ass."

The article had me at the outset, of course, with the line "and that show they literally only made because they couldn't get the rights to Sherlock," but moves on to remind us that Sherlock Holmes was capable of some incredible physical feats when he set his mind to it.

And I don't just mean "set his mind to it" as in "figured out some clever way to out-maneuver a foe." No, I just mean, as the article's headline says, just kicking someone's ass.

Sure, Sherlock Holmes was and is a genius, as adept in his field as those dweebs from the sitcom Big Bang Theory. And he's generally thought of as a skinny guy. But Sherlock wasn't sitting in his dorm room playing D&D in college. "Bar fencing and boxing, I had few athletic tastes," he says about those years.

Bar fencing and boxing. Okay, maybe you can get away with the poke-poke of fencing and be a scrawny nerd -- lord knows, I did -- but boxing? Nobody lasts long as an active participant in boxing without some real toughness. And nobody especially lives a long, healthy life with a genius I.Q. without being very good at that sport and not taking too many shots to the head.

We often think of how Holmes "would have made an actor, and a rare one." But how often do we consider McMurdo's words from The Sign of the Four: "If instead o' standin' there so quiet you had just stepped up and given me that cross-hit of yours under the jaw, I'd ha' known you without a question. Ah, you're one that has wasted your gifts, you have! You might have aimed high, if you had joined the fancy."

This was a prize-fighter's view of Sherlock Holmes. And the view of a prize-fighter who had spent three rounds in the ring with Sherlock.

And even without the training that would have kept Holmes from having "wasted your gifts" as McMurdo says, he's still one tough customer. When a bully and thug known by the name of "Roaring Jack Woodley" goes after Holmes in a bar in "The Solitary Cyclist," Sherlock Holmes actually considers it a good time.

"He ended his string of abuse by a vicious back-hander which I failed to entirely avoid. The next few minutes were delicious. It was a straight left against a slogging ruffian. I emerged as you see me. Mr. Woodley went home in a cart."

Like all of the greatest action heroes, Sherlock Holmes doesn't flaunt his ability to bend fireplace pokers or punch out criminals. And Watson didn't write sixty stories of Holmes just beating the crap out of criminals like he's some comic book vigilante. (Yeah, Batman, I'm talking about you.) Sherlock just goes about doing his brilliant detective work while quietly holding a straight left and a cross-hit under the jaw in reserve, like his pistol, only to be used as needed.

Robert Downey Jr.'s movie Sherlock Holmes displays that from the outset, as director Guy Ritchie works in the palette of ass-kicking characters. Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock tends to hold his skills in reserve a lot more . . . the scene in "A Scandal in Belgravia" where he takes down some armed villains just seems to come out of nowhere. And Ian McKellen's Mr. Holmes is just too old to even know what his martial skill-set once was . . . which is why we're very glad from all of Sherlock Holmes's other skills.

Opening up a can of whup-ass on someone is a younger man's game, even though there are definitely exceptions to that rule. Sherlock Holmes, being portrayed usually as an older and wiser fellow over the last hundred years, hasn't had much chance to bring out his fighting side, which hasn't been crucial to his popularity. But now that we're seeing him as a man who was a great detective when he was young, as well as in his later years, we have the chance to see this side of him more often . . . like any hunter lying in wait, keeping those abilities quietly ready, but when that moment strikes?

So does Sherlock Holmes.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

You favorite Sherlockian song.

What's your favorite Sherlockian song?

I don't expect it to have anything to do with Sherlock Holmes. Sadly, most songs with a direct association to Sherlock Holmes are pretty poor -- Sherlock is not a guy who's work has inspired much singing. You can pull up a few fair ditties with an indirect relationship to Holmes . . . that "Aunt Clara" thing that an early Irregular foisted upon his fellows, "The Madame's Song" from The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Gerry Rafferty's haunting Baker Street . . . but a real, down-to-detection Sherlock Holmes song? If you've got one good enough to be called "favorite," I'd sure like to hear about it.

So, let's take this another direction . . . what's your favorite song that has no direct connection to Sherlock Holmes that you personally associate with your life as a Sherlockian every time you hear it?

One of those, I've got.

Nobody's Fool by Kenny Loggins. The theme song from a movie that produced little else of a memorable nature, Caddyshack II. As a connoisseur of soundtrack albums, I couldn't even bring myself to pick up the whole album to that movie -- just the 45 single of that theme. And in 1988, when it came out, that was all I really needed. But why the Sherlockian impact, you might ask?

Because six months after that the song hit the charts, I found myself in a place where I was really pondering my Sherlockian existence. There had been a certain little falling-out between a certain Holmes-related country club of sorts and myself, and feeling a little disillusioned about the society of some Sherlockians at that point, I did what I always do when the fringes of fandom get frazzling -- go back to the source. Or "back to the shack," as the lyrics to Nobody's Fool go, "nothing suits me better than that." Because nothing has ever suited me better than the Canon of Sherlock Holmes.

The kids these days have their "mind-palaces," book Holmes had his "brain-attic," I had my Sherlock-shack, whenever I heard that song. "If time has taught me anything, got to learn to be the ball," the song's Zen wisdom continues, "and I can't keep from laughing at it all."

Because at some point in any fandom fuss, you really have to remember to take a few steps back and laugh a bit at how silly it is when it gets too serious. But that isn't the only place Nobody's Fool goes that my brain takes as a part of Sherlockian life. There's another part of it that goes from Zen to practically a sorcerous invocation:

"Winds of wild insanity, blow with me tonight!"

Now, if you've ever gone far enough down the creativity rabbit hole, you've probably had a reader or two question whether your brain is quite completely in tune with the real world on occasion. And those are the times when things really get fun. When the winds of wild insanity blow with a Sherlockian storm, we get some of our best stuff. There's a certain randomness to the lyrics of Nobody's Fool that could apply to many things. But when it comes to "My hallucination may come as some surprise," I like to slide the idea of a historically existing Sherlock Holmes into that slot.

I'm sure one could delve deeply into my psyche and find a lot more of the buttons that song pushes, but I think I've navel-gazed long enough for this particular blog entry.

Nobody's Fool was Kenny Loggins' last top ten hit, the wind-up of a great run of movie tunes, none of which were Sherlock Holmes movies. Which is really too bad, as I'd liked to have seen what Kenny would have done with a Sherlock song. Heck, I'd like to see what anyone would do with a Sherlock song good enough to hit the charts! In the meantime, we shall all just to have our own personal Sherlockian themes.

Hope yours is a good one!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The good work of Sherlockiana.

August can be a time of Sherlockian doldrums for those of us not lucky enough to get to some summer convocation like last weekend's GridLOCK con. The internet has been pretty quiet since Mr. Holmes came and went from theaters. And for an old-time Sherlockian like myself, a time like this serves as something of a reminder of how Sherlockiana used to be . . . pretty quiet, most of the time.

But like you may have heard from a stereotype of an old codger or two, "back then, we made our own fun." Which, it turns out, is the core to any fandom, really -- making your own fun. Fandom always springs from the absence of that thing you really love. If we had new Sherlock to watch on TV, new Conan Doyle tales of Adventures quality to read, in an inexhaustible supply, fandom would not exist. Sure, we'd all be reading and loving whatever source we got our Sherlock from, but we wouldn't have time to talk to each other about it, write articles from the study of it, or extend that universe with fanfic. Who would have time to put on cons? Record podcasts? Publish newsletters, journals, or books?

It's these doldrum times where you really get to the core of who you are as a Sherlockian.

For me, this year's doldrums are being filled up with two activities: Working through "The Annual John H. Watson Canonical Treasure Hunt" and seeing what the non-existent leaked pilot to "West of Baker Street" has in it and writing a recap of same. Two very different kinds of fan-work, but work all the same.

The first has turned into a deep dive into the minutiae of the original Canon, using every tool at one's disposal including every vague memory of anything ever read of Sherlock Holmes to decipher what the question-creators are getting at. Not only do you have to know your Holmes, you also have to figure out what the questions mean, as they are purposefully built to make recognition tricky. That would seem to be pointlessly frustration, and for some it might be just that. But for me, the journey in wandering through all the possible answers to find the one that fits a question perfectly is a fine trip . . . even after nearly forty years at this, there are still new things to be discovered. (Or re-discovered, as a brain attic or mind palace can only hold so much.)

It's work, but it's relaxing work, if your brain is built that way.

And where the Watsonian quiz is one kind of work, seeing exactly what might make up a TV show about Sherlock Holmes and Doc Holliday in the old West is another sort of work entirely. Less about looking for something solid that exists and more about hypothesizing what could exist, and finding the best answer where someone else hasn't already left that answer out there for you to find. Instead of looking for solid details, it's more about looking for style and story, the less-solid parts of what makes up a Sherlock Holmes adventure.

And both of those jobs take time. Time is what August doldrums provide in spades. (Well, at least when one's career isn't trying to siphon that all away with real-job work!)

So, bring it on August. A Sherlockian is rarely without something to do.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Popular, but not Denny's popular.

Sherlock Holmes has undeniably been riding a wave of popularity in recent years, but there are mountains yet for him to climb. Hit movies and popular TV shows are one thing . . . but has he had his own menu item at Denny's yet?

This weekend was marked by another not-so-successful superhero movie reboot of the Fantastic Four, and even though that critically-panned movie seems to be taking a drubbing with fans and non-fans alike, the one success from the film, if all the geek podcasts are any indication, is in getting comic book fans to make a trip to Denny's to try a Thingburger, Human Torch skillet, Invisible Woman Slam, or Doctor Doom Lava Cake. (If you get the first three in the same meal, it's the Super Skrull supper. Sorry, comics nerd joke in Sherlockian blog.)

Anywho, it got me thinking about this Denny's level of anticipated popularity. What if the next Downey movie or season of Sherlock became so anticipated that a restaurant chain decided to us it to sell more food . . . without converting to a British menu, of course. What burgers would be wrought in the name of Holmes and Watson? What pancakes might be served under the endorsement of Inspector Lestrade? And Mycroft . . . oh, dear lordy, what gastronomic monstrosity might bear his name?

So the theorizing began.

The "rude meal" Holmes made in "Beryl Coronet" has always been a favorite of mine, since you can just go to Arby's and mimic it. "He cut a slice of beef from the sideboard, and sandwiched it between two rounds of bread." But that's not enough to get people to try it out of curiosity . . . let's make it the "Mr. Holmes Roast Beef Stack." Roast beef and Sussex cheddar with a special honey sauce served on an English muffin.


How about a Watsonburger? Somebody has to be the burger guy, and nobody has the everyman quality of the hamburger like Dr. Watson. But what makes a Watsonburger unique to the good doctor? Well, Watson liked his bacon, as evidenced in that hearty meal from "Engineer's Thumb," so we have that modern burger standard in hand. Add some Swiss cheese in honor of his part in "The Final Problem." Sauteed mushrooms go on, to add a touch of Watson conducting his own investigation, as he started to in "Empty House," at which time he pondered the "mushroomed" bullet of that case. Nothing wrong with that combo, and it's all Watson. If you want to wound your Watsonburger by squirting on the ketchup, that's up to you. We'll give you an order of Murray Fries to help you escort it from the scene of your dietary battle.

Now, if we're going to pair a meal with Irene Adler, it has to be a meal fit for a king.

"The Adventuress," as we're going to call Irene's signature sandwich pays tribute to her New Jersey roots by doing a hot dog in a traditional New Jersey style, with grilled peppers, onions, and potatoes on it. But instead of a hot dog, it has a Polish sausage to recognize her time as Prima Donna of the Warsaw opera. Put it on a sub sandwich bun so you can make it plenty big (and add some Bruce-Partington confusion) so you have a meal big enough for a young man . . . or a woman pretending to be a young man.

Mrs. Hudson's 221B Breakfast can feature 2 eggs, 2 pancakes, 1 mess of hash browns, and capital "B" Bacon. Some things, you just keep simple. Mycroft's Greek Interpreter Gyro is a typical gyro on a pita with all the fixings, but you use good old British roast beef for the meat. Lestrade's Scotland Yard Bulldog is a non-alcoholic drink (since we're talking eatery and not bar here) -- a milkshake flavored with chocolate, coffee, and Coca-cola.

Coming up with Sherlockian menu items is always a good time, as food and Sherlockians have been tied together since the hobby began, along with coming up with reasons to have any given item served at dinner in honor of our friend Sherlock. That "very large flat box" that shows up at suppertime in "Noble Bachelor" still makes me contend that delivery pizza is a proper food for a Sherlock Holmes fan.

And if it all makes you too hungry, one can always work in a few of the rejects from this imaginary Denny's Sherlock menu as well. The Milverton . . . er, Magnussen . . . drink choice will surely give anyone pause. But that is a topic for another time. For now, how about that Watsonburger?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Darth Vader meets Sherlock Holmes?

The internet is always tempting us with the outlandish headline.

Even when we know something is pretty nigh impossible, it's easy to get sucked in, just due to the "What the hell?" factor. And today, that good old internet got me again.

"Star Wars has its Indiana Jones, now it gets its Sherlock Holmes" showed up in my feed, and even though "its Sherlock Holmes" told me immediately that it wouldn't be THE Sherlock Holmes, I had to look. Just because the concept of Sherlock Holmes in the Star Wars universe was so bizarre.

If you click on the link, you'll see a few panels from a comic book in which an Imperial officer makes some deductions about Darth Vader. Just a whiff of Holmes, really. Obviously inspired by the great detective, but not him. Because if ever two things did not belong together . . .

Sherlock Holmes does refer to "the Force," but he means Scotland Yard. And the concept of the actual mystical Force existing in Holmes's no-nonsense "No ghosts need apply" world does not ring true at all, even if they're the ghosts of former Jedi masters appearing over a campfire to welcome Anakin Skywalker to Jedi heaven.

Sure, Sherlock was a fencer and singlestick master, but a light saber would just seem a bit over-the-top for him, wouldn't it? And great powers of observation and deduction in a world where Jedi cheaters just use their mystical sense of the universe to divine truths? Two great tastes that, unlike a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, DON'T go together.

So Sherlock and Darth aren't getting together quite yet. And I wonder if they ever will.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Watson is always British, even in the land of the impossible.

While I wouldn't have expected the new movie Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation to be anything on our Sherlockian map, yesterday's trip to the movies turned out to be a little bit of a surprise.

Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt, the main character of the M:I movies, is more of an American James Bond than a Sherlock Holmes, this time around, the film-makers have given him a very definite Dr. Watson in Simon Pegg.

I had seen headlines that suggested their characters made put the movie in the "bromance" category, but was not expecting a Holmes-Watson relationship. Not at all. And yet, there it was. Ethan Hunt is all about action and not necessarily brainwork, but his Dr. Watson, Simon Pegg's character Benji, is a total Dr. Watson. Bringing his own particular skills to the partnership, doing the less main-character tasks, being appropriately astonished as needed -- you could totally see Simon Pegg playing John H. Watson, M.D. after seeing Rogue Nation.

The climax to my Watsonian thoughts about Pegg exploded, however, when . . . .

************  GIANT SPOILER ALERT! ********************

Benji had an explosive vest strapped to his chest by the bad guy and had a earpiece feeding him dialogue to speak to Ethan. Yes, a complete borrow of the Moriarty technique from season one of Sherlock. No way were the writers not thinking of Watson when putting this movie together.

And like I said, a pretty fair Watsonian actor at that.