Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What makes a good Sherlock Holmes?

Sherlockians can quibble all day long about this actor or that, this production or that, this author or that . . . and we often do, for days, months, even . . . years.

But in the end, what makes a good Sherlock Holmes?

Let's ignore the small stuff, the facial features, the voice, the words used in a given tale.

What makes a good Sherlock Holmes?

Go deep on this one, really reach into your core for it, get to that place where you feel Sherlock Holmes. And I don't mean those cheap pop little feels, "Oh, Sherlock has died!" "Oh, that dog is so scarey!" "Oh, the food is so great at this Sherlock party!" And, no, we're not talking about fanfic Sherlock Holmes . . . that may be the Sherlock you think you want, but it's not the Sherlock Holmes who got you going to start with.

When THAT guy pops up again, it's always a wondrous day. An inspirational day.

I was thinking about that day this morning, even though it isn't here just yet. And the cause of that thought is a name that could be rather controversial when it comes to the topic of "good Sherlock Holmes."

That name?

Steven Moffat.

Forget the infinite inverviews and news-snippet quotes. "Sherlock Holmes could be a woman?" Yeah, we've been there, done that -- catch up, clickbait news media, not an interesting quote. No, what got me high on Moffat this morning wasn't that far off return of BBC Sherlock. No, it was the return of that other character he has a little something to do with. That other character who seemed to get his groove back this week, in a story that reminded me a lot of good Sherlockian scholarship.

Stephen Moffat has a certain talent for looking at a mythos and pulling something out that was there all along, we just hadn't thought about it yet. He's done with with Sherlock Holmes, he's done it with Dr. Who, and he seems to . . . when he works at it . . . pull the trick off more than once. And he seems to be able to remind me what makes a good Sherlock Holmes, even when he's not writing Sherlock Holmes.

Because to me, good Sherlock Holmes isn't a comfy chair, a sleep aid, or an exploration of some human failing. Good Sherlock Holmes, when it cuts through all the crap, is an inspiring example of what we could be.

And anybody who can write that guy, from Conan Doyle on, is a person who I'm glad is on this planet.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Maximum Hudson.

Over the years we've seen a lot of characters come along that claimed a bloodline going back to one Canonical figure or another. Somehow they all turn out to be detectives, just like the most famous person in all of their ancestor's lives. But this month I've stumbled across one who went a different route.

His name is Max Hudson and he's the Director of Computer Operations at a cell phone company you probably hadn't heard of, working on an artificial intelligence in his spare time.

Max Hudson figures into a mystery, yes, but more as suspect than detective. I came across him when I was asked to portray him in the particular mystery he was involved in this Saturday night, and as a Sherlockian, when I saw the last name, I just had to look into his ancestry. And, of course, there it was, just as plain as if I'd found it on Ancestry.com, his great-great-great-grandparents, the eventually estranged Tut and Martha Hudson.

Sherlock Holmes first encountered Tut Hudson in his college days, recorded in "The Gloria Scott," as the latter came calling on Holmes's host, Victor Trevor senior.

"Why dear me, it is surely Hudson," Trevor said upon seeing his surprise visitor.

"Hudson it is, sir," the old acquaintance replied.

"Tut, you will find I have not forgotten old times," Trevor then said warmly, showing he truly remembered Tut Hudson by calling him by his first name.

While it's true that Trevor and Hudson didn't exactly part on such friendly terms, Tut Hudson was not a man without his charms. That much is evidenced in his wooing and wedding of Martha Turner Hudson, whom family legend says Tut charmed with his stories of being cast away on a floating piece of wreckage, much like a better-off Leonardo DiCaprio from the movie Titanic. (Tut, of course, did not reference the Titanic in his wooing of Miss Turner, as both the shipwreck and the motion picture occurred much later. Still, his survival at sea, lost and alone, made for a most romantic tale with the ladies.)

In fact, Hudson family legend also credits Tut, and not the reputed Stamford, with bringing Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson together at 221B Baker Street. Following the events at Donnithorpe, which led to the death of the father of Sherlock's only college friend, the soon-to-be detective actually spent much of his spare time trying to track Tut Hudson, to get a full picture of what happened and help his friend find peace. That trail eventually led to Hudson's estranged wife Martha, who had managed what money Tut had send her during his flush times into ownership of a house on Baker Street -- a house with a flat for rent.

Of course, the family tales I've picked up from my encounter with Max Hudson did not end there.

While Max's great-great-great-grandfather was credited with causing Sherlock Holmes to settle at 221B with Dr. Watson and Max's great-great-great-grandmother as his landlady, Max's great-great-grandfather never had anything good to say about Sherlock Holmes. And not because of anything to do with Tut, even though Watson's publication of a tale seeming to call his father a drunken blackmailer did not help matters any.

No, as many a Sherlockian has surmised, Martha Hudson often thought of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as adopted sons, which was perfectly fine with everyone . . . everyone but her real son, Mr. Morse Hudson of Kennington Road. Watson describes Morse Hudson as red-faced and "peppery" like that was his constant state, and not just that during an encounter with his rival for his mother's attentions. One can almost hear Mrs. Hudson's ongoing talk of her prize tenant:

"Oh, and Mr. Holmes has the best WAX bust of himself he got from Madame Tussaud, not like those plaster busts your Italians make -- a REAL bust . . ."

Morse Hudson is very unhappy during his dealings with Sherlock Holmes, and Holmes himself is quick to get out of Morse's place, telling Watson, "Well, that's all we could reasonably expect to get from Morse Hudson!"

Sherlock Holmes and the male side of the Hudson bloodline just never quite got along. And so it seems to be with their most recent scion, Max Hudson, who is basing his artificial intelligence on the mind of a travel agency owner and not an obvious model like Sherlock Holmes. He also refuses to watch the CBS show, Elementary, but then, I guess that's understandable. (He was watching The 100 when I contacted him, for some odd reason.)

But Max Hudson is a Hudson, through and through, which is why you probably don't want to ever go to brunch with him. He seems to think breakfast haggis is a thing.

Just like his great-great-great-grandma.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Teaching Holmes's methods on the spur of the moment.

In about eight hours from this moment, I need to deliver a presentation on using the methods of Sherlock Holmes to solve a mystery for folks attending a murder mystery evening next week. And, in the tradition of Mr. Cocksure, so confident am I . . . apparently . . . upon that subject, that I've put off getting that talk together until now. (Well, actually, I was hoping someone else might fill that spot on the program and I wouldn't have to put myself on it.)

"Mr. Cocksure," of course, is one of those favorite things Sherlock Holmes gets called in the Canon, and not some weird trauma-related persona I developed after listening to a Three Patch Podcast sex episode. See . . . I'm already distracted. How am I going to get this done, especially while blogging that I'm doing it?

First thing I do is call up the genie that is myself from the past. Write a book on a topic you really love when you're young and you have a reference to your earlier self forever. Can't recommend it enough. The chapter breakdowns in The Elementary Methods of Sherlock Holmes should be enough for the moment. Ah, but we're talking about Sherlock Holmes here.

Every time you look at that guy, you see something new.

I never really considered how much he uses the newspapers to get a lot of basic facts on cases, especially when a client's letter hasn't laid it out or an in-person tale of client woe hasn't done likewise. I mean, reading the papers is just so boring, so commonplace (Well, it used to be!) that one hardly thinks of it as something Holmes was doing as a detective. A basic summary, a list of the players involved . . . if a crime made it to the papers before Sherlock Holmes made it to the crime, why not take advantage?

But back to the overall presentation. I basically wound up splitting this one into "Things already in your head," "Things you do to get things in your head," and "Things you do with the things you've put in your head once they're there." And since we all like to try to play Holmes now and then, I threw in a couple of demo exercises on observation and the questioning of clients to let folks try out.

. . . . and then, hours later, it was suddenly over. Always fun talking to people about Sherlock Holmes, and even though it wasn't up to what I would have called a great presentation, people had a good time with it, and it had some bits with potential for future development.

For now, however, sleep.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Yes, Victoria, that is the sound of Conan Doyle spinning in his grave.

Oh, I should know better. I really should.

And you should, too, gentle readers, for if your sensibilities are in any way dainty or delicate, you may want to skip this particular blog entry. I cover the Sherlock Holmes beat here at Sherlock Peoria, and it's not always pretty. So *TRIGGER WARNING!*  -- now's the time to run, cover your eyes, or whatever if you want to keep your old school image of Sherlock Holmes fandom quite Victorian.

But really, the day when we can try to parse ourselves away from any portion of Sherlock Holmes fans and remain in the world is disappearing, so you might want to buck up and stare into the abyss with me . . . if you're not already there.

Rolling through podcasts this afternoon, I decided that the latest Savage Lovecast was, perhaps, a little too centered on male genitalia for my mood of the moment, so I moved down the list to the most recent Three Patch Podcast: Episode 40: Sexpisode 3(some). If ever there was a real "not thinking it through" decision, that one was certainly it.

I enjoy Three Patch, because it's a bit challenging of my old-white-male mental boundaries, just as wandering about a new-fangled Sherlock con will do. But to be dropped into a con panel right in the middle of an ordinary Peoria afternoon . . . well, PFOOOT!, mind blown.

The podcast starts quietly enough, with some very straightforward news reports. But then comes the "Sexy Head Canon" panel from this year's GridLOCK DC.

At some points, I felt like I was listening to an extended version of the Aristocrats joke. At other times, I felt like I was trapped in a seedy bar watching old friends being raped on the pinball machine.  "NO!" I'd mentally cry, "DON'T MAKE SHERLOCK HAVE SEX WITH SO MANY PEOPLE!" Suddenly one starts thinking Holmes went to a place devoid of emotion just to endure fandom's turning his mind palace into a brothel. In the course of one fanfic, relationships are built, physical relationships evolve . . . or just happen. But the machine-gun pace of partners and sex acts of a well-run con panel on the subject. YIKES! Leave Mama Holmes out of this! (Thankfully, she was only paired with Mrs. Hudson . . . but with baby Sherlock in the next room. Ay-yi-yi!)

Were that entire room gender-swapped, and it were male voices one was hearing speaking about slutty Shirley Holmes and her incestuous sister Michelle among other topics, I suspect someone would involve the police, or at least call it out on the court of social media. And were I a woman (or, honestly, a man), I'd give a wide berth to the owner of any voice I heard on that panel of men. But thankfully, they weren't men.

The thought of listening to an old Victrola recording of Christopher Morley and Vincent Starrett speculating on the circumference of Irene Adler's areolae or pudendum size, however, might have some entertainment value as they were clever fellows, and there is some cleverness in the Three Patch patch, don't get me wrong. I just don't think we were ready for Rex Stout discussing the physical details of his "Watson was a woman" thesis until we crossed the millennium mark. And a lot of folk aren't ready now. But it's out there, if that's . . . . interesting?

Well, enough of me being an old biddy for one evening. On to watch some of the great new shows on Thursday night. (I have hopes for The Player.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Glappy Sherlock.

I encountered the word "glappy" for the first time this week, as well as a prime example of the Sherlockian use of it.

"Glappy," as it is defined by the Urban Dictionary and it's coiners, the sprightly lads at the Ugly Couch show podcast, is "The mixed feelings you get when you see a movie/tv show/book/game that you didn't really care for, but you are glad they made it anyway."

The first thing I thought of when I heard the term, was the recent movie Mr. Holmes.  Glappy is a feeling that is probably felt more keenly by fans of a given thing than folk in everyday life, and it was my fan love of Sherlock Holmes that made me glad to see an Ian McKellen movie about Sherlock Holmes, created with all due respect and seriousness that the Master of Detectives deserves. But I really didn't care for the film.

And then Chris Redmond and Rob Nunn got into a small discussion of "The Mazarin Stone" on Twitter, and how it might just be the worst Sherlock Holmes story that Conan Doyle got published. (I say "got published," as I never truly give up the thought of Watsonian authorship, even in the face of ol' walrus-moustache.)  To me, "Mazarin Stone" isn't even a bad Sherlock Holmes story . . . in my mind it's always the fake Sherlock Holmes story. Like it's a bunch a bad actors walking through a stage play of something Holmes once sort-of did.

Of course, those thoughts might just be due to its origins and my awareness thereof, but still . . . .

I don't think highly of "Mazarin Stone," but I don't hate it. I might wish it into the Apocrypha, but I'd never wish it out of existence. (Like another thing with the name "Sherlock Holmes" used a bit too freely to describe its main character.) I'm pretty much glappy that "Mazarin Stone" was written.

And, you know, that's really not a bad thing. If, at the end of my run as a blogger about things Sherlock, I think I'd settle for a "glappy" from those that bothered to read the thing now and then. It's a word that definitely shows a consideration was made.

And that, in the end, is all we can ask of people. Or hope for.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Black Mass distraction.

Okay, I went to see Benedict Cumberbatch's latest foray on to the big screen today in Black Mass, and if you wanted to see him play a character who is so very definitely NOT Sherlock Holmes, well, Billy Bulger fills that bill. The boy can act. And if you think seeing a non-Sherlockian Cumberbatch film isn't a Sherlockian activity, speak to any of those Sherlockians who followed Rathbone, Brett, or any other of the great Sherlock actors out of that role and into their others.

But here's the thing: I don't really want to write about Black Mass, for the oddest reason. Actress Julianne Nicholson, at some point during the film, put me in mind of Ruth Wilson, who played serial killer Alice Morgan on Luther. And once I thought of Alice Morgan . . .

Okay, let me digress for a moment. I have a slightly unpopular opinion that I have to bring up, and that opinion is this:

Irene Adler is over-rated.

Yes, yes, "the woman" and all that, but that was mainly Watson trying to romance-up his friend's image. All the Holmes-Adler romance that followed has been simply fan fiction from day one. I always felt Holmes was much more impressed by Maud Bellamy of "The Lion's Mane," since we get his reaction to that young beauty from Holmes's very own pen. (Which leads me to discount any of Mary Russell's claims to Holmes's heart, as Maud Bellamy was on the Sussex Downs first.)

But all in all, I mainly just felt that Irene, in her one little, barely-interacting adventure with Holmes, never really lived up to being a true match for him. I like Lara Pulver's Irene a lot, and think it matches up with the Cumberbatch Sherlock very well . . . but then, as I said, I thought of Alice Morgan.

Alice Morgan.

Oh, here was the woman I wanted to see face off against our modern Sherlock Holmes. And as we live in an age of magic genies, a quick Google search and I've got not only fan fiction pairing them up, but a YouTube video or two. They make quite the matched set, and the videos show a good bit of . . . dare I say it . . . romantic potential.

Such the fanboy this week. Ah, well, I'd just rather consider Sherlock and Alice than think any more about that balding, blue-eyed Johnny Depp portrayal of a real-life psychopath in Black Mass, I guess.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Those two guys we see as being like Sherlock.

I'm rather old, a statement that neither my wife nor mother likes to hear me make as it implicates them a bit as well, I suspect. But considering the Mr. Spock/Sherlock Holmes ties that were once such a big thing in an age I once lived in, I feel rather old just now.

Why am I considering the connections/similarities that tie Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Spock?

Because Mr. Spock, once the darling of the television science fiction fans of the world, has, over the decades, given up that crown to a certain other fellow. A fellow who both came before him and after him. A fellow who has seen more of space and the future than any starship crewman Spock ever met. And a fellow, who, like Mr. Spock seems very much in the same category of chap as Sherlock Holmes.

And yet, we never see Mr. Spock and that fellow, the Doctor, as anything like each other.

Dr. Who is back on television yet again, with Stephen Moffat writing the opening episodes as he has with that other BBC show Sherlock upon occasion. But that common writer isn't all that ties the two characters, and what those ties say about Sherlock Holmes is important.

In the 1960s and 70s, Star Trek gave us the cold Vulcan logic of Mr. Spock, a man from another planet whose mind seemed to work like the up-and-coming computational devices. Emotion was held at bay so only the most accurate logical conclusions could be reached. "Like Sherlock Holmes!" we said, and indeed he was. But just a part of Sherlock Holmes, really.

The other part of Sherlock Holmes, the dramatic, given-to-extremes producer of order from chaos is very much like Dr. Who. He forever has his Watsons (called "companions" in Who-speak), unlike Spock who often rose to equal partner but was more often Captain Kirk's Watson in a sort of Bizarro Sherlock-and-John sort of way. I would venture to say that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who actually have more in common than Sherlock and Spock, despite the rhyming names.

In fact, I think this is quite apparent in the great flaw in the movie Star Trek: Into Darkness where we saw Mr. Spock pitted against a "Sherlock Holmes" -- Benedict Cumberbatch -- playing a superior form of humanity named Khan Noonien Singh. Khan, of course, was not a consulting detective but a power-mad conqueror. I would propose, however, that he . . . as a specimen of a true superior human, in mental, physical, and whatever other category one would care to name . . . was an excellent stand-in for Sherlock Holmes in a duel of wits with Mr. Spock.

And the great flaw with that movie? That Mr. Spock won.

Even with a bit of cheat-y, future-self advice, the notion of Spock outwitting Khan with sheer cleverness always seemed a bit questionable. Spock, as we constantly see in his dealings with Kirk, his girlfriend, and the loss of his mother and planet, is an incomplete and traumatized personality. Khan, however, is firing on all cylinders, including some we former-model humans have a hard time even contemplating. Khan has travelled forward through time and, dropped into a world he could never have anticipated, adapts, succeeds, and works the tech like nobody else . . . reminding one more of a certain Doctor whose name isn't McCoy or Watson. All the while looking a lot like a meaner Sherlock Holmes.

One's view of Sherlock Holmes can be a very personal thing. Sometimes a particular actor just feels right, while others can feel so, so wrong. And it's in that feeling that I find something in Dr. Who that always reminds me of a less-precise (one might even say "sloppy") Sherlock Holmes. His methods are not as always as clear of explainable, but his successes are as reliable and his dramatic flair in delivering them, very much akin.

And as we wait for yet another season of Sherlock, a new season of Dr. Who starting up is not a bad fill-in, at least for this Sherlockian.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

And Kareem gets blocked on two points, but still scores.

Well, there came two podcast episodes I can't listen to . . . . (yet.)

Returning home from an evening somewhat involved with a-mystery-to-be-named-later, I found two new podcast episodes touted on the Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota Facebook feed. It seems that Kareem Abdul Jabbar is making the rounds pretty thoroughly on the run-up to his new novel Mycroft Holmes, along with his co-author, Anna Waterhouse.

In a rare, near-simultaneous, same-topic podcast release, both The Baker Street Babes and I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere came out with interviews about the book, inviting head-to-head comparisons of the style of the two podcasts and a real jackpot for the basketball fans of the Sherlockian world (or those who just love the movie Airplane! so very, very much).

But maybe they were just a little too good in promoting their episodes.

The Babes said, "give a listen and see why Sherlockians are hailing it as one of the best pastiches in recent memory."

And I went, "That good, huh? Amazon one-click pre-order, here I come!" (And with a pre-order price that's 45% off, it was an easy choice to make.)

Once that was done, however, I realized that I couldn't listen to either podcast yet, as I want to take in the novel in a fairly untainted frame of mind. Both interviews seemed better left until after the book was read, for as spoiler-free as the authors and interviewers might care to make it, one doesn't want to be constantly thinking of Kareem while wandering London with Mycroft Holmes. You might start expecting the lamplighters of the city to start skyhooking fireballs at the lamposts to get the job done. (And, yes, I pulled his trademark shot's name off Wikipedia. Don't start speaking in NBA and expect me to come up with a proper retort.)

The thought of the extremely-fat Mycroft strolling down the street with the extremely-tall Kareem, however, is a picture worth painting at least mentally, if someone hasn't already. I look forward to seeing what that combo can do on the printed page next week, when the book shows up.

Stealing his Irene.

Every Sherlock Holmes has a Watson. Most have a Moriarty. And quite a few have their Irene Adler.

And while we see actors move from role to role, production to production, it is rare to see a TV actor, especially a Holmes, move up into the big screen ranks to the point where he's acting opposite the fellow Holmes-stars of another Sherlock.

But that's what we saw today as Rachel McAdams, Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock's Irene Adler, got cast with Benedict Cumberbatch in Marvel's Dr. Strange. Watching Cumberbatch's rise in the movie industry has been great fun, but for pure geek-pleasure, seeing him cast as leading man opposite his rival Sherlock's Irene Adler is a pretty cool benchmark in the career of a Sherlock actor.

Of course, his Moriarty is now in Bond movies and his Watson . . . well, his Watson has been everywhere and will continue to be all over the place. But something about this particular pairing gives one hope that one day we might actually see a theatrical Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock Holmes movie release.

Or maybe I'm just being the fanboy. Either way, Rachel McAdams and Benedict Cumberbatch in the same movie? I'll take it.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

That Sherlock-shaped hole at the Emmy awards.

The first round of Emmy award winners came out tonight, and even though I really knew that there wasn't going to be any Sherlockian television mentioned there this year, a part of me still hoped there was some episode of Sherlock I somehow missed that somehow got nominated and maybe even had won. I actually did a "find" on the page for "Sherlock" just to check.

This is part of the problem with that on-again, off-again schedule of Sherlock. Not only do its fans miss it for long periods of time, inanimate award creatures like Emmy can also miss it, too. Somewhere the spirit of Emmy is home from her Creative Awards night going, "Did Sherlock get cancelled? It wasn't on my lists this year, and . . . oh, it's an off year, isn't it? *Heavy sigh.*"

Ah, we are such spoiled Sherlockians these days.

In other news, Benedict Cumberbatch basically says, "I'm not sexy, Sherlock Holmes is!" Which means, I guess, that Benedict would find Holmes a man he could be in a fan fiction tryst with, which is probably delighting a writer or two out there.

Like I said, such spoiled Sherlockians these days.

But when I look at our latest Prince of Sherlock in that deerstalker from the upcoming Christmas special, though, the word "sexy" just seems to deflate and fripperly fly around the room like an untied balloon . . . that damned deerstalker. Sooooo goofy.

And yet, somehow, I think we'll be seeing that Christmas special mentioned in the Emmy nominations for something or the other . . . like Costuming . . . come next September. Can even that nutty fore-and-aft cap get an Emmy nod?

Oh, wait, "A Scandal in Belgravia" did get nominated for a costuming Emmy, so that deerstalker is, technically, "Emmy nominated."

The deerstalker. Wow.

But hopefully we'll be seeing our favorite Sherlock Holmes program again in the Emmy noms next year at this time so I can write about something other that the possibility that a hat is award material.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why Sherlock Holmes will never have an amusement park.

Ever since I was a wee Sherlockian lad, I dreamed of a Sherlock Holmes World.

Not a fantasy, not a science fiction story, no! An actual physical place we could visit, like an area of a Six Flags build to look like Victorian London. Or one of those historical re-creation villages. Or a Las Vegas theme casino. Or best of all, a whole Disney kingdom!

We saw a touch of it years ago, when Derham Groves presented a design for a Sherlock Holmes Centre, and in the dreams of many a Sherlockian since. And recently when Disney announced they were doing a Star Wars land in Disney World as a part of their massive Star Wars multi-media assault, it suddenly struck me that those hopes and dreams were inevitably, futile.

Sounds horribly depressing right?

I mean, why Star Wars and not Sherlock Holmes?

Well, for the same reason all of those intellectual real estate agents are going to fail to produce the next Marvel-Studios-style multi-movie franchise universe. Because very few intellectual properties can support their own universe.

I know, I know, plenty of fully realized worlds of fiction out there. And the world of Sherlock Holmes is one of them. But Sherlock Holmes is just one man.

The Marvel universe of superheroes of many super-men and super-women, each with their own story to tell. The same goes with Star Wars, even though it's been mostly ensemble cast chunks so far. A whole lot of interesting characters with interesting stories to tell.

But when you get away from Sherlock Holmes in the Sherlock Holmes universe, Sherlock Holmes World loses its luster so very quickly. Quick, tell me Dr. Watson's story! He met Sherlock Holmes and they had adven . . . oh. How about Irene Adler? She dated a king and then outfoxed Sherlo . . . oh. Professor Mori . . . naw.  Mycro . . . ulp.

Every single character in Sherlock Holmes's universe seems to lose their cool factor when you yank Sherlock Holmes completely out of their story. Sure, you can completely make up a story, but have you ever seen one that had sticking power? Because we all know Irene . . . well . . . or Mycroft . . . not completely . . . or . . .

Even Victorian London without Sherlock Holmes becomes simply historical London. The blacksmiths putting horseshoes on horses are the same as any other historical blacksmiths putting horseshoes on horses. But let Sherlock Holmes come into the stable disguised as a groom to find out something about Irene Adler, and suddenly that blacksmith's kind of cool.

In order for a Sherlock Holmes World to be a really cool amusement park, Sherlock Holmes would have to be everywhere in it with you. He's kind of the key factor there. Wander out of his bubble too far and you find what many a writer has found when they try to break-out their own character from their Sherlock Holmes pastiche: It ain't got that zing if Sherlock ain't in the thing!

Ah, well, one more innocent dream dashed upon the rocks of too much contemplation. The danger of passing years.

Feel free to prove me wrong, though, you tourist-trap builders of tomorrow. Please!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sherlockian killers I have known.

You might have seen the headline today, "Steven Moffat reveals death threats from Sherlock fans," and thought, "Oh, those kids today are just kuh-raaaay-zee!"

But I have to tell ya, in my day, Sherlockians didn't just do stuff like this . . . well, other than sending orange pips to other Sherlockians, which, when you come right down to it, is a death threat . . . but let's not mince words: When an old school Sherlockian wanted to kill someone, they killed them.

Well, allegedly. C'mon, if you're a halfway decent Sherlock Holmes fan, you have to be smart enough to get away with major crime, don't you? Okay, maybe not that guy . . . or that lady from . . . but you know you surely could. Don't let me put ideas in your head, though.

The problem was, back in the day when Sherlockians sent the orange pips to each other, most of the would-be victims were just as foxy as their attempted murderers, so that's why you didn't hear about a lot of deaths. Lots of out-foxing going on . . . at least that's my theory. A few folks probably got away with it . . . allegedly . . . making it look like natural causes, and all. They didn't go for the big, flashy "Hey, let's tunnel into this bank like 'Red-headed League.'" Those kinds of fans were always getting caught. (And usually disavowed by the Sherlockian community, which is why we never saw their names in journals and such after they tried it.)

It's always easy to get down on the next generation for not being everything you thought the previous generation was, so I'm not going to blather on condemning these new millennium Sherlockians for their lack of blood lust. They've got other issues getting in the way. When you're trying to cook up just the right aphrodisiac that can be slipped unnoticed into the craft services beverages during the next season of Sherlock on a Cumberbatch-Freeman-only filming day, well, that takes a lot of energy out of your murder plots.

But they'll get there eventually. Don't you worry. One of these days, we older Sherlockians will be kicking the bucket right and left, and you'll go, "Isn't that odd? And one of these little Native American figures is being broken off every time one of them passes . . ." (Hey, it's movie-Canonical! Well, maybe. I fell asleep during that movie.)

So, anyway, I didn't see "Arthur and George" on PBS. But it wasn't because I was out killing anybody. Or disposing of their body. Not like I premeditatedly didn't watch "Arthur and George" for any reason.  Just in case you were wondering why this blog was appearing instead of a a review of that show.

That is all.

Monday, September 7, 2015

WoBS: The leaked pilot recap.

I've mentioned West of Baker Street on these pages a couple of times now, and, well, it's finally here.

The season will be starting soon, and Sherlock Peoria is going to be running recaps of West of Baker Street's weekly episodes for its entire twenty-four episode first season. And this will be the only place you'll be seeing recaps of the show for one simple reason: it doesn't exist.

Yes, in this age of hundreds of major and minor cable networks, YouTube channels, video streaming services -- each with its own original programming -- West of Baker Street is pioneering something newer still: A television show that's only being aired in the mind of one mildly delusional Sherlockian.

And if you can recall the TV recaps done in the past by that same mildly delusional Sherlockian, you know that they won't be overly complete, overly detailed, or consistently on-topic. But there will be one for each week the show airs. In said mind.

West of Baker Street isn't an AU fanfic, really. (Alternate universe, for those of you not into abbreviations.) It's a television recap from an alternate universe where an American television network decided to take Sherlock Holmes in a very American direction and make it a Western from the get-go. And what makes it even more confusing is that Dr. Watson isn't Dr. Watson, even though he gets called "Watson" a lot. (Though he's still, legitimately "John H.")

But enough talky-talky-talk . . . let's get to it. At the bottom of this post is a link to the more-detailed recap of the leaked pilot episode of West of Baker Street. Which means it may not be exactly what winds up in the first episode, when it has its season premiere, but we shall see.

And if I begin referencing Roger Ebert and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in future blog posts, well, don't be surprised. Felt a real kinship to ol' Roger as this recap went together.

So, ladies and gentlemen who have too much time on your hands, allow me to present . . .

West of Baker Street, the leaked pilot episode.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Bad Sherlock Number Five.

I'll admit it, I'm fussy about my Sherlocks.

That's kind of a "well, duh" statement to anyone who, even occasionally, reads this blog.

I hate Sherlocks who aren't smarter than any other random detective in the mystery section of the bookstore. I hate Sherlocks who are built out of a writer's personal non-Sherlock passions with a deerstalker and Invernesse cloak thrown over the top. And I hate "in name only" Sherlocks done by people who only came to Holmes because they saw a buck to be made there.

Yeah, I used the word "hate." I'm a hater . . . sometimes.

One Sherlock I don't hate, but merely find annoying are Sherlocks that go by the name "Arthur Conan Doyle." PBS's Masterpiece Theater is trotting another one of those out this weekend with their "Arthur and George." Poor George has to play Dr. Watson simply for knowing Conan Doyle as the author gets shoehorned into a Holmes-ish role once more.

Yes, yes, Conan Doyle attempted to solve mysteries once or twice. We all do. But trying to sell him as our "real world" Sherlock Holmes makes as much sense as trying to sell Abraham Lincoln as our "real world" Sherlock. Doyle wasn't Sherlock Holmes any more than Lincoln was. (And if you want to argue that point, I have one word for you: "fairies." Hush now.)

Translating any real person's story to the screen is hard enough. People are complex things, and fitting them into a movie plot that suits the needs of fiction . . . and these things are fictions, no matter how many facts one dramatizes . . . easily starts stealing away bits of their character even at the top skill levels. But add in "and we're also going to have him be like Sherlock Holmes" and things just go from hard to ridiculously hard.

Once upon a time, when Sherlock Holmes on screens big and small was a rarer thing, we only had four TV networks, and the internet didn't exist, I might have watched an attempt to play Doyle as Holmes out of sheer boredom. But these days, given the fact that I'm a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and not a huge Conan Doyle fan (Yes, Virginia, there are such folk.), I will probably be letting "Arthur and George" pass until I hear a review or two.

For while actual Conan Doyle biopics would be a worthwhile watch, any attempt to sell me Doyle as a Sherlock is going to fall on deaf ears.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

This year, Rocky, next year, the A-Team. Of Sherlockiana, of course.

What? I was in the Sherlockian Olympics?

It's easy to forget in this oh-so-connected world that we are no longer just citizens of a single country when we fire up our web browsers. We are citizens of the world.

That was my first thought upon seeing the results of this year's annual John H. Watson Society Treasure Hunt. Of the top six teams on the awards list, only two were American (though I think the British team snuck at least one Yank on their roster). The Italian society, Uno Studio in Holmes, pretty much blew everybody away getting the closest thing to a perfect score this year. Apparently things were a little tougher this time out, as the second place team, Seattle's Sound of the Baskervilles, only placed second after two years of perfect-score wins, tying with Canada's team, The Bootmakers of Toronto.

La Fayette of La Societe Sherlock Holmes de France also topped we non-Seattle-based Americans, and while I'd like to say that Rob Nunn and I would have tried harder had we known it was an international competition, I don't think "trying harder" was an option in either of our cases. We gave it the best our August 2015 had to offer.

Of course, if the JHW Society Treasure Hunt were a test, that would have been a C+ effort. (And  "grading on a curve" would not have helped us at all.) We wouldn't have gotten the gold, silver, or bronze in this Sherlockian Olympics, either.  But like The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex, I think our initial bout in this Watsonian prize-fight is our Rocky story. We were just in it to go the distance this time. Next year we'll get out on the beach with Apollo Creed and see if we can take down the champ. (Or maybe bring in some Russian government experiment Sherlockian prodigy and a primal Mr. T Sherlockian, just because this is a team sport and we can cheat the Rocky metaphor a bit. Start the search now, Rob!)

Ah, well. I can also think of a few Sherlockians who weren't in the competition, without whose expertise, any victory would still leave mountains left to conquer. The biggest quiz bad-ass I ever met was nowhere to be seen in this little event which means . . . hmmm . . . might have to head up to Detroit to recruit our Ivan Drago.

Quizzes. Like I said a little over a month ago, maybe I should just swear off 'em!