Sunday, September 30, 2018

Negativity can be okay.

Sherlock Holmes probably didn't think much about negativity.

Google's fabulous N-gram viewer shows use of the word in 1888 as less than .00001% in printed works, and its dramatic rise since the 1960s. It's definitely a term of the current age.

I bring it up, as I heard it used lately by someone who didn't want to truly discuss the topic at hand and proclaimed, "I just hate all the negativity!" Negativity is something you tend to hear a lot, if the thing you're in favor of is in the minority. People don't like what you like, and, thus, negative. But stating it that way seems like a sort of passive-aggressive blanket way of saying "All those people are wrong!" without coming out and actually actively disagreeing.

Case in point Holmes and Watson with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. As a fan of Will Ferrell movies, my reaction to the first trailer was definitely on the side of the angels. And when some folks I admire and respect jumped in immediately with "What a load of crap this is going to be!" I could go to shaming them for going negative, but I as someone who has enjoyed so many Will Ferrell movies that most people will declare stupid comedies, I didn't really feel they were over-reacting. Will Ferrell movies are something that a whole lot of people actually react very badly to.

Anger, hatred, disgust . . . all negative emotions, yes, but also part of the human systems designed to protect us. Sitting in a theater watching Holmes and Watson might seem harmless enough on the surface, but it could actually ruin someone's digestion following a good dinner . . . IF it's just not their kind of movie. Their revulsion at that preview is actually protecting them from potential harm, as minor as that harm might seem.

Yes, it's only a movie. It's not rape, murder, slavery, or any of those things we should be angry, revolted, repulsed, and driven to actively fight against. Going negative against bad things needs to be done. And if you taste some bad fish on your dinner plate, and your friend is about to take a bite, you might want to express your reaction to warn them off. And if someone else at the table, goes, "No, it's great!" then your friend is left to make their own choice.

Is the rise of the word "negativity" the sign of a rise in actual negativity? We see internet entertainers who base their entire focus on mocking things like bad movies. But pre-internet, we used to entertain ourselves for many an evening watching awful  movies like Plan Nine From Outer Space and laughing at their flaws. I used to run a regular columnist in The Holmes & Watson Report who continually picked apart old Holmes movies issue after issue, but it always seemed like good fun. Of course, both of those situations were limited-audience affairs. Neither made it out to a world-wide stage where the actual fans of those things could go, "HEY! QUIT MOCKING MY FAVORITE MOVIE!"

The whole concept of negativity leaves us with a big question: Do we still get to go "Mazarin Stone sucks, and Conan Doyle really crapped The Strand on that one!" Or do we hold back, for fear of stepping on toes? Luckily, life doesn't always limit us to single actions.

You can scream at the gods at how awful "Mazarin Stone" is, if you feel the need, but knowing full well that damage could be done, listen for the gasps and yelps of the other diners in the restaurant who might have been put off by your outburst. And then speak more quietly as needed.

And maybe, then just to show you're not an ogre all of the time, start going on about how great "Speckled Band" is. There's good and bad in the world. Positivity and negativity. And the application of both, where needed is actually useful for keeping things running.

And while Sherlock Holmes never spoke of negativity, he did put a lot of stock in awareness. And trying to be as aware as we can is always useful in keeping those forces in balance. So, as always, let's try to be more like Sherlock Holmes.

(Except for those drugs, kids. Don't do drugs. Except appropriately prescribed by a doctor. Well, maybe unless the doctor is Watson and he's pushing brandy again. Aaaaa, figure it out for yourself.)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

That "Holmes and Watson" trailer!

As the knives have already come out for Holmes and Watson starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, a December movie we saw the first preview for today, my contrary nature has inspired me to not just leave matters at enjoying the trailer twice. No, given the Sherlockian headwinds this admirable romp faces, honor demands that I stay up and go deep on this risky bit of business . . . Movies with Mikey deep. (Though at not nearly Mikey's talent level.)

So, the Holmes and Watson trailer. Trailer spoilers ahead, despite the fact some might say it's impossible to spoil this any further than it already is.

If you watched it on the official Sony Pictures YouTube release, as I did, you got to open on John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell shouting as loudly as they can, just standing in what is surely 221B Baker Street. Classic Reilly and Ferrell. No doubt this is those two doing a movie like those two do, whatever comes next.

After we are told this is the OFFICIAL Holmes and Watson trailer, the royal fanfare starts up, we get Queen Victoria, played by Pam Ferris, an actress who has been all over British television, including a run as Mrs. White in Cluedo. So right off the bat, someone with a mystery pedigree, right?

Queen Victoria is introduced to "the greatest detective of all time, Sherlock Holmes, and Dr. John Watson."  Watson, ever the ladies man of the pair, immediately says an earnest "I love you!" to the Queen, which seems to put her off and she turns and walks away, but Holmes backs his friend up, agreeing that Victoria is "stunning." So in the very first scene we're shown from the film, we get Watson in military dress, Watson womanizing a bit, and Holmes demonstrating what close friends they are. Good Canonical stuff!

Watson goes on to narrate the next bits, as we see Sherlock Holmes dusting for prints, showing his skill at disguise (which fools Watson, just as it did in the Canon), and doing a bit of Robert Downey Jr. mental fighting calculation, showing that the film has an appreciation for other media Holmeses as well as the original material.

We get bees, of course, and as Elementary and Mr. Holmes have already paired Holmes with his retirement bees in the public mind, and this freshest of Sherlockian bits . . . Watson trying to shoot bees out of the air. Now, the bee-shooting segment of this trailer is a delight that, by itself, will draw me to the theater, just as the Quicksilver segments of the last couple X-men movies did. No matter what else happens in the film, the image of John H. Watson shooting at bees indoors is just too perfectly Sherlockian, combining key bits of Sherlockiana into a shining alloy of a moment.

The plot is spelled out pretty plainly -- there's a murder in Buckingham Palace and Professor Moriarty has challenged Holmes to solve it or else he'll kill the Queen. (A threat foreshadowed by Watson's bee-shooting, eh? For what bee would one want to shoot if now the queen?) And Moriarty is played by Ralph Fiennes, looking tremendously like the bearded Moriarty of the Rathbone films.

We get the Baker Street Irregulars, one of whom is a sassy young lady who spouts "No shit, Sherlock!" with all the guttersnipe gusto she can muster, providing what is perhaps the first time I ever thought that cliche has been used well at all.

A female rival (perhaps with her own Watson) shows up, and the preview rolls into clippy-action mode, boxing, shooting, croquet, a ship exploding, all to the tune of Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town." (And if you think that doesn't fit the Victorian setting, watch the movie A Knight's Tale a few dozen times and you'll lose that inhibition.) It's impossible to tell how all these random scenes will fall together, but when things slow down again, it's for Watson to try to get a Victorian selfie with Queen Victoria and Holmes, ending with Watson smacking the queen with her camera.

It's definitely more Police Squad than Seven Per-Cent Solution, and the physical comedy looks like it's working . . . well, for those of us that like physical comedy. And over-the-top foolishness. And there was something about the relationship between the two, that most key element in any Holmes and Watson adaptation, that felt good even with wackiness going on.

I'll even go out on a limb and say that Will Ferrell seemed to be turning in a performance that looked like he had paid attention to how a good Sherlock Holmes is played, even if his character was tilting more fool than genius. So much better than Sherlock Gnomes, which I went positive on just for fun . . . this movie looks like I'll actually be having a good time without having to gin up the happiness level on purpose.

And, truth be told, it's already been a good time for me and worth giving them my ticket money. Watson is shooting at bees. Actual bee-shooting! How has this never happened in a Sherlock Holmes pastiche or parody before? Did I miss something? No!

'Tis a pity they moved its original release date back from my birthday weekend at some point, as I'd have loved sitting down for this one before the Christmas crowds show up. (A traditionally horrible time to see movies, as people drag their boorish family members who haven't been in a theater ever, don't want to be in a theater, and just talk way too much . . . oh, wait, this movie is full of yelling. That might work after all.)

I can't wait.

Friday, September 28, 2018

The most unexpected Elementary cliffhanger of all

Well, it's been a little while since the end of season six of CBS's Elementary, and I'm finding that the unintentional cliffhanger they've left us with quite a puzzler, for a few reasons. Spoilers ahead, if you're one of those "wait until the season is done to start watching" folks.

So . . . that happy ending. That very happy ending.

Jonny Lee Miller's character finds himself in a London office, hearing the details of an actual Conan Doyle based Sherlock Holmes mystery, yet plagued by noises from his next door neighbor. Eventually, he goes out his front door, we discover his office is 221B Baker Street and the door right beside is 221A Baker Street, which Joan Watson comes out of. And they do a sort of "walk off into the sunset" moment talking about how they're "two people who love each other."

It's a happy ending, not a cliffhanger setting up the next season. And taken altogether, it's almost like a dream . . . in fact, that's my strongest theory for the start of the seventh season: Jonny Lee Miller wakes up from a dream and finds himself back in the New York brownstone. As much as we all hate the "it was all a dream" twist, that five minutes of the final episode of season six felt like a dream when placed next to the rest of the series. (I swear that was a different 221 Baker Street from the last time they were in London.)

But the biggest loss for me, the biggest part of that dream that throws it off kilter, is that Joan Watson resides in 221A Baker Street. Because we all know who belongs there. And actually, it's someone who belonged in a lot more Elementary episodes: Ms. Hudson.

Remember Ms. Hudson from "Snow Angels," one of my favorite episodes of Elementary, back in the first season? Ms. Hudson, who returned for two more appearances over the course of six seasons?

Finding 221 Baker Street with a suddenly side-by-side first floor A and B doesn't seem to leave a place for that classic downstairs resident, the lady named Hudson, a bit like the tight four-person main cast of Elementary never really left room for anyone else to last more than a season or so.  But then, we always looking sentimentally at what might have been. Clyde the turtle really could have used more character development, fan favorite and all.

Had Elementary ended its season with a mere threat to the lives of one of its characters, or one more schism in their relationships, one might have wondered a little bit, as one does. But this happy ending in lovely London? Something that looks entirely different from the previous six seasons of the show and give a bright and sunny outlook for the future of the two consulting detectives?

This is a turn that makes one wonder most of all, I think.

The unanswerable questions

There are facts in this world that we shall never know.

No matter how good the investigators, the scientists, the sociologists, etc., certain answers will never be within our grasp. And those things fascinate me, especially around things I love.

For example, BBC Sherlock came out in 2010, and we know it brought with it a wave of new Sherlockians. But how many new Sherlockians? How do those numbers differ from the waves that came with The Seven-Per-Cent Solution in the 1970s, Basil Rathbone in the 1940s, or Jeremy Brett in the 1980s?

How many of those fans came into the traditional Sherlockian groups, how many started new groups and new traditions, and how many just kept to their solitary fan life, just going about their days with a new secret pleasure?

I'm not sure what all of these impossible statistics would tell us, or what good they might be for anything . . . only having them in our hands would give us their meaning and usefulness. But still, I wonder . . . .

How many times has A Study in Scarlet been reprinted since that first Beeton's day? And how many for every other one of the sixty? How many people have read each story? And how many people read each story twice, three times, four times, etc.?

We have statistics for Holmes TV shows, and you can find that BBC Sherlock peaked with "The Empty Hearse" and 12.72 million viewers when we were all dying to find out how Sherlock survived that fall, or that CBS's Elementary hit 20.8 million that night it got the post-Super Bowl time slot. We can find that Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes made $524,028,679 worldwide gross. And yet even those numbers don't tell us some stories we'd like to hear.

How many people watched each on a given medium? How many people were inspired to read Conan Doyle, write fanfic, or go to a Sherlock-based event from each of those major mainstream productions?

One wants to ask, in a child-like voice, "Where do Sherlockians come from?" and even though we see many an essay on individual routes to Holmes, the full numbers will always be just out of our grasp . . . finding all the Sherlockians just to get them a survey is an impossible task these days, with so many different ways of enjoying the master detective out there.

But one still has to wonder at it all. The more data we get, and we are getting a lot these days . . . the more we'll wonder about the data we can't get our hands on.

Some mysteries are just meant to never be solved.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Conan Doyle Cinematic Universe

Well, after one failed attempt after another, Hollywood seems to be giving up on most of their attempts to replicate the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Star Wars has been slowed. "Universal Monsters" seem to have been held at bay. And the few that remain, like the Godzilla/King Kong or Shyamalan franchises are quietly and hopefully moving along one film at a time.

If the cinematic universe business had been more successful, would we have seen the movie business eventually getting to Conan Doyle?

Sherlock Holmes would start the Conan Doyle Cinematic Universe, of course. Irene Adler, Professor Moriarty, Mycroft Holmes . . . all the usual suspects . . . would be quickly considered for films, of course. But after that?

Well, Professor Challenger has to get a movie. He's met Sherlock Holmes in fiction before, though that meeting was not from Doyle's pen.

Brigadier Gerard would be another option, though he lived and died long before Sherlock and company, though a distant prequel would be interesting. Gerard could even run into one of those cursed Baskerville kids or do something else to set up a later film in the series.

Conan Doyle's historical characters really are the hardest challenge for a Conan Doyle Cinematic Universe. Sir Nigel and the White Company, both existing in the 1300s, might fit with each other, but getting that connection to the Victorian era five hundred years later is practically going to take some time machine borrowing from H.G. Wells.

Throw in the pirate Captain Sharky and one starts to see that the Conan Doyle Cinematic Universe has to play across time to get its full use of the author's characters. But pirates, knights, detectives, dinosaurs, and a little comedy as well? There's a lot of fun to be had if someone could have worked it all out.

But, alas, the cinematic universe trend seems to have moved on before working its way to ACD. The thought of what could have been still intrigues, though.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

2019 awaits!

When the first announcement of registration opening for the annual Dayton Sherlock Holmes weekend came this week, my first thought was, "Wow, that was early! They just held tha . . . . oh, wait."

2018 has hit its autumn, and 2019 is barreling toward us at surprising speed. All of those summer things I remember working toward for so very long are in the rearview mirror, and bright new future events are starting to pop up in the distance.

The Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium has a Twitter account and a month, but no set date yet, but with Portland, Oregon being one of those places in the U.S. that Sherlockiana hasn't taken me yet, combined with that wonderful "first time" aura, rife with possibility and nervousness . . . well, definitely keeping that on the calendar for 2019 if possible.

But the calendar for 2018 is far from done. "From Gillette to Brett V" is almost here for Sherlockian film buffs and those who just want to gather in the happy presence of like-minded souls. Hate to miss that one, as good memories from previous FGTB events abound . . . of course, some of those are so old they literally involve drinking Petri wine. (One of those little Sherlockian accomplishments from the event creators that may go unsung, but still very memorable.)

And Christopher Redmond's Sherlock Holmes Is Like collection is being published soon. After About Sixty and About Being A Sherlockian, Chris has shown a real talent for gathering a varied and inclusive mix of writers for some delightful varieties of work on a given theme, and I'm very excited for the chance to settle in and read this one . . . and maybe even blog another tournament of essays, as I did the first. (Doing the second would have pitted Sherlockian life against Sherlock life, which was a bit too much of a cage match for my taste.)

But the fact that it's already time to start looking forward to 2019 and all the usual suspects for Sherlockian fun is rather astounding . . . and I hope I'm not committing a faux pas like stores putting Christmas items out in August just by mentioning it already. This year still needs focus!

Peoria's own Sherlock Holmes Story Society has "Resident Patient" on tap for this Thursday and three more 2018 meetings after that, so I'd better give this year a little more attention!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

A Canon full of questions

I have questions.

Sometimes tales like those of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson can bring out the child in us, and when my inner child comes out, it usually has that classic kid question: "Why?"

Any given page brings its own questions. Turning to "Black Peter," I find "He had hardly turned to leave the hut when Hopkins's hand was on the fellow's collar, and I heard his loud gasp of terror as he understood that he was taken."

There goes that Victorian collar grab again, which was well demonstrated in St. Louis last month as a technique Holmes used. Why the collar grab? Were collars so much better made back then that they made an effective man-handle, which we lost use of as cheap, tearable t-shirts came into fashion?

Flipping a mass of pages turns the book to this line: "Mr. Sidney Johnson, the senior clerk, met us at the office and received us with that respect which my companion's card always commanded."

Why was Sherlock's card so commanding of respect? The case is Bruce-Partington. The year is 1895. The British public, one would assume, still thinks that Sherlock Holmes died at Reichenbach Falls. But maybe the "always commanded" had a job-specific focus that Watson left out. Mr. Sidney Johnson was a British government clerk, the area of employment where a person might internally react, "Holy crap! It's the little brother of Mycroft Holmes! Get your act together, Sidney, we don't want to get on his bad side." Instant respect at government offices from handing out a card with "Sherlock Holmes" on it . . . that I can see.

Another page and . . . Sherlock Holmes had "flashing eyes" in A Study in Scarlet?

"Anthony Jones" is a Scotland Yardman in The Sign of Four?

Sherlock Holmes can tell Watson has put on 7.5 pounds since his marriage, within .5 pounds of what Watson has apparently recently weighed himself to find?


Oh, descriptive license, a textual variant, and he got a lucky guess, if you want to go simple, but . . . why was Watson weighing himself all the time? Was that a doctor thing, or did households have bathroom scales already in 1887?

Why has Watson only seen the seventeen steps to 221B "hundreds" of times after living there six years? It would have to be thousands, wouldn't it?

Why did Miss Morrison have "blond" hair? That was boy hair, wasn't it?

Why does Dr. Mortimer keep important 140-year-old documents in his pocket?

And don't get me started on Billy. Something just not right about that kid. But when one runs into one the the Canon's larger little mysteries, like Billy or Watson's wound, it's time to cut and run, before things get too deep. Though really, one can go deep on just about any detail in the Canon, which is what makes it such fun.

So many "why"s that one can't help but be a kid again, reading of Sherlock Holmes. Which is the answer to one "why" -- why we keep going back.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Sherlock's greatest method

When rambling upon the topics of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockians of late, it has become very hard not to let the occasional "political" comment slip in. And these days, when some folks would rather just avoid such matters all together, those sorts of things can cost one readers. But we're talking about Sherlock Holmes here, and I suspect that is the start of such problems.

Sherlock Holmes was not a man who accepted the status quo. Young Sherlock did not come out of college, walk into Tobias Gregson's office at Scotland Yard and go, "Teach me how you to emulate you, o' respected detective predecessor!" No, he looked at the work a detective does and went, "How can I do this in the best way possible?" And then he started trying things.

Sherlock Holmes took ideas from everywhere. Sherlock Holmes listened to doctors, whose point of view was definitely different from the Yard detectives of the time. Sherlock Holmes wondered about the universes of facts held in the smallest of things: tobacco ash, a footprint, an ear. Sherlock Holmes actually insulted those who came before him in his very first recorded case.

Sherlock Holmes wanted things to be better than they were. His entire life was about that, improving the situations of anyone who came into his sphere where possible. He actually improved detective work in the rest of the world by just appearing in Strand Magazine, but that was just the cumulative effect of his overall single greatest method: getting better at doing things than they were done before.

And sometimes doing that, admitting mistakes, having Watson give him the occasional whisper of "Norbury," probably made him a little uncomfortable. It can be hard to be honest enough with ourselves to admit that maybe we need to upgrade our ways now and then. "Abbey Grange" is a great example of Holmes doubting his own conclusions, looking hard at the facts that led him to them, and jumping off a train at the last second to change his investigation's course. Those moments, the moment when we see that he's not infallible, that he can screw up and come back from it, are a large part of what make him so identifiably human and so great to our eyes.

Sherlock Holmes, to the detectives of his day, was an actual radical. He wasn't content with the way things were. And even if he pissed off Tobias Gregson or Athelney Jones on occasion, he had to keep on trying to get the best results possible.

In a time when the words "obvious buffoon who lies constantly" overheard in a restaurant make one immediately think a political debate is going on, we have to look Sherlock Holmes hard at things, even when they might make us uncomfortable due to positions we held in the past. If you live long enough, you're going to regret some of the ways things were done in your youth, because we do realize mistakes sometimes years, or even decades later, when it's too late to change our actions from before. But if we're going to improve, we have to accept those mistakes and move forward with better methods.

G. Lestrade is a man whom I think figured that out. He became close enough with Sherlock Holmes as the years went by that an overnight in Baker Street was something he could occasionally do. (And that's Canon.) We know Lestrade had his pride, disagreed with Holmes, and came up in the old system. But all that never stopped the good inspector from going to the place he knew true answers would come from when crimes needed dealing with.

The world of Sherlock Holmes may be an escape from the everyday stresses of life, and that's a prime use of Sherlockiana. But when you come back to the world that we're in, bringing some of Sherlock Holmes back with you can be a very good idea.

Including the parts with hard, honest looks and uncomfortable admissions when we make a mistake.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


There was a weird little sense of deja vu this week, when the latest little social media controversy erupted over a Sesame Street writer suggesting that muppets Bert and Ernie had always been gay.

Hmm, where have we seen this scenario before, and, question number two, why don't we just get everyone on board with the term "headcanon" and leave it at that?

But what these debates always bring out isn't anything about the characters in question, but the characters of those in the debate itself. The histrionic claim of "My childhood is ruined!" The personal views of a given word's definition. ("Puppets can't be gay, because they can't have sex.") And the jokes. The cavalcade of jokes, some of which are usually pretty good.

But while the jokes can amuse, there are those who actually go to war over these ethereal concepts. While this silly little puppet sexuality debate flared, elsewhere on the internet, folks were brining up the damage done by the Johnlock Conspiracy. (Should I say "allegedly," since it hasn't been put to trial yet? No, I suspect any disagreement is probably on level of damage, but, really, what do I know?)

CBS's Elementary ended its year with its two main characters each having conceded that they "are two people who love each other." Romantic love? Familial love? Platonic love? They don't really say, and, if that had been the show's end, we were all left to decide for ourselves what the love between them actually was. (Me, I was going romantic, because I'm an old romantic at heart.)

Love is love.

Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson are much like Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson . . . I think we can all agree that they love each other. I would worry about anyone who saw absolutely no love in that relationship, and be a little sad for them. (Or frightened. They could be a literal machine in human form.) Bert and Ernie are the same. They plainly love each other at this point.

Romantic love? Familial love? Platonic love? You choose. Unless you're making up their legal papers, planning for their offspring's future, or any of those other things that fictional characters can only do fictionally, but somehow doing them for real . . . well, it doesn't really matter.

And, as with Holmes and Watson, if you're somewhere and you see them start kissing or something, just cover your eyes if you don't want to look. (I was covering my eyes a lot when Joan Watson and Mycroft Holmes were doing icky love stuff on Elementary.) Keep your own headcanon your own, just don't do it in a crazy, kidnapping sort of way like Herbert Blount in the movie Director's Cut. (Currently on Amazon Prime. Worth a look if you like wacky R-rated experiments in film.)

Puppets and other fictional characters are just shells we bring to life with our own experiences, emotions, and reactions, even if other people create those shells to begin with. Sometimes it's easy to forget that someone else's Sherlock, John, Bert, or Ernie is filled with someone else's inner life . . . the same sort of essence you filled your version with, just not exactly the same, and not negating yours either. All headcanon people are created equal, really. Maybe more equal than real folk, and yet we try to believe, at least in American lore, that all folk are created equal.

I doubt I have the arguments available to persuade anyone who believes otherwise, but laying it out in a blogspace for the rest of you lovelies is a pleasant hour spent. May all your folks love each other in the best way possible. Your call.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The other writers of the Canon

When we talk about the other people who wrote the sixty-case Canon of Sherlock Holmes besides Dr. Watson, we normally bring up the usual suspects: Sherlock Holmes himself, who wrote "Blanched Soldier" and "Lion's Mane," and Conan Doyle, who most likely takes the blame for all of the third person narratives added in along the way.

But what of the other people who wrote part of that Canon? The people we actually know the names of, at that!

I realized this fact during a re-read of "A Scandal in Bohemia," where we come to the end of the tale and get to read a full letter written by Irene Adler. Ah, what a great Sherlockian collectable that would be -- the original letter possessed by Sherlock Holmes, written in Irene's own hand!

"My dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes," followed by three paragraphs of Irene Adler Norton's very own words. She writes well, with perhaps a wry humor in spots, as when she tells that "it was hard to think evil of such a dear, kind old clergyman." And her respect and admiration for Sherlock Holmes is well-documented in her words as well.

Paging through a copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes, one finds a lot of words that were not written by Watson.

The words on a sign by John Clay. The words in the diary of Elias Openshaw. The words in a letter from Tobias Gregson. And all of those letters from clients explaining things, like the lord who just signed himself "St. Simon" or the lawyers who ganged up with the signature "Morrison, Morrison, and Dodd, per E.J.C."

Even villains have written their bits of the Canon: "Will call at 6:30 -- C.A.M."  "AM HERE ABE SLANEY." "Stuff awaits you when goods delivered. Pierrot."

The turncoat Fred Porlock sneaking out tips. Local officer White Mason, writing to Scotland Yard's MacDonald. The note from Grace Dunbar that seemed to be evidence that she was a murderer. All sorts of details written by all sorts of writers.

Robert Ferguson wrote what might be the longest letter in the Canon, explaining the vampire business, but I have not been too thorough in my research as yet. The length of his note makes one want to take the matter a step further, do word counts, and create a mammoth pie chart breaking down the Canon by individual writer's percentage of the complete hundred.

There is something I heard, however, a small psychological fact that surely guarantees that I'll never be the one to do the work on that. Apparently saying you'll do something, or just explaining how it could be done, can potentially give your brain much the same pleasurable chemicals as actually doing the thing. So anyone wanting to follow up on this line with the full research feel free. A craftsman with pen and paper recreating every letter, note, sign, and other handwritten bit in the Canon might be another excellent way to spend one's days. But bloggers blog, and tomorrow I'll be on to something else.

Still, this thought of the other writers whose words fill the Canon, just intrigues me.

Monday, September 17, 2018

A happy ending for Elementary, if it could really end here.

At the beginning of this past weekend, I saw Searching in my favorite local theater, a great mystery starring John Cho. Some twists, some turns, and a solid story told in a unique format that worked. And tonight, I watched the last episode of season six of CBS's Elementary. (Yes,there will be spoilers! HUGE SPOILERS!!! FLEE OR BE SPOILED!)

Entitled "Whatever Remains, However Improbable," it starts with the ham-handed accusal of Joan Watson by an FBI special agent who is a little too determined to take Joan to jail for the murder of a serial killer by beating him to death -- the very episode after we saw him nearly beat her to death.

Her partner, whom I like to call "Mr. Elementary," decides to work outside the rules to solve the case, and spends a lot of this episode making an ugly face that seems to indicate determination at his friends at NYPD. Our first suspect in the case is the very FBI agent who is accusing Joan, as no other characters have really shown up yet. And I was starting to suspect Elementary of losing its touch of adding random tittilations for seasoning when a man who is aroused by bees is referenced.

Jonny Lee Miller can't seem to give up scowlilng like he's doing a bad Popeye impression, making that ugly-face as he questions folks along the way, and at the halfway point through the episode we get the big shocker . . . could Captain Gregson be a part of whatever's going on?

So, Mr. Elementary makes a mess in Gregson's house, sits and waits for him in the dark . . . probably not a good move with a cop who carries a gun. "How much do you know?" Gregson asks grimly and the two sit down at the dining room table.

Between the two men, they talk out who actually killed the serial killer, walk through how she did it, and basically give us a solution that was not set up for, not led up to, and was just inserted to provide a reason for maximum drama between Captain Gregson and Mr. Elementary.

"She's my daughter . . . and my best friend."

Hannah Gregson is the killer. Mr. Elementary yells at Gregson with all the same points the FBI agent yelled at Joan Watson earlier in the episode. Then Mr. Elementary yells at Joan Watson as they debate letting Hannah Gregson's going away. He brings up the fact Joan wants to adopt a child.


"We are . . . so be one," Joan calmly states back.

This show is all about the relationships between its characters, but who are those characters? Whatever they need to be in a given scene. Twists don't come organically, they come with all the sudden pop-up of a deus ex machina, one after another. A fan of this show might be watching this episode thinking that it's showing how much the characters care about each other that they'll try to save each other (or their loved ones) from taking the fall for a crime by dramatic self-sacrifice, but for the viewer coming in cold late in the season, there is no one in this wild caper of  . . .

Excuse me, but in the last commercial break, the face of the man the good Carter and I bought our house from appears on the screen. He defends criminals for a living, I wonder what he would make of the mess the Elementary crew has gotten themselves into.

The part past the commercial break is the big scene this episode has been leading up to: Mr. Elementary and Joan Watson saying good-bye as he returns to England, taking the blame for the crime in question and escaping the law to be protected by MI-6 for some reason. It's a very emotional good-by, full of gratitude and admissions of love . . . what? They can't mean "in love," as that was the one thing the show runners swore they never did.

So Mr. Elementary winds up with an office and Lord St. Simon coming to his office with the classic "Noble Bachelor"  case . . . and he's back in London at 221B Baker Street, next door to 221A Baker Street, and who lives at 221A Baker Street?

Joan Watson. And they're "two people who love each other" solving crimes in London. A wonderful happy ending for the series. Man, I hated this whole episode, but the last five minutes was a happy, ridiculous bit of fun, as much of a tribute to the actual Sherlock Holmes as this series has ever done, and . . . wait, there's going to be a season seven. Could it possibly take place in London?

After all the grim New York garbage trucks and precinct houses and park benches, a shot at Elementary in relatively exotic London? I don't believe it. They just let a murderer walk free without giving us any real justification other than that she killed a bad man and her father loves her.

This show!  Very curious how they top this ending when they actually end the series after season seven . . . unless there now isn't going to be a season seven.


Checking in with near-the-end of season six Elementary.

On the topic of Sherlockian subjects some people just don't get -- in preparation for the season finale, I watched the penultimate episode of CBS's Elementary for season six today.

In under two weeks we come to the sixth anniversary of that show's first appearance. In under two days, it's much-delayed sixth season winds up. It seems to wind down about a million in viewership each year, but CBS has seen enough syndication value in Elementary to give it a full seven season run. It gets the nod of a panel or three at 221B Con, hundreds of works of fanfic, and the occasional talk-up on one of the usual Sherlockian news feeds like the Norwegian Explorers Facebook, so it definitely has its fans.

But, man, I still don't get it.

Watching "Fit to Be Tied," which brought back the serial strangler who posed as an addiction-group friend to Elementary's Sherlock, who had brain damage at that point, early in the season when last I watched . . . well, it might as well have been a random show in another language. I just didn't see the Sherlock Holmes in it. Police procedural, yes. Those New York precinct rooms are unmistakeable. But Sherlock Holmes?

And when the episode got done with all its quietly talky parts, there was this whole Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers part where the serial strangler attacks Joan Watson and slowly stalks her through her house, vanishing the minute she connects with a desperate stab at him with a broken airplane propeller (?), that had I not known the character, would have mistaken for some standard TV movie damsel in distress.

So I went in search of what people enjoyed about this episode. First stop, IMDB, where no user comments had been posted yet. The second, at, written by someone who is plainly on the side of the show, expresses frustrations at the primary mystery, a necessary suspension of disbelief required by the plot, and holds out hope for next week's episode improving upon what happened in this one. TV Fanatic's review gets into all of the character soap opera details from the season that's winding down, makes a few observations on the main mystery as well, and then gets into the same unlikely-seeming cliffhanger the episode left us with. Rotten Tomatoes had nothing on the episode, but did have five critics willing to give it a "Fresh" rating, three after the first episode of season six, one a few more in, and one in August.

The thread one can see running through all of this is that the characters of Lucy Liu's Joan Watson and Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock have their fans. The mysteries may be better or worse from episode to episode, but it seems like it's the characters that people enjoy about this show. And the season finale is definitely about those characters, as they try to prove Joan's innocence from a charge that makes no sense to viewers of this week's episode, mainly through quietly talking about things, if the promo scene with Joan's lawyer is any indication.

But again, I just don't get this show, nor its relation to Sherlock Holmes as we have known him. How did that "Fresh" critic on Rotten Tomatoes from the Hindustan Times put it?  "Will this show ever stand up and be counted among the best Sherlock productions ever? Probably not. But it sure is going where other Sherlocks are afraid to step."

Yes. Yes, it is. On to the finale.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The last great unbranded hero.

Staring in the mirror at my Marvel Studios t-shirt after five minutes of Pokemon Go mixed with a YouTube video from the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, I realized what an amazing creature Sherlock Holmes has become at this point: The last great unbranded hero.

No corporate entity owns him. Creators of all sorts can develop their vision of him. No stans can rebel against any new tale of him, because the original Canon was cemented in place nearly a century ago and all new Sherlocks are created equal.

Once the concept of intellectual property came our way, entertainment companies started rounding characters up like cattle and branding them with copyrights and trademarks instead of the classic hot iron poker with a symbol on the end. Sherlock Holmes and his herd had some corporate cowpokes try to round them up, but a couple fans of free range Holmes came riding in and thwarted that effort. Sherlock Holmes escaped by the tweed of his deerstalker.

Other old heroes still roam free. Robin Hood. King Arthur. Beowulf. But the thing that makes Sherlock Holmes different was the way, just as the branding world came after him, he leaped into the modern day and demonstrated the ability to exist in any place or period. He was not only free of corporate control, he was free to find new adventures outside of the Victorian era. A particular new story with specific new actors can lock down their view of him in a particular place and time, but both history and the future are open-ended. Holmes can roam.

Laws can still be changed. Tyrants of industry can still make moves to corral our free-running literary mustang. And Sherlockians, as a very minor minority, might not be able to stop that if and when it does happen. But for now, we really have to appreciate just what a wonder Sherlock Holmes is and the special place he's found in 2018.

Even a corporately-held character like Winnie the Pooh can get shackled and hidden away by an authoritarian regime after being used as a symbol by rebellious folk, as we've seen recently, and maybe Sherlock Holmes's freedom might someday put him in a similar place, joining a movement against a dictator or other power-mad authoritarian. One could easily understand why you might want Sherlock Holmes on your side, whatever the cause. (Conversely, then, an authoritarian regime might also take Sherlock as their team mascot. He's versatile.)

Who knows what could come tomorrow? But for today, we have Sherlock Holmes with us, with all of us.

Let's make the most of it.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Angry days in the old happy hobby

Thursday I got a pretty blistering e-mail rebuke for a blog post I had put out that morning. Much of the heat I took was based on a tweet I quoted, and then proceeded to admit that I could in some degree sympathize with where that person was coming from. The friend . . . and I do want to emphasize that this angry response did come from a much-loved friend . . . felt personally attacked by the whole thing, and responded hard, with all the skills of a talented writer. It was probably the best-written angry letter I have ever gotten, and I've gotten quite a few.

Sherlockiana, being a place of our joys and fun, leaves us all even more vulnerable when the knives do come out . . . and, as much as we'd like to think otherwise, they occasionally do. Passionate folk being passionate about something will have that now and then. Even when you're expecting something from somewhere, it's easy to get blindsided, and that sudden surprise punch in the gut always hurts. If Sherlockiana has never brought you pain, well, keep up whatever you're doing. I'd like to be you, but we choose our own paths for our own reasons.

So, after taking a step back, I'm going to try to write something in follow-up. It's not going to be fun, but I can't just quietly go on writing about the Elementary season finale or whatever like nothing happened.

I don't name names in my blogging. Sherlockiana is not that big a community, and I like letting people make their own judgment calls about our fellow citizens. So in my writings, I sometimes do what we all do now and again: make the blanket statement. Like "old white guys."

It's kind of ironic that when I was growing up there was a common descriptive phrase that went "He called him everything but a white man." These days, while all the other racist, sexist, and other group-slagging verbal options still exist, one group who didn't know what it felt like to be on the receiving end any more is now painfully aware of what it feels like. We didn't grow up feeling people had it out for their kind, like brown folk or non-conforming other sorts. So having that sudden "oh, this is what it feels like to be unfairly lumped in with a group-assigned trait" is a new pain.

Now, I've probably made somebody angry with those generalities, too, because I wasn't talking about one specific person, even though I was. I was talking about Brad Keefauver. There, I named a name, so if you were worried I was talking about you, you're okay. I am afraid to say things that might offend someone these days. I remember the things I got away with saying in my twenties in the workplace that you just don't even consider saying today. But everybody was smoking at work back then, too. We all need to watch what we say these days, because it's not 1967, and complain of "political correctness" all you want, it's just fucking good manners.

Oops. I shouldn't really tell anyone to mind their "p"s and "q"s with that mouth! We are curiously all over the map these days when it comes to our "do"s and "don't"s.

We don't name names often enough, and that could be one part of the problem. "Those old fart gate-keepers." "Those  privileged jerks who don't even see their own privilege." "Those entitled young snots who think the world should be handed to them on a platter." It's like the old joke from a comedian we don't mention any more whose father said "Eat your vegetables, there are starving children in China," to which the comic claimed to reply, "Name one!"

If I specifically called out a gate-keeper, someone blind to their own privilege, or an entitled young punk, everyone except that person and their friends might just go, "Yeah, that person is a complete [insert epithet here]!" and not feel like you were attacking them and their entire club. Maybe I should use specific names when I want to talk about a gate-keeper or someone who makes a specific statement, even if it feels like a trend. It might keep folk like my angry correspondent from calling my every example in that previous blog "a straw man." Because they weren't. I just don't like naming names.

But it was certainly not "fake news." (Lord, don't we wish that phrase would go away.) The idea that there could be one actual Sherlockian as aggrieved as the one I quoted did not fit my friend's view of the world, which in examples given, was pretty much based on the New York weekend and mainstream "old school" Sherlockiana. But my experience says differently. Even the Twitter debates that followed my blog post said differently.

We all have a path and a story, and while we do have some spectacular liars in the public eye of late, most people have a story of their own that's true, even if we don't get it. On every spectrum, be it age, race, gender, orientation, mental style, body type . . . you name it. And I can't hope to fully understand what a gay black woman is going through in America right now, in 1960, or ever, because I'm not one. But if a specific gay black woman says to me, "Those old white penis-havers are going to kill me!" I might want to try really hard to see what's making her feel that threat before immediately shouting "NOT ME!" at the top of my lungs. Because maybe it was me. We shouldn't be afraid to say things, but we should think about them a little bit first.

I'm kind of an idiot that way. That's not self-hate, that's just experience. I blurt, I step on toes, both figuratively and literally, I forget that my brain works a little differently than most sometimes, because, like most humans, I do make mistakes. And I never stop trying to figure out how not to. Though I've been using this quote a bit lately, Sherlock Holmes definitely said, "Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for last." But I try to write what I'm currently seeing as the truth, even if I'm going to get called on the carpet for it later. We have to do that. And admit when we're wrong. As well as hold fast when we're right.

Sherlockiana may not be in for a Civil War, but it definitely could split off into denominations one of these days, if it hasn't already. There is the biggest generational gap in Sherlock Holmes enjoyment that has possibly ever existed, a product of both age and gender factors. A whole lot of Sherlockians can't see why certain other Sherlockians do what they do or don't do . . . or even figure out where they're doing it. But once you encounter them, you can't deny that those other Sherlockians exist for some reason that must make sense to them, and maybe they want to do what they want to do and not what you want to do.

 And if they're aggrieved about a particularly thing, it might be good to wonder why for a bit. There might be a good reason. You'll catch me making statements about old, white guys on occasion, not because I hate the now-old white guys I came up with, but because when I was a young Sherlockian, old white guys gave me fits. And I've personally watched a beloved middle-aged white guy turn into a real pain-in-the-butt old white guy . . . kind of like I might be doing any second here, if it's not too late already. The emotions can start flowing more freely as the body starts to wear out, and life becomes like one of those Star Trek episodes where Kirk suddenly realizes he's got the malady that's been taking out the rest of his crew.

So, in conclusion, what am I saying here? Like I told my angry correspondent, I'm just trying to process. Trying to process a lot these days, a lot more than ever before. And if you want to vent at me about whatever, feel free. It's a part of the dues one pays for opening one's mouth in public. I may be sorry, I may apologize, or I might just ramble on and on until I wear myself out, fall asleep, and wake up to a fresh new day.

And on we go.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Emotions Sherlock didn't show.

We all know the popular myth that Sherlock Holmes showed no emotions. But his smiles, his laughs, his concern for Watson's well-being, all of those present easily accessible to the contrary without going into deeper analyses of his pride, compassion, guilt, and all else. Yet there are emotions we see others indulge in as Watson's relates his cases, emotions that Holmes never gets to.

Fury, for example. Fury is a criminal's emotion in the lives of Holmes and Watson, an emotional onslaught so great it often results in damage, and mortal damage at that. Sherlock Holmes never shows us fury in the Canon. Had Killer Evans shot Watson to death in "Three Garridebs," one has to think it might have happened, but Watson wouldn't have been there to write it, would he?

Lust is another we don't see Holmes indulge in, or do we? "Lust of the chase" comes up in "Red-Headed League," and then gets taken a step further in "Boscombe Valley Mystery" with "His nostrils seemed to dilate with a purely animal lust for the chase." And as sexy as that nostril-flaring could sound, sexual lust isn't really something that appears in the Canon at all, unless we're talking about Baron Adelbert Gruner and his famed "lust diary" or the pig-like Ronder who made a bride of a poor circus girl seemingly the minute she hit puberty. Again, an emotion that mainly is in the realm of the villains.

Sorrow, on the other hand . . . while Holmes doesn't indulge, he speaks of it in the way of a man who has known sorrow. He speaks of "that schoolroom of sorrow where our earthly lessons are taught" in "Thor Bridge" and when you combine that with his advice to Watson in "Empty House" that goes, "Work is the best antidote to sorrow, my dear Watson," well, ponder that for a moment. Sherlock Holmes was a man who threw everything he had into his work from a young adult age. Was he so intent on his work as a constant relief for an enormous sorrow that dogged his steps from before his career? We never see Sherlock Holmes in sorrow, but that evidence . . . .

These are emotional days, with more fury and sorrow in them than lust for most of us, I'd wager. (But if I'm wrong about you, well you'd better be a good-lusting soul and not a Gruner or Ronder, who just used it to create more fury and sorrow.) Is it the fact that Sherlock Holmes held back on the worst of them that makes his tales such a good palate cleanser after a hard, emotional day of our own?

After a few strong reactions to yesterday's blog, as well as a few kindly ones, it's good to step back to 221B for a moment and catch a breath. Because so many more investigations await!

The maintenance that keeps things in our hands.

'Tis a curious thing when two thoughts enter your end in the course of a few days and start to interact. First was a notable tweet from Rowan MacBean that read "Talking to tiny fans about the cishet white dude gatekeepers in SH fandom: 'But soon they'll be dead, and then Millennials will rub their queer little hands all over everything those dudes held dear.'" A bit of a pot-stirrer, but a basic sentiment that's hard to disagree with -- time will change things. The second thought was a line on a podcast from DeRay Mckesson about everything built by man needing maintenance to survive. Every building, every institution, every law, every creation of humans . . . it all has to be maintained to last.

Over the years, I've heard many an overly optimistic Sherlockian exude that Sherlock Holmes, Sherlockiana, a particular Sherlockian club or tradition, etc. will be as it is forever. It's a very immature thought, the kind a kid has who has had much of the furniture in his home existing for his entire life. A fantastic feeling that was is will always be. A secure and wonderful feeling. But you get a bit older, live a bit, and realize how much we take for granted.

As responsible sorts, we try to see that and make sure our basic needs are going to last as long as we do -- food, shelter, etc.  Sherlock Holmes, and all those things that surround him, this very culture of Sherlockiana we enjoy . . . slightly less of a priority, but still requiring both maintenance and attention to last. Have you seen what water can do to a book? Fire is bad, and sure, it will destroy a book, but water . . . oh, it will torture and deform a poor book in ways that are more awful than burning. A library, one of those basic Sherlockian loves, requires protection and maintenance, whether it's five books or five hundred. You don't keep books in your basement if you can help it, or take a lot of care of that basement.

A society, a podcast, an ongoing publication, an annual event . . . they require even more maintenance. Nothing lasts forever, true, and just making something ongoing last five years, ten years, even just two or three years, takes work. A lot of work, most times. That's why we celebrate anniversaries and should probably celebrate them harder than anniversaries: it takes work to get to anniversaries. Birthdays, you just have to not die.

Maintenance. It's not pretty, it's not fun, but it keeps all that is man-made existing, and not reclaimed by the Earth.

Which brings me back to Rowan's original thought, to which I'll add one especially dark realization that came to me early in life: It takes people a very long time to die. This might seem apparent to some folks, but after losing a parent early on, as a child I expected people to die a lot more often than they did. And sometimes, the people you think should really be dead by now just keep on going, and going, and going . . . just look hard at Congress sometime. Which means that getting your hands on their stuff can take forever. And forever means a lot of maintenance has to go on for that stuff to be around when you finally get your hands on it, at which point it might even not be something you really want anymore. The world is a funny, shifty place.

And ideas, traditions, man-made items can die a lot faster than people.

Everything we hold dear, whatever your age, race, or gender, could be a completely different thing tomorrow without proper attentions. Sherlock Holmes lasting this long in a recognizable form is a wondrous thing, and has taken legions of fans of all stripes to keep him in the public eye. There are those Sherlockians who enjoy the old things in the old-fashioned way they were made. They are the ones who preserve certain old man-made things, maintain them, research to preserve more knowledge about them, and carry them forward. There are also Sherlockians who create new variations on the basic Holmes things to enjoy in new ways that inspire us to carry the great detective on further through our lives.

And those aspects, items, tales, etc. that we just don't care about? 

We will let them pass from existence, letting them go from lack of attention. What I'm getting at here is that putting your energy into those things that you enjoy, maintaining them, carrying them forward, is what gives future generations something to take in their hands and enjoy as well . . . if they choose. If you don't enjoy it, don't put your energies into it, it will be up to someone else to carry forward, and if that someone is out there, it will go forward. Until that day when no one picks up that book, that idea, that way of doing things any more.

Even things stored forever in a climate-controlled shelf in a library vault are only carried forward if someone in the future cares to look at them.  Why do we look at those things?

Because somebody enjoyed them once, shared that enjoyment with us, and led us to share that enjoyment with someone else. I can understand raging against the bull-crap that the old white dudes in any culture can throw around, especially when their chosen fetish is threatened. I really, really, do, which is why I do sympathize with Rowan more than a bit. Entrenched enthusiasm without awareness of a changing world can be problematic. But how does that saying go? "Living well is the best revenge."

Living well and sharing the things we love and enjoy so others can live well, too. And maybe, just maybe, carry those things forward in a fashion that means something to them as well.

Monday, September 10, 2018

So who gets offended in Holmes world?

Sometimes a blogger has to wonder if they're offending people. And sometimes, as I cruise social media, I sometimes have to stop and wonder if I should be more offended at all the stuff laid at the doorstep of my generation or gender on social media. (I'm not . . . having been born into a segment of the populace lets you know them better than anyone, including their offenses.) Humans can offend the heck out of other humans, and what might offend or has offended is always worth a look or two.

After examining my own deficiencies today, however, the topic of taking offense made me want to look back at our Canonical brethren and see what offended them . . . and who it was who was getting offended. And the Canon starts off with a truly choice one:

"I have said all I have to say," said Gregson, in an offended voice.

Good old Gregson! I knew he had it in him, and in A Study in Scarlet, he brings it, as does a certain other group in that novel.

"There was one way and only one in which he offended the susceptibilities of his co-religionists."

Yes, religion is always a reason for people to get offended. And as Jefferson Hope was offended a particular sect because he refused to display hetero-normative behaviors, well, no surprise there. But let's talk about someone who was only truly religious about his profession: Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

"He did not seem offended," Watson reports in The Sign of the Four after Watson complains to Holmes about the detective's drug use. Holmes did worry about Watson being offended by his trick of playing ill in "The Dying Detective," a question Watson does not answer. He also doesn't want to offend Watson's intelligence at the end of "Devil's Foot," but that might have just been a lack of wanting to explain things in dull detail.  Watson was not above faking being offended, however, as he did when dealing with Baron Gruner in "Illustrious Client."

Holmes definitely thinks he would be sorry to offend Holy Peters, the kidnapper of Lady Frances Carfax, but that was surely for a different reason. Peters was one nasty-looking dude. (A regular Danny Trejo of his day!) Holmes suspects women might be more offended by a some little thing than a murder, but Violet DeMerville has him stymied when he says that, so we might forgive him that once. (Up to you, ladies.)

Sherlock Holmes doesn't seem to get offended much, and a woman some suspect of being his sister does likewise. Violet Hunter is not offended by being asked "to sit here or sit there," or by being passed by her employer without him speaking a word.  As far as who does get offended, there are a few folks in the Canon, often for good reason.

Lord St. Simon is "a picture of offended dignity" when he finds his bride was already married. Mr. Blessington is offended to be asked about why he's scared all the time. An American secret society was offended by John Douglas, and then Cecil Barker was offended by the questions Inspector MacDonald asked about John Douglas's wife. (Even though MacDonald admitting meaning no offense.) But then The Valley of Fear has a lot of offensiveness and offenders, probably due to all those Americans being involved.

Perhaps the worst example of someone getting offended, however comes in "The Blanched Solider."

Colonel Emsworth handled getting offended by James Dodd inquiring about his son by saying "Many people, Mr. Dodd, would take offence at your infernal pertinacity and would think that this insistence had reached the point of damned impertinence." That, however, is kind of a haughty way of not even owning up to your own emotions while plainly reacting badly to a situation. In fact, it sounds like a certain loser we hear far too much from these days who likes to use the "many people think this" or "many people didn't know that" instead of admitting his own deficiencies.

In the end, one has to find Sherlock Holmes or Violet Hunter the better role models in terms of not taking offense at honest or irrelevant things, as well as Holmes in caring if something seems it might offend your best friend. Good old Sherlock Holmes.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Heroic hounds of Sherlock Holmes

A photo Rob Nunn took of his dog considering his Sherlock Holmes books got me thinking last night: What would a dog enjoy reading in the Canon?

My first thought, of course, was The Hound of the Baskervilles. It begins with the legend of a super-hero vigilante dog that uses its powers to end the evil life of a true villain. A canine reading of the text would discard the human bias it shows and discern the obvious truth of the legend: That heroic super-dog was the pet of the yeoman's daughter and this was his origin story. He's like the Ghost Rider of dogs.

And how does the rest of the tale go?

As with every dark vigilante superhero, dark rumors swirl up and the latest incarnation of this mysterious hero is falsely accused of a crime. A dog-loving detective named Sherlock Holmes comes to clear his name. And yet even while the local humans hate and fear Ghost Bounder, or whatever this hero dog is called, he still protects them, tracking down and ending Selden the murderer . . . the villain that most of the locals are actually living in fear of.

Now, the ending might not seem too dog-friendly, as the detective and his friends put down a Ghost Bounder imposter, but all we need is a shot of the true Ghost Bounder, standing proudly atop a tor and looking down at that crew before bounding off into the darkness, with Sherlock Holmes shaking his head in approval, and The Hound of the Baskervilles becomes completely dog-friendly.

"The Adventure of the Creeping Man" is similarly dog-friendly from the jump, with Roy the Newfie saving the neighborhood from the villainous monkey man, whose intentions for college girls were definitely not going to stop once he claimed his first victim.

More problematic is "The Copper Beeches," where Carlo the mastiff takes down the villain only to have the naive Dr. Watson run up, and in a thoughtless moment of prejudice, commit a graphically-described killing of the poor animal. Due to said graphic nature, I won't even quote it here, as I don't want to ruin my breakfast and there might be puppies among my readers.

"The Copper Beeches," is, of course, a tragedy, and such tales of a misunderstood hero meeting a fatal fate do occasionally get written. But the point of all this is that, outside of that imposter Ghost Bounder, who was duped into playing a role by Stapleton, the dogs of Sherlock Holmes's life were good dogs, and their stories should be read to the dogs of your pack if they have problems turning the pages for themselves.

Because The Sign of the Four and "Missing Three-Quarter" aren't the only stories you can share with them . . . you just have to understand a dog's point of view. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

A Saturday soapbox for Watson and Clark Russell.

A sleepy Saturday morning with no caffeine in sight, where to turn?

Well, initial thoughts were upon CBS's Elementary, where that unimaginable sixth season is slowly winding to a close with the promise of shocking new revelations. Last year, Mr. Elementary got brain damage -- this year? A severed limb perhaps? Watson revealing herself to be Von Bork after all this time? But then, out of nowhere, Canada launched a targeted drone strike on Watsonian candor.

As you can see on Twitter, I was quick to respond. But Twitter, even with its expanded word limit, offers far too little space to mount a true defense of friend Watson, so I'm bringing the case to Blogger. Ahem. 

Ladies, gentlemen, and other lovelies of the jury, Canada's Sherlockian journal of record, speaking upon our public social media, has leveled what I find a shocking accusation at one John H. Watson, M.D., a fine upstanding citizen of the United Kingdom. A man so stalwart and true that he might, as we all well know, but a fair and impartial jury just like yourselves. 

Canadian Holmes, a publication that can be bought for the very low price of twelve dollars Canadian for a single issue, has leveled the charge against our good doctor Watson that he actually had read no books by the author Clark Russell and was simply pandering to the public with the pretense that he liked what they liked.

"I think if it was a Russell sea story he would have said," this less-than-book-length publication wrote, in the wee hours of this morning.  But Watson did say "I was deep in one of Clark Russell's fine sea stories until the howl of the gale from without seemed to blend with the text, and the splash of the rain to lengthen into the long swash of the sea waves."

Note Watson's direct reference to "the text" and his commentary on how "fine" the story was, a judgment he could never have honestly made without actually reading Clark Russell's work. Are you or I or Canadian Holmes going to state frankly that John H. Watson was a dishonest man? Nay, that "H." in the middle of his name might well have stood for "Honest," his character is so beyond reproach!

John H. Watson was a man of literature, a fact no one can deny. His writing ability connotes a reader, and a well-read reader at that, so why not Clark Russell? And as a fellow author, would not Watson be knowledgeable enough in the field of books sales to know that specifying a title, such as My Watch Below or The Romance of a Midshipman, would just promote one of Russell's book, while the phrase "one of Clark Russell's fine sea stories" promotes all of Clark Russell's work? John Watson is a kind and generous man, why should those qualities not extend to his treatment of fellow writers?

Hundreds, if not thousands of Sherlockian scholars have one or more Clark Russell novels upon their shelves thanks to Watson's recommendation in "The Five Orange Pips," and plainly, they all have believed John H. Watson over the years. This sudden and controversial claim by Canadian Holmes can plainly be seen as modern media trying to drum up attention at the cost of the good name of Watson, and I tell you, ladies, gentlemen, and other lovelies of the jury, we should not stand for such an outrageous blot on a good man's escutcheon!

"This time it was probably just some popular novel, nothing more . . ." Canadian Holmes writes, flailing its pages against a computer keyboard in some remote Beauty and the Beast enchanted Canadian castle where the animated Sherlockiana sings and dances the day away. Nothing more than a popular novel? What were Clark Russell's books if not popular novels? Chopped Christmas goose liver?

We do not even need to bring the literary agent into this conversation, as his trust in Watson was surely greater than anyone's. And by now, I am sure that such an enlightened quorum as you fine folks can see the truth of this matter and can render your verdict with a satisfied ease. I would ask that you go lightly on your sentencing of Canadian Holmes in this matter, and maybe even have the goodness to subscribe to that journal and see that it's not usually so troublingly accusatory of our friend John Watson.

As for me, well, I will rest my case here, and thank the prosecution for helping me wake up this morning.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

People get weird . . .

People get weird . . .

People get weird when the topic of sex comes up, for a lot of reasons. And we often won't even admit that we do get weird, which just makes it weirder. So I have to congratulate the Three Patch Podcast for making it to their sixth annual "sexpisode." It's a podcast about Sherlock Holmes. And they've done six episodes, each about three hours long, about sex and Sherlock.

Remember that fandom we used to hear was going to be a flash in the pan, way back when, from the hoi polloi? Them and their porny fanfic! A blip on the radar!

Whoops! No, it's not.

It's fascinating to look at what male fans had done with the sex lives of Sherlock Holmes and company before female-dominated wave of Sherlockian sexual orientation came along, because for men . . . well, for men, they just didn't seem all that interested in sex for once. Sure, John Bennett Shaw could double-entendre the heck out of Canonical quotes. And there was a very private Doyle-Canon porn writer or two out there, sharing their work with only close friends. But other than that? Larry Townsend's The Sexual Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Chris Redmond's In Bed With Sherlock Holmes were the two big sexy Sherlock times you could have on your shelf, and only the former was porn.The latter had footnotes, a bibilography, and an index.

Yet I always love that Chris Redmond ended that book with the line "Go and read Sherlock Holmes, and do it soon; but first, go and kiss somebody. Sex comes first; detective stories are only meant to model the way men and women really are." But that was 1984, long before sex advice columnist Dan Savage would coin the more flat-out slogan for holiday dining celebrations, "Fuck first." And it's in a world with Dan Savage in it that Three Patch Podcast is doing their thing.

Sherlock Holmes is now fostering sexual exploration in his fans, as well as explorations of logic and detection, in ways that would go far beyond making Vincent Starrett blush. (But might, however, make a few of our famed Sherlockians of yore come out of the closet, were they around now . . . not talking about anyone in particular, but c'mon. Probabilities.) It comes from a place of relationship in most cases, and not pure carnal novelty (though that factor does enter in), and that is where it always comes back to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. And Mary Morstan. And Mycroft Holmes. And James Moriarty. And Mrs. Hudson.

To some, this might be like imagining your parents having sex. And yes, there is a reason that the Three Patchers, like most in these areas of fanfic, use pseudonyms . . . especially in an era when someone might not like your politics and try to weaponize one isolated part of your work to try to ruin your job or your life. They're a bit like the underground that comes before any revolution. (Ever notice that "the sexual revolution" of the sixties and seventies didn't really finish the job?) Perhaps taking the guilt and shame out of a basic human function is a battle we humans will always be fighting, but at least Sherlock Holmes is on the front lines for this war, just like he was in "His Last Bow."

So, congratulations, Three Patch. When I say "people get weird when it comes to sex," you bold folks are definitely not the ones I'm talking about, and I wish you many many more years of just doing what you enjoy best and explaining it to the rest of us.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Sherlock Holmes and the Controlled Reaction

At this point, seeing a headline like "People React to Xxxxxx!" is just laughable clickbait, and possibly worse, some supposed news professional trying to pass scrolling through Twitter as actual journalism. Because people react to things, always have, and there's somebody out there who is going to react strongly to any damn thing. (Like my reaction to that headline, for example.)

How does this connect to Sherlock Holmes? Well, remember first how Watson liked to right about Holmes, those statements like "You really are an automaton, -- a calculating machine!" or "All emotions . . . were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind." Then recall all the times we actually saw Watson describe Holmes displaying emotion. Why the disparity?

It is all, I believe, about the reaction. Consider it in internet headlines.

"Watson Reacts to Beautiful Woman!"  Okay, fairly mundane. But look at what Watson is going for.

"You Won't Believe What Sherlock Holmes Did NOT React To!"

It's kind of like Holmes himself once said, "Crime is common. Logic is rare."

Reactions to certain stimuli are common. Refusing to react is rare.

And Watson plainly wanted something out of Holmes that he wasn't always getting: Reactions.

Sherlock Holmes, of course, had what might be considered valid excuses for not putting on a reaction show. His professionalism, his ability to reserve judgement until all the facts were in, his damned Vulcan logic . . . well, scrap that last one, as "logic" in the "ranting Dr. McCoy" sense is just another way of saying someone has some understanding of a situation or thing that the person expecting a reaction does not . . . an understanding that means they don't have only the superficial view to react to. But did Holmes need an excuse?

No, because we all get to react based on our own lights, not to the expectations of others.

Watson's reaction that Holmes was "an automaton -- a calculating machine!" didn't do anyone any good, and might have even harmed the relationship, if Holmes took it too hard. One might even consider Watson to have been trying to be a little manipulative with his outburst, if one tends toward Team Holmes.

To react or not to react, that is the question. And with Sherlock Holmes, that question gives us a . little more to think about than a clickbait headline.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Conan Doyle is Satan, apparently.

It was somewhere close to midnight on Friday night, when I was finishing the John H. Watson Society Treasure Hunt quiz, in an unexpected last minute burst of Sherlockian vigor. And I came to the last three questions . . .

"From [Tottenham Court Road] find the item whose value could not be conjectured."

Okay, simple enough. Already in "Blue Carbuncle" for that last answer and how does Holmes describe the carbuncle?

"It is absolutely unique, and its value can only be conjectured . . ."

Well, like I said, it was close to midnight and the word "conjectured" was there, so I answered "The blue carbuncle."

Next question: "With the splendid us of [that item] in mind, find the red connector."

What was the use of the blue carbuncle? Well, as Holmes was describing it, he called it one of "the devil's pet baits."  And, hey, the devil is red, isn't he? So the devil is the "red connector," obviously.

Next question: "The final treasure -- find the [answer to previous question] who runs through all the sixty adventures of Holmes and Watson, although he is mentioned only once in the Canon. Who?"

Well, there's only one devil mentioned by name in the Canon, and then only once: Satan.

Imagine my surprise when the official answers were given out today and that final answer, according to the JHWS Treasure Hunt officiary was . . . prepare yourself . . . Arthur Conan Doyle.

Now, in "Devil's Foot," we know the vicar came running in going "We are devil-ridden, Mr. Holmes! My poor parish is devil-ridden! Satan himself is loose it it!"

That's an actual mention by an actual character. And all the crime, all the human suffering, all the mistaken identities running through the Canon, could, if you are of that religious point of view, be attributed to Satan. Kind of an evangelical turn for a Sherlock Holmes quiz, but to each their own, I say.

Conan Doyle, however, isn't mentioned in the Canon itself. He signs his name to the preface to Casebook, but his name is on the title page too . . . do we count the title-page as Canon? I suppose that's a religious doctrine choice as well, given "Canon." But the inserting of "Conan Doyle" in a place that obviously belonged to Satan, well, I guess he did kill Sherlock Holmes with malign intent, but putting him on equal footing with Satan still seems a little extreme a conjecture on the part of the John H. Watson Society as an official body.

But, as you might recall from that first question in this little adventure in quiz-taking, some things can "not be conjectured." And I suppose that is what shows the difference between Conan Doyle and Satan and the paths to either. Or why I might have made a mistake with horrific consequences in that near-midnight hour on Friday.

The John H. Watson Society Treasure Hunt continues to be an adventure which can lead to madness for the unwary Sherlockian who ventures upon that path alone. Maybe next year I had better team up again to avoid the demonic pitfalls that awaited this time around.