Thursday, October 31, 2019

How Sherlock and John became (in some universes) friends

Over the last decade, Johnlock writers have pretty much explored every possible way that Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson could become lovers. I know, "every possible way' might seem a bit hyperbolic, but it's darned close to the truth. Compare that to, in the previous hundred years, how little Sherlockians explored how the two men just became friends, and one realizes how little we think about that basic, yet important, relationship we call "friendship."

Some of us love to look at Sherlock Holmes and explore the similarities we find between the legend and ourselves, but this morning, as I was considering the co-workers I've become close to over the years, I suddenly found myself looking back at Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson.

(Here is the point in the blog where two things usually happen, and they are going to here: a.) I have to stop and go to work, and b.) I wonder for a moment why I don't save this and write it up for a journal or something. Off I go. Back soon, because I don't have the patience to wait for journal acceptance and publication -- an ironic flaw, given that I'm now editing a journal.)

One of the most common trails to friendship is shared interests. Sherlockiana is a grand grease on the wheels of interpersonal relationships, but how do we get there when there are no shared common interests? How do we get to be friends with someone whom our normal screening processes would judge "not friend material" and cross those lines of "Trekkie versus NFL fan" or "Fundy versus Free Spirit?" We're facing that question a lot of late, as we see ourselves more and more categorized and labelled, fenced off in our little paddocks.

When you look at Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson, what did they really have in common? They both had a bit of medical training, but beyond that? The military man and the "making up my profession" artist? The "women of three continents" dude and the seeming asexual with a touch of misogyny? Sure, we can shave off some edges, and shift our viewpoints, but these were not two guys who were going to naturally decide to be friends and just start going to Norman-Neruda concerts together after a chance meeting. Nobody talks about "friendship at first sight" all that much. What friendships get based on most quickly is shared experience.

And it doesn't even have to be an intense, life-or-death shared experience. When you shove two people into a box for an extended period of time, be it an apartment, a shared office, prison cell, what-have-you, if they're not working as hard as possible to ignore each other, they can't help but start to learn about each other, start to understand a bit about each other, relate to each other . . . and if neither one is just entirely awful . . . become friends.

Maybe not best buddies. Maybe not life-long pals. But just friends.

In those universes where Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson are just friends, their shared adventures may have deepened their friendship, but it was not what sowed the seeds. That came from just existing in the same space for a goodly amount of time, forced to see what the other was about, develop trust, and accept each other into their lives. Because John H. Watson was forced to share rooms with Sherlock Holmes, he came to know what an amazing person Sherlock was . . . a strange guy he wouldn't have dwelled too long upon without that time in each other's space.

Sometimes, with some of us, that's just what it takes to open our eyes to the grand qualities that a person so different from us has to offer. Like Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, we're not always social butterflies making friends wherever we go. Sometimes, the universe just puts us in a virtual 221B Baker Street with some stranger that we then get to be surprised and delighted by.

And, as with Holmes and Watson, that can be a very good thing, even if we don't become a legendary mystery-solving team. Getting a friend you might not otherwise have had is reward enough.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Sherlock Holmes's greatest quality

"What is it that we love about Sherlock Holmes?" the classic fandom question goes, and our answers are many. The mysteries to solve, the Baker Street base, the wit, the friendship . . . so many answers. And yet, at his core, Sherlock Holmes has one quality that is what makes us love him best: Sherlock Holmes is who we imagine him to be.

Conan Doyle laid the tracks for our mental train of thought to run Sherlock Holmes along, this is true. But adaptations, favorite ships, actor portayals, the never-ending supply of new Sherlock Holmes stories -- all of these tell us a different story. While Conan Doyle laid the tracks, we're all running entirely different trains down those tracks.

Some of us may agree on similarities between our mental Sherlock-trains enough to think they're the same at times, but are any two mental Holmeses exactly alike? Not at all.

Sherlock Holmes is who we imagine him to be, each and every one of us. And that's why we love him best.

Lovers can turn out not to be who we imagined. Presidents can turn out not to be who people imagine they are. Even our fellow Sherlockians, or a Sherlockian institution like the Baker Street Irregulars, can turn out to be not what we imagined they were. That's reality. That's real people.

Sherlock Holmes, however, never proves to be anything different from what we imagine him to be.

Even if your Sherlock Holmes came to you somewhere other than Conan Doyles literary railway tracks and you never go near those lines, Sherlock Holmes will remain a happy constant, unless you decide to let him be otherwise. No one can force that choice upon you, either. No cult brainwashing or attitude adjustment camps for Sherlockian re-education exist, other than the little bumps of cultural influence.

However we came to Sherlock Holmes, the detective stays faithful to who we thought he was. Always.

When you come right down to it, I think that is what we really love best about Sherlock Holmes. He's there for us, being who we need when we need it. Inspiration, entertainment, and . . . just . . . well, Sherlock freakin' Holmes.

Long may he run.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Letting the Sherlockian spring breeze in

In the past week, two of the Sherlockian activities I've enjoyed tremendously were our local library discussion group and the Final Podblem podcast. It's easy not to stop and ponder why such regular events give us joy beyond "Sherlock Holmes!" but a tweet from the 221B Con Homeless Network put those bits in perspective this morning.

While their message was plainly about gatekeeping, it was also about folks who don't recognize the greatest source of Sherlockian joy when they see it. 

When I say "I've been an active Sherlockian for forty years" that might seem a brag, a citing of some supposed position in the fandom, or other puffery, but there's also an aspect of that forty years that is, to state it plainly, a curse. All of the first time joys are long past. The once-fresh eyes now gloss over things they might have once caught. Some names bring back decades-old prejudices that can spoil what might have been a good moment. And, worst of all, you can never go back. The magic spells of the past don't always fire in the present.

However, as I said at the start, I have found joy of late in what Sherlockians who are so much newer to the fandom have to say. They have fresh eyes. They don't get a thing or two right at times, but that's okay -- even mistakes can lead to fresh perspectives when considering how a new Sherlockian might see that old familiar thing you know too well.

New Sherlockians often have a bit of an identity crisis when they look at the filled bookshelf of Sherlock books of an elder Sherlockian, sometimes thinking they don't measure up. But what they don't realize is the journey that elder Sherlockian took to get all those books, starting from where the new Sherlockian is now. And how almost all of us would take that journey again, given the chance.

But after forty years in the hobby, one can't take that journey again, as much as one would like. The best we can do is watch someone else enjoy that ride, and you can't do that if you're constantly critiquing it for not being the exact same ride you took, decades ago. I get tired of hearing myself say "It's a whole new world!" but it so much is. And there is so much coolness going on in this world, so many Sherlockian joys that we didn't have forty years ago, so many new paths to explore . . . and guess what? Sometimes the guides for those paths are Sherlockians whose mental backpacks are still lightweight and not filled with crap to slow them down. Sometimes, the old bones have to follow the young energies. (And I'm not even talking about actual age here -- an Sherlockian who is new to the field and is older in age than I can lead an exploration as well.)

Don't ever close the doors and shutter the windows when the breezes of fresh Sherlock start to blow. Or at least open them up in the spring, which, curiously enough, is when 221B Con happens each year. 

And with winter coming on, I'm very much looking forward to that breeze already.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

So I had this moment once. This good, good moment.

It's hard, even for those of us who lived it sometimes, to re-imagine the world of 1980s Sherlockiana at this point. The internet and how it turned the BBC Sherlock boom into a fannish nuclear blast changed the landscape as dramatically as any future apocalypse, but, for most of us, in a good way. Opportunities are abundant, my friends are all seeing their work published in book form, and you can read as much Sherlock Holmes as you could ever possibly want off a device you carry in your pocket. It's a different world.

Who is the greatest Sherlockian alive today? Who the hell knows! As with music, movies, literature, and every other art form, we have access to so many artists that no one has a clear view of the entire vista to make such a pronouncement with any authority. Ask a hundred Sherlockians, you could potentially get a hundred different answers. But in the 1980s, things were different.

For so many of the Sherlockian "children" of the 1980s, there was but one obvious leader of the Sherlockian pack, and his name was John Bennett Shaw. He was our celebrity fan, whose workshop weekends were like a concert tour of your favorite band. If you could go, you went.

While doing some other research this morning, I came upon one of the letters I got from Shaw back in those days. (He was great with letters, one of the reasons we loved him so.) He wrote it on April 2, 1988, and he wrote it because he had just read my brand new book, The Elementary Methods of Sherlock Holmes. A book I had spent the better part of a decade working out, a book that I felt filled a void that existed in Sherlockian writings at that time, and my very first book.

Shaw was, as Shaw was, kind and encouraging to a young-ish Sherlockian. (I had just turned thirty-one -- not young for most fandoms, but in Sherlockiana of the 1980s? I was a baby.) But to have the Sherlockian of the day come and and say that I had accomplished exactly what I set out to accomplish with what I had written --  what any writer wants, to have another person get what you're trying to say -- well, it was a glorious thing. I count it among the best moments of my Sherlockian life, right up there with walking into the center of the first 221B Con and going, "Look at all these people!" A Sherlockian life spoils you with moments, but this was one of my favorites.

Looking at the letter now, it's also a wonderful thing to see that it wasn't just my moment, it was a moment in our Sherlockian history when Shaw was deep in preparing things for Minnesota, and the grand collection that the university there was developing. John Bennett Shaw's greatness as a Sherlockian wasn't that he just wrote one book, one poem, started one club, all those things we typically associate with Sherlockian achievement. It was his thoughtful care and kindnesses to other Sherlockians and the hobby itself. He was as much a gardener of Sherlockiana as a collector of it, planting seeds, tending to the soil, and . . . on occasion . . . weeding a bit.

His example is something to think about as we move through our fandom careers. While we might not be able to hit that level entirely, sometimes something as simple as a single letter, e-mail, or tweet can mean so very, very much.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Hot Beverages of Sherlock Holmes

Catching up on the Final Podblem podcast episodes this morning, I came to their discussion of one of my favorite Canonical moments. We all have our favorite moments of Sherlock being Sherlock, or Watson being Watson, but there are also those other little bits that touch us in ways beyond mere literature, like this one, from "Priory School":

"Now, Watson, there is cocoa ready in the next room. I must beg you to hurry, for we have a great day before us."

Well, of course, it's a great day! It's beginning with cocoa!

And not just some hot-water-and-powder instant mix. This was Victorian England cocoa, made by someone who actually cooked! It's fascinating to me that of the five Sherlockian cookbooks I own, the only one with a cocoa recipe is The Camden House Cookbook 2, which is called "Martha's Spiced Hot Chocolate" and is modern enough to call for Cool Whip as a topping.

Victoriana has some 1886 recipes that fill the bill melting an ounce or two of chocolate in water and then stirring that into milk, which follows my own pattern of making a sauce out of water, cocoa, sugar, and a touch of cinnamon in the morning, then stirring in milk, with perhaps a touch of vanilla at the last.

When you don't get into coffee or hot tea, as I don't, finding the right hot beverage can be tricky, and luckily the Canon of Holmes has more than one. In addition to that Priory School cocoa, we find Holmes's words in "Golden Pince-Nez," which our story discussion group hit tonight:

"Here's a cigar, and the doctor has a prescription containing hot water and a lemon which is good medicine on a night like this."

Now, Holmes wasn't saying that hot water and lemon were all that bartender Watson was serving with cigars on that stormy November night. Before Nyquil came the hot toddy, that mixture of hot water, lemon, honey, and whiskey or rum -- and we know whiskey was readily available in the Baker Street rooms. I'm more of a rum fancier myself, so I'll probably go that direction as the nights turn cold this year.

We don't get any references to mulled cider in the Canon, which is a true shame. Coffee and tea are plentiful, and when a special guest was at breakfast, as in "Naval Treary," Mrs. Hudson would actually bring both to the table. Put them all together and you get the four Hot Beverages of the Sherlockalypse: Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate, and Hot Toddy.

In other words, something for everyone! Something to keep in mind as the nights grow colder.

The H&W innocents

We hear a lot of unbelievable things these days, but there's one that has especially stunned me of late: How many Sherlockians there are that haven't seen Holmes and Watson, the top Sherlock Holmes release of 2018, that opened Christmas Day and continued well on into 2019. It's been available on video for almost seven months now, and, really . . .  has there been a Sherlock Holmes movie to top it yet this year?

Of course not!

Will there be a Sherlock Holmes movie released into theaters before the third Downey/Law outing in December of 2021, to end Holmes and Watson's reign as the latest and greatest Sherlock Holmes movie on the big screen?

Not really looking that way, is it?

So why, oh why, are so many Sherlockians purposefully choosing to remain unblessed by the insights of a writer-director who just gets an aspect of Sherlock Holmes that few have captured in the past? Why are they missing the first major motion picture where Sherlock Holmes and John Watson declare their love for each other so powerfully that only song can convey their feelings?

Well, I guess because it's not on Netflix yet. And competitive streaming services being what they are, that might be going to be not as quickly as it might have once been expected. Basically, you still have to purchase it, borrow it, or steal it to see the movie, which takes a little effort.

Still, those great mobs of innocent Sherlockians still out there, untouched by that long-faded mob of torch-wielding haters from back in January, offers Holmes and Watson another chance to add members to its cult-movie bad of happy followers.

I  know, I know, I forgot Enola Holmes in my earlier movie forecasting, but we can't let her come in with a pretty Henry Cavill Sherlock before those folks have their lives touched by a John Watson cake-icing autopsy scene. 221B Con is less than six months away, though, and another round of Doyle's Rotary Coffin evangelizing might just be in the works.

Stay tuned. Or better yet, if you haven't seen Holmes and Watson, get out there and fill that hole in your soul that you didn't even know was there. You'll either be glad you did or swearing vengeance upon me. Enjoy either!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Watson Does Not Lie. And Keefauver Won't Either.

Tonight, after three days wait from its earliest potential arrival, the new book Watson Does Not Lie by Paul Thomas Miller arrived on my doorstep. Here, of course, is the place where I would give you an early review of my friend's book, and tell you how wonderful it is. Not because I call Paul a friend, not because he's on my Watsonian Weekly podcast, but because it's a really nicely done book. Nicely organized, well thought out, good and useful timelines. And only $14.99 American on Amazon.

Here's why I will tell you all of those good things about the book and then not review it: Because now I have to write about something else. What, you ask?

Sherlockian envy. Jealousy. The green-eyed monster that any Sherlockian with a soul and the slightest touch of ambition feels from time to time.

Remember Les Klinger's first annotated, The Sherlock Holmes Reference Library, and Les Klinger's second annotated, The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes Well, how many times in the late seventies and early eighties did I hear a Sherlockian who cut his or her teeth on Baring-Gould's Annotated think about how it should be updated and consider doing that very thing. How many Sherlockians made their own little annotations on note cards or in the margins of their books with that dream of furthering Baring-Gould? And then here comes Les, who actually does the thing . . . twice.

I don't know how many Sherlockians saw those come out and went, "THAT COULD HAVE BEEN ME!!!" but I know they existed. Maybe it wasn't you, and maybe it was you, except you're a liar, but I know it wasn't just me. Of course, with Les Klinger's masterwork, as with Ron DeWaal's amazing bibliography years before, you also had to go, "Man, that was a lot of work, and I'm way too lazy to have gotten that done." Or maybe not, if you're not as lazy as me. Maybe you could have gotten that done had not fate intervened with [INSERT FATE INTERVENTION HERE].

Okay, so we can be a little envious of Klinger, DeWaal, Baring-Gould, even that notorious ol' Jack Tracy and his little encyclopedia. But each of those grand Sherlockian achievements had, part and parcel with them, a grand amount of work involved. Time spent, and lots of it.

Who has that kind of time? Not you and not me, I'm sure.

And today, Watson Does Not Lie rolls off the presses, out of the Amazon warehouse, through the mail and into my hot little hands. Paul Thomas Miller has published a Sherlockian chronology, the thing of that rarefied height of Sherlockian achievement accomplished by so very few. Thousands of folks have written a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, I'd wager. But Sherlockian chronologists who've published a chronology in one form or another? Less than twenty. Maybe less than seventeen, because you can't count the show-offs who just updated their first one a second time. And tonight, Paul goes on the bookshelf with Zeisler, Bell, Hall, and the rest. Of course, I'll be taking it down soon to compare it to my own notes, and therein lies the hardest hit of pure Sherlockian jealousy.

Unlike with Klinger, DeWaal, etc., I can't look at Paul Thomas Miller's book and go, "Who could possibly have the time to do such a thing!" Because I've had the time. I've done the worst of the work. And I have been intending to do that little bit of work left to publish a book of chronology . . . actually having that very thing on my to-do list . . . for eighteen freakin' years!


So that is what is coming out of me instead of a proper review of Paul's very lovely book. So many emotions, not just envy, but even those weird combo emotions like William Shatner song-acted on his first album. (Though not like "psychopathic subservience" as he designated his rendition of "Mr. Tambourine Man." That was kinda disturbing.) Guilty laziness. Spiteful self-shaming. Egotistical disappointment. and worst of all, I'm actually blogging a celebration of a friend's book publication in a way that's all about me! I'm a monster! (But, I kinda like Lady Gaga, so I can just be one of her little monsters.)

So, anyway, that was my night. How was yours?

(And congratulations, Paul, you really did accomplish a great thing, and I'm proud to know you. And it's probably too late to murder you now, which really would just ruin our little podcast, unless I started leaving clues for the listeners and daring them to solve the mystery of our missing feature-producer. Though I think there's already been a Sherlockian who taunted investigators regarding a murder, so, damn, I missed that boat, too.)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sherlock Holmes versus the Joker

With that different sort of Joker movie in theaters the last few weeks, it's odd that I didn't think of that time that Sherlock Holmes beat the Joker, back in 1976. And beat him in his own comic book, no less!

 Last month, I was writing about how Sherlock Holmes showed up in two 1978 DC Comics Batman stories, where Sherlock was a mysterious spirit, but in 1976, the Sherlock faced by the Joker was a little more solid . . . which the Joker did not expect at all.

Basing his crimes on the Sherlock Holmes stories, the Joker's first move was to steal a framed picture of Fran Carfax, the woman who played Irene Adler in the play Sherlock Holmes at the Bohemia theater in Gotham City. The Joker's big mistake, however, was shooting a boxing glove at the actor who played Sherlock Holmes, Clive Sigerson, and then bashing him on the head with his calabash pipe. Sigerson, already confused by the Joker having infiltrated his play disguised as Moriarty, starts to think that he actually is Sherlock Holmes. The stagehand assigned to keep him out of trouble is "Dock" Watson, and the game is afoot.

Curious fact from this comic: The Joker owns a copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes. And he's really acting like a completely avid Sherlockian in this story, seeming to pick the "Red Circle golf course" to kidnap J.B. "Red" Wilson, the head of an Air Hockey League, but really just settling for the flag from the fourth green as "The Sign of the Four." Not sure why anyone cared about the Joker as a master criminal if he was just stealing single flags from whole golf courses or individual pictures from theaters. (Or how he paid his goons with those crimes.)

The Joker's next crime is to steal the latch from a hatch on a ship called "the Baskervilles." (Latch used for "dogging the hatches," somehow equals "hound" to Joker, but he is a maniac, after all.) But Sherlock Holmes and Dock Watson fight it out with Joker's gang and defeat Joker with a water cannon, somehow construing that as a Reichenbach Falls parallel.

"Whether I am Sherlock Holmes or Clive Sigerson, the Joker is Professor Moriarty," Sherlock tells Watson, "and Holmes can always deduce where Moriarty will strike! A simple 'Case of Identity,' Watson!"  and with that, the story ends. The Joker is lying unconscious, we don't know where Clive/Sherlock's head is at, and next month Joker fought Lex Luthor, and Sherlock didn't appear again in the remaining four issues of the series.

What does this all have to do with the social commentary of the Joker-as-loser-social-reject version Joaquin Phoenix brought to theaters this month? Well, if a stage actor who thinks he's Sherlock Holmes could take out the one who gave Batman so much trouble, I don't think we have to be too worried about that one, despite the cult following he gets by movies end.

Seems like we know someone else who has a cult following as well.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Sherlockian Peorian

There once was a guy, Sherlockian!Whose address was quite Peorian.He rhymed those two words,Just like "birds" and "herds,"And tried not to mention Janis Ian.

Without language, humans wouldn't think nearly so many thoughts. Thoughts like "Hey! 'Sherlockian' rhymes with 'Peorian'! What does that mean?"

Not too much, really. A person who lives in Peoria who identifies as Sherlockian.

Jim Hawkins suggested "Peorian Sherlockian" as the correct order, which would indicate a Sherlockian with the qualities of someone living in Peoria, but what are the common qualities between those of us that live here? Like any town, we're all over the map.

In the past, fellow Sherlockians have told me that not wanting to travel to this function or that made me like fellow Peorian Bob Burr for his unwillingness to leave town very often. But, hey, just back from Portland, and while I rarely go to New York, that's between myself and NYC, not that I can't leave this city on the river. (For the record, not fond of Chicago either, for exactly the same reasons.) Nothing against the people who live or gather in those places -- Sherlockians are Sherlockians no matter where they hail from, which is why creating little temporary communities as we do on Sherlockian weekends is so much fun. Those are the times where we live in a place we dream of living all the time, at least at the end of such weekends.

And though I may be the only Sherlockian Peorian that some know, I'm hardly representative of that entire group. Melissa Anderson, Philip Jose Farmer, Mary O'Reilly, George Scheetz . . . like anywhere, the diversity of personality of Peorians who are or have been Sherlockian is fairly wide. Yet even coming up with a nice rhyming pair of words like "Sherlockian Peorian" does make one want to look for commonalities . . . which isn't a long search.

Sherlock Holmes. Peoria.

And we might even be from Arizona.

Friday, October 18, 2019


As I've written about the past weekend, the emphasis tended to be on the fun and excitement. There were also some very thoughtful moments, including Tim Johnson's touching and very honest overview of where we find ourselves these days, in Sherlockiana and out of Sherlockiana. I really appreciated the work he put into that presentation, because honest is hard.

It's easy to be honest about something outside of ourselves. We react, we put our reaction out there, and then we defend the truth of that reaction against all comers. "But I didn't like that portrayal of Sherlock Holmes!" we say, and it's the truth. We didn't like that.

That's the easy honesty. The harder honesty is looking within ourselves to see why we had that reaction. It's the thing that separates adults from children. There was a point, this past weekend, where a very, very small thing went sideways, and I fell into a pout. Nothing anyone got to really see, but sitting in my room at the end of a long day, I decided the world just didn't like me and I should just spend Saturday night in my room and hide. But I got up, put on my big boy pants, and made myself go down . . . and have a good time. Which I did. It's not the first time such a thing has happened, and I've learned that sometimes it's just me.

Of course, this doesn't mean that every view I have of everything is just me. There are certain aspects of this hobby that I know have some serious negatives. Sometimes our egos seem to need to put down others (or even sometimes raise them up) to keep ourselves at a level we crave. Sometimes we over-react and then base so much on that over-reaction that we can't seem to step back. And sometimes, well, most of the times, we just love Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockiana too damn much.

That last one is our strength, and our weakness.

If you've ever dealt with a true narcissist, you know that their worst attribute is that they absolutely cannot see that any world exists outside of the one their own perceptions build for them. You have to see the world exactly how they do, you just have to.  Their truth is the only truth. We're lucky in that there really aren't that many true narcissists out there, but we all have our moments. I mean, Sherlock Holmes is the greatest guy ever, but he's fictional, so who's the best person in reality?

Well, you are! 

Now, if you took that as less of a "You're the best!" positive affirmation and more of a literal truth, you're might be in danger of not getting this piece, and maybe we should all watch out for you. Of course, it just could be a lack in my writing skills and not that you're truly a narcissist, as well. (But, again, all the narcissists are going to go, "But, of course!" to that opening.)

The rest of us, the 99.9% non-narcissists, are generally good people who might occasionally get something wrong and need a little empathic honest conversation in that moment. We can sympathize and yet still be honest when we need to be. Those are the conversations we probably need the most of all, as lately we're getting some pretty brutal views of what happens when those conversations don't happen.

And by "empathic, honest conversation," I don't mean punditry, pontificating, or laying down the law. Actual conversations with caring mixed with honest views of the facts. Something Sherlock Holmes was really good at. One of the things I love most about the much-maligned movie Holmes and Watson is that it uses Sherlock Holmes to skewer people who are so in their own heads thinking they have all the facts, and are even supported by adoring crowds in that view, while being as clueless as can be. The comedy is in that Will Ferrell is a horrible Sherlock Holmes while actually showing many of the traits of Sherlock Holmes pushed to their limit. Watson has to be nearly hanged before an honest and caring conversation can be had with that Holmes. 

Tim Johnson, in his riff on "Hum" last weekend, made the point much better than Holmes and Watson did, I think, and had a few more fans than that movie this weekend. And it's one we should keep considering as we move on to Sherlockiana of the 2020s. (Did you notice we're just a few short months from a new decade? We are!)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

That rare morning with nothing to do

There are, if you're lucky, occasionally those mornings when you wake up and there's nothing on your mind. Nothing you need to do. Nothing troubling you. Nothing forcing you to get out of bed until you're good and ready to. And on such a morning, how soon does Sherlock Holmes come into your day, as he did with John Watson, and say:
"Get your hat."
"You with me to come?"
"Yes, if you have nothing better to do."
And, curiously, what was the major thing I came back to Peoria with, after my journey to Portland for the purposes of Sherlock Holmes? A hat.

Their were a lot of lovely places to visit in downtown Portland, but their hat store was quite the place. I splurged a bit and got a fine, crushable black Broner that I delightedly crushed all the way home.

But the point of this post isn't that I got a hat, as Holmes instructed Watson to do, that morning in A Study in Scarlet. It's about how quickly Sherlock Holmes can call upon you to come along with him if you've got nothing better to do.

A great writing project lept back to the forefront of my brain, a memory that "Oh, yes, I do a podcast now," and the verbal calisthentics of a blog post were all waiting, with Mr. Sherlock Holmes, just outside my bedroom door.

The game, as they say, is afoot.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium: Afterthoughts and Appreciations

What a weekend.

I know, I know, have you been to a Sherlockian weekend that just completely sucked? I don't think I ever have. I always come away from such weekends inspired, loving the hobby just a little bit more, and generally more wrapped in layers of lore. But sometimes, with no shade to any prior such weekends, you come away with something that feels completely new. The Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium was one of those weekends.

I don't think I ever just wanted to hug a symposium before.

I mean, I'm madly in love with 221B Con, so full of joy, enthusiasm, and warmth every April, yet the sheer size of the con makes it a world unto itself. Sherlock Holmes people taking over a large hotel for three days has beautiful little moments, but the overwhelming amount of the whole, the little longing it leaves you with because you can never take in every track, gives it an aspect like a favorite celebrity, whom you can love madly but never truly know fully.

LCSS followed the familiar single track of a Sherlockian weekend with around a hundred people filling a hotel event room, with dealer's tables around the edge. It was a very long room, so I wonder if those in the back had the same experience to what I had in the front, but we filled it to a cozy level without feeling cramped. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Having arrived plenty early and enjoyed a bit of Portland already, I put out the word Friday afternoon that I wanted to record some folks for the Watsonian Weekly and wound up with six special guests from up and down the coast. My first in-person meeting with Margie Deck had been a long-awaited treat, and she was just as great in person as one imagines from her online self -- a trend that would reoccur throughout the weekend with so many folks -- and she actually put off lunch until 3 PM, just to help record the podcast. Lynn Adams was great to finally meet, as well, at that podcast session, along with her husband Bill, who'd become very familiar as the symposium's badge-checker. Sheldon Goldfarb was very generous in talking about his new book, and Bob Coghill and Fran Martin were familiar faces from Sherlockian events long past, though they might not have remembered me as well as I remember such kindly Canadians of note.

That podcast led to getting to tag along to lunch, and an introductory course in light rail, which Sunny Even helped us navigate. Sherlockians tend to be good people like that, which won't be news to anyone. There's a community factor of this hobby that we don't always appreciate, yet has remained constant throughout the forty years of my doing this. Sunny also got a dozen of us a big table at Raven and Rose, which made for a lively dinner, another familiar part of Sherlockian life.

Getting to meet folks for the first time can be a bit surprising, as well, for in meeting Robert Perret in the flesh after hearing his podcast voice and reading his Tweets, a pleasant modesty came through that I somehow missed online. He actually had a book's publication announced this very weekend, Dead Ringers -- Sherlock Holmes Stories, and wasn't crowing it to high heavens. I had a great time with Robert and hoped I didn't bore him too much with my Sherlockian war stories, like some over-moustached old clubroom campaigner. And he even brought a fun little pamphlet titled The Pictorial History of Sherlock Holmes in Idaho, which made me laugh when I finally got time to read it.

Back to the symposium itself, though, an easy segue, since Robert was the first presenter -- I have probably written this many times now, but the depth and breadth of the presentations was really something this time out, as well as the intimacy, as the weekend moved along. Robert led off with a fascinating survey of the data of who we are and what we do in Sherlockiana, but as we moved along, I felt like the presentations got more personal, and more about the experience of lives lived with Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. The giving and connections of Holmestice, the struggles of obsessed attention to detail in making 221B realities out of fiction, the vulnerability of public speaking even for the best of us, and a real moment of meditation upon the challenges we face in our community, done with a gentle touch.

Saturday night, among the other entertainments, was time spent with mediums quietly trying to put people in touch with their dead. I'm not at all comfortable with the practice, as I've lived my whole life dealing with a particular death early in my life, but the experience can leave one both thoughtful and a little emotionally sensitive. And, being a man of a certain age whom menopause has definitely affected, I'm even a touch more sensitive than ever, when I'm not putting up walls. And while the term "safe spaces" is relatively new, the actual safe space that Sherlockiana has provided for many of us has long been appreciated.

The warm, safe space of Sherlockiana makes it all the harder when asshattery occurs, and even though that didn't happen this weekend, 2019 has been a definite year for exposing some less than pleasant bits in our ranks. Tim Johnson's very personal reflection on the Mary Oliver poem "Hum" gave us a good context for what has gone on, and how this hobby can help us deal with it. Sherlockiana gives us a connection that we can use to get past some of our differences, like the moment when Crow wanted to show me a beautiful Sherlock manga she had gotten, but hesitated because some of that beautiful art was Sherlock and John naked and affectionate. While I've never been into men being naked and affectionate, really good work involving Sherlock Holmes is still something I connect to and appreciate. Sherlockiana can help us get past our petty biases and look deeper at the true value of something . . . or someone.

After I crashed hard Sunday afternoon, I dragged myself out to get a falafel and some junk food to get me through the evening, but as I came back through the lobby, Julie McKuras settled me into a comfy chair across from the lobby counter and we talked for a good hour and a half. Julie's one of those folks that gets along well with even the most prickly of folk (Minnesotans and Canadians do get a reputation for that, don't they?), and going over life in the Sherlockian world with her was the perfect postscript to the weekend. We discussed the pluses and minuses of some of the tougher Sherlockians to deal with, but kept coming back to the fact that 99.9% of us are just pretty good people. And that 0.1%? They might not be without some value as Sherlockians, even if we wish they could be a bit nicer about it sometimes. We should all be.

I know I've pissed off some very sweet Sherlockians in my time, who've been very kindly to me later on, so I know my ledger might still need some balancing. And that makes these weekends all the more of a pleasure.

And this one? Like I said, I just want to give it a big hug. Thank you so much to everyone I mentioned here, and all those I didn't like Elinor's family and friends who backed her up on this marvelous first outing for a weekend event. It was a great work and very much appreciated. And now, on to one more day in Portland, and a little fun on the light rail system!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium: Still MORE Sunday morning!

Kris Pepper Hambrick is next, a fellow alum from the Wigmore Street Post Office days of early internet Sherlocking (when she was very young, and I was not as old as now). As I said, tough spot following Tim, but she's made it in before noon, I don't think any early leavers have bailed out yet.

"Play-acting Busybody: Essential Elements of Performing Holmes" is her theme and . . . oh, she performed in Ken Ludwig's Baskerville . . . I'm impressed! That play doesn't look easy. And she's distilling an eight-hour class she did on film Canon down to today's twenty minutes.

What does make a Sherlock Holmes portrayal? Projecting intelligence: How does one portray that? "Five mile eyeballs," Lyndsay suggests from the audience, talking about Hugh Laurie's eye-acting, as Kris has started asking for audience input. People agree with eyes. Crow throws in evoking the stories. And we all probably agree with that. Cumberbatch's "alien presence," as someone playing human "who hasn't quite got it yet," Kris adds. Physical presence, height, comes up. Chuck Kovacic, who has also played Holmes, brings in his own experience playing an acerbic Holmes. A whole lot of aspects of Holmes coming out.

"We can agree on all those things being Holmes, and disagree on who's pulling it off," Kris points out, very accurately. Some slides of various Holmeses unpopular with some people come up and there's a few hisses, but certainly not about Will Ferrell's corner of the screen. Certainly.

Holmes has so much to him, so many descriptive words that we use to define him, that the intentions of a specific production make a difference in how he is played -- good point there, that most of us never consider. (Yes, Will Ferrell's intentions, ego, infallibility, etc. are part of why I love him. As does his Watson.) But on to Jeremy Brett, because, well, he has a ton of GIFs.

Kris is having us analyze Brett GIFs, seeing how we interpret a look. The first brings up both "kindness" and "patronizing," as well as "intimacy."  The appearance of eye contact and widening eyes, as he nods his head. The next GIF brings up "playfulness," "smug," and "love of another man" from different folk, all in the same simple movement. A lot going on with the eyes. A very interesting study.

We're getting Kris's own observations of what a good Holmes takes, and eleven qualities that a good Holmes has to bring out. "How does he laugh?" was a big question she had to deal with when playing Holmes.

We're getting down to questions, so I'm going to wrap this up, as I'm next. Really good analysis, and I hope I caught some of the spirit of it here!

Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium: More Sunday morning!!

"Hum" (Reflections on a Sherlockian World Inspired by Poetry, Roses, and Bees) is Tim Johnson's presentation, a prose poem inspired by poet Mary Oliver, a meditation on all things Sherlockian from his archivist view. This is the one I've been most curious about all weekend.

He begins by reading Mary Oliver's "Hum" itself, about bees, what she saw in them, almost like something out of Sherlock's brain. And now comes his riff on it. "We dabble in poetry, but Canon came first . . ." he begins. "What is this dark hum among the roses?" Mary Oliver wrote, and Tim's riff goes into Doyle's own words from STUD and MUSG, poetry without being poetry, what would Doyle think of Brexit, he refers to Sherlockian poetry "Long Evening With Holmes" and "221B," Chicago. This poetic meditation is a bit tough to report, so bear with me.

And he's getting to the big tent of Sherlockiana: "It should be a safe tent." And how some don't get along. This is our Sunday morning service, I think. The darkness of the world enters in, tragic leaders that hit us more important than Holmes. Uh-oh, he mentions Ferrell Holmes and a certain Peorian who's crazy about it . . . but adds "We need crazy."  And on to "No Holmes barred" and LGBTQ and how we're kinda white, and our "devotee" side is a little old and wrinkled, and fandom is young and different. Sherlock Seattle's effects on Tim. All he learned there. We've all had journeys, learning how to deal in this new world some of us have come to. I think of Jameela Jamil's recent twitter experiences on that. Finding himself between Trumpers at a Sherlockian event, and how we don't talk politics, yet come together with those we might otherwise now. Clubs, not exclusivity, and he touches on that one club for a moment.

The Game we all play, the joy of it, and how some might be a little more competitive and some may think there are rules or not. Tim is really continuing our theme of mass content deluges this weekend, and he's rolling out real ponderances like chocolates on Lucy Ricardo's inspection conveyer belt and we have to start stuffing some in our figurative mental blouses as they go by. I pause to pin on a button and just listen and he's on to Sherlock Holmes music and how there's not enough of it.

OH! Standing ovation for Tim! That was spiritual. Don't know if it's my aging hormone shifts, but it got me a bit teary. My seat-neighbor Kristin is next and a bit daunted to follow Tim, and I appreciate her being my buffer.

Posting this! I will be back!

Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium: Sunday morning!

Sunday morning starts at 9:30 with Margie Deck and Bob Coghill giving out the fabulous doorprizes!

Margie prepared a fun quiz based on Portland and the symposium itself, and by turning it in (You didn't even have to get any answers right!), we all got ten door prize tickets we could drop in cups next to some really great prizes. I dropped most of mine in celebrity autographed photos, but there were games, stuffed Sherlock bears, mystery boxes, all sorts of goodies. About eight prizes in, I still haven't won anything . . . SOB tea box, hmm, didn't put a ticket in that one, so I'm good. Christopher Lee autograph photo! Tim Johnson gets it, and I did have a ticket in that one. Aw. missed the Cumberbatch, too!  First edition Bonnie MacBird, no luck! RDJ, Jude Law, NOOOO!!! Jeremy Brett, goes, and we're done. No luck for me on this outing.

But Margie is giving us to the answers to the quiz. Stormy Petrels are Watson, Holmes, and a member of a scion. Lyndsay Faye goes with Dust and Shadows. Henry Baskerville, John Watson, Sherlock Holmes = Christopher Lee. Sherlock Hemlock first appeared looking for a half a chicken salad sandwich. Jack James did time in Portland. SH looked for the Missing Three Quarter on Gray's Inn Road. Neil GIbson looked like Abe Lincoln.  October 13 was when Watson wrote a letter from Baskerville Hall. Hosmer and Mary met at a ball. Thirteen friends of Hugo Baskerville, thirteen speakers on the program for the weekend. What were the questions? You'll have to ask Margie, as I'm already typing as fast as I can.

Haley stops by, gathering speaker autographs on the symposium poster -- one of those brilliant ideas that we all wish we had thought of, now too late to pull off. A lot of luggage in the symposium room today as folks have checked out and are leaving soon.

Elinor's up to introduce Lyndsay Faye, and my table learned early on that if we started loudly clapping, we could silence the room for her. Sherlockians love to join in clapping. And now comes Lyndsay, who is fearing spontaneous combustion from public speaking, unbelievably enough. She's diving into audience interaction to help out, and endearing herself immediately.

I always remember meeting Lyndsay at the first 221B Con, and telling her she was the person that I wanted to be when I was thirty, and there's still a lot to admire there. Such good thoughts coming out, Doyle's hat-trick in Holmes and Watson being self-aware that they were getting published -- something BBC's Holmes and Watson would have had to realize they were on TV to pull off. And how she brought that into her wonderful Timothy Wilde novels.

"All novels are sequels," Michael Chabon said, according to Lyndsay, as she's shown that Sherlock Holmes followed other writings and other writings followed him. She wraps up her main comments, and we eventually get to "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs," one of her true passions. And there are people in this audience who have never heard of it? WHAT!?!? (And that guy across the room that threw shade at Holmes and Watson -- I may have to take him out. He looks a little young and fit though, and probably even capable of verbal riposte, so then again . . . well, I'm save that for my podium time.)

Asked about her influences, Lyndsay tells us she reads a lot of poetry while she's writing, which is a really interesting point about wordsmithing. She also makes a point of historical fiction giving voices to people whose voices we never will hear. The audience questions are really providing a nice variety of Lyndsay thoughts. Her roots, her childhood, and how they play into her creation of Paragon Hotel, and Portland's racist past. And up comes, for the second or third time this weekend, how Michael Dibdin's The Last Sherlock Holmes Story is the one most offensive Sherlock Holmes pastiche in the world, and is always called out as possibly the worst Holmes book ever.

Like so much of the rest of this weekend, a whole ton of ideas are coming out here. And we're about to roll right into Tim Johnson, so I'm posting!

Left Coast Sherlockian Symposum: And Into The Night . . .

Well, I'll be honest with you: My great flaw as a Sherlockian weekend reporter is that I always miss something. This time, I over-extended our afternoon break, got caught up in an conversation in the hall, and missed 75% of the final speaker of the day, Dr. Bruce Parker on "Sherlock Holmes and Medicine." I heard later that the biggest takeaway might have been that a 7% solution of cocaine was pretty weak stuff.

After the day's program was finished, I recorded a little podcast material with Robert Perret, then went up to dress for dinner. SyFy channel was showing the return of the Banana Splits, only horror (?), and as a card-carrying member of the Banana Splits Club since the 1960s, I had to resist the temptation to see what was going on there to head down to dinner.

The trend toward fancy dress balls finally saw me attending one in something close to fancy dress. (Hey, I put on a vest!) And soon I found myself dining at another table full of Sherlockians. The conversation was far-ranging, and often very personal. We've had some really thoughtful and illuminating presentations so far, and are all looking forward to more tomorrow. Getting a good table of Sherlockian dining companions is always one of the great pleasures of our hobby, and . . . well, I think I'll leave it at that to protect the innocent. (Not that anyone was guilty, of course.)

We were called away from our happy dinner table (Oh, the buffet was a nice change, by the way -- build your own burgers and salads with some really nice options, and good dessert choices.) to go see the historical conjurer, Professor D.R. Schrieber, who put on an excellent show whilst demonstrating the sort of effects one would have seen in the century of Holmes and Watson.

Here he is with Elinor and Kris, turning seeds into roses.

And here poor Fran was about to run some sparky Victorian electrical device to send a message via fruit in his show-closer effect. The professor put on a delightful show of both impressive effects and education on magic of the past.

Once that was done, many of us headed a few rooms over to where the seances were being held. Two mediums were contacting the spirit world in a more modern method than the glowing-ether and spirit-writing of Conan Doyle's time. Sitting in a quiet circle waiting for the mediums to see spirits coming to pass along their messages of comfort is a time when you can't help but think of those who have passed on, or one's personal philosophies of what happens after we die, and it can get a little emotional, even if you aren't connecting with any of the spirits the seers are calling out. It went on a little longer than my midwestern body clock would have liked, and sometimes I might have been closing my eyes with a bit more sleepiness than meditative thoughts of those passed.

And now I've stayed up much too late to report on this, but I've got to say, tomorrow should be a very interesting day. On we go.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium: Later Afternoon

It's Nancy Holder time, and her list of credentials as a writer and Sherlockian are long and impressive, and she starts by passing books around to look at and showing her butterfly net of added topics . . . "Sherlock Holmes in Horror and Science Fiction" is the specific topic of her talk, and it's a pretty wide area to run about in.

Nancy starts with Conan Doyle, who wrote a bit of horror and science fiction outside the Canon, as well as a a bit inside the Canon. From there it's a ride across the world of pastiche, television, and movies, including Star Wars and Star Trek actors who have played Holmes. And Data Holmes, of course.

Ah, but we have to get into "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs," our modern classic Asylum Films Sherlock Holmes. (With brother Robert and that robot assassin in addition to the dinosaurs.) How we get from there to Edgar Allen Poe so quickly, I'm not sure, but from Poe we go to Lovecraft, and . . . is everything not touched by Sherlock Holmes these days?

Nancy spares us a visit by Cthulhu by not speaking his invocation . . . but why did she display it on the screen? Why? Hopefully, now that she's shifting to Jack the Ripper, we're not going to see a way to invoke him. But we make it to "Gaslamp" horror without that. I suspect we'll be getting to ghosts tonight. But not premature burials, which she's moved on to.

Hard to capture the personality that comes through in Nancy Holder's talk, with finger-wagging pronouncements of Sherlock Holmes's premature burial in the waters of Reichenbach Falls. Her last tidbit is a rolling review of all of the Hound of the Baskervilles adaptations and spinoffs, "The Brotherhood of the Wolf?"

It seemed to be getting colder and colder in the conference room as the afternoon went on, so I ran up to my room following Nancy's talk to warm up and get a jacket . . . having a hotel room handy is the best part of these conferences, so you can freshen up or recharge when needed. More to come.

Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium -- Early Afternoon

"A Straight Left Against a Slogging Ruffian" is the title that John Longenbach gave us when he started his talk on Holmes the fighter, and he uses the Downey films as our entry-point, but quickly getting to Holmes's older fighting aspects. Single-stick, the British specialty of bare-fisted boxing, and . . . John soon raises the question: Did Watson ever actually see Sherlock Holmes do any of that skilled boxing Holmes would tell of?

After reviewing Watson's actual witness of Holmes's skills, John Longenbach decides that maybe pistol-whipping was Holmes's best move, and he uses that pistol to transition into the points in the Canon where gunplay was involved. But eventually we come to Bartitsu, that Barton-Wright martial art that always reminds one that Watson might have mis-spelled it on purpose.

How can the room be a bit chilly, and yet I'm still having the post-lunch sleepies?

But now it's demonstration time!

And that was Sherlock Holmes using Bartitsu to toss Moriarty off Reichenbach Falls!

Boxing comes next . . . .

And singlestick!

A lot of questions for our presenters, and we're already out of time! On to the next!

Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium, Late Morning!

A fifteen minute break, and back to it. Chuck Kovacic is up, and after being entertained by a few of his stories at breakfast, I'm looking forward to his presentation on 221B recreations. It takes a bit for Elinor to get everyone settled down, with a laugh and a smile, but she gets the job done.

Two methods for setting up a Sherlockian sitting room? I can't wait!

Annnnd, we have a speaker with some stage presence in Chuck, a fact that becomes immediately apparent. He's left the microphone behind and is . . . oh my word, amd I going to be able to even blog during this? Capturing the energy of this one is going to be hard.  Right off, we know, that that Playmobile 221B sitting room recreations don't count, among other things. Chuck's origins as an actor playing Sherlock Holmes at corporate events and the accuracy required of his cosplay and personal effects lead off his journey to 221B. Good stuff.

Obsession. Attention to detail. The difference between American Victorian and English Victorian. The level it takes to go full-bore into a 221B Baker Street recreation. Marylebone townhouses. John Portman, builder of townhouses. Parliament. (Mistresses.) Three classes of townhouse. 97 year leases. Women could acquire them, Mrs. Hudson did. No standard staircase builds, nor otherwise.The "palace design." So much data being imparted.

The Downey Jr. sitting room takes some heat as soon as we get into the furnishings of 221B, and we get back to starting with the 1951 Festival of Britain recreation. Trying to make 1895 with antiques that look current is rough.  Slipper chairs -- American ones have ornaments on the top.  The trials of a bearskin rug. (Side note, as my poke-friend Jen pointed out it's a community day for Pokemon Go, I had to check for trapinches at this point. Got a shiny one first throw. Multi-tasking!)

Gasogene. Seltzogene. We learn the difference. Victorian British staplers? The level of detail that Chuck Kovacic is blazing through from a lifetime of focus on this one room is incredible. He has to be the world's master on the topic at this point. Has to be. I hope any first-timers don't think that he's the average Sherlockian guy, because, boy, is he way beyond that. And 221B Baker Street LA is for sale, so cash in your 401K.

Haley and Elizabeth are up next with "Gimme More Holmes: Holmestice, Fanworks Exchanges, and Fan Engagement with Sherlock Holmes Adaptations. An explanation of transformative fan culture comes first, which a lot of us need, even if we're familiar with what it is, as it's big. Very big. Fanfic, fanart, fanvids, all the ways we can go "What if?" about a creation. The participatory and gift aspects of the fanwork culture are very cool, and Haley goes deep into about as many aspects of it as Chuck did with his furniture.

When Elizabeth comes up, we're moving on to the more Sherlock Holmes specific aspects of fan culture as it relates to scion culture. Tying familiar movies to varieties of fic is a great move: Murder By Decree = Case-fic, Sherlock Holmes in New York = Ship-fic, Seven Per-Cent Solution = Alternate Universe, etc.  This was a great choice for those people in the room for those who aren't familiar with fanworks.

And we're back to Haley for Holmestice, a holiday gift exchange. ("Give one, get one.") It's origins came from a splinter off other fan exchanges to fill a void, inclusive of all Holmeses, not just BBC Sherlock. "The mouse one, the robot one . . ." All of them. Twice a year on the solstices, mostly stories, but other creative endeavors as well. (Finger puppets, even.) Sign-ups, matching, the creation period, pinch-hitting (to fill gaps), posting (anonymous), guessing (who made what), and reveals -- Haley and Elizabeth lay out the whole cycle of Holmestice for us, and wow, what an endeavor. Very inspiring!  943 works in 53 different Sherlockian fandoms over 9 years and 18 rounds. Very impressive as well.

The percents of various Holmeses in the Holmestice exchange is fascinating, and how, as BBC Sherlock starts to fade in popularity "More!Holmes," the category of all those other non-major, non-Canon Sherlocks has grown to fill the void. Participation numbers in Holmestice are very impressive, with a returning writer rate that the BSJ would envy, given the stats we saw earlier.

The range of Sherlock Holmes fandom groups is so diverse, and Holmestice exposes it's participants to versions of Sherlock they may have never seen. There is just so much out there now, that no Sherlockian can hope to know it all, it sounds like a great way to explore our favorite characters.

Gourmet box lunches are next, so on we go! Forgive me if the writing/spelling/anything on these posts is a bit shabby. Listening and writing simultaneously isn't the idea way to do words, but I'm trying!

The Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium begins!

There was applause and cheers as Elinor Gray stepped up to the podium and opened the first Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium. The brand new event had packed as many people in as it could hold (well over a hundred), the dealer's had been open for an hour, most of us had already mingled at the hotel breakfast, and we were off and running.

Robert Perrot had the lead-off spot, asking the question "Is Sherlockian Scholarship Scholarly?" asking us to define scholarship and scholars. Going into the concept of "citizen scholarship," he quickly brought up Ronald Knox, the "stud-muffin" of early Sherlockiana. (That's a quote.)  The projector as a little close to the screen, making some of the graph text a little small for the very back of such a very long room, so Robert had to describe some charts, but he did well at that.

As he got into his survey of Sherlockian articles across the history of The Baker Street Journal, he gave us some fascinating overviews of things done. "Speckled Band" is the most cited story. Most writers for the BSJ publish once. One author wrote two articles, 55 years apart. Author professions -- academic tends to lead, business folks rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s, and high schoolers got a good showing. When this talk gets published somewhere, it's going to be a must-read!

Good lead-off talk, leaving with folks wanting more. Proud to have Robert as a part of The Watsonian Weekly. Sounds like his slides will be going up on the symposum website, so look for those.

Sonia Fetherston and Julie McKuras are up next, so it seems Robert was the warm-up for the party really getting started with "Nevertheless, She Persisted: Women Who Broke the BSI's Glass Ceiling." Not sure how they became a tag-team, buddy-cop presentation duo, but I'm sure we're about to be the better for it.

Julie steps into the ring first, leading off with the actress who should have been a BSI but wasn't, thanks to her gender, then getting to Katherine McMahon, the best known woman who completed Christopher Morley's crossword puzzle that supposedly got one entry into the BSI, but again, didn't due to her gender. Still, she led a great Sherlockian life. Edith Meiser, the actress and writer, who was key to getting Sherlock Holmes on radio in America is up next, and actually was also key in America getting the Doubleday Complete, a cornerstone of American Sherlockian life. Meiser was on I Love Lucy as Ricky's boss's wife? I didn't know that!

Helene Yuhasova, the poet laureate of the BSI, who ran into the trouble with the red scare of the 1950s,  is spoken of, as is Kathleen Morrison, Calgary's "Lady She rlock" who wrote a twelve page biography of Watson in the 1940s, but couldn't get into most Sherlockian societies of the day. Man, this is not a talk that makes me respect the BSI any more, but Sonia is tagged in next, and we'll see if she can bring things upward as she moves from the 1950s forward.

Mystery writer Lenore Offord, described by Sonia as a combo of Eleanor Roosevelt and June Cleaver, got nominated for the BSI and got an investiture in absentia, from Edgar Smith with what is believed to be a quiet deal to never attend a meeting. Ruth Berman and the "Albertus Magnus Six" bring us into the sixties, and we're given to ponder how much more Sherlockiana Ruth would have written had the BSI been co-ed back then. Lisa McGaw, who reorganized and polished the William Gillette luncheon into a successful standard of the annual New York weekend, got to be the second not-to-attend membership into the BSI. She expected to attend, and never got an invitation, or got to attend, dying before the one dinner she was about to be allowed into. So sad.

By the time we get up to history as I lived it, I'm still not loving the ol' BSI, but at that point we're into my personal scar tissue, so the list of women that are finally allowed in during that first real break in the men-only policy seems hardly to make up for all of that crap that came before. 1991 might be ancient history now, but it wasn't that ancient. The names of the women who got into the club are all familiar, and the grand old institution of American Sherlockiana should have been more honored to have them accept membership than they honored to be let in. It makes me kind of glad that the BSI shilling doesn't seem quite as important to the up and coming generations of Sherlock Holmes fans.

Good wi-fi in this hotel, so I'll try to keep blogging as this goes for those of you who couldn't make it but still wonder what's going on.

Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium: Friday Night

Almost 7 AM, and two and a half hours until the West Coast Sherlockian Symposium is under way. Retaining a midwestern body clock on the west coast means early mornings, to be sure, and I've already been out for a morning stroll and picking up supplies at a nearby quickie mart. Hotel breakfast doesn't start for another half hour on weekends, so an apple fritter was "necessary."

Soooooo, what happened last night?

Well, thanks to the second place team from the annual Watsonian Treasure Hunt, I got to speed up to the Raven and the Rose for happy hour registration via the local light rail system instead of more walking. I was grateful enough to take it in stride when the knives literally came out at dinner for being on the first place team from the annual Watsonian Treasure Hunt. (If not for the knives, I might have not felt the need to mention that here.)

The upstairs happy hour area at the Raven and Rose was especially crowded (well, Friday night and all), and after getting signed in and getting badges, the mingling and meeting faces old and new began. Had a lovely discussion with a fellow contributor to The Holmesian Federation, that grand and tragic crossover fanzine from back in the day, talked to some local folk, a whole lot of Watsonians as well, as recognizable faces from 221B Con weekends . . . this conference looks to be a marvelous mix of traditional Sherlockians with the bright new creatives.

After leaning on a pool table for a while, I heard that Sunny Even wrangled a table for twelve in the restaurant below, and joined that hasty assemblage for dinner and got to sit between quizmaster Margie Deck and Watsonian associate editor Jen Snyder. As Jen and I both got the mushroom risotto that came with a warning about uninspected foraged mushroom, I let her try her dish first, claiming Watsonian associate editor duties included food tasting for the editor-in-chief. She seemed unaffected, so I dove in. The Raven and Rose serves up some very rich foodstuffs, to be sure.

I was lucky enough to sit across from the John H. Watson Society "Boy in Buttons," Beth Gallego, so we had all sorts of chat about that institution, and I got to feel a little more comfortable in my role as the editor of The Watsonian, since former editor Elinor Gray is the only person I had gotten to have a face-to-face chat with about it since taking the job.

As with any Sherlockian weekend, the ideas for new projects and ways to celebrate Sherlock (and John H,) are starting to roll in, and I already volunteered for a certain something next year that I'm excited to get into.

We shan't discuss the new medical condition I learned about from hiking five miles when you're well past sixty, which I first attributed to the foraged mushrooms at Raven and Rose. And the hotel breakfast is about to open up, so . . . MORE TO COME!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

And now, for something completely different . . . Portland!

Well, it's finally time for the Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium this weekend.

So forgive me if I take one blog post away from focus on Sherlock and John (or Holmes and Watson, if you're not on as intimate terms with them as some of us), and just talk about my first trip to Portland, Oregon. One of the great achievements of Sherlockiana in my life has always been getting me to go places I might not otherwise wander. And now Portland.

Flying in was a different experience . . . the individual snow-capped mountain or two (not like the Rockies), the great wandering river (not like the Mississippi), the near-water landing (not like La Guardia), and all the deep green between. Glad I grabbed a window seat for the first time out.

Since the streets seemed a bit complex for car rental, and I didn't want to take the light rail in, I went with the cab option (around forty bucks from the airport) and a cabbie with both a little crabbiness and a little language barrier (who still got the job done well enough), and made it to the University Place Hotel and Convention Center.

I don't believe I've ever been at a hotel quite like the University Place. Built around a triangular courtyard and pool area, it has that room-doors-that-open-to-the-outdoors thing, which might be a nice wake-up the temp hits the low forties and you open it to that morning chill.  As the name says, we're right next to the university, and right around the corner is an entire block of food trucks. With said autumn chill in the air, however, I chose dim sum at the Duck House for a little indoor dining tonight, which was equally close.

There are a variety of trams and light rail things to watch out for, in addition to cars, as you wander the streets of downtown, with it's variety of purveyors. This area is a mix of downtown and college town, and there's a market/deli a few blocks down with all sorts of curious little food things. (Dessert tonight was a little pack of little "Hello Panda" chocolate creme filled cookies. Mmm.)

But tomorrow morning will be the true exploration of the area: Both Powell's Books and Voodoo Donuts are about twenty minutes in the same direction, with maybe a stroll by the Raven and Rose to scout it out ahead of tomorrow night's opening festivities on the way back. But who knows what else one might stumble upon in this very non-standard place called Portland.

Leaving thoughts

Every now and then I think of one of us who left and never came back.

A lot of folks dabble in Sherlockiana when Sherlock Holmes is on screens and popular, or enjoy the community of a local club for a time when membership is fun, then decide the hobby just isn't for them. But there are always those curious few who come in so strong, hit so many of the goalposts that signal a Sherlockian for life, and then vanish from our ken.

There are those who undergo a major life alteration, like a marriage to a spouse who just won't have it. And there are those who push and push toward a goal they at some point decide they can never achieve in this hobby, or take some other hard hit. Understandable reasons, if regrettable. And then there are the mysteries, those folks whose stories we never know.

But there are always a few mysterious ghosts who remain forever in our memories, yet walked away from Sherlock Holmes like Watson with a wife.

I suspect those folk remain especially memorable just because of those unknown factors, like Jack the Ripper, who always got extra press over worse serial killers just because no one knew his story. We miss all of those who leave this community, for whatever reason, even those annoyances who become less so with the haze of nostalgia. But those mystery ex-Sherlockians . . . well, they're just unsolved mysteries. And as Sherlockians, we like our mysteries solved as well and good as Sherlock would.

As I head out to another gathering of Sherlockians, to see familiar faces and those that will become familiar, it's a time one remembers a lot of folks one met along the way. It's a little bittersweet, yes, but definitely more sweet than bitter. And it's a big reason that those of us who stay in this game don't wander off -- no mystery there.

Because losing touch with a few folks along the way is not nearly so bad as losing touch with all of them.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

What makes a Sherlockian?

Reading an interchange on Twitter this morning about some folks who "went on to read the Canon and become Sherlockians," followed by a comment on "the age-old question about whether reading the Canon is the measure of a Sherlockian," my early morning brain, that simplest and most honest of brains, reacted with three words: "No, it's not."

"Why did you say that, early morning brain?" I inquired.

"Don Izban," my brain replied.

Forgive me if I get a detail or two wrong here, as it's been a while since I've been up to Chicago or crossed paths with Don, but for those of you who have done neither, Don Izban is a genial and often hilarious Sherlockian who has put together more than a few Chicago Sherlockian traditions. And one thing I still remember him doing from my time up there was claiming to never have read the Canon.

We all took it as a gag, of course, but the funniest part was when you would stop and wonder, "What if he really never did?"

Sure, he did great tours of the cemetery where Vincent Starrett was buried. Sure, he started the STUD Sherlockian Society and co-founded a Sherlockian jazz appreciaton event, among other things. But none of those things really required reading the Canon.

Which made me realize that you don't even have to like Sherlock Holmes to be a Sherlockian. Here's the two-part actual baseline that I've seen proven out, time and again, over the last forty years for being a Sherlockian.

a.) Know there's something called "a Sherlockian."
b.) Find some people calling themselves "Sherlockians" to hang out with, either in person or online.

That's it. If you just hang out with Sherlockians, it pretty quickly becomes assumed that you are a Sherlockian. You don't have to read Doyle. You don't have to watch BBC Sherlock. You really don't have to do anything else but connect with at least one other Sherlockian and listen to them and nod.

That's what makes a Sherlockian.

Show up at this weekend's Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium, and guess what? You're a Sherlockian! Find your way to one gathering of Sherlockians, and guess what? You've got Sherlockian street cred. 

Any bar set above those two conditions that I've laid out above is just someone trying to put themselves above or below someone else in that perverse desire we have to rank people, be it to compliment them or ourselves. Being a Sherlockian? Not really so hard.

Finding out Sherlockians exist, in a world where we are a real tiny fraction of the population, is the highest hurdle you have to jump, and that's usually just chance.

So if you're reading this, and you don't actively resist the tag, hello, fellow Sherlockian!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Priest Frightenin'

You might know her as Hatty Doran from "The Noble Bachelor." Me, I call her "Priest Frightenin'!" Let me explain it to you in song.

This bride is . . . sigh . . . volcanic.
She disappeared  . . . in . . . a panic.
Don't be so . . . Pur . . . itanic!
Why, she's Priest Frightenin'!
(Priest Frightenin'!)

You get a California girl, and make sure she's rich, oh yeah!
(St. Simon, go, St. Simon!)
Bring her back to England, and get her to church, oh yeah!
(She'll get you the money! You really need the money!)
She'll walk down the aisle on cue, but who's that in the pew?
I won't say it's revoltin',
But, Hay, Frances Moulton! Priest Frightenin'!

Oh, oh, oh! Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!

Oh, Priest Frightenin', you're gonna get this thing anulled!
(Priest Frightenin', oh, Priest Frightenin!)
Oh, oh, Priest Frightenin', you're ruining these wedding vows!
(Priest Frightenin', oh, Priest Frightenin'!)
Your bigamy! Makes you run free!
You're Priest Frightenin'!

Oh, oh, oh! Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!

This is what happens when you're days away from a Sherlockian event on the other side of the country, and there's madness in the air on a rather large scale. Stress relief takes some odd forms.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A critically acclaimed Moriarty movie?

I find my movie-going self rather vexed this weekend, since my comic-loving inner thirteen year old would love to go see a comic book movie, but the big studio option for this weekend (and maybe the fall) is an attempt to humanize and give a meaningful backstory to a classic Batman villain . . . without bringing Batman into it.

Like the previous movie incarnation of the same character, a very talented, very serious actor is taking the comic book villain to new levels, and the last time that happened, what I saw on screen transcended the source material so much that it was, for all intents and purposes, a brand new character.

Which brings me to Professor Moriarty, the barely-seen master criminal whom Sherlock Holmes saw as his career's greatest challenge. Moriarty was the best criminal mind there was, and since we know next to nothing of what criminal plots he actually concocted, we can't dispute that fact. If Sherlock Holmes said he was that much of a genius, he must have been. Other than one, brief, second-hand interview at Baker Street, we never read of Moriarty actually doing anything. We get his non-crime resume. We get a description of what he looks like. But outside of a bit of back-and-forth dialogue with a man he just met that one time, we have no idea of what his life was like.

If one were to film Mortiarty, a motion picture devoted to showing us all of Moriarty up until that time Sherlock Holmes noticed and came after him, would that actually be a good thing?

Since Moriarty's life is such a void, wouldn't an attempt to give him two hours of backstory just be the same as creating a new character?

That's basically what happened with Joker, the Batman villain movie out this weekend, for better or worse. The movie's success may cause the comics to retrofit some of its details into the comic book's mythos, but at this moment, the movie seems to have definitely spun its own Earth into the DC comics multiverse.

We've had Moriarty novels before, from John Gardner and Michael Kurland, but Sherlock Holmes always has to show up at some point. Moriarty has yet to separate himself completely from Holmes in a major adaptation. And the idea of a Joker-like film that takes Moriarty out to stand completely on his own in a critically-acclaimed display of his humanity . . . well, that seems as far-fetched as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where Richard Roxburgh got to give him a go without Sherlock around.

But I think I'd go see it. After Sherlock Gnomes, I know I can definitely take one for the team, so how bad could Moriarty be? (Well, a bakery mascot baby, like he was in Sherlock Gnomes. All Holmes might be good Holmes, but all Moriarty should just be bad Moriarty in one way or another, shouldn't it?

Friday, October 4, 2019

Mrs. John H. Watson, shipped in 1904

Found something odd tonight . . .

You see, I have this very silly collecting tic. And another find wandered my way as a book sale was being set up by someone who new my avocation.

Three finds actually. Those first three. Conan Doyle's Best Books. A three volume set of very common American editions published by P.F. Collier in 1904. The first two have Sherlock Holmes stories, but the third doesn't, despite the spines of all three stating "Stories of Sherlock Holmes."

Even the one with The White Company and Beyond the City. They're a curious set, collecting some curious things. All sorts of Conan Doyle stories, illustrations by Frederic Dorr Steele, an essay by Conan Doyle class-mate Dr. Harold Emery Jones called "The Original of Sherlock Holmes." And P.F. Collier must have sold a lot of these suckers, because as they collected all sort of stuff, I've wound up collecting all sorts of them over the years.

Blame the rise and fall of the antique mall. They were everywhere and very cheap. The problem is, you start to take things for granted. "Oh, just more collections of Sherlock Holmes stories." And you don't look too close at what's inside. Until one night you do. Annnnndd, this . . .

That's Mrs. Watson from The Sign of the Four. Except for that little fact that we all know so well: Mrs. Watson was never in The Sign of the Four. Mary Morstan was in The Sign of the Four. Dr. Watson proposed to Mary Morstan in The Sign of the Four. But there was never a wedding in The Sign of the Four. If you look at the squiggle signature, you'll find Frederic Dorr Steele's initials and the number 1903: The year Steele first started drawing Sherlock Holmes . . . but for the stories of The Return of Sherlock Holmes. 

So I grab up a reprint of The Return of Sherlock Holmes featuring the American illustrations by Steele, and what do I find?

Violet Smith, the solitary cyclist. Now I had heard rumors of folk who identified her as a prospective Mrs. Watson, but I never really knew why until tonight. Someone in the book layout department at P.F. Collier's in 1903-1904 decided that Violet Smith made the perfect Mrs. Watson and shipped her right into the actual Canon's illustrations that way.

Both of these illustrations have been in my library for thirty years, but it took getting one more duplicate tonight for me to put the two together. Now Violet Smith will be a Mrs. Watson to me for the rest of my life . . . I mean, somebody in 1903 seemed to know it to be true, right at the time Watson deserted Holmes for a wife. Was someone at Collier's actually trying to tell us something that Watson's agent was keeping hushed up?

I've heard worse theories, when it comes to the good doctor!