Saturday, November 30, 2019

Dunbar's number of Sherlockians

How many Sherlockian friends can we have?

As I've been compiling something akin to a Christmas card list this year, reflecting upon the year that just passed and who was in it (and, like the Oscars, probably noticing those who featured in the latter part of the year than the earlier part), I could not help but think of Dunbar's number.

Dunbar's number is a suggested limit to the amount of friends one could keep familiar with, expressed by Dunbar informally as "the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar." Since much of Sherlockian culture is based on that level of familiarity, it seemed like Dubar's number should apply.

That number? 150 people.

And having had an experience of Sherlockians over two nations and one separate continent over the last forty years, I'd say, for me, that number sounds about right. Certainly there were more Sherlockians that I've had contact with over that time, but names/faces I'd feel comfortable plopping down next to in a bar? One hundred and fifty sounds close.

Of course, that might have been at my Sherlockian peak. Having been out of the main streams of the hobby for a while, some have passed on, a few seem like they might still be mad at me for one thing or another that I wrote or said, and surely more than a few have just forgotten me by now. Part of the reason Dunbar's number remains a comfortable concept is that it's very had to completely prove or disprove. It just kinda feels right to us non-anthropologists.

I doubt many of us ever sit down and make a list of our friends, outside of such activities as Christmas card or wedding invitation lists -- the latter usually happening when we're young enough that the list isn't anything as long as it might be if we all first married at sixty. But if you were going to have a massive Sherlockian party in a given year, based on Sherlockians you'd include in your "sit with for a drink" list  -- As I don't drink that much, make that the "invite to share a table at dinner" list. -- how many invitations would you send?

As we move through our Sherlockian lives we exist in communities of our own making. Who we interact with online, what events or club meetings we attend, who we go to the trouble of sending a letter to. Those who enter our lives by sheer change and we put a star next to their names in our heads, noting them as someone we enjoy seeing or writing to again. Those personal communities are rarely collected in one place, even for weddings or funerals, and why would we want them to be? Trying to even just say "hi" to 150 people you could easily spend more time with just sounds like a challenge with no reward. You would enjoy your time so much more if you failed!

This year, I'm trying something new and doing something appreciative for a few folks, both random and specific, with a definite cut-off point. So far, it seems to be working well enough that it might happen again next year. But we shall see. Starting small but wondering if that Dunbar number is something to work up to, and see if it is actually possible. As the man said, "We can but try."

Friday, November 29, 2019

Black Friday WHAT?

Hey guys! Weird little statement for a quickie blog post -- if you want to get on the Watsonian Weekly Christmas "Card" list, send your mailing address to " podcast @ " (I added all those spaces just to make it more of a challenge.) before December 1 when I'm cutting the list off unless you're very, very special.

Not saying what's the what or why's the why just yet, because I'm keeping this limited to just us blog-reading, podcast-listening internet crazies. Because this one is especially nutty.

Onward into a special period of Canonical madness,

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Mycroft Day

Been thinking about Mycroft's point of view today.

I've been doing this Sherlock Holmes thing so long that even on my worst day, and this one was up there, that the guy just comes along for the ride in any idle moments that come up.

We all know the story: Sherlock Holmes fought Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls, let his best friend think he died, but had his brother keep the secret of his survival.

But what if Sherlock hadn't told Mycroft?

What would that brother feel, losing a brother seven years younger than himself, whom he surely had to have some quiet admiration for, just because the kid got out into the world and lived a life that ol' stay-at-home older brother never quite did?

Suddenly, out of the blue like that, the way it hit Watson, but as a brother?

I'm parsing out those emotions today, as I find myself in a quite similar situation to that Mycroft who had to deal with the same loss as Watson. It's been a hard day. The sort of day we don't get into much in our escapes to 221B, but as my blogging does get a bit personal at times, and part of how I process things. The loss of a brother seven years younger is a hell of a thing.

I wonder if there were many more members of that remarkable family that Watson never wrote about, just so Mycroft could have been surrounded by such a clan, the sort that doesn't show much emotion to the outside world in many cases, but shows it all to each other in love and support when the situation calls for it. Because if there was, that is an entirely different, and quite wonderful thing, even in tragedy.

Thanks for indulging me in this little rambling marking of a day. On to better days ahead, with a bit of a scar.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Beautiful and dead

Sometimes you read two Sherlock Holmes stories back to back that don't usually have any reason to be in that order, and something odd turns up. There are the common story plots, recognizable at a distance, and the similar moments, as in the end of "Yellow Face" and "Missing Three-Quarter" where Holmes and Watson quietly remove themselves from a private family moment.

"Missing Three-Quarter" was our discussion point of the evening at Sherlock Holmes Story Society night at Peoria Public Library, and having been looking at "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" just a few days before, I noticed something very odd:

John Watson has this thing about complimenting dead women.

Not saying he's a necrophiliac or anything, but we have at least two stories in the Canon with what we are told are beautiful corpses. At least one of them even has her eyes open.

"A woman, young and beautiful, was lying dead upon the bed. Her calm, pale face, with dim, wide-open blue eyes, looked upwards from amid a tangle of golden hair."

That was from "Missing." And now, "Devil's Foot."

"Miss Brenda Tregennis had been a very beautiful girl, now verging upon middle age. Her dark, clear-cut face was handsome, even in death, but there still lingered upon it something of that convulsion of horror that had been her last human emotion."

That second one even has the classic "died with a look of horror" but still remains beautiful in Watson's eyes somehow. It's almost creepy. Or respectful, in some 1800s sort of man-way?  Or possibly the thought, "I'd better compliment these dead women so their ghosts don't get angry and start haunting me!" occurring?

I don't know.  Lady Frances Carfax came out of the coffin alive, but she still has "the statuesque face of a handsome and spiritual woman of middle age" when she just might still be a corpse. Watson either doesn't see or doesn't describe the other woman who lay dead in that coffin, but if he had, one wonders about what a beautiful old woman she might have been.

I had to go look at "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" to see how Watson described pieces of a dead woman, and if they got compliments, but it's Holmes who is complimenting Mary Cushing's "finely formed" ear in this tale. Which is kind of weird, as it's an ear. I mean, how finely formed is any ear when you separate it from the composite beauty or handsomeness of a whole head? But this is Sherlock Holmes, so he gets to be a little weird.

Watson, though? What was up with him and those good-looking dead women? As a wise adult tells all of us at some point in our youth, "Sometimes it's better just to say nothing." But maybe nobody got that word to John.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Keeping the poles propped up in the big tent

"We're getting so separate, in every single category."

Heard that quote today, from someone whose name I will not say, as it would be impossible not to put them through your mental sorting hat and filter those words. We all do that now, as much as we try not to. It's a part of the way humans are built. We see something that looks like a dog, we filter the animal through our categorical "dog filters" and don't worry about it doing anything un-doglike. It works well with dogs and frogs and cogs, but not so much with other humans.

Still, we seem almost drawn to doing it. Lately I've been pushing the "Watsonian" banner, having fallen into podcasting for the John H. Watson Society, even though I don't believe Watsonians are anything but regular Sherlockians. Period. We haven't reached a point where anyone has been either interested or concerned with what "the Watsonians" are doing as a tribe. I don't even know that we have a tribe yet, but thirty, forty years from now? Who knows?

Yet when a Watsonian starts to be seen as something separate from the Sherlockian whole, then the trouble starts. Another set of people gets seen as "the Other."

Tim Johnson expressed his concerns about this sort of trend very well back in October, and it's a good listen, if you haven't found it yet. Our big friendly tent of Sherlockiana is starting to show the effects of a harder world outside, and we are going to have to make a conscious effort to be better than that world.

BBC Sherlock gave this hobby a real adrenalin shot back in 2010, but with that shot came some unexpected side effects. Holmes and Watson were young enough to be sexy. (Yes, yes, there are those who argue that Brett and Hardwicke were sexy, but let's be honest -- were they more sexy than any elder Sherlock and Watson before them?) With all that had been written about Sherlock Holmes and John Watson before 2010, the deluge of sexy-time words that was about to flood the fandom multiplied previous word counts by a factor of . . . who knows? A lot.

The world outside had been divided into reds and blues based on some whim of an election broadcast years ago, and, suddenly we had our own "red and blue" situation coming in. No one has said, "Okay, B.S.I." with the tone of "Okay, Boomer" yet that I know of, but you know it's out there. Sherlockiana is still managing to be the great tent we can gather under and make new friends under our common love of Canon, but the cracks are definitely showing. The leadership of the B.S.I. tried to define who their preferred Sherlockian would be not all that long ago. A Sherlockian got "cancelled" in social media this year. Everyone has their reasons, but these things do not come without collateral damage that we all need to be aware of. It's too easy just to "party on" as the now-ancient SNL characters used to say, as Sherlockiana is the drug we use to escape our everyday pains already.

I hope I'm not seeming too preachy here, because I'm really preaching to myself.

Lately I've been finding myself fighting the battle against unhelpful categorical thinking, which we call "prejudice" when it comes to race or religion, but forget it can cover so much else. I mean, my own personal prejudices include one that involves three little letters: "B," "S," and "I." I have my reasons, and those reasons usual come down to three or four members of that group and some bad interactions I've had over the years, coupled with what I felt was an unhelpful direction or two that the group was being led in. But are all the folks who gather in New York every year just to be with other Sherlockians needing to be painted with that same brush for standing under that three-letter banner? Nope. Most of them are kind-hearted, good people who are in no way responsible for any prejudices I might have developed from a handful of assholes. (Worried that you're one of those assholes? You probably aren't. True assholes aren't all that self-aware.)

I see a lot of folks trying to rise above the tide of yuck that has come our way. "Focus on what you love instead of dwelling on what you hate" is a key thought in that effort. But even when you take that philosophy, you can't simply ignore those things you hate as they have a way of creeping back into your life when you least expect it. "Focus on what you love and learn to deal fairly with the things you hate" might be a more necessary strategy. Emotions are good motivators, but they aren't always our better angels to base judgments on.

And while I don't always agree with another fandom's beloved quote "Trust your feelings," I do stand firmly behind one of our own: "We can but try."

And we have to try. Even in the happy place we call "Sherlockiana." Especially in that happy place.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Sherlock Holmes Messes With People

At a dinner party last night, a familiar devil appeared in the eye of a friend as they decided to mess with someone else conversationally. It was a simple enough thing, pressing an argument in a slightly nonsensical fashion just to entertain themselves, but that obvious motivation behind it was very plain and very familiar: They were just getting a bit of joy from harmlessly messing with someone.

That devil in my friend's eye was something, though not described by Watson, that I'm sure the observant Sherlockian would have seen in the eye of Sherlock Holmes on many an occasion. Sherlock Holmes found joy in messing with people.

"What the deuce is it to me? You say we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or my work."

Watson writes up his account of that statement with all the viewpoint of a man taken in by Holmes's silliness, believing that Holmes was actually irritated at him for pushing Copernican theory. But if one steps back a bit and slips out of Watson's point of view, it becomes obvious that Sherlock Holmes was just messing with the new room-mate, who had just finished being a little bit fancy by quoting Thomas Carlyle.

"Upon my quoting Thomas Carlyle, he inquired in the naivest way who he might be and what he had done." That phrase "the naivest way" is a sure sign of the prankster at work. Watson was surely using Carlyle to bolster some argument, and Holmes counter-punched by feigning ignorance of Carlyle. And once he had started down the "pretending to not understand" road of conversational sedition, it would not take long until Holmes was denying such basic facts as that the Earth went around the sun, then defending said fact with a slightly goofy brain-attic metaphor.

We don't see Holmes messing with Watson nearly so much once he gets to know him, and Watson to know Holmes . . . or maybe Watson just doesn't report those moments, which probably occurred most when Holmes was bored and not on a case. We do see him pulling tricks on Scotland Yard or clients for his own amusement, though, so we know that particular devil was still in him. But it wasn't an impulse unique to Sherlock Holmes, as I observed last night.

Some of us do enjoy a bit of messing with our friends on occasion, especially when they start getting a bit fancy with the Thomas Carlyle quotes. I would be very curious as to what the conversation and the Carlyle quote leading up to Holmes's feigned foolishness was, as I suspect we'd quickly see what was really going on there.

As it stands, I think many of us have been a bit messed with by Holmes as well over the years, trying to explain Holmes's silly statement about what orbits what with all the investment of a member of a certain political party defending a certain popular ignoramus of the moment.

What? Well, of course I was talking about England's prime minister! Who did you think I was talking about? British politics are all I think about! Etc, etc, etc. To quote Captain America, "I could do this all day." And so, probably could Sherlock Holmes.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Watsonian beats The Sherlockian?

As the editor of The Watsonian, I feel obligated to point out the following milestone:

The Watsonian has now had more issues and been active for more years than The Sherlockian.

Started as a Sherlockian quarterly by publisher Magico Magazine, The Sherlockian came in huge out of the gate. Edited by the hard-working Kelvin I Jones, and with articles in the first issue by luminaries like Roger Johnson and Michael Hardwick.

The opening editorial spoke of the ephemeral nature of Sherlockian journals, spoke of the need for a British journal to supplement The Sherlock Holmes Journal's limits on only being able to publish so many articles, and stated, "It is the opinion of your obsequious editor that the pastiche should and must be encouraged." The journal had worthy goals, but still knew well the field it was venturing out to play upon.

The Baker Street Journal and The Sherlock Holmes Journal both have societies built up to the point of "institution" to support their ongoing existence, and the BSJ is definitely helped by the hope that writing for it might aid one's path to the BSI shilling, whether or not that's true. And while The Watsonian might not have as mighty a society behind it as those two organs, we still do benefit from having some population banded together as members of the John H. Watson Society. The Sherlockian was doing a very bold thing in going out without a group and just soliciting writers on its existence alone.

And on a quarterly basis, that's something to attempt.

I don't recall it being subscription based, but issues you could order from Magico's catalog, along with your other Sherlockian purchases. Like The Watsonian, it pretty much stuck with the same cover every issue, though printing that cover on different color stock, and it came out with six issues over the course of five years, if I remember correctly. And thought not purposefully, there sure were a lot of articles somehow tied to The Hound of the Baskervilles as the journal went on. But solid works throughout.

Growing up with three siblings, I think I gained a bit of a competitive streak, and during the eighties I would always look at all the journals out there to see if Kelvin I. Jones had more articles than I had published in a given crop. He was better at it than I, and having a target competitor in a given market, even if that person never knows it, can be a decent motivator.

So if you wonder why, oh, why, did I have to point out that The Watsonian passed up The Sherlockian at this point, even though Kelvin Jones edited that journal for its entire run, and I have just started on The Watsonian, you might add that little reason to the basket. Envy gets us a lot of things, even presidents, sometimes. Plus, I mean, Watsonian/Sherlockian . . . the similarity of name is enough to go back and celebrate a moment of Sherlockian publishing history alone, as if we ever need a reason.

And who knows? Maybe The Sherlockian will come back again someday and retake the crown!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

So, what happened?

Sherlockians have yet to fully exploit the internet, even at this late date.

Case in point: This past weekend, there was a Sherlockian conference in Bloomington, Indiana, not that far from here, but certain work obligations made it a definite no-go for me. A couple friends who wanted to go couldn't make it either, and scanning the internet, I'm not seeing any reports on the weekend-long event via any of the normal channels I use. There's plenty out there, promoting it ahead of time, but no real reporting of the event four days after it ended. Another great-sounding day of Sherlock was happening in Baltimore on Saturday as well.

While I'm certain there will eventually be reports in print, in the quarterly Baker Street Journal, it's 2019. We have more instantaneous sources . . . or should have.

Last month, during the Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium, regular readers know that I was live-blogging the crap out of that weekend, for better or worse. I got many thanks for that, as people want to hear what they missed, what went on, and get enough info that they can watch for some of the event's content, or look for a well-regarded speaker, at some future venue.  I also try to report on 221B Con each year, for the same reasons. As a Sherlockian who has always been a little distant from so many events, I know how it feels to get a big nothing sandwich from an event where you know something of interest had to happen. But in a culture of writers, we often seem short on reporters.

While it's true, sometimes reporting on Sherlockian events can be "So-and-so spoke on such-and-such topic, and it was great!" which is pretty minimal. But it's something.

Event organizers are too busy, and eventually too worn out, to record their own functions . . . and they like to hear how they did, probably more than distant folk want to hear what happened. In person kudos are good, but some written records to look back on someday, some clippings for the scrapbook, to use a metaphor from the days of all-print . . . those have lasting value, especially when they come from multiple sources.

Holmes's irregulars could "go everywhere, see everything, overhear everyone," but if none of them told each other of those things, passing it along to Holmes, there would have been little point to their existence. And Sherlock Holmes used those street urchins because he used every resource at his disposal. He would have loved the internet, and formed his own networks with it, I'm sure.

Yet here we are, 2019, and Sherlockian culture has yet to fully exploit something the man himself would have loved to its fullest potential. (With a few well-known individual Sherlockian exceptions. But they can't get it all.)

Necesary Sherlockiana

There was a comment passed along earlier this week that used one of those words we so often misuse, especially in reference to this hobby like the one we call Sherlockiana. That word: necessary.

It came up in reference to that very common view of the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson of late, that they might be lovers instead of simply friends. It wasn't something viewed as "necessary" by an individual, and I'm sure there are others who might agree that it isn't necessary to their own enjoyment of Sherlock Holmes. And that's a fair statement, if you are only saying it isn't necessary for your own pleasures. But if you're trying to say that it's not necessary for anyone anywhere, well, none of us gets to make that choice. And besides just being rude and intolerant, it's such a basic bullshit statement.

Over the last forty years, I have seen nothing BUT unnecessary Sherlockiana. Articles about Sherlock Holmes and wine . . . not necessary. Articles about Sherlock Holmes and dogs . . . not necessary. Sherlock Holmes's birthday, his income, his ability to play chess . . . none of that is at all necessary to read and enjoy Sherlock Holmes.

A century of other writers telling stories about Sherlock Holmes? That same century of motion pictures about Sherlock Holmes? Even a good 33.3% of the stories Doyle penned . . . no necessary, really. All the good stuff was established early on.

Sometimes a Sherlockian will try to push their will of what they think is good Sherlockian writing upon others by calling it "mandatory" or "must-read," but even that isn't necessary. And while it might feel like we might die without any Sherlock Holmes at all in our lives, that's just the pain of love lost and really not enough of that to kill us. Other drugs are much more dangerous to try to leave behind.

Some Sherlockiana might be rooted in research and as solid as a rock. Other Sherlockiana might be the most ephemeral flights of fancy or fun that can blow away with a morning breeze. How important either of those extremes is depends upon which one of us is involved. The actor William Gillette might be very important to one of us, but practically meaningless to another. The Speckled Pips of San Luis Obispo might be the core of one Sherlockian's world, yet unheard of by some happy soul doing their Sherlocking on another continent. Pate de foie gras pie? Let's not even get into that one.

"Necessary" is a word to watch carefully when it gets anywhere near a hobby swirling around a storybook crime-solver. And one that probably needs used sparingly.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Watsonian

How many of us are single-fandom fans? Less every year, I'd wager, with so many stories being told. About the same time as I was discovering Sherlock Holmes I was discovering something else: a little sci-fi movie that debuted on a Wednesday night, that my college room-mate and I checked out, only to have me see it thirty-two times in the theater that summer. So it might not be a surprise that I was up first thing this morning to see a new TV show called The Mandalorian.

The Mandalorian had a hard hill to climb: Tell a Star Wars story without any members of the Skywalker extended family. Even Rogue One had to have a cameo from sister Skywalker, and sister's future husband was the one they tried to do another offshoot movie with, so this is really the first time they've gone cold turkey on Skywalkers. Which brings up the Sherlockian point:

What is the most successful Sherlock Holmes book or movie that doesn't have Sherlock Holmes in it?

We've had books starring the landlady, the supposed love interest, the local kids, the brother, his arch-enemy, and maybe even one or two that pried the good doctor Watson away from his bosom companion, but a full story set in the world of Sherlock Holmes without any of Holmes's extended family in it whatsoever?

Some wag might reply, "But that's just Victorian London!"

Was it though? Did the influences of Moriarty or Milverton not affect Holmes's London in ways our own historical London was not? Those little biological issues, the geese with crops, the snakes that hear, the men with monkey serum altering behavior . . . tips of a greater iceberg of alternate bioversity?

As The Mandalorian is a deep dive into a character like the barely known Boba Fett, what story might be told from the "Watsonian" who wasn't Dr. John H. Watson, from similar origins in that same world? Could a master storyteller pull such a thing off, as Jon Favreau seems to have with The Mandalorian? Would we be at all interested without our central "Sherlock Skywalker?"

Something to ponder on a chilly winter's day, like today.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

A really bad Sherlock Holmes game

I always admire those better angels of the internet who strive to remain positive and not just spend their on-line time complaining about every little thing. And as a Sherlockian (or a Watsonian), one also wants to help spread the influence of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson by encouraging others to take part in anything revolving around our favorite detection team. So what does one say when one encounters a truly failed effort to create a Sherlock Holmes product, sold by a major retailer, that one would like to warn folks about?

"Truly failed," of course, is my opinion, and one might expect that there will be others who disagree upon that point for a work like a book, a movie, etc. But what about a game?

A game must be playable, must be enjoyable, must . . . like any mechanical device, because games do have mechanics . . . function. And I guess this one does function. The way it's packaged into a little square box is very nicely done, and it was fun to open and anticipate playing. It's $12.95 price tag is affordable and makes it an easy buy. But when you start to play it?

The cases that Sherlock is presenting John with, and that we are supposed to solve, seem to break down into a few categories: math problems, a classic riddle sort of trick, and insanely complicated tales that you are supposed to psychically predict with no evidence to get you there. 

The good Carter and I have a couple of puzzle games that we enjoy, which present you with problems to solve that can be horrendously hard, but are at least fair play puzzles. But when this game brought us the mystery of a woman whose brother disappeared after returning to his hotel room for the night, like he or his hotel room never even existed, and we were to somehow intuit that during the night the entire hotel staff found he had typhoid and arranged his disappearance so as not to hurt the tourism trade . . . well, that was the point we realized it would take us a marathon playing session to finish this supposed 30 minute game.

And since we were playing with our favorite FBI agent, who worked her way up the ladder from forensics, I don't think it was a lack of investigatory abilities that prompted our frustration with the game. (Sorry if that was a bit of a humble brag, but one has to be proud of family. Especially when they excel. But back to this game which didn't do so well.)

But, like I said, $12.95 during the Christmas season, Barnes & Noble, you might just see it as a Christmas gift. Just don't get your hopes up about playing this one. Track down "Moriarty's Web" instead. Oh, and since I'm trying not to be too negative, nor have the game's designer see this and get their feelings hurt by not mentioning its name, here's a mug shot of the culprit:

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

How good is the movie "Holmes and Watson?" (November 2019 edition!)

At some point this afternoon, I was pondering how I was going to drag myself to the end of an overlong, over-dull workday. Things were just not looking good. Only trivial tasks left, feeling unmotivated, too much leftover Halloween candy sitting nearby . . . a horrible combo. And then something wonderful happened.

This week's episode of The Final Podblem showed up on my iPhone. And, as promised, the boys were varying from their steady diet of Doylean Canon for the very first time to do an episode on a movie. And what movie, you ask? Well, only the best Sherlock Holmes movie in the mental multiiverse we call Sherlock Peoria. You know the one:

Holmes and Watson. The best Sherlock Holmes movie in theaters in 2019.

A great podcast covering a great movie? My day was turning around. Better still, they were actually doing a 97 minute podcast about a movie that is only 90 minutes long! Nothing left on the movie review floor! What could go wrong?


While I love their takes on Canon, getting Nick and Casey to go on about Holmes and Watson, the movie I saw six times while it was in theaters, and multiple times after that? This was the best!

And here's the best part: They thought it was a bad movie!

Yes, from square one they agree with so many folks that Holmes and Watson was a bad movie. And yet, they appreciate so many moments of the movie, so many components of the movie, so many aspects of the movie, performances by John C. Reilly and Lauren Lapkus (who gets the "Huxtable" award for this episode for her portrayal of the feral Millie), and the sheer visual beauty of it, that they aren't even hating on it for not making them laugh as much as they thought it should.

They celebrate its left field humor, come up with at different end to the donkey-kiss scene that would have worked ("mass child fight scene"), and actually tie Watson's taking out Brawn Strohman with a chair to his attempt to hit Charles Augustus Milverton with a chair in Canon. They definitely paid attention.

And here's the thing of it: They might say they're glad there won't be a sequel and that they don't think anyone should watch this, but I still came away from the podcast feeling like they kind of liked it. I kind of think they didn't. They imply time and again, that maybe they didn't. But like the best podcasts, they're very thoughtful in walking through the movie and are more positive than negative, even on a movie they might not like. But I am the sort of Holmes and Watson fanatic that will believe you really liked it even if you show the slightest positive reaction.

But The Final Podblem has a good time with Holmes and Watson, which is a key to podcasting, as so many of the larger fish in the podcast pond demonstrate all the time, be it How Did This Get Made?, My Favorite Murder, or a host of others. There's always a touch of comedy, but it's the feeling that the people behind the microphones are actually enjoying what they're doing that is the true charm. And I think Nick and Casey pulled it off with this one.

Good episode, at a good moment for some podcast fun. Looking forward to them taking on other Holmes movies in the future, and no longer quite as concerned that they're going to give up Holmes completely after sixty episodes. There is just so much of him out there.

And just because I have to say it: Holmes and Watson, the movie that's so good, even a podcast by two guys who might not have liked it comes up roses! (Hmm, I know Christmas Day is full of stuff already, but I might have to celebrate the one year anniversary of the movie's release.)

P.S. Hope I didn't just negate a positive review by demonstrating that I might be mad as a hatter. But regular readers of this blog are used to that.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Just write

It's November 3rd.

National Novel Writing Month has been upon us for three days, and I've already hit my fifth plan of what to do with that high holy month of many a scribe. I finally signed into the NaNoWriMo site and familiarized myself with the current toolset, which I didn't think I really needed this year, but then again . . .

But here's the thing I really struggled with this year: Why should I write anything at all? Or, to put it more specifically, why should I write anything more than this ongoing bloggarhea that I can't seem to help but do, with that somewhat narcissistic purpose of keeping a public Sherlockian diary? And a novel? Don't we have enough of those, especially by aged white male heterosexuals who aren't really the folks that the average reader seems to want to read these days?

Let me sink fully into the despair part of this little diatribe before we begin its rising motion. Do you know what makes me never want to write again whenever I pass through its doors? Barnes and Noble. There are just so many books in the average Barnes and Noble that I totally lose interest in producing yet another one. We seem to have more books than any of us can read. What hasn't been written about? What story hasn't been told?

Well, plenty of them, actually. But . . . Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock frackin' Holmes. I am but an asteroid in the belt of fannish orbit around that celestial body, and I'm happy there. I like writing about Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. But when they were originally written about by the greatest of those who write about them, and then written about by many other great talents since, well, again, a real motivation killer. And the market for . . . .

Yeeks, that word "market." The word "market" is something for business, not writing. True, like any other good or service, someone hoping to be in the business of exchanging words for money must take that into consideration. The National Bureau of Labor Statistics tells me that there were less than 2,000 people employed as writers in Illinois in 2018, and they almost all seem to be in the Chicago or St. Louis area. Those folks can be concerned about markets.

As I roll into my seventh decade of life (That's the sixties, y'all. Seventies aren't here quite yet.), I really don't have any hopes and dreams of great writing success,  like those youthful hopes of getting someone to notice that you the different duck in the herd, deserving a larger platform. The illusions have all been washed away by the years, and yet, and yet, I still write. I still write. And write.

I actually had to force myself to quit writing today, long enough to write this. (Does that even make sense?) I had to force myself to quit writing so I could write some podcast, as well. I seem to have the opposite of writer's block this year, and I'll tell you why.

The project that finally clicked into place for NaNoWriMo this year was a Sherlock Holmes related novel that I absolutely and positively do not give a fuck about. Well . . . other than that it gets completed. I don't care what it winds up being about, I don't care if anyone ever finishes reading it, though I imagine someone will surely start. So far it seems to be a Netflix series that's streaming out of my head and I'm doing a full binge. Crazy? You betcha. Once that becomes a part of your brand, you might as well embrace it.

So here is my one bit of writerly advice for those of you out there wanting to get writing on some future challenge like National Novel Writing Month: Play around until you find that thing that you just can't stop writing about. Don't force yourself on a death march for some drab idea you think someone else will approve of, unless there's ready cash in it. Somebody else can take care of those.

Writing, at its best, is just plain fun. Have you some. (And try the Comic Sans thing -- it's hard to take yourself too seriously when writing in Comic Sans, and that offers freedom you don't get when your words look like they're already in a printed book.)

Friday, November 1, 2019

Sherlockian saints

Happy All Saints Day, the day that all saints are honored!

Unlike more organized religions, Sherlockiana does not keep official records of its saints, nor have a nomination process for same, miracle requirements, etc. But we have saints nonetheless, whether it is our virtuous late members of the fandom or the kind and patient living folk that make all our lives so much more pleasant.

Sometimes it's the simple things, like a couple of fellows who regularly contribute to a podcast week-in and week-out, or sometimes it's the lasting memory of a Sherlockian known for a lifetime of generosity and encouragement. The tireless efforts of those who toil in the Sherlockian fields for our relatively small audience, for decades, are definitely up in that rank . . . even if they have a bad moment and get nasty for a minute or two and we're still pissed off at them about . . . oh, excuse me. Got a little off my happy thought for a moment.

Yes, Sherlockian saints, those lovely people who put on the events that let us get away from our workaday lives for a weekend to exist in, as Doyle used in a title "The Country of the Saints." (And, fortunately, we never have to spend those weekends discussing that part of our Canon.)

Outside of A Study in Scarlet, "saints" is mentioned one other place in said Canon, The Hound of the Baskervilles, where the ancient manuscript reads:

" . . . he was a most wild, profance, and godless man. This, in truth, his neighbors might have pardoned, seeing that saints never flourished in those parts, but there was in him a certain wanton and cruel humour which made his name a byword throughout the West."

Saints do flourish in these parts we call Sherlockiana, at least the level of saint that I know best. So today's a good day to let one's mind wander along and mentally visit those we have known over the years, passed and present. And maybe even offer a word of thanks, speaking of which . . .

Thanks for reading these little essays, this diary of a Sherlockian who can't seem to stop writing. Were you not here, my particular Sherlockian malady might make me continue to do this, but it's comforting to know that a few folks get some value out of it as well. You're saints in that ephemeral place I call Sherlock Peoria, even if you don't get a statue in a cathedral for it.