Saturday, April 18, 2020

"Data! Data! Data!" and the nerds who crave it

It struck me this morning just what data nerds a goodly share of Sherlockians are. I don't know why this should be especially notable, having been a true thing for as long as I've been a Sherlockian, some forty-some years now, but there are plenty of things in life that exist around us every day which we take no particular note of, like those seventeen steps up to a familiar apartment.

The thought occurred after seeing the Twitter feed for the journal Canadian Holmes tweeting "Wendy Barrie, who played Beryl Stapleton in 1939 Hound the the Baskervilles was born #OTD in 1912," following yesterday's arrival of the 262 page Baker Street Almanac for 2020, and a look around the room where I'm typing these words at all the books. So much data.

Of course, it only makes sense. Sherlock Holmes was a master of data. There's even a character named "Data" who likes to pretend to be Sherlock Holmes. And what is a more classic Sherlock Holmes quote than "Data! Data! Data! I can't make bricks without clay."

I love that quote a little too much, which actually caused part of the issue I have with Jeremy Brett. The quote has such a depth to it. Data was Holmes's clay. He made bricks with it. Which is what data is there for.

Collectors may be working from a basic hunter-gatherer instinct, and collecting data can be just as much a compulsion as collecting books, though it doesn't have the obvious visual residue. But once you have the data? Time to make the bricks. Holmes used it to solve mysteries. Sherlockians use it to entertain themselves, and . . . occasionally . . . to solve a mystery, usually having to do with Sherlock Holmes.

Take the data provided by that single volume, The Complete Sherlock Holmes. How many stories have been knitted together using that yarn? (Yes, I should say "buildings have been built using those bricks" to continue the metaphor, but "yarn!") How many movies, harmlessly fun theories, games, drawings, social gatherings, and EVEN MORE DATA GATHERING have come from the data in that one book?

Data. Data. Data. (To say it with periods, like Jeremy Brett, instead of exclamation points.) Then bricks, whatever your bricks may be. And bricks pile up into the edifice of a Sherlockian life, whatever your blueprints for that life might be.

So, good on you, data nerds. You get that clay!

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