Among the many podcasts I plow through every week is "Conan O'Brien Needs A Friend," where talk show host Conan O'Brien interviews celebs of just chats with his co-hosts. In the warm-up to this week's podcast with Jim Carrey, Conan told of a little trick he used to play during photo shoots and I immediately went, "Oh, Sherlock Holmes would totally do that!"
When a photographer would come in and set up to take pictures of him, Conan would simply look at the camera the photog was using. On the front of the camera would be the camera's name. For his example, Conan used the name "Hassleblatt." So, after making that observation, the photo shoot would go on, a little chit-chat would ensue, and eventually he'd ask:
"What is that? Is that a Hasselblatt?"
The photographer's eyes would widen in amazement, and he'd respond accordingly: "You're into cameras?"
And then Conan would bring out the other info he'd seen on the camera: "Yeah, is that a 4.4?"
He'd look at the brand on the tripod, make a similar comment, get a similar reaction, and then, being a natural goofball, Conan O'Brien would keep it up until what he was doing became obvious. But if he hadn't, if he had exercised the restraint of a Sherlock Holmes, he would have appeared as knowledgeable as Sherlock Holmes.
All from simple observation. Conan O'Brien, apparently, is good at paying attention.
It really makes you think about how much of Sherlock Holmes's methodology was just based purely on being open to the information available in a given situation, that thing available to any of us at any given time. In a time when so many people are definitely "theorizing before the facts," as Holmes would put it, and simply only seeing things that confirm what they wish to see, a simple example like that, of the seemingly remarkable effects of just simple awareness, is rather instructive.
Conan could have not even said a word, and just went home and explored what was good about that particular brand of camera, had is goal been to learn something new and not just make an impression. The data was there to begin a thread of education on a subject.
"Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons, with the greatest for last," Holmes once said, and even though he, like Conan O'Brien, loved to play tricks on those who weren't paying as close attention, there was still a core principle behind those tricks which makes them well worth our time to play on occasion.