Thursday, December 31, 2020

Yeah, we like Conan Doyle well enough now . . .

 Looking back at anything from the future, where timelines compact, there is no waiting between specific events, and we all know how things came out, it's always hard to imagine how it was for the folks who had to live through those events at the time. One of my personal experiences of that was that one really depressing season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was a nightmare to deal with one-episode-per-week, yet binge-watchers plow through relatively unscathed. "You weren't there, you don't know the misery we went through!" I tell them, but they can't begin to know. Such fan experiences are very personal.

As I perused another round of "this TV series didn't end how it should have" complaints on a more recent finale, my mind drifted back to that series innovator, Arthur Conan Doyle, and his fans.

Whether it's Star Wars or BBC Sherlock, the creators and the fans come to some pretty stark disagreements upon character arcs, but none can nearly be so bad as what Doyle pulled in 1893.

"Enjoying Sherlock Holmes every month? Had a great two year run, you've been enjoying, right?"

"Yes! It's great!"

"Too bad. He's dead. Series over."

Had there been an internet in 1893, Conan Doyle would have taken such heat that come 1901, even his mama probably couldn't have talked him into bringing back Sherlock Holmes. 

Seen through the lens of hazy history, Conan Doyle is the kindly old grandpa-looking guy with that walrus moustache with "Steel true, blade straight" on his tombstone. (Why it was so important we know he was straight, I'm not sure. Also . . . kidding! Don't "@" me!) But if you were a Sherlock Holmes fan in 1893?

Not enough swear words to toss at the man. 

The by-line distance of published stories and no over-familiarity with a creator as the internet gives us now, Sherlock Holmes fans of 1893 might not have had an image of Conan Doyle strong enough in their minds to poke verbal voodoo pins into. And monthly short stories might not have developed the tight bonds that a binged series does in the modern day. Victorians were mostly just concerned with surviving and working their long-day jobs, with no expectation that a good thing might last -- life was hard in 1893.

A hundred and thirty-five miners got blown up in Yorkshire. Lizzie Borden was worried about her trial. Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii was getting overthrown by U.S. Marines. Thomas Edison was building a movie studio. Grover Cleveland had mouth cancer. And if you thought Ford's Theater treated Abraham Lincoln badly, talk to the ghosts of twenty-two war department clerks that the theater caved in on and killed.

We may have been through a tough year in old 2020, but not so tough that we still don't have the time and energy to gripe about what creators are doing to our favorite characters. Conan Doyle didn't know how lucky he had it. Nor do we, really, with our sixty story Canon all neatly wrapped in a bow with no surprises left at this point. 

And I think we're all okay with that, as much as we'd love a new tale.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

How mean was Mycroft?

 Yesterday, one of our legion finally got around to watching Enola Holmes and was struck by the portrayal of Mycroft therein.

"I feel like a different character, like a solicitor, could have been used instead of assassinating Mycroft's character," Robert Perret tweeted. 

Putting Enola Holmes on mental trial for this accusation, my mind palace's defense lawyers surprised me with their line of attack on the charge: "What do we really know about Mycroft Holmes?"

What DO we really know about Mycroft Holmes?

He has better powers of observation than Sherlock. He is seven years older than Sherlock. He has no ambition or energy. Good at figures, only goes to work or his club, flipper-like hands . . .

Nowhere does it say "unselfish and kind."

"Well, you take the case up by all means, and let me know if you do any good." There's a classic Mycroft quote, and I can hear that in a few different tones. Let's try something from his second appearance.

"A most annoying business, Sherlock. I dislike altering my habits, but the powers that be would take no denial. In the present state of Siam it is most awkward that I should be away from the office. But it is a real crisis. I have never seen the Prime Minister so upset."

Interesting that Mycroft's first words on the Cadogan West business are very self-interested and annoyed. And, getting back to that "flipper-like hands" line, I've always had a feeling that Watson didn't exactly have a lot of respect for Mycroft for using such a line. And if Watson doesn't like you . . .

There's definitely a very large space of blank canvas surrounding Mycroft Holmes, and the different portrayals we have of him, like rattling around his old manor house naked in a certain movie, get a definite license to play due to that space.

My mental jurors had to declare Enola Holmes innocent of Robert's charges of character assassination, as Mycroft Holmes could well have been a jerk, given our limited experience of him. We actually have more Canonical evidence for Mystrade shipping than we have for Mycroft being a lovely guy who treated his sister and mother well. ("Mycroft Holmes and Lestrade had come round by appointment after breakfast next day . . ." and later "Lestrade and Mycroft were fidgeting in their seats . . .")

And since Enola Holmes does team up the inspector and the brother, suddenly it gets more Canonical as well. Perhaps we'll just say that the Mycroft of Enola Holmes was going through something off-screen that was making him a bit more unpleasant than we might have liked. Everybody gets a bad day now and then.

'Tis a shame that Millie Bobby Brown seems to be getting so busy with other projects that she might not get back to the character, so we could see a little more of her Mycroft to find out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Virtual Sherlockian 2021

 Well, it's not a surprise any more now, is it?

Here we are on the cusp of a new year, and Zoom gatherings of Sherlockiana lie in front of us, as far as the eye can see. Yes, things will change eventually, but right now this is our world. So as one starts to think about the year ahead, resolutions, all that, it's had not to have some questions and plans revolving around that.

First among these for me has to be getting my Zoom calendar under control. Right now, I'm never sure what Sherlock Holmes meetings I'm attending, which ones I prefer and should give priority to, and what is going to happen at the ones I'm involved in the planning of. And beyond that, what virtual functions that haven't existed in the Sherlockian world need to be tried while we're still in this space.

This year is the first time there's been a virtual "New York" birthday weekend as well, and the big question there is now, "What do we wear?" The bow tie fanatics are going to do bow ties no matter what, of course, and a few tuxedo owners will surely don their fancy threads. But the bar hasn't been set for "dress up" level Zoom meetings yet. We've done hats, but full cosplay? With set dressing? As we've gotten more comfortable with virtual gatherings, more folks have been using digital backgrounds, but our visual potential has yet to be reached.

There are a lot of side effects of all the challenges we've faced in the past year. We've met a lot of new folks we might not have met without being forced into virtual gatherings. We've got some new Sherlockian-world "celebrities" in our world as well. Paradigms are shifting. And while the strong traditional side of our hobby remains, the new energies brought to us in the last decade from the major Sherlocks hitting the mainstream have helped us get through this in ways we might not even realize. Had the quarantines hit us about 2005, Sherlockiana as a whole would have taken a much harder hit.

But here we are, on the verge of 2021, with some brand new toys in our Sherlockian toy box, yet again. It's definitely a moment to step back and think about just how we're going to play with them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

We have a listener!

 One of the things about podcast life that I was well aware of going into it has been the "shouting into the void" aspect of it. Podcasters often talk about podcasting on their podcasts, and podcaster panels at 221B Con were very good at both encouraging and laying out some of the realities of the hobby, and one of those realities was the fact that you don't often get much feedback. Or any. People listen to podcasts as a part of their regular routines, and how often do you thank your mailman or the TV shows you watch every week?

Sure, one usually gets download counts and knows how many people are listening. And the numbers for The Watsonian Weekly and Sherlock Holmes is Real have listener counts in line with any Sherlockian activity I've ever done. The one with "Sherlock Holmes" in the title gets more listens than the one with "Watson" in the title, as one might expect. But what one rarely gets is reviews, which, early on, is a very good thing. If amateur podcasters (which everybody is when they start) got compared and critique at the level of Hollywood films, only the truly driven or narcissistic would probably endure.

So this week, The Watsonian Weekly got its best Christmas present ever -- a listener who went through all the episodes without trying to escape, and actually gave us a complimentary thread on Twitter. Even Rob Nunn, our drop-in book reviewer who read so many Sherlockian books this year he couldn't even attempt to review them all without impacting his reading goals.

So this week, Madeline QuiƱones gets a shout-out in this blog, a special Christmas episode coming Christmas eve that will bring back "Slow Train to Little Purlington," a feature that's been missing lately, and my learning how to put a tilde over an "n" using a Mac keyboard.

We have a listener! As we start the third year of The Watsonian Weekly, that's a little boost of energy to keep us rolling on with our little podcast. Many thanks to Paul Thomas Miller, Margie Deck, Robert Perret, and even Rob Nunn, along with all those other voices we've dragged on to the show over the past year. Their week-in, week-out work has made the show possible, and the fact that they have supplied bits through some busy, challenging, pandemic-problem weeks of this particular year is especially worth noting. I really appreciate all of their efforts.

But our podcast cast and crew is not a closed-door  group. Have an iPhone or some other app that records voice memos? You, too, could actually be a podcast content creator for The Watsonian Weekly. Get in touch, even if you hate the sound of your own voice. (You know what the best way to get over hating the sound of your own voice is? Keep hearing it over and over again! You get numb to it, and just trust that anyone who keeps listening must not find it too offensive.)

So many thanks to Madeline this week for being one of those rare folk who pulled up our little podcast out of the great sea of podcasts out there. It's great to have a listener!

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Doyle writes a pastiche

I don't think I have to explain the long history of disrespect for pastiche in the Sherlockian world.

It's natural, of course. You come to something as a fan, hope to repeat your original enjoyment of that thing, and your attempt to feel that same joy fails. It's as much your fault as the author's, for even having that expectation. The Sherlock Holmes novels I got into during my first summer as a Holmes fan weren't Conan Doyle. In fact, they're works generally thought of as crap, even in one or two cases, by their own authors. But at the time, I loved them and enjoyed them at a level that even the Canon itself doesn't bring me any more.

Pastiche, an honest attempt by any writer to capture the magic that a fellow writer once worked, has the great tragic nobility of the charge of the Light Brigade -- attempting a glorious thing that is probably doomed to failure. Sometimes it's even a spectacular failure. But any writer that loves the written word has to try pastiche at some point, to see if one can use another writer's tricks.

Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

You might have had the thought that his later Sherlock Holmes works are actually pastiches of his original Sherlock Holmes stories from the early nineties, containing the same elements, but not quite measuring up. Did Doyle slip in one written by his wife or secretary? Improbable, but a few of them are just off enough to make one wonder.

This evening, however, was the first time I realized that Conan Doyle borrowed very much from another author within the Canon itself. And I'm not talking about Poe, who gets referenced right off the bat when we are practically told straight on: This detective is not a Poe detective. He's better.

No, what I realized tonight was that Conan Doyle gave us a Baroness Orczy story, shuffled in the middle of a bunch of Sherlock Holmes stories.

The Baroness Orczy created a popular historical stage play -- two genres that Doyle always wanted to be successful in that had a long London run after opening in 1903. She wrote a novel of the same title after her play, called The Scarlet Pimpernel. Many other novels featuring the character followed, in 1906, 1908, 1913, and 1917 . . . yes, 1917, the same year Conan Doyle published the short story "His Last Bow."

The general premise of the Scarlet Pimpernel stories is that we're introduced to a set of characters amid a dangerous historical time, villainy is afoot, and at a key moment -- voila! -- one of the characters was the Scarlet Pimpernel in disguise all along! It's a grand moment in every Pimpernel tale, and the moment the reader waits for, like the M. Night Shyamalan of her day, readers new her story mechanic and it made her very popular. So popular, in fact, that Conan Doyle had to be aware of it.

While I haven't seen any mention of Doyle reading The Scarlet Pimpernel or seeing the play that started its popularity amidst all the documenting of his life that has gone on, the very timing of "His Last Bow," which is basically a Scarlet Pimpernel story with Sherlock Holmes in place of the Pimpernel seems to show that Conan Doyle surely borrowed the scheme from the Baroness.

And, in that respect, wrote a pastiche. Right there in our Sherlockian Canon.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Too many Zooms can make one hungry

Well, it's been one of those weekends-plus. Four Sherlockian Zooms in three days, which I'm thinking a lot of folks did this weekend, as I saw some of the same faces at two or three of those, and the one Zoom I wanted to attend, but missed due to the John H. Watson Society Zoom, which I was running, going long.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom.

So then tonight, I've just put some frozen fish in water to thaw, getting my pans ready to cook up a nice Monday night supper after a long work day, and the good Carter says, "What's this calendar reminder that says 'Six Napoleons Toast' in fifteen minutes?"

Back in the freezer goes the fish. Zoom!

Never been to a Six Napoleons of Baltimore  meeting before, as with all those other faraway Sherlockian societies that we're getting to know a little bit in Zoom-world. I say "a little bit" because a lot of the same people tend to overlap in the online experience, and whatever clubs stay online after the pandemic is over will probably all have the same members.

Greg Ruby has become one of our foremost Sherlockian Zoom meeting facilitators, if he's not the Sherlockian Zoom facilitator, and he began the Six Napoleons meeting with a couple remembrances of Sherlockians who recently left us. He opened up the floor for personal memories of those mentioned, and even though I have one really good memory of what a great guy John Pforr was to talk to, I didn't think invoking Ronald Reagan and a popular Peoria strip club were appropriate for such a moment. Plus, new scion, I'm just here to observe. Oh, and give a toast.

I was asked to toast "the woman," which came very early in the program, which is both blessing (getting it out of the way) and curse (being my first attendance at a Six Napoleons meeting, it wasn't a venue I was completely at ease in -- though now that every venue is Zoom, not all that new or uncomfortable).

Julie McKuras's talk on Watson's second wife was right in my wheelhouse -- she dove right into the chronology of matters. Julie is good. She lays out the timeline of Watson's marriage, and how Mary Morstan shows up after Watson already seems to be married. It's one of those talks where you suddenly find yourself going, like Watson himself, "How did I never see that?"  It's a very up-to-date talk, too, citing ideas from last month's Adventuress meeting and Tim Johnson's useful phrase "the Watsonian Witness Protection Program."

After Julie's talk, we got the results of Steve Mason's membership inquisition. The Six Napoleons of Baltimore is an old Sherlockian society with certain rituals and formalities in that area, which Greg Ruby explained, and the reportage on Steve's membership trials were quite entertaining in themselves. Mentions of "absentee balloting" in the process did bring up shadows of the recent election, but those were quickly brushed aside as the evening moved along, and Steve Mason was up for the next toast.

A little story discussion of "The Blue Carbuncle" followed. " Not too much, as I suspect we're not all keeping up with all the stories for all these meetings very well right now. And then a ten question quiz, nicely done with Zoom's polling feature so we could see how we scored en masse. I liked that, as I'm about done with quizzes after forty years of them, and the ten questions were more entertaining than annoying.

Announcements followed, Steve Mason got voted on for membership, some other housekeeping, at which point, my attention was being severely torn away by hunger, having not gotten any supper, and one dear, dear friend was torturing me about that fact with a description of his meal via text message. So rather than a quiet reflection after a fine meeting and meal, as one would usually wander from such an even with, I left my computer with a shout of, "TO THE DRIVE-THRU!" and the good Carter and I raced off into the night.

There's a villain in Flash comics called "Professor Zoom." How did he get his powers? Why did he turn to crime? Well, the old comics had one answer, but I think I might be imagining a brand new one. Sheer hunger.

A Toast to "the" Woman

Composed and delivered by your humble servant, Brad Keefauver, for the Six Napoleons of Baltimore on Monday, December 14, 2020. On Zoom, amidst the Pandemic Times. 

    There are those ephemeral beings who come into our lives like a passing cloud or just maybe . . . a barge floating down river. 

    Now, I realize that I may be the first Sherlockian on the planet to ever use the imagery of a river barge in relation to New Jersey’s own Irene Adler, but one must factor in that I am a resident of Peoria, Illinois, a river town, and I have to use what metaphors I have at hand.

Here in Peoria, we sometimes find ourselves down on the river bank, and sometimes we find ourselves stopping to watch a barge slowly pushed downriver. Barges are enormous things, and when they’re passing through our lives they eclipse and predominate the whole of the river. Usually, there is just the one, filling up the scene in front of us, and for a time, that barge in front of us is the barge.

A barge headed down river, from up near Chicago, moving toward St. Louis and maybe on as far as New Orleans, hides most of itself beneath the surface of the river.  The cargo, the barge’s inner truth, that keeps so much below the waterline and out of our sight, is not ours to know.

One never feels any emotion akin to love for a barge, watching it float down river. Usually a barge is being helped along by what is properly called a pusher boat, since it isn’t tugging like a tugboat, but pushing like a pusher boat. And if one ever tried considering a barge in the way that a pusher boat captain would, one would definitely be placing  one’s self in a false position. 

While Sherlock Holmes has pretended to be a boat captain on occasion, it was Godfrey Norton who is our pusher boat captain in this metaphor, only to be seen from a distance when hitched to his client, the larger figure of the tale whom he’s helping move to her next destination.

The river of life flows downstream, and a barge, even if it is the barge, as well as the pusher boat wedded to it, move on, out of our lives, leaving a clear view of the river once more. And life goes on.

So tonight, let us stand on the banks of that great river of lore we call the Canon, and take a moment to consider that veritable barge of a woman in the river of Sherlock Holmes’s life, the late Miss Irene Adler. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Testing the limits

 Well, as if my blogging pace weren't slow enough this year, this month I seem to have replaced writing a frequent blog with a new writing exercise: Sending Paul Thomas Miller a new Yuletide story related to Sherlock Holmes for every day of December preceding Christmas. One only has so much writing time in a day, and this mad gallop into the guns of writer's block is taking up a goodly chuck of it.

And how does one even start to come up with that many premises for short stories?

The whole premise behind Doyle's Rotary Coffin, our loose organization of Sherlock-love, is summed up in the motto "No Holmes Barred!" and since I'm writing these things for its "Ho! Ho! Holmes!" project,  those three words are, in themselves, a guide.

The holiday season is many things to many people. Sherlock Holmes is also many things to many people. Mash those two things up and you get an insane matrix of possibilities. Looking at the combos that I've hit so far, I see:

  • Sherlock as Santa, re-imagining "Charles Augustus Milverton" as a grinch
  • Long haul trucker Sherlock, coming into Nashville for Christmas dinner
  • Watson's connection to the Christmas mentioned in "Speckled Band"
  • Will Ferrell's Sherlock having a visit from Santa
  • A holiday parade on the River Styx ala John Kendrick Bangs' Holmes parody
  • Child Sherlock and Winwood Reade's view of Christmas
  • Grimesby Roylott and Festivus
  • Sherlockian podcasting and Christmas episodes
  • Santa Claus, Queen Victoria, and Mycroft Holmes's true connection
  • Krampus brings Holmes a case
  • Arthur Conan Doyle's version of Frosty the Snowman

Eleven so far, after nine full days of December. Fourteen left to go. If you think that's driven, I should show you how many "Watson's Wonderful World of Wildlife" episodes he's recorded ahead of time. He's about to more than triple that number in the same period of time as I'm doing Christmas tales. Some of us just get an idea in our heads and take off.

As I near the midpoint of my quest, however, I'm starting to feel the limits of Sherlock Holmes and the Yuletide season . . . no, actually, I'm starting to feel my limits. When I don't stop to think about what I've done already and just look to the "Ho! Ho! Holmes!" horizon I actually don't know if I can see a limit. Like I said, the combo just presents a matrix of possibilities, a geometric function of possibilities spinning out possibilities. And once a concept is there, Sherlock Holmes and his friends are such living, breathing creatures that they can take it from there and just do what they do.

I may run out of pseudonyms before I run out of stories, but we shall see. Soon it will be time to take to my keyboard once more and cry, "On Sherlock, on Watson, on Lestrade and Gregson! On Mycroft, on Morstan, on Stonor and Hudson!"

Come, write, join the "Ho! Ho! Holmes!" party! With so many combos out there, I can't possibly be the grinch that steals all the ideas. And what's a party without all the guests we can invite?

Friday, December 4, 2020

Baker Street Batcave and other Speckled Observations

Tonight some local Sherlockian friends and I did a little viewing of a couple of old black and white Holmes productions (via Zoom) of course, the most fascinating of which was a little number from the  1949  TV series Your Show Time. It was the first TV series ever to win an Emmy, and it adapted many a short story by many a famous author. The host, called simply "the Bookman," was supposedly a little bookshop owner who not only introduced the tale, but would also occasionally jump in during the story to build suspense, a bit like Professor Everett Von Scott in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Since the show was sponsored by Lucky Strike cigarettes, he smoked like a chimney, and his teeth were definitely from a time before bright, well-ordered smiles were de rigueur for television.

The story presented was "The Speckled Band," and the first thing one notices is the star -- Alan Napier, the Alfred from 1960s Batman as Sherlock Holmes. But did you ever notice the other appearance from that same future Batman series? It's Shakespeare!

In fact, the positioning of the bust of Shakespeare in 221B Baker Street is very close to where it was positioned in stately Wayne Manor in the latter show. 

Helen Stoner is played by classic horror movie Evelyn Akers, who also played opposite Basil Rathbone's Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, and we get to see her sister "Jean" Stoner die in a flashback uttering "The speckled band!" as she dies, as all Stoner sisters must. I say this, because Helen's sister was named "Violet" in a 1931 adaptation, and "Julia" in the original story. So Helen, Jean, Violet, and Julia were quite the snakebit "Little Women" of Stoke Moran.

Grimesby Roylott in this version is a bit problematic -- with a six foot six inch Sherlock to threaten, actor Edgar Barrier (also in Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror) comes off a bit puny, and when he bends the fireplace poker using his knee, it doesn't seem like Sherlock is going to have any problem bending it back (using his knee). Watson, who looks like Einstein with shorter hair, can't bend the poker at all by simply waving it in the air (and not using his knee).
But that isn't Watson's biggest problem in this one -- he's constantly attacked by the Stoke Moran monkey, who seems to be thrown at him at every opportunity by someone off camera. Even when they're climbing in the window at night, Holmes gets in easily enough, but Watson comes in fighting off the monkey. The little monkey even makes for Holmes to say his classic line when Watson finally asks "Why does this monkey keep attacking me?" The reply: "Elementary, my dear Watson! Romance."

The horny monkey of Stoke Moran sees Einstein Watson as their true love, and if you think that's not enough inspiration for me to write another "Ho Ho Holmes!" tale to send to Paul Thomas Miller, you don't know how easily I'm story-triggered this month.

 Old adaptations are probably most delightful in the weird little choices mad in changing the story, and there's a whole subplot with Helen's fiance John Armitage that gets ridiculously out of hand, and why he doesn't have Holmes and Watson arrested when it's all over, I'll never know.

But it made for a pleasant evening. (Somehow we squeeze two twenty-something minute films into two and a half hours of conversation.) 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The 221 training bags of Baker Street

 Have you ever noticed the number of writers whose first book is a Sherlock Holmes book, then they go on to success beyond Holmes? It's not a huge number, as getting to "successful professional writer" level is a hard hill to climb in any case, but it's significant. It's a bit like Sherlock Holmes is a practice dummy for perfecting your word punches. And, as his survival after pastiche after pastiche after pastiche shows, he can take it.

Doyle's Rotary Coffin has started another holiday festival of short, short fiction this month with "Ho! Ho! Holmes!" and it's an excellent way to give yourself a reason to play with some wacky idea and give your writing skills some practice. All you have to do is let yourself go.

Seriously, this is some no-stakes writing fun. You can use a pseudonym. There's no comment section. You don't have to plot, write for a certain length, or even have it make a lick of sense. In fact, the more nonsensical it is, the better it might fit the Doyle's Rotary Coffin's motto of "No Holmes barred!"

I'm going to be letting fly on "Ho! Ho! Holmes!" this month with whatever silly Sherlocking that the season inspires on me and tossing it the DRC's way, because you know what? It's good therapy as we wind down this stressful year just to let the brain do a dump of whatever Sherlock nonsense it has available -- it's almost like the therapeutic dreaming that your brain will sometimes do.

Because really, "No Holmes barred!" isn't just about allowing all Holmeses to exist. It's also about a no-rules, no-limits, no-mental-gatekeeping approach to this hobby that makes it so much more enjoyable. (Yes, there probably are actually some limits -- actual crime, personal attacks via fiction, all the things a reasonable person wouldn't do anyway. But that's not you, right?) There's no speed limit on this Holmes highway, no U-turns you can't make, and crashing and burning doesn't have to hurt at all. You can just get in that blank page of a car and drive!

Okay, so maybe I switched metaphors again, but like I said: This is a place to get some of those thousand hours in that will make you a master of your craft, and there's fun to be had here.

"Ho! Ho! Holmes!" -- think of it as NanoWriMo that only takes one evening. Spend a couple hours just pounding the keyboard and send the results along. As with any training bout against a practice dummy, you just can't lose.