Friday, January 8, 2021

A crabby barefoot Irregular with a cat attends an annual "dinner"

Going to Zoom was probably a harder turn for the Baker Street Irregulars than most local Sherlock Holmes societies, I think. But the rituals were observed, and the evening took place, getting over at 6 PM local time for me.

I was still at work when the Baker Street Irregulars dinner started this year. Never good with time zones, I put 5 PM on my calendar early on, and then never went back and reconsidered that it was EST in subsequent invitations. Apparently I missed the toast to "the woman" and dropped in during what seemed like a bunch of commercials for books published by the organization.

The reading of the "Buy-laws" followed, a boring time even if you're in New York and present, but mandatory, I suppose.

The toast to Mrs. Hudson came next -- apparently Denny Dobry in drag as a drunken Cockney Mrs. Hudson? I haven't to admit, I was not expecting to go "WHAT THE HELL?" at this event, and it made me laugh to consider if this had actually happened in a NYC clubroom. 

Regina Stinson followed that bit of crazy with a good, normal toast to Mycroft, which was very calming after that previous act.

Tim Greer's toast to Mrs. Watson went all historical on Watson's wives, citing past Sherlockians,

Monica Schmidt . . . now, is it just me, or did Sherlockian toasting used to be not all five minute papers? . . . anyway, she did a toast to Sherlock Holmes. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Monica's toast was actually only two minutes and change long and I wrote those words before it was complete. My apologies to Monica and all toasters under five minutes long.)

Coming in late has made me very crabby (well, life and age might be a part of that, too). But there's a cat on my lap now, so that's cool. 

Ira Matesky toasts Jay Finely Christ for the toast to an Old Irregular. This is, as the BSI goes, a more recent addition to the program, coming along about the time that BSI history got to be a big part of the group. Another five minute paper.

Don Hobbs read "The Musgrave Ritual," and we were asked to respond appropriately in our own homes. Probably something that works better when everyone chants together in a room. Oh, wait, I'm not drinking. I should be drinking. I get faked out by Don's photo-library that reproduces his old library which has moved on to library care.

Bonnie MacBird gives the first talk, one on Mazarin Stone. Moving between windows to look at the program for the event, I accidentally start Bonnie's good, and her talk's segue into a film clip is one of the slickest transitions I've seen on a Zoom call all year. She gives a lively talk, probably better from her home and not on a microphone at podium. Bonnie ends with a sip of her tea, which is a lovely little bit of punctuation that wouldn't work in a normal setting.

Henry Boote played a musical interlude on piano, to the tune that I always associate with the musical "Hamlet" done on "Gilligan's Island." (Bugs Bunny and Gilligan twisted a lot of classical music for some of us Boomers.) There's just a visual of Holmes's dressing gown colors draped like a flag, with a BSI logo and "Musical Interlude, featuring Meyers, Toronto" on the screen, but then video comes back with a live vocal performance about the "Mazarin Stone" by Shara Boote, then Henry sings his own tribute to Mike Weland.

Steve Rothman, editor of The Baker Street Journal, gives a history of The Baker Street Journal.

That gets followed by Steve Doyle talking about Mike Whelan, the former leader of the club, whose term ended last year. Being a fellow Indiana Sherlockian, Steve is more than qualified to present the history of his fellow Illustrious Client.

Les Klinger follows to talk about the book he recently collected about Mike, and Mike comes on to express his appreciation for the book.

It's "Let Us Stand Upon the Terrace" time, and Marsha Pollak goes down the roll of Irregulars who passed this year. Of all the rituals of the night, this one is sombre no matter where you are, Zoom or banquet room. It lasts for quite a while this year, and if you had a pizza delivered halfway through it during the actual dinner, it might get you removed from the room. Not that anything like that happened during this year's event . . .

The "investitures" come next and Michael Kean says he will do it again in person for these folks. It's always interesting to see how many of the people you know, and there's a few good ones from my personal experience this year. 

Sarah Montague delivers a very dignified reading of "221B," and it's done. An ad for the BSI website comes up and music plays. 

And it's 6 PM, with a whole evening ahead of me. Usually, in New York, it would be ten or after, and there was still much socializing to be done, into the wee hours. This year, I'm going "I should go see if Kathy wants to watch 'The Flight Attendant,'" which is kind of like a year where I didn't just attend the Irregulars dinner.  I don't think I've attended any other Zoom that didn't give as strong a sense of loss. 

Because the annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars isn't really about what happens in that banquet room. Rituals like the Buy-laws and Musgrave Ritual kind of lay there on a Zoom webinar, without the silence of the room full of people to give them dignity. The awarding of different prizes isn't the same without crowd appreciation for those awarded. The lack of laughter from your fellow attendees in the webinar format needed for an event with a couple hundred people attending is sorely missed. 

Hashtag #BSIWeekend was active on Twitter, but not as heavily trafficked as what I'm used to during 221B Con, where the populace is much more online-oriented, so there wasn't much entertainment to be had there. Probably a combo of non-Twitter-y Irregulars and the no-social-media strictures of past dinners.

It was a transitional year for the Baker Street Irregulars, in any case, so it was bound to be about celebrating their departing leader as the new one ran his first meeting. But, the BSI really does need to consider looking outward and not inward a little more in the future, as the constant references to its own publishing during the meeting were a bit much this time. There's a whole Sherlockian world outside BSI, Inc., and a whole year of that world going some amazing places.

As weird as it was, I think the highlight of the evening was that freaky Mrs. Hudson roleplay by Denny Dobry.  In the midst of a burlesque show, it might not have had the impact it did, but during an event giving to ritual and the expected annual things, Mrs. Hudson's act was a wild extravagance. (But despite anything Rob Nunn says, it was not better than Will Ferrell's Sherlock Holmes. Sorry, Denny.)

More thoughts to come on this evening, but for now I think I'm going to go watch "The Flight Attendent."



  1. It seemed like one long commercial for the Baker Street Journal. The obits and toasts were so much longer than live ones, and felt over prepared, pre-taped even. It did not work for me. I guess I was expecting to see others, and converse like scion Zoom sessions, but had to settle, as usual for a BSI event, to listen to the chosen few praise each other's accomplishments. Kean bragged that a great selection of the wide world of Sherlockians was watching, but we couldn't visualize this? I thought I went through the outgoing Wiggins ceremony live last year live, was this a repeat? Yet I paid $35 and put on a tux for this, why?

    1. When I spotted the Elf on a Shelf in the background of Nina Singleton's acceptance video for "The Woman," the game was up. Everyone knows the Elf goes back to the North Pole on December 24th. So it was pre-recorded.

      I thought the $35 was reasonable: they needed to pay for hosting costs for the Webinar version of Zoom, to accommodate people for the lecture and the dinner; the preparation of the digital dinner packet (and forthcoming physical dinner menu); and the remainder going toward the Watson Fund. I think that was perfectly reasonable, in that light.

      Yes, it was disappointing that we couldn't mingle, but I'm sure the planners considered every angle. Given the limited technical knowledge of some Irregulars, they went the safe route. Herding 175 people from the cocktail reception to the dinner in person is bad enough; online would have been more raucous.

    2. Scott Monty did a wonderful job taking the reins of our breakout room at the Gillette Luncheon, which despite being too short was my highlight of the weekend, and gave me what I was missing the night before. For free! In my second Saturday event things did not go as well with a few attempting to dominate the room, and people popping in just to say hi to one person and talking over those speaking, as if they where the only ones in the room. Needed Scott there too apparently, but it still was quite interesting meeting one Simon LePage for the first time. Loved that guy!

  2. Hey now... My toast clocked in at exactly 2:59. ;)

    1. Apologies, Monica! A correction has been made.

    2. With the exception of Monica's toast... (who edited that out of my comment Brad?) :-)