Saturday, July 31, 2021

End of July SOBs

 I am the sort of dedicated Sherlockian who will stop halfway through viewing Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar to attend a meeting of the Sherlockians of Baltimore. I am also the sort of idiot who, even though he has blog-reported on panels as they happen at a Sherlockian weekend, never realized until now that I could actually do the same with a Zoom Sherlockian gathering which I am not hosting. So let's have at it, shall we? Clicking "Join Meeting" now.

Oh, but I just got too anxious and got on twenty minutes early to see Vincent Wright and Ann Marlowe talking -- sixteen Sherlockians on. already. Greg Ruby test-blasted the Olympics theme over the Zoom, and concussion talk began. Cindy Brown asked Jerry Margolin if he had any new art (he always has a nice bit of his collection displayed behind him), which leads to Jerry chatting with longtime Sherlockian artist Jeff Decker. Always interesting to see where these pre-chats go, and, gladly, this one is trending Sherlockian and not pandemic-based, as so many have been.

Vincent is a welcome last-minute addition to the speakers for this meeting, and we find he's going sans notes for this one, and he threatens to do the whole thing with his hands held up like a stick-up victim to prove he's not using notes. And then we get to see the Lego London his wife made for him.

We're up to thirty-two attendees with six minutes to go, and the chat is becoming all the more random . . . though mostly about Legos.

Okay, I'm not going to name names, but scanning the screens of attendees, I see a Sherlockian that I actually thought was a historical member of our cult from long ago. You never know who will turn up at these Ruby-run Zoom extravaganzas. Vincent mentions the Amazon truck and I realize I didn't check the mail after the truck came through, so I had to run upstairs and look. Nothing!

Up to forty-eight participants and Roger Johnson pops in from across the Atlantic -- so many folks in the chat wishing everyone "good evening" that he's definitely not the only one. It's just twelve noon here in Peoria.

And then the Olympic theme starts the meeting for real, with Greg in his Coca-cola t-shirt leading off. The next SOBs meeting will be in person with vaccine cards required (after some threatened lawsuit nonsense prior to this one on that topic -- glad that got dealt with). Karen Wilson comes on to mention the Scintillation of Scions next weekend. Steve Mason talks about the Beacon Society, the Barque Lone Star meeting tomorrow, and their upcoming book Holmes and Me. Denny Dobry reminds us of his open house (also requiring vaccines), and we get a little deeper into the lawsuit threatener and how unwelcome they've managed to make themselves. Robert Katz also offers to do free physical examinations to those who show up without a vaccine card. We've hit an interesting point in this pandemic.

Bruce Harris promotes his new book, Madeline Quinones promotes her podcast, and I remember how shyte I am at promoting anything. The promoter gene just didn't make it into my DNA, but glad to see my fellow Sherlockians getting the info out there.

Mark Alberstat begins his talk "ACD and the Olympics" to an audience of fifty-eight attendees. Conan Doyle was a big sports fan, which I, sadly, am not. Would Conan Doyle have considered pro wrestling as a sport? I may have to ask. The pic from that era of the British women's swim team and their dowdy chaperone makes me laugh a bit. England was doing so poorly in the 1912 games that Conan Doyle apparently had a letter to the editor about creating a "British Empire team" before the games were even over.

Mark has written about this in Canadian Holmes, so I won't go into great detail here. You can join the Bootmakers of Toronto and get access to electronic editions of that journal if you really want to get the full scoop on ACD and the games. But Conan Doyle was such a letters-to-the-editor guy that you know he'd have been a Twitter beast. The man did not keep his opinions to himself.

Mark finishes to the traditional muted "clap-ter" of Zoom world, and questions begin. No known pics of Conan Doyle at the Olympics, or if he attended more than one day. 

Vincent Wright starts his talk -- and I've been trying to hear him talk again for years. He's up to about thirty-two chronologies in his spreadsheet collection, which is something the Sherlockian Chronologist Guild will always be interested in. His talk is on his original chronology paper that was presented at events in five different states -- and how he later learned it was based on a flawed proposition.

He started looking for ads in the papers of 1881 that might be for the available rooms-for-rent at 221B Baker Street for his 2010 presentation at the Scintillation of Scions. Finding a couple for 33 Baker Street and 48 Baker Street, then an ad for Cleveland Square apartments not far away with "Apply to Mrs. Hudson" in the ad, as well as some others. Further ad research had him checking for "B" apartments being rented at the time as well. Vincent is a thorough, deep-diver of the historical record, to be sure.

He goes on to explain how 23 Baker Street became his ultimate solution to 221 B Baker Street, and, now, what has gone horribly awry with his beautiful solution. (Apparently Vincent is wrong about things a lot less than I am. Which is probably literally true.) And how he had to deliver the paper in Chattanooga and then immediately tell his audience that it was wrong.

"Modern numbering inserted" -- the three words that were my friend's downfall. Baker Street as it was in 1881 had number 23 on the east side of the street. Glad I'm a chronologist and not an addressologist at his point. A lot of folks fought to keep Vincent's theory alive, but, alas, he could not hold to it as the truth.

And April 26, 2014, Vincent Wright retired his paper. I gave his talk an "Excellent!" in the chat and was delighted to see Roger Johnson's reaction pop up as exactly the same. Half of Sherlockiana and our research is just the experience we have playing those games, not the results themselves, and Vincent Wright's talk was a nice combination of the two. Some of the best presentations I have ever heard are the ones that combine the speaker's enthusiastic path to the discovery with the discovery itself, so this one was right in that pocket.

Bob Katz starts a discussion of the first three chapters of A Study in Scarlet. "She was a gorgeous blonde in a bikini and I shot her in the abdomen," is his theoretical opening for a Mickey Spillane version of the book before he points out how unsexy the actual opening is. It makes me realize that I did not start my love of Holmes with that opening -- I came to it with delight after I had already been lured to Holmes elsewhere. 

Bob starts proposing that there are more great lines in A Study in Scarlet than the rest of the Canon and he calls on Vincent Wright, who just started eating McDonald's fries from his grandson, which distracts us from the heretical nature of that statement. At the hour-and-a-half mark of the meeting, I have to shut the camera off and wander off for what we call a "bio break" at my office.

Bob is making a point about Holmes's visitors in those early chapters, pointing out how an excited Jewish peddler appears, then Holmes talks excitedly about Stradivariuses, then much later tells Watson how he got a deal on a Stradivarius from a Jewish broker. I don't think I've ever made that connection before, and watching Sherlockian eyes light up, I don't think I'm alone. Some folks theorize he came to 221B and was excited because the peddler realized he sold it to Holmes much too cheaply.

After a good forty years at this game, I love when someone gives us a beautiful "Ah-ha!" moment like that, showing us something new in what we've been looking at all this time. There's a lot more discussion of whether or not Holmes was a doctor, and enough other points that Vincent goes "How do I even have time for all this?" Bob Katz has tossed out so many thought-provoking points, I empathize completely.

Karen Wilson delivers then delivers the quiz on those same three chapters of A Study in Scarlet. And if nearly sixty Sherlockians can't answer every one of them, I should be much surprised. Nobody even gets tripped up by that tricky "first words" question that SOBs like. Did anyone get all twenty-five correct? I don't know.

About this time, my cat comes yowling up and wants lap-time.

A little more discussion of the fly in the ointment prior to this particular meeting, and total support for all Greg Ruby's efforts, and we're done, a happy finish to a very good Sherlockian meeting.

And my cat starts biting me and we have a little tussle. On to the next!

Friday, July 30, 2021

Yeah, we got some real lulus.

 There's been a subject that I've been trying to get to all week.

Now, that might have been inspired by a particular incidence of truly unacceptable bullshit from a Sherlockian that came our way as a part of this lovely mixed-up social state we're in at the moment. But the comment truly came from decades of spotting that one weird, weird apple on every Sherlockian tree.

Sherlockians are warm, wonderful folks for the most part. If you're here, hopefully you've had firsthand experience of that. If you love Sherlock Holmes, chances are that we love you. You're a rare bird, a special find, and someone we wish we had more of. In fact, we love a dedicated Sherlockian so damn much, that we'll accept a few real peculiarities as a part of the package. Sherlock Holmes was a bit of a weirdo, wasn't he? Of course, we like a little weird!

The problem is, accepting a little weird, sometimes you just open the gate to A LOT WEIRD. Which is good. Being accepting is good. But you know how it is with serial killers . . . once they get away with one, they don't stop. It's the same with any rude behavior, even those that don't take lives. Our acceptance is a double-edged sword. It opens people up to let their best selves come out to play, but it can also let their worst selves come out, too, especially in an environment of enthusiastic devotion.

If this age of allowing people a choice of pronoun, I suppose it's okay for me to finally accept that you can have your own choice of other descriptors. If you want to be an "enthusiast" or an "aficionado" instead of  a "fan," that's okay. If you're only doing it because you're the sort of prick with a need to elevate yourself above other people that likes our thing, well, I suppose we even should be kindly toward your personal issues. But the minute your personal grandiosity starts making other folks feel unwelcome in this space, because we were kind enough to allow your royal ass in here . . . well, you've kinda broken the covenant, haven't you?

That's where we have to draw the line. 

Not talking permanent banishment here. We have to give sincere apologies a chance. And we can specifically ask for them, when needed. Because here's the thing: A lot of us come to this welcoming world for two reasons: a.) We love Sherlock Holmes, and b.) Our social skills suck so badly in the normal world that spending time with those who can overlook that lack in the glow of the Holmes fires.

We have to be a little forgiving, and offer a few second chances, because . . . well, I don't know about you, but I stumble into pissing people off on occasion. And I might be a little like my cat -- if I get bored enough, I'll start chewing on the hand that is petting me, just because it's the nearest thing. (Doesn't mean that old hand doesn't need a nip now and then, of course, just to remind it there's a beastie here.) And some of us are just socially awkward enough not to know when we've offended -- unless you're really raging offended, and then we might just run and hide and make little "yeeks" noises.

Being social is hard. It truly is, and, man, the skills didn't improve with quarantines. And, yes, right now there are some folks out there that need a proper spanking. But don't let them ruin your pleasant place. Just send in a good spanker if you know one.

Sherlockiana. The weirdness is a feature, not a bug, unless it is a bug, and then, well, you know the line from "Copper Beeches."

(Somehow "Smack! Smack! Smack!" just got a little kinky after that spanking bit. Please ignore that. Except I just called it out, didn't I? Sorry. Weirdo. Can't help it.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Would Doyle have gotten the pips?

 You might have heard the story about the black crepe mourning bands worn by London fellows after the death of Sherlock Holmes in the pages of The Strand Magazine. It's not documented well enough for a few skeptics out there, but personally, I believe it has some roots in truth, even if it was only one guy, and the story grew as it was retold over the years. Sherlock Holmes fans existed in 1893, and some of them were certainly upset to see him go.

So, one can understand that someone somewhere surely had a reaction strong enough to pull out the black crepe mourning band for a day. 

We now know, of course, that Conan Doyle was lucky.

Listening to an interview with comic book writer Dan Slott last night, telling of death threats and bodyguards immediately after a comic book came out where Peter Parker died and Dr. Octopus took over his body and life, I couldn't help but think of Conan Doyle. The Peter Parker death was in a comic book, with decades of history of superheroes dying and coming back as a prelude, so you'd think it wouldn't have been a thing. But it was. And Conan Doyle, with his ground-breaking serial detective, had no such foreshadowing. What was different in the 1890s?

No social media.

No immediate reactions shared with the world. No pundits trying to fill air-time by saying Doyle was imposing his beliefs in chaos by killing a champion of law and order. No legions of fellow fans who experienced that Reichenbach moment at exactly the same time as you -- since your home probably only had one copy, even family members could not fully sympathize until twenty minutes later after they had read it.  Even the craziest of fans might have had time to cool down a bit.

And given that any death threats had to actually make it into an envelope, into a mailbox, and to Conan Doyle's hands, well, plenty of additional time to cool down there. By the time Doyle wrote his memoirs in Memories and Adventures, the worst he could recall was some lady addressing him as "You brute!"  Maybe there were worse letters. The subscriptions drop that The Strand Magazine experienced definitely indicated some strong feelings on the matter. Perhaps the equivalent threats to those a writer like Dan Slott got in 2012 did happen, they just weren't spread beyond Doyle's dustbin.

I often wonder how Sir Arthur would fare in the world we find ourselves in today. He was an active, involved sort of man, and would definitely have raised some strong opinions far beyond those resulting from just killing Sherlock Holmes only to bring him back later. But it's probably better for us if we don't do a "Bill and Ted" and get him into a time machine to current times. (Should I have said a "Time after Time?" I fear that film is losing its currency among our younger peers. Bill and Ted at least got a recent sequel.) Someone of us would surely be unhappy with him.

At least he would have probably been pro-vaccine, being a doctor and all . . . though that has gotten at least one doctor some death threats in the last year. And would the FBI count orange pips as a credible threat, or just a fan thing? 

Who knows? It's definitely been a long road from 1893 to 2021.

Monday, July 26, 2021

A new kind of A.S.H.? Maybe not.

 I don't watch as much professional wrestling as I once did, but I still enjoy a good storyline or a good gimmick when it comes to my attention. And with the WWE's Monday Night RAW hitting its usual Twitter spots tonight, my interest was piqued by a newly super-heroic masked wrestler named Nikki A.S.H.

A.S.H. -- Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, right?

Those ladies (and later gentlemen, but c'mon, we know they're just being nice to us) who have been adding serious fun to the Sherlockian hobby since the sixties, those are the A.S.H. we know.  And while I don't know if the self-proclaimed Nikki A.S.H. , formerly Scottish wrestler Nikki Cross a.k.a. Nicola Glencross, is a prime candidate for our version of A.S.H., it still tickles my Sherlockian fancy that she's using those three initials in the ring.

It's now short for "Almost a Super Hero" in the WWE, but I'd give that meaning to our own A.S.H. as well, especially those who had to keep their Sherlockian enthusiasm buoyed against the tides of male Sherlockian judgement over the decades. Keeping your hand in the game when the elder societies of some of our elder cities, especially one in which you lived, firmly held on to "boys only" far longer than anyone should have, well, that takes fortitude that not every male Sherlockian could lay claim to.

And in the last decade, we've seen some real Almost Super-Heroics upon the part of certain ladies of the A.S.H., long before they were recognized by established Sherlockiana. Some held up established structures with a mighty strength, some flew into uncharted terrain with courage of their convictions. All without the little cultural boost of being all boy, old boy, or the good boy. (Yes, it's harder to admit it's there when we fail, fellas, but you know it's there.)

We have a lot of Almost Super Heroes of Sherlockiana, and a lot of Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, too. And I really hope Nikki A.S.H. does well in the wrestling world, where injuries and just "turning heel" come far too easily. I like seeing those letters out there.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

"It was an old acquaintance"

 Looking at the cases of Sherlock Holmes from a chronologist's point of view (Don't run away! I'm not writing about Sherlockian chronology in this post!), gives one a slightly different perspective on Watson's texts. Certain words jump out more strongly in the desperate hunt for clues as one reads a particularly date-cryptic tale. And so it was tonight with "The Dying Detective."

You may remember the tale, and the Scotland Yard man we are introduced to therein: "It was an old acquaintance, Inspector Morton of Scotland Yard, dressed in unofficial tweeds."

As I was currently debating the decade of this tale in my mind, those words "old acquaintance" were pointing me toward this case taking place later in Holmes's career. They also puzzled me a bit. For how was this "old acquaintance," a Scotland Yard man whom Sherlock Holmes trusted for a particularly important trap, someone we had never heard of before? One would expect old friend Lestrade to be the one waiting outside to catch Culverton Smith, as he came for Sebastian Moran in another very important moment of capture.

But if this was a later case, and The Strand Magazine had boosted Lestrade's reputation as someone who worked often with Sherlock Holmes, there was a chance Smith might recognize Lestrade on the street and sense the trap about to be sprung. But Inspector Morton, to both readers of Strand, Smith, and also ourselves, is an unknown. Yet an unknown who was a trusted friend to Holmes and Watson.

Here's where I got a really good idea that fell apart quickly, because it was based on a flawed remembrance -- as in who was the fiance of Helen Stoner? Well, it wasn't Cyril Morton! I always found the opening of "Speckled Band" interesting because Watson promised someone, most certainly Helen Stoner, that he wouldn't tell the story until after their death . . . and somehow he knows when that day has come, like he stayed in touch with her after she married Percy Armitage. And with the possibility that both his wife and the man who saved her from snakebite death dying around the same time, I had this really great theory that Percy Armitage became inspired to become an investigator of crime.

Well, when I thought his name was Cyril Morton . . .

But we all know that Cyril was Violet Smith's fiance, right? Of course, we do.

So is it still possible to shoehorn Cyril Morton into giving up electrical engineering and getting on at Scotland Yard out of his admiration of Holmes? (Or perhaps because his wife kept going on and on about how great Sherlock Holmes was, and he felt he had to compete?) I don't know, but man, do I hate to give up on Inspector Morton having an origin earlier in the Canon.

So how old was that "old acquaintance?" Hmm.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Fans in Critic's Clothing

 We used to have this profession that I'm not sure exists any more. It was called "critic."

What a critic was, basically, was someone who wrote well enough that a media outlet paid them to offer their opinions on a subject to the readers or viewers. We still have those, I guess, often called "pundits" in the world of news-o-tainment (and at this point, their opinions are often not their own), but the playing field has changed dramatically with the mighty hordes of opinion-offerers that rampage across the internet.

One used to consider the most prominent critics experts in their field -- a movie critic knew movies, a literary critic knew books. And while they had insights, they often had so overwhelmed their poor brains with so much material on a subject that they had killed their ability to feel the pure joy of encountering a thing with the pure joy of the innocent.

Rob Nunn's "Interesting Though Elementary" blog considered Sherlockian critics in its latest offering, as Rob has been reading through the wealth of past Sherlockiana and running into those who didn't like Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes movies or Jeremy Brett as a TV Sherlock. "So even though some things are remembered fondly, if you look close enough, there are critics in the weeds."

At which point, I, someone local media has deemed "a Sherlock Holmes expert" on more than one occasion, grumbles quietly, "I still don't like Jeremy Brett, nor remember him fondly." Because I am not a proper critic, I am a fan.

Sherlockians know a lot about Sherlock Holmes. We have a deep-seated idea of who Sherlock Holmes is, and what makes a good Sherlock Holmes . . . to us. We can be quirky. Personally, I think Will Ferrell's Holmes was a lot more interesting than Jeremy Brett's @##$@# @#$*@#$$* version. Yeah, those aren't all cuss words, but I'm sparing you that, because I'm not a proper critic.

"A proper critic" implies that there are experts in the field who can pass an objective and true judgment of a performance, but do they really exist? The way you become an expert is by loving something, being a fan of that thing, but no one becomes a fan of a thing because they love every incarnation of it. Usually there is the one triggering version that sets a fan on their course to expertise, even if it is the mental image that Conan Doyle's words conjured in their brain.

When the mass of fans for Benedict Cumberbath's Holmes rose up a decade ago, I think we saw an example of the best critic we have -- the innocent who comes upon a thing for the first time and goes, "WOW, THIS IS GREAT!!!" The old Rathbone and Brett fans of established clubs were not alway quick to sign on, but Cumberbatch was producing the fans of the future, a necessary part of the cycle. As Cumberbatch fever has tempered, Brett fans reclaimed some ground, gaining converts among the fresh faces, just as Rathbone fans did when Brett came on strong, and the cycle continues.

At some point one starts to see the generational cycles, and finer points become clear. We don't have the records of Basil Rathbone fans getting pissed off when he left the Victorian era and started fighting Nazis the way we have living memory of Benedict Cumberbatch and the dread season four. (Of course, it was WWII, and everybody who wasn't a Nazi pretty much hated Nazis, so it was probably less troubling to Rathbone fans of the day.) And the meaning of words themselves, like "critic" starts to shift more toward one aspect of meaning than another, as the era of the professional critic fades.

We will always have "experts" who are fans at their core, biassed as can be but covering it up with writing skills and knowledge of the past (and . . . sometimes . . . claims of being an elevated "afficionado" or the like), and there are going to be those who viciously go after the new Sherlock on the block for being different from their most beloved. (Or Watson, or the Irregulars, as we saw in the case of The Irregulars. Enola is lucky enough to be new and not have previous fans.) But it's the love of the first-timers that buoys any Sherlock to the top and gives us fresh Sherlockians.

And you have to love that. Who needs critics?

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Diary of the DRC Treasure Hunt, Day Fifteen: The B-list Sherlockian

 Even within the Doyle's Rotary Coffin Treasure Hunt, there are challenges within challenges.

Take item 36 on the infamous list: "One photo of four different things from the Canon which start with the letter 'B.'"

Easy enough. My brain immediately went to book, bed, bottle, and beast -- I could grab the cat, sit on the bed with a book and a bottle, and the deal is done, right?

T'were it only that easy. I am a Sherlockian you know.

Here is my photo for item 36 . . . .

By my personal count, there are twenty-six items from the Canon in the photo above that begin with the letter "B." Care to try to find all twenty-six?

I'll wait.

While I'm waiting (and the answers, by my count, are going to follow below), let me claim twenty-six as the current WORLD RECORD for most Canonical items beginning with "B" in one photograph. The challenge has been made and laid out for anyone who wants to break that record and claim to be the greater B-list Sherlockian than yours truly. 

But back to this photo . . . .

Here . . .

are . . . 

the. . .


1. Bed
2. Book
3. Bottle
4. Beast
5. Bear
6. Bird
7. Bank (The duck is a bank. Once you've gotten four certain ones, you can add some ones which may need to have their case argued.)
8. Black pearl
9. Brittannia
10. Bible
11. Biography
12. Box
13. Bust
14. Boot
15. Box
16. Blue ribbon
17. Boy
18. Buttons
19. Bread
20. Butter
21. Bowl of a pipe
22. Beard
23. Bowler
24. Bow
25. Bull's eye lantern
26. Brick

There's a brain, but it's covered. There's a Baker Street Irregular, but the judges might throw that out. (Probably stretching their limits with "boy.") Can the same item count twice, as with the bird and the bank? I dunno. The DRC Treasure Hunt sub-challenges have no rules, which is part of the fun. Go ahead, be a better B-list Sherlockian than me, and we can start a B-list Sherlockian club for anyone who gets above four items for number 36 on the DRC list.


P.S. Here's number eight on the list: "A photo of you dressed as someone from the Canon."

Professor Presbury

P.P.S. Number twenty-three, "A photo of a street sign which involves the name of an obscure character in the Canon.

The good change

 "I think the change would do you good, and you are always so interested in Mr. Sherlock Holmes' cases."

There is a line we'd all love to hear in our lives, delivered by Watson's spouse at the beginning of "The Boscombe Valley Mystery." The advice is echoed repeatedly in an old Sheryl Crow song, but with a mention of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde and no nod to our favorite detective. "A change would do you good."

Sometimes we need a little help with change. Routine is comfortable. The thing that made you happy yesterday has a good chance to make you happy today. "You are always so interested in Mr. Sherlock Holmes' cases." Yet, even that interest can turn into a dutiful slog -- in that opening to "Boscombe Valley," John Watson has not been living with Sherlock Holmes, going on case after case with the detective. He's working as a doctor, with the domestic life of a married man. Sherlock Holmes is a happy change for Watson. A good change.

Sometimes we get jostled out of our life's train tracks by big impact changes, and very few folks haven't had some of those in the past couple years. We've seen a lot of good come out of some of those, too, new options, the chance to see what the important things were (and the things that might have not been so important). Change comes unasked sometimes, and we just have to make the best of it. But in Watson's case, on that June Saturday in 1889, he chose to spin the wheel of Sherlock Holmes and see what adventure awaited.

And while we don't have Sherlock Holmes himself beckoning us to take a break for a little adventure, we do have that lovely creation, recently started, "The 2021 Doyle's Rotary Coffin Treasure Hunt." From it's earliest moments, Sherlockiana has been about the random celebration of Sherlock Holmes, which takes as many forms as there are different personalities in the people doing the celebrating. The sixty item list of suggested things to get photographic evidence of in that list ran an amazing gamut from shopping for books to meeting a new Sherlockian to creating art or a cocktail. Cosplay. Movie viewing. Research. Generosity. Nostalgia. And something in there is definitely going to be a change from your normal Sherlockian/Holmesian routines. A good change.

In a hobby that will, hopefully, be with you your entire life, you're going to go through some different phases of interest, exhausting one field, moving to another. Personally, I avoided Sherlockian chronology like the plague for a decade or two, and now I'm creating a monthly newsletter on the topic. As Watson well knew, you never know where you'll wind up when you're following Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

And sometimes, it can be to a change that will do you good. 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Diary of the DRC Treasure Hunt, Day Nine

Today, it was time to loose the hounds!

Pacing myself in working at the Doyle's Rotary Coffin Treasure Hunt between now and December 26 isn't proving as tough as I thought -- this is a most distracting summer! Still, time marches on and photos must be taken. 

Item number thirty one, "A photo of ten different copies of The Hound of the Baskervilles," seemed easy-peasey at first. And then I remembered the box of varied paperback copies of that very novel that I delivered to a certain 221B Con support suite with a couple boxes of snacks one year after a house-cleaning purge. All of the paperbacks where gone!!! Did I even have ten copies of The Hound of the Baskervilles left in my collection, if I didn't use any of The Complete Sherlock Holmes or Baring-Gould Annotated editions? Well, it wasn't quite as easy as it once might have been, and several items got knocked off shelves in the process, but here's the photo fulfilling that item:

I added some bonus Hound bits in there to beef it up, along with the steel Hound silhouette that my brother had made for me from the "Weekend at Baskerville Hall" logo. Since you have to be in the photos, in whole or part, I let the part of me get in that would want to add a certain book to the set do its job.

But I'm learning my lesson: Some of the photos in this scavenger hunt are going to take some real planning. Nothing can be taken for granted. But there looks to be some real fun to be had in the list, and I am only on my third checkmark of Hunt.

Sound the hunting horn, loose the hounds, and let the hunt continue! 

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Sherlock Holmes has con drop

 Conan Doyle famously concluded his poem "To An Undiscerning Critic" with the words, "The doll and its maker are never identical" to point out that he was not Sherlock Holmes. That, of course, does not rule out Conan Doyle basing parts and pieces of Sherlock Holmes's life on his own experience. Take this passage for example:

"Even the triumphant issue of his labors could not save him from reaction after so terrible an exertion, and at a time when Europe was ringing with his name and when his room was literally ankle-deep with congratulatory telegrams I found him a prey to the blackest depression."

Such words do not come out of the void by magic. And while Conan Doyle definitely had other people in his life who fell prey to depression, he was also a man of accomplishment, a man who could decide upon a goal and work hard to achieve it. And we know he succeeded in many a goal, even by the summer of 1893 when "Reigate Squires" was published, containing the above passage. 

If you've ever worked hard to put on an event, you know that the greatest congratulations always fall on you at that moment your work is done and you are the most exhausted -- the moment the event is done. Other massive projects might not get the praise quite so immediately, but the cycle can still hold. And even when the effort made is just one to enjoy one's self as much as possible, like at a Sherlock Holmes weekend, when it's over, and everyone else would expect you to be most pleased . . . well, you're tired and vulnerable. Vulnerable to flu bugs, depression . . . even just disappointment at returning to the routines you had before you got to go to war with Professor Moriarty and throw the rules out the window for a while.

Am I equating Sherlock Holmes's foiling of Baron Maupertuis and his colossal Netherland-Sumatra Company schemes to a Sherlockian just going to Atlanta or Minneapolis or New York for the weekend or one of our own little projects? Well, yes . . . he wasn't real, you know (something I can safely say, having referred to Conan Doyle at the outset). But Sherlock Holmes's trials and tribulations are like the man himself -- a heightened version of the rest of us. And his post-event drops are likewise enlarged. Watson doesn't have to travel a very long way to pick us up.

We get to wonder what particular incident in his own life might have inspired Conan Doyle to pen those words about Holmes in that room full of telegrams. A loss of vigor after a round of congratulations for one of his achievements? Just another thing that connects Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes and the rest of humanity, which is a big part of why these stories work so well.