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!


  1. Good seeing you yesterday......and it's always fun to read a recap of an event just-attended. Bob K

  2. It is always fun to talk on ACD and sports, I can saying I like as so few people know anything on topic. Did I mention he won a silver in competitive mustache growing at the 1906 Olympics?