Thursday, August 25, 2016

Over-exposure week.

You know how the saying goes . . .

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

When you're tired of lemonade and the lemons keep coming, get away from the lemon grove.

Because it's a lemon tree, my dear Watson!

Well, if nothing else, the over-promotion of a pair of Nevada actresses' fan-targeted work gave me the chance to use that chestnut this week.  I really don't want to disparage some real talent and energy from anyone taking up Weird Al Yankovic's chosen art form, but after a couple of my internet channels became a little too infatuated with the Sherlock based entry, to the point where I was blog-tied about even mentioning it here.

Said Sherlock parody video is the perfect example of both the greatness and the pain of internet culture: The chance for artists of any stripe to do great work and have it seen by a million people -- good thing. The chance for a single person to be over-exposed to a single thing by both highly enthused fans and content algorithms that alter your feed based on what a chunk of code thinks you like -- maybe not so good.

But it isn't really the internet's fault. We've had pop songs and commercial jingles battering our brains as long as radio and television existed. The internet is just one more powerful medium for us humans to exploit, or over-exploit, to the point of sometimes irritating our fellow humans.

But when life hands you Sherlocks, you do get to make Sherlock-ade.

The desire to get away from the over-promoting this week actually set me in a direction I might not have otherwise gone, Holmes-wise (more on that to come), so it's all good.

Because the Sherlocks are never going to quit coming, pre-apocalypse. Post-apocalypse, we'll see.

(Oh, Brad, why did you have to bring it down at the end by mentioning the apocalypse. Well, when life hands you apocalypses . . . .)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Picking new detective tricks up as he went.

Name a Canonical character who seems to have taught Sherlock Holmes something that he used to solve a later case . . . .

Surely, Holmes came to his detective career complete, one might think. He seemed so on top of it when Watson first met him. And yet, it only makes sense that Sherlock Holmes, who took so much from so many fields to form his bag of work-tools, who add a few things as he went along.

Got the answer yet? If you do, you were ahead of me on this, until tonight.

Looking over The Sign of the Four, pondering a question on a certain other test of Sherlockian knowledge, I ran across Thaddeus Sholto's explanation of what a clever fellow is brother Bartholomew is.

"How do you think he found out where the treasure was? He had come to the conclusion that it was somewhere indoors: so he worked out all the cubic space of the house, and made measurements everywhere, so that not one inch should be unaccounted for." A lot of detailed explanation later, we learn Bartholomew found four feet in the house that was unaccounted for.

Just like the six feet of hallway that Sherlock Holmes found unaccounted for in "The Norwood Builder." As he tells Watson in A Study in Scarlet, "There is a strong family resemblance about misdeeds, and if you have all the details of a thousand at your finger ends, it is odd if you can't unravel the thousand and first."

And in "The Norwood Builder" we see that in action. Finding a man hidden in a house works on the same basic principle as finding a good-sized treasure in a house, and Sherlock Holmes was not the sort of man to let Bartholomew Sholto's cleverness go un-noted, especially after his untimely demise before Holmes could even make his acquaintance.

So the next time you want to celebrate "Norwood Builder," remember to tip your cap to the late Bartholomew Sholto, the guy who basically solved it first.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sher-ply and demand.

Just for kicks, I decided to check out the price tags on SHERLOCKED USA tonight.

And boy, nothing will make you feel like you grew up in the Great Depression quicker than that. Want to live like a Baker Street Irregular at the official U.S. Sherlock con in L.A. and get to "go everywhere, see everything, overhear everyone?"

That will be $2, 995, please. Airfare, hotels, meals, tax, tips, dealer's room purchases, and that mysterious $1 fee they tack on, not included.

Old news to anyone who dealt with the con in London, I know, but let me tell you about the olden times, before celebrity autographs were a revenue stream and cons where corporate enterprises. No, I'd better not. Because it just hurts too much to think about how much it's all changed. (But for the record . . . autographs of the entire main cast of classic Trek in Wrath of Khan days, plus a morning jog with George Takei, just for the cost of a standard ticket.) It's a different day -- a too-favorite topic of those of us who remember things being another way once.

It's hard to find a fan niche that isn't being exploited by somebody looking to make a few bucks off of that enthusiasm. Funko "Pop!" vinyl homunculi. Convention corporations. A version of Monopoly or Clue tailored to any TV series that gets above a certain ratings number.

And I can even remember the time this all started . . . they seemed to go after the Trekkies first. Collector plates, making them buy their DVDs episode-by-episode when complete series sets were coming out for other shows, and the first pay-for-an-autograph cons. But eventually the eye of the great hive-minded beastie called commerce saw Sherlockians.

Americans have a lot more time to kill and a lot more folks willing to take our money to give us little moments of fan or collector happiness than ever before, and the days of Jeremy Brett touring the larger PBS cities are past, but we still have this . . .

Of course, I was on my way in to pay an extra six bucks over normal movie ticket prices to see a Rifftrax Live screening of Mothra because the good Carter wanted some MST3K fan fun. So even standing next to cardboard Cumberbatch is not without a price . . . ah, well. Remember when they used to say "the best things in life are free?"

They still are. You just have to figure out how to get past all the people willing to charge you for them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What if Donald Trump were a Sherlockian?

It's been an interesting week.

And the thing about interesting weeks, they don't just get over and done so quickly. In talking about things political and Sherlockian, I have, perhaps, been a little politic myself and held back from going full bore ("bore" having the perfect double meaning for the situation). But it does make one think, raising the question, "What if Donald Trump were a Sherlockian?"

From the start, our American political fireball has been loved by his fans for being plain-speaking and not holding anything back, no matter who it might offend. No filters. And we do have a few Sherlockians like that, whom you may have met at some meeting or banquet. Yet those folks don't tend to be running any major publications, well-known podcasts, or having their every wacky comment featured in every stream of Sherlockian social media.

So what would Donald Trump be like as a Sherlockian? Not too hard to imagine, you start with that standard line, and just go . . .

"We are going to make Sherlock Holmes great again. We're going to take him off those charity networks like PBS and CBS and put him on HBO, right after Game of Thrones. And we're going to get a real American Englishman to play him, like that Chris Hemsworth . . . have you heard him do that accent he does . . . fantastic. And Doctor Watson . . . we're going to make him so much smarter than those other guys. A brain surgeon, like my friend Ben Carson. Maybe even a rocket science brain surgeon who uses rockets to perform the surgery . . . a real genius. And I know genius. No one is smarter than me . . . except maybe Sherlock Holmes, but we all know he's fictional, right?"

"We print up some more books, get some really great writers on that. We get Holmes and Watson to stop flirting with each other like those British TV guys made 'em do. You know the British . . . (does offensive hand gestures) . . . Sherlock Holmes was never great until his books got over here, you know that. Mr. Lippincott paid Conan Doyle some good American dollars for him, and the detective thing just took off! Sky high! And that's where we're going to take Sherlock Holmes again."

"What else, what else . . . I have this idea . . . we should have a big fancy dinner once a year. I mean real fancy. And just let the best Sherlock Holmes people come to it. The best! You don't know who Frankie Hays Molsons is, you don't get in. I don't care if you're Canadian. Okay, we might let you in if you're Canadian. They have some good Sherlock Holmes people in Canada. But you still have to pass the test. And we get a real looker to come in and be THE woman every year, like my daughter Ivanka. And I can hand out some kind of fancy coins to the other lookers in the room . . . gold coins, of course. Old doubloons or something. Just like Sherlock Holmes did. I've got all the best ideas."

"We can make a list of all the best Sherlock Holmes people and put it in a vault at Harvard or Yale, so those guys know who to come to when they want to ask a question about Sherlock Holmes. Because you don't want them to just go to anybody. You walk up to some guy on the street, say "Tell me about Sherlock Holmes!" and he says "Oh, he's a junkie from New York!" We can't have that. Nobody thought Sherlock Holmes was a junkie from New York before the Baker Street Babes had a podcast. I blame them for this. We need to make Sherlock Holmes great again!"

Sherlockian Donald Trump is quite a free spirit, it seems. I think his hometown scion society must consist entirely of servants and other paid functionaries, because he seems to also be free of corrections.

"People like to ask me about the Canon. I've got the best Canon. My Canon has all the stuff right in it. Dr. Watson's wound? In the shoulder. There, done, no need to thank me. But my Canon isn't public domain, so if you use that, you have to pay my estate. Look, you can be some poor loser and have an estate when you're dead and try to get people to pay to use your Canon, but I've gotten around that. You want to use my Canon, you pay my estate. And you'll be getting some of the best Canon you ever got, trust me on this."

There's something very therapeutic about channelling a Sherlockian with no boundaries or limits or facts. And the thought of just not holding anything back is very attractive, especially when you do have a few facts on your side. But is it a good idea?

Well, let's ask Sherlockian Donald Trump.

"Hey, do I have anything but good ideas? Sherlockians love me. The best Sherlockians . . . beautiful people, you should see them . . . they turn out by the thousands when I speak at a symposium. And they love my ideas! Like the one about stopping those Canadian writers from stealing all the jobs writing for Canadian Holmes and making them pay for our subscriptions! Great ideas!"

That was a mistake. I think it's time to slip quietly away before he says anything more.

It's been an interesting week.

The things we used to do.

The pre-internet, pre-Cumberbatch world of Sherlockiana might be hard to imagine for someone who came into this hobby in the last decade. There's a lot of old stuff to catch up on, more pastichery than any human can read, and the new just keeps on coming.

And all that makes me wonder if anyone is going to read Christopher Morley novels any more. Or Vincent Starrett's stuff, which was always a little harder to find. Or even Conan Doyle's non-Sherlock work.

Because it used to be that as a Sherlockian, you occasionally ran out of specifically-Sherlock things to do sometimes. Can you imagine?

Before Amazon, Etsy, eBay, and the thousand other ways to buy things on line, we actually had to go out into the world and find stuff about Sherlock Holmes. Unlike using the internet, it was actually possible to go on a massive, all-day, hundreds-of-miles quest for Sherlock and come up empty-handed.

Rather than come back empty-handed, a lot of times, we would just pick up anything at all with a Sherlockian connection. Find an old copy of Where the Blue Begins by Christopher Morley for a couple of bucks? Good enough. A book on British history? That would do. Yet another edition of Doyle's The White Company with a different cover? Sure.

It's why I have a John Kendrick Bangs collection, although I found Bangs more to my taste than some of the later ancillary Sherlockian authors. (And it did make it great fun when he appeared in the Alan Moore comic Promethea.) So many old bookshops had a single J.K. Bangs novel for sale and curiously enough, each store usually had a different one.

But looking at the deluge of material and the availability of a "search" function, I have to wonder if any Sherlockians from here on in are going to go down those sideroads. Will Morley be left to the few true Morley fans in some local region of New York that still celebrates his memory? Will there be new sideroads, as Sherlockians try to get a handle on all the things that occurred during the latest boom, the aftershocks of which have spread wider than anyone could have predicted?

And how deep into Doyle will the voracious readers go?

The future is made for curiosity, and I definitely have some about it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Popcorn, my dear Watson! Popcorn!

Well, either you like Will Ferrell or you don't like Will Ferrell.

He's an actor that people tend to run hot and cold on, and personally, I'd have had a poorer movie-going life without him. But Sherlock Holmes?

Yeah, I'll take him in the role. Can't be any stranger than Downey.

And remember a little movie called "Without A Clue?" Sherlock can make for great comedy . . . even in his semi-serious outings like the Downey films and the classic "Private Life of Sherlock Holmes." And that Peter Cook take on The Hound of the Baskervilles . . . um . . . yeah . . . remember "Without A Clue?"

Well, ya buys your ticket, ya rolls your dice.

A Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly movie about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson is definitely going to be a film for people who know how to enjoy stupid. Whether it's good, bad, or indifferent, it's going to be stupid, I can tell you that right now. Stupid comedy is Ferrell's stock in trade, and if you've never enjoyed stupid, you're not going to like this one.

And I can see a lot of Sherlockians passing this one up. And that's probably wise.

But me? Big ol' tub of popcorn and a Coke, earliest show.

Sherlockian politics.

Apparently my Monday's post had a little too much "vaguebooking" to it, and a few folks would like me to get a little deeper into the subject of Sherlockian politics. While I don't know the incident that originally caused the topic to show up in my social media, it is a subject that I have no end of thoughts on, so let's go for it, shall we?

Politics, as we are currently experiencing it in the larger world, is candidates trying to make the rest of us happy enough so that they can have a position in the government. In some elder parts of American Sherlockiana, it works in the opposite direction, where folks try to keep the gatekeeper(s) happy enough so that they can get an invitation or some other recognition. You can make a case for politics being about power or strategy or whatever, but I tend to think it's basically about keeping somebody happy.

It may be the aged leaders of some older group. It may be some faction of attendees at some newer con. But Sherlockian politics, when it comes up, always seems to be about mollifying somebody . . . and sometimes that comes at the expense of someone else.

Take the Baker Street Irregulars of New York, for example, an easy target when it comes to Sherlockian politics. They have an exclusive membership and invitation list with some actual gatekeepers picking and choosing who gets in. And that is being done to appease somebody, somebody who get anxious at the thought of letting just anybody into their annual dinner, for fear some quality of that experience might be ruined.

While most of us have been to a lot of open Sherlockian dinners and can't recall seeing one ruined by some hobos or gypsies or unwashed Sherlockian masses turning up, the history of the B.S.I. does include something one might call "tourist attendees." Without getting into a "who is a real fan" argument, back in the 1980s, they did have some people showing up that actually didn't give a crap about Sherlock Holmes, just coming along with a friend to see the celebrities there. So one could say open invitation anxieties have some roots. Doesn't mean they might not be as valid as they once were. Doesn't mean they're necessarily a good plan for the future. But there are fears that some feel must be appeased.

The cost, of course, is inclusiveness, acceptance, and a level of interaction with the average Sherlockian. Which is the other side of the political fence . . . almost literally in the case of a barriered group . . . in order to keep some happy, a lot of folk are just expected to suck it up until their turn comes around and the high lords of invitation and investiture reach down and pluck them from the masses. Which doesn't make anyone on the outside really that happy, until they're on the inside.

And even on the inside, to be fair, that business can grate a bit.

Sherlockian politics is a lot like regular politics in that there are liberals and conservatives, hot-heads and apathetics, and opinions and opinions. The new generation of Sherlockians has a few contentious issues of their own, and the deeper any of us get into this hobby, the more opinions we're going to have. And you can pretty much find a jerk or two on any side, if you're looking for one, along with some decent folk who just have a little different view than yours. The jerks can really color our views of things if we let them, and at the same time, we can't always go, "La la la, Sherlockiana is the happiest, problem-free place on Earth!" We're not Disney. (Oh, but if we were . . . sigh.)

One of my favorite Sherlockians once compared our stodgiest Sherlockian institution to a train -- very slow to turn (and you definitely have to pick the right place on the tracks!). That person's happy involvement always cheers me, because I can see a bit of the future in them, and  it gives me hopes it will all work out. At least for the most part . . .

Because we're always going to have some Sherlockian politics to stir us up, being human and all. Some people are going to be made happy and some people are going to keep pushing when things get a little too unhappy. Others were just going to be jerks no matter what. Change happens, and we go through it all again.

Yet overall, we seem to have some fun. And so on we go.