Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Worthy of Canonical villain status? Nope.

A word of warning, I'm going political today. If you are weary or sensitive to such things, it might be in your best interest to head elsewhere for distraction. (Such warnings, of course, are rarely heeded.)

We seem to be in a news cycle where conspiracy theorists are having their day as we approach America's next presidential election. And some of the more excited of those theorists would have us believe that we have a Moriarty running as a major party candidate . . . not a mild-mannered mathematics professor, but a former first lady, who, if the theorists are to be believed, is a criminal mastermind of the first order. Capable of Mycroftian power plays and getting away with actual murders, the level of competency if those Moriarty theorists were correct is almost enough to make you want to support such a candidate, just because, hey, in a world without a Sherlock, a Moriarty might look awfully good.

But those are just crazed conspiracy theories. Looking at the other presidential candidate, however, for a Canonical doppelganger, one finds . . .  well, my mind first heads for James Ryder, the sad little villain who stumbled into providing Holmes a mystery and then was chased out of Baker Street with a simple "Get out!"

Sherlock Holmes didn't have time for overly-pompous blowhards who had no close relationship with the facts. His disdain for a Scotland Yard man or two who fit that bill was very apparent, and he had even less time for those of higher status. Had Sherlock Holmes run into a two-bit charlatan from a wealthy family who rose to media prominence in the lowest sort of entertainments . . . well, it might have been very amusing to watch, but it would have hardly provided the mystery for a decent case.

And that is what we find ourselves presented with this fall. Someone that Watson wouldn't even find worth writing about dominating our national stage. Sherlockians are a very inclusive group as a fandom, so I don't doubt we have a Trump fan or two out there. But I don't think I will ever quite understand how any mind could hold Sherlock Holmes up as an ideal and consider that man a viable candidate for even a Baker Street client, much less anything higher.

Unless, of course, you're really, really, really into wanting there to be Moriartys out there. And even in that case, one would think you could find a better champion to go against said mastermind . . . which we all know took a Sherlock Holmes.

And we know Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes is a friend of ours. And that huckster on the national stage is no Sherlock Holmes.

Monday, October 17, 2016

One dog who didn't make it to heaven.

To this day, I have still not seen the 1989 animated feature, All Dogs Go To Heaven.

It's not that I have anything against cartoons from Don Bluth studios or dog characters based on Burt Reynolds's vocal talents (with all of Burt's 1980s chums along for the ride). Or the plotline about a pound-escaped pooch who used to run a casino and gets murdered while drunk. (Though, that sounds like a wonderful reason to dodge the film.)

It's simply due to the title, and its seeming argument with The Hound of the Baskervilles, which had just come out in its Jeremy Brett edition the year before in 1988. You remember that story, with its line like:

". . . and there ran mute behind him such a hound of hell as God forbid should ever be at my heels."

So if a curse upon a country squire raises a hound from hell, it only follows that said dog had to go to hell to start with, unless he (or she) was born there, in which case a doggie mother had to emigrate to the nether-depths at some point, which denies the title of All Dogs Go To Heaven just as much.

Now, Googling "hell-hound" brings up the definition of "a demon in the form of a dog," which would suggest that the Baskerville curse beast was not a dog at all, but a demon. And yet, unless that demon turned back into some other demonic form before returning to hell, it would still be a dog who certainly wasn't going to heaven, to get technical about it.

Wikipedia goes much deeper on hell-hounds, and definitely calls them "supernatural dogs." Wikipedia also notes that the main dog character in All Dogs Go to Heaven does have a nightmare where he goes to hell and meets a hell-hound, so within the movie's own logic it would seem to acknowledge that hell-hounds are a part of dog culture.

Maybe only one dog went to hell and became the hound of the place, long before even Viking times, and all dogs since then went elsewhere, giving movie-makers free reign to make a movie called All Dogs Go to Heaven with an implied asterisk.

Thus endeth one of the more ridiculous lengths a lazy Sherlockian blogger might go to to post on a regular basis.  Sigh.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

E5:2. There is no debate!

EDITOR'S NOTE: At his request, Don Murillo, the "Tiger of San Pedro" and "the most Canonical man in the Canon, will be reviewing CBS's Elementary for Sherlock Peoria this season. As the rest of the staff at Sherlock Peoria quit watching the show last season, we could not help but take advantage of his generous offer, spoilers and all. Take it away, Don Murillo! (And don't use it to torture the citizens of San Pedro, as has been suggested you might.)

Don Murillo was pleased to learn that last Sunday night, CBS was the most-watched network with over ten million watchers of the television tuning in when they heard the Elementary was not on the air. It is a tribute to the fans of Joan Watson and El Sherlocko that when CBS chose to schedule the same program as every other network in that time slot, the fans turned out by the ten million to say to CBS, "Yes, we support this Sunday night time slot in which you usually show us Elementary, but did not tonight!" That is four million more fans of Elementary than watched the season premiere the week before!

CBS has learned its lesson! Now they just have to explain to that third of Elementary fans who watch Madame Secretary the hour before and then change the channel that Elementary is conveniently on the same channel as the earlier show. No channel changing required -- convenience is one of Don Murillo's top reasons for loving this show! And what are the other reasons?

Did you not see what Don Murillo saw this night?

El Sherlocko has been kidnapped by drug smugglers who want him to solve a murder, and better still, they are both more tattooed than El Sherlocko and call him "homes" in a fashion favored by gang members from the old movies! Most comical!

El Sherlocko agrees, is let go by his captors, and looks at the shipyards over the internet long enough to see a ship, then it's back to the conference room at NYPD to work with the police, even though he has a "private client."

Eventually we get to Joan Watson helping Shinwell Johnson with a lease agreement, and some Asian men come to the door to reveal a shocking revelation! "Joan Watson" is not Joan Watson's real name! Just as seasons before we found that El Sherlocko went by "Scott" when he was younger, yet another mask comes off! As Don Murillo cannot write Chinese characters, he cannot spell Joan Watson's true name here, so he shall continue to call her "Joan Watson." It does seem to be her preference.

 But Joan Watson has been hired by these men for her own case! I, Don Murillo, have often complained to my secretary Lopez that it was quite the indulgence for the Sherlock Holmes and the Dr. Watson to always work on the same investigation together in their original sixty cases. Just imagine getting to read "The Adventure of the Speckled Band AND the Beryl Coronet" as Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson split their energies to work two cases at once, only running into each other when they took suspects to their regular Scotland Yard conference room for questioning. Elementary has fulfilled so many wishes of its fans!

International intrigues and constant threats to painfully kill El Sherlocko are playing to Don Murillo's soft spots this week, and the constant dialogue reminds Don Murillo of the Gilmore Girls. And the Imperial Jade Seal Of China is like the Maltese Falcon or the Golden Bird, from Sherlock Holmes and the Golden Bird -- a true object worth pursuit! El Sherlocko even reminds Don Murillo of a much-less-active Jason Statham this week and merely threatens to have someone else murder the villain horribly to elicit a confession.

Can this season get any better?

You tell Don Murillo, for next week, Joan Watson and El Sherlocko go to a nudist colony! 

Friday, October 14, 2016

An Algonquin on the Styx.

Way back in 1891, Sherlock Holmes died. Viewers of BBC Sherlock had it easy compared to readers of The Strand Magazine, because when that Sherlock took the fatal fall, even Arthur Conan Doyle was convinced he was dead and gone. So dead and gone was Holmes that Doyle even allowed him to go to the afterlife created by John Kendrick Bangs in his A House-boat on the Styx series of novels. (Sherlock appears in The Pursuit of the Houseboat and The Enchanted Type-writer.)

In Bangs's Styx novels, the whole point of the after-life records was to show how various characters from history might interact with each other, and it's a joyous mash-up. Sherlock, Socrates, Noah, Sir Walter Raleigh . . . you never know who will turn up in the afterlife, and that's half the fun of it.

Which brings me to a few happy little tears I felt welling up today.

As mentioned earlier in the week, we lost a great Sherlockian friend on Monday, and I saw "we" because even if you hadn't met Gordon Speck of Waterloo, Illiniois, had you met him, you most likely would have called him friend. He was that sort of guy, friendly like the world was his home and his was just being a gracious host. And at his memorial service today, as at many a memorial service, there was some mention of the afterlife.

Which put me in mind of Bangs's houseboat on the river Styx and all the souls that showed up there . . . ALL the souls. The pastor speaking of the afterlife quoted a popular passage about all the rooms there, and it made me think of a hotel, like the Algonquin hotel, where the Sherlockians gathered in New York every year for Holmes's birthday made their headquarters for many, many years. And if Bangs could have a houseboat on the Styx, then why not a hotel . . . a version of the Algonquin more like the Royal York in Toronto, with its seemingly endless hallways?

And who would be in such an Algonquin on the Styx?

Every Sherlockian ever.

Ronald Knox. Newt Williams. Dorothy Sayers. Marlene Aig. William Gillette. Jack Tracy. Edith Meiser. William S. Baring-Gould. Vincent Starrett. John Bennett Shaw. Bob Burr. Eve Titus. Bart Simms. The list would go on and on, through the famous, the infamous, the local, the international, more than any of our poor brains could handle.

And when I thought of the one man I know who would be equipped to walk into the lobby of such a place, this Algonquin on the Styx, and start happily interacting with this crazy quilt of Sherlockian post-humanity?

Gordon R. Speck.

Never was a man so perfect for a teaming afterlife cocktail party of Sherlockians from all of history. I may be a little biassed, 'tis true, but the thought of Gordon in the midst of a heavenly host of Sherlockians just felt so, so utterly perfect. And the fact that I had this thought amidst a very great presence of Sherlockians from five or six Holmes societies at his memorial just made it resonate all the more.

Unlike Sherlock, Gordon isn't going to show up in a few years with some cockamamie story about llamas in the Alps, but you know what? If Sherlock had stayed in that houseboat on the Styx, we'd still love him all the same. Not the same as having him around with us, but if we can't have him, or Gordon, the thought that they're surrounded by fascinating folk is a sweet one to hold on to.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Animating the gaps?

One of my cosmic wish lists of Sherlockian items is a fully restored cut of Billy Wilder's original lengthy vision of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. We'll probably never see it, as surviving pieces that didn't make the trimmed-down version only exist in audio-only, video-only, or script-only states. But the news about Doctor Who's recreated Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks gives hope.

Our culture's growing acceptance that animation isn't just for the kiddies any more has opened up some real opportunities for using that medium to fill gaps. Sad that Adam West and Burt Ward are too old to play Batman and Robin anymore? Create a new animated movie like The Return of the Caped Crusaders and let their voices carry on with new material! Have a lost Doctor Who episodes whose negatives were destroyed? Rebuild it with the parts and pieces that survive as an animated series!

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is a prime candidate for some animated treatment. Mixing animated segments with live action can work great, as was demonstrated by Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, where Lucy Liu's character's tragic origin was completely done as a cartoon. With the right style, a flashback to Holmes and Watson on a case would fit perfectly in Private Life's already somewhat tongue-in-cheek style.

I don't know if the old Billy Wilder movie has enough fans to warrant the investment, or if Sherlock's popularity from his new incarnations help that cause, but it sure would be great to finally see The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes re-created closer to Wilder's original intent, with whatever tools are available, including animation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

San Pedro is where the heart is. The heart of Don Murillo!

Editor's note: Letting a guest writer into a blog's normal postings is something not done lightly. Why? Because they're liable to keep coming back. With that, let us re-present Don Murillo, the most Canonical man in the Canon. If anyone can corroborate that statement, we would sure appreciate it.

Don Murillo was having a lovely siesta week, watching American dictatorial candidates stalk each other, waiting for the assassins to strike as always seems to happen to Don Murillo, when he found a little magazine in the waiting room of Sherlock Peoria. It was called The Serpentine Muse, and as Don Murillo amused himself by reading of of the Holmesists and their lives -- that is, until Don Murillo came to an article called "Where in the World is 'San Pedro'?" by one Peter H. Jacoby.

This Peter H. Jacoby is clearly a scholar of the first level! And his study of Latin American countries in an effort to identify San Pedro's location. He places much stock in the green and white of San Pedro's flag, only to give up in dismay as he notes "there is not a single country in all of Latin America that has those hues as its national ensign." Well, of course not! Don Murillo is not raised a flag in Latin America in some time!

Has Peter H. Jacoby travelled the world, looking for the green and white colors of San Pedro as so many others have, hoping to find Don Murillo's more perfect Shangri-La? But no! He is a man of books, skilled in his area, but not so skilled as to find Don Murillo's people.

Yes, San Pedro did take up a certain amount of geography in the Central and Southern Americas for a little more than a decade at one time. But as anyone of true political skill knows, countries do not age well. The citizens finish their honeymoon period and become needy and spoiled. To truly perfect a nation, as I have done with San Pedro, a ruler must rotate citizenry and resources on a regular basis.

Yes, Don Murillo's colors have flown over parts of Latin America. And two of the New Zealand islands. And a portion of the Sahara desert. The Balkans. Antarctica. "Iowa." Perhaps some locations that might be more recognizable to you as well, especially now that corporate nationhood is a more shadowy business than the old manner of things. (And do not start searching for green and white trademarks, Peter H. Jacoby, Don Murillo is a traditionalist. His flag remains his colors!)

Dom Pedro II. Rafael Zaldivar. Justo Ruffino Barrios. The Duke of Plaza Toro. Justo Jose de Urquiza y Garcia. Names! So many names that are not "Don Murillo!" Only Don Murillo is "Don Murillo," the Tiger of San Pedro and the most Canonical man in all of the Canon!

And where the Tiger of San Pedro stalks his prey and grooms his fur, that is where San Pedro will always be, and where its citizens rejoice while citizens they enjoy being!

I, Don Murillo, have approved this message!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Among the best and wisest, no doubt.

Today, I spent a lot of time thinking back to the early 1980s and Dubuque, Iowa, and what came after.

Dubuque was where I first met Gordon Speck.

We lost Gordon today. And what a day for it. With all that's going on lately, with one of the worst examples of a human male dominating our media, the loss of one of the truest gentlemen I ever met hit all the harder.

Gordon Speck, and his partner in Sherlockian crime Bill Cochran, were among the Sherlockian friends I met at a Dubuque Sherlockian conference way back when, and let me tell you . . . as much as I love the bunch of them, Gordon always stood out.

Gordon was one of those people who made you a better person, both by example and by the respect and kindness in how he treated you. And everybody else, with a few rare exceptions. I was lucky enough to share more than a few adventures with Gordon, and even at the most frustrating of moments, like when one of our more eccentric Sherlockian drivers crashed into Gordon's car in the most ridiculous way I ever saw, Gordon remained patient, generous, and kind.

We all have those people who come first to mind when we hear "Sherlockians are the best people," and Gordon was one of mine.  We usually use Holmes's words "Stand we me here upon the terrace . . ." to honor our dead in Sherlockian circles, but given this moment and the un-gentleness out there in the world, I don't think I want to just stand with Gordon's memory. I think maybe it's time to do as Holmes and Watson do in the rest of "His Last Bow:" They leave the terrace, get in the car, and head off to take a friend out into a world that needs their services more than ever. Taking a friend, or even the memory of a friend like Gordon out into the world is definitely something worth doing.

Because if memories of Gordon Speck inspire an occasional moment of emulating his example out there, well, that won't be a bad thing at all.

On we go, Gordon. Thanks.