Monday, April 13, 2020

The Problem of Thor Bridge

The next meeting of the Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn, whether it be an attended meeting at our local meeting place or another online, the discussion will be about THOR.

I just reread the story and found it to be one of my favorites, again.

Much has been discussed over the years about THOR, including the condition that caused the victim to kill herself.

The line that jumped out at me in this reading was;
 "I produced it from my hip-pocket, a short, handy, but very serviceable little weapon. "

Much discussion has been centered around the weapon or weapons Holmes and Watson may have carried, starting with the very first story when Watson said; '"I keep a bull pup."
Many agree that Watson probably also had a service revolver from his military days which probably would have been larger than the 'bull pup', (if you believe he meant a gun by that statement) and probably, in my opinion, not the one carried in THOR.

Below are a couple of links of other people thoughts on weapons in the Canon. Enjoy.

SHERLOCK HOLMES (Granada TV series 1984 – 94) | Jeremy brett ...

Friday, April 10, 2020

Trusting Watson . . . . .

As I mentioned in the previous post, I had a discussion with another Facebooker and he made a comment about never really trusting Watson.

I found that pretty strange, especially, Playing the Game.

If you don't 'trust' Watson, at what point do you start in your study of the Canon.

That is not to say Watson, intentionally or unintentionally never made errors or mistakes.

But to not trust him, to me, almost makes Playing the Game pointless.
Because at that point you really can't believe anything in the Canon is a reliable place to start.

Not trusting Watson means; Can you really believe he was in Afghanistan and wounded while there?

You have to have somewhere to start, and for me, that is Watsons word.

So much is already questioned in the Canon for probability, possibility and reliability, but we have to hold somethings a true to have a point of reference.

One way I like to look at the Canon of Sherlock Holmes is kind of like looking at the stories written by James Herriot. The Yorkshire Vet how wrote the wonderful tales of his treating animals in Yorkshire from the late 30's through the 70's.

While we know names and places were changed in the books, and some dramatic license was taken to make the tales more readable, we know that the tales were based on his experiences.

We also know Watson changed names and dates and places to protect individuals within the cases.
We know that even Holmes thought his good friend often embellished the cases a little more than Holmes would have liked. But perhaps he had to do that to make it more readable for the masses.

But enough research has been done to show, also, how accurate much of Watsons writing really was.

Watson is known as the stalwart companion of the pair. And stalwart means reliable and loyal, and I would add the word trustworthy to his personality.

What do you think; Was Watson worth our trust?

Started an interesting discussion with someone on Facebook yesterday.. . .

It was based on paper written by J.T. Crammond for a meeting of the Parallel Case of St Louis scion society.

Mr. Crammond's paper was titled 'Can we trust the Canon?' Of course it was done as Playing the Game.

While his paper is not the discussion here, someone falling the meeting on Facebook stated that 'he' never trusted Watson. His statement was, "John, I've always been of the opinion that you cannot trust Watson. However, I've never really considered it when it comes to The Canon itself."

To me that statement doesn't seem possible how can you, One; not trust Watson. Two; if you don't or do, how can you have either without the  context of the Canon.

We went back and forth a little on this without him really backing up his comment, but in the end he suggested that a back and forth reply on Facebook was not the venue he wanted to explore the topic.

I look forward to him following it up somewhere else.

What are your thoughts? Do you 'trust' Watson?

I will fill in my thoughts latter in the day.

Let me know yours.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Well we made it, or first complete online meeting.

Not with out a couple of problems in our first attempt.

I think because we posted it on our facebook page we had a couple of really nasty and inappropriate people who showed up, who had nothing better to do with their time than cause problems.

Our host quickly cancelled our meeting and regrouped and sent out one by invitation only.

We had ten people at the 'meeting' about 3GAR.

I am looking forward to the next one.

Monday, March 23, 2020

One week into our Sherlockian hiatus. . .

So far, the Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn have only had to cancel one upcoming meeting.

The Harpooners, or HSU, get the name from the Adventure of Black Peter.

Well while we are on hiatus from meeting in public we are going to experiment with having an online meeting today. (The meeting will be later, but we will test it today.)

But it also got me thinking that this would be a good time to get started on some of those long put off Sherlockian scholarly writings we have been wanting to do.

Let's see if I can make myself get started.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

7 degrees of Sherlock Holmes - Kirk Douglas

The film world lost one of its greats this week.
Kirk Douglas 1916-2019.

Not many of us can say we have never seen a Kirk Douglas movie.

Born poor, he became one of Hollywoods strongest personalities.

There is however a Sherlockian connection very early in his career.

In 1947 he took part in 'Morning becomes Electra'

Which also starred Raymond Massey who played Sherlock Holmes in  . . . .

. . . 1937s The Speckled Band.

And who's daughter, Anna, was married to Jermey Brett for a while.

So, there you have it, there you are.

My BLUE paper for 2019 Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn meeting

“BLUE 2019”
by John-T Foster
I have probably done a paper on BLUE, well I know I have, more than any other story in the Canon.
HOUN would be second.
On Blue I have examined:
  • the pub, the markets, the food of the season and women in the story. And I even explored the atmosphere of the holidays and 221B.
  • What a Carbuncle is and looks like has been done, as well as wether of not a goose has a crop. Victorian Christmas traditions have been covered.
  • The difference between dinner and supper as terms has been covered. Did Peterson ever get the reward was covered.
  • Where was Mrs. Hudson was discussed.
  • Whether or not Doctor Watson and Mary invited Holmes to their house for holiday dinner should be discussed.
All these and many others have been covered.
It is one of my favorite stories in the tales of Holmes and Watson. It can make one think of the joys we find in 221B, and perhaps even the loneliness of the holiday season.
There is a separation between Holmes and Watson that we could find unsettling. Yet we also see an enduring friendship.
But after having done a paper on BLUE so many times it has become a little difficult to find another aspect to explore. Well, at least one that I can explore in the time I usually have for such projects.
I usually wait for inspiration to come as I start thinking about the tale. I don’t even need to re- read it again to find that inspiration. I have read it enough to have a good idea where I might look.
I keep wanting to return to the scene in the pub and explore that again, but I have done that a few times. We have discussed its location and real name. We have discussed the difference between a public bar and a private bar (or snug).
We have made light of how we (I) think Watson got a little mad at not being able to stay long enough to finish his beer.
I find comfort in the atmosphere of a pub, so of course I want to revisit there as often as I can.
With this tale, as with others I have covered, what I believe the outcome of my research will be at the beginning of said research often transforms quite a bit by the time I am done.
Most of the time I hope for an 'A-ha!' moment of Sherlockian scholarship, but usually get a quiet 'oh-yea' instead.
I don’t think I have ever come up with any remarkable Sherlockian discoveries, but I keep trying.
And such went my research for this months paper.
I usually wait for an idea to come along that just seems to want to stick around and cries out for research.
Sometimes the idea doesn’t bare up to too much research and needs to be put aside.
Sometimes the idea takes on a life of its own and becomes bigger than you expected. Tonight’s paper falls somewhere in between.  I don’t know where it came from or how it developed, it was just there at some point while thinking about BLUE.
So here goes:
There are no women present in BLUE. By present I mean none make a physical appearance. We assume the presence, a couple times, of Mrs. Hudson, but we can never be quite sure. We assume she is the one that opens the door for Mr. Baker and Watson, but Watson doesn't actually ever say that.
Several other women are mentioned in BLUE, but, once again, are never physically present.
This got me thinking; Is this the only story in the Canon that no women make an appearance? 
I was hoping that was the case and that I had made a vital Sherlockian scholarly discovery.
But, like I said earlier, this discovery fell somewhere between a dull thump and angelic bells ringing.
So like any good researcher I had to back up my theory with a little literary foot work. Or, if you like, 'The Game was afoot.'
That meant go through each story and see if a female physically makes an appearance or not. 
I had to apply a few ground rules in my research, well, actually only one.
The women in question had to actually interact with Holmes or Watson within the tale and not as an interaction discussed or described as part of a conversation that took place somewhere else.
It seems to us lovers of the Canon and even to the romantic in most of us that women are a vital part of the just about all of the stories.
We all remember the names of many of them; Violet, Kitty, Irene, Beryl, Elsie and so may others. OH yea, and Mrs. Hudson!
It can’t be possible that there could be more than just a couple without woman actually being present.
Maybe, if I am lucky, it would just be BLUE.
So in earnest I started my research.
In many of the 'cases' I could recall an interaction without having to crack the tome, like SPEC and SOLI, and HOUN and SCAN. And what about MILV!
Others I had to spend a little worthy time in the Canon, rereading till I found proof one way or another. Many of the women just briefly passed through, only taking up a couple lines of text.
Others, like Irene and Violet and Beryl inhabited many paragraphs or pages.
Mrs Hudson, who is almost as revered as Holmes and Watson, and who’s absence we can not imagine from the Canon, has very little presence for her Canonical stature. Her lines are few, but her presence is mighty.  So mighty that most of us assume her place to be greater , when she is often not named.
Or, even more likely, our memory and desire place her somewhere where she is not actually mentioned.
But that also has been discussed before.
While my research did not take me to the conclusion I was hoping for, it did take to a conclusion that I found surprising.
I found that in 37, just over 61%, of the tales documented by Holmes and Watson, women make a physical appearance. They actually, in some way, interacted with either Holmes or Watson. With the exception of LADY Francis Carfax. While physically present, she really didn’t interact with anyone.
But I did indeed put her in the yes camp.
She can’t help that she wasn’t given any lines.
So that left a remarkable 23, or about 38%, of the tales without a women actually walking (or in the case of LADY laying) through the story.
In many cases women are mentioned and indeed play a significant part in the story, but don’t actually come on stage.
In BLUE, noticeable in their absence, but still important, are sister Mrs. Oakshott, partner in crime Catherine Cusack, and to lesser degree the Countess.
All vital to the story, but budget would not allow for actors.
Imagine if you can SCAN being told in such away that Irene would not have had to be present.  We can’t.
Last year we discussed the perceived or possible participation of Catherine Cusack in the BLUE. We discussed how much or how little she had to do with the romancing of the stone. But never did she have to be present to be important to the story.
Does this absence of women in 38% of the tales as a physical presence now change how you look at your memory of the Canon.
One thing I think it does say about the stories is that the women characters who do show up in body are memorable, strong females. So much so that like many things in the Canon the images we paint for ourselves are so vivid that the colors spread out into all the other stories. We populate and picture individuals that never do really make an appearance. Or our minds expand their roll to be bigger than it really is.
Think about some of the most memorable, good or bad people in the Canon. Most of them show up far less than their perception would suggest.
Think how few times both Mycroft and Moriarty populate the Canon. Yet both have a lasting presence throughout the conversation. Same goes for Mrs. Hudson and Irene. And maybe even most of all Mary.
Every time Watson is not in 221B we place him, hopefully, living happily with Mary. Even though she seldom makes an appearance.

Moriarty, Mycroft and Irene have all gone on to literary fame of their own.
The Baker Street Irregulars I believe only appear in three stories, STUD, SIGN and CARD.  Yet we can not imagine a London without these diminutive street urchins. Yet they now appear in books of their own and soon a NETFLIX series about them (from what I read, it doesn’t sound like it will be flattering for Holmes).
I think I can honestly say that BLUE is still one of my favorites, even after so many readings of it. Doing research on it and, for that matter, any of the stories not only gives me a chance to make new, hopefully Canonical discoveries, but it also makes me examine how I remember or perceive the stories.
I thought it would be rare to find a Canonical story that did not include the physical presence of a women. The women that are present have left a strong impression.
So strong that at least I have populated the stories even more with women.
Well, that’s it till next year. Maybe then I will get my 'A-Ha!' moment.

John-T F.