Thursday, December 22, 2016

BLUE - One 'penny dreadful' line

". . . .the breath of the passers-by blew out into smoke like so many pistol shots."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stay, finish your beer.

BLUE along with HOUND is one of my favorite stories from the Canon. For many reasons, but mostly for the atmosphere, and the congenial pace at which the story flows.
And, as a craft beer lover, the following scene is probably my favorite image from the story;
"In a quarter of an hour we were in Bloomsbury at the Alpha Inn, which is a small public-house at the corner of one of the streets which runs down into Holborn. Holmes pushed open the door of the private bar and ordered two glasses of beer from the ruddy-faced, white-aproned landlord. “Your beer should be excellent if it is as good as your geese,” said he. “My geese!” The man seemed surprised. “Yes. I was speaking only half an hour ago to Mr. Henry Baker, who was a member of your goose club.”
“Ah! yes, I see. But you see, sir, them’s not our geese.” “Indeed! Whose, then?” “Well, I got the two dozen from a salesman in Covent Garden.” “Indeed? I know some of them. Which was it?” “Breckinridge is his name.” “Ah! I don’t know him. Well, here’s your good health landlord, and prosperity to your house. Good-night.” "

Oh, please, oh, please! Stay and finish the pint together! Stay and talk about the season, the weather, Mrs. Watson. Anything, just stay for a little while!
Holmes and Watson together, out for a pint. A warm, snug pub. A jolly holiday atmosphere still hung in the air. London by gas light on a cold winters night. Who amongst us Sherlockians do not wish to be privy to such a moment in Canonical time. Outside of maybe sitting around the fire with the two of them at 221b, this for me would be my pick spot.

We don't very often get to see Holmes and Watson out for a social moment together in the Canon. Matter of fact I can't think of a time when we do. Those moments are suggested, or at least we imagine they are. There is always only the promise of such moments.

Even when we find the two in Baker St., any moments imagined as quietly social are soon interrupted by a case. The hint of a social interlude is always only suggested.

Even in BLUE where Watson drops by to wish Sherlock compliments of the season, the quiet moment of two friends getting together for no other reason than shared friendship never happens. Watson states that with the introduction to the tale; ". . .with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season." "With the intention". It doesn't even seem the salutation was ever even made.

But back to the pub scene.
Pubs were not as we expect them today. Pubs were for the serving and drinking of beer. You would not find the menus we expect today. A lower class social club.
Well into the late 19th century beer was seen as safer than water to drink. And while most families had brewed beer in their own homes for that reason (of a much lower alcohol percentage than now), that trend had slowly disappeared until pubs became the place to drink or at least get your 'to go' jug.
The popularity of pubs grew partly out of the governments need to suppress the popularity of 'gin houses' and what was thought of as leading to ruination and degradation of the working classes.

Many pubs, including the Canonical Alpha Inn, were separated into two bar areas; the public bar, and a private bar (sometimes called snugs). We know Holmes and Watson went to the private bar because Watson states; "Holmes pushed open the door of the private bar and ordered two glasses of beer. . ."
The private bar would have been a section of the pub where someone could go who did not want to be seen by the other patrons; women, cops, priests, men on business, etc.
Many times they were separate rooms with separate doors (as it would appear the Alpha Inn was). Many just had glassed off areas that divided the two sections. Just areas for privacy and a little less noise.
Holmes probably used the private bar to have a discrete word with the landlord and not have to talk over the noise of the public bar. Maybe he didn't want to be recognized either.
Holmes and Watson, as mentioned above, used the private bar and ordered two glasses of beer.
We will never know if Holmes and Watson stayed and finished their beers for Watson suggests that they stayed only long enough to raise their glasses to wish the landlord good health.

I want them to have stayed long enough to talk about what had been going on in each others lives over however long it had been since they had seen each other. The private bar would have been the perfect place. At least I can imagine that Watson got in a few more sips of his brew while Holmes was involved with the landlord.
I want this scene to go on longer, in the spirit of the season.
But it was not meant to be. Instead they head off the to see Breckenridge where the atmosphere proves less than jovial.

No, in BLUE we are never going to 'see' Holmes and Watson share that moment of sociable companionship. No lingering over a pint.
Towards the end, once again, it almost happens; "If you will have the goodness to touch the bell, Doctor, we will begin another investigation, in which, also a bird will be the chief feature.”
But, alas, once again, we are ushered out of those comfortable digs without an invitation to stay just a bit longer.

I have had the pleasure of going to what is usually recognized as the location for the Alpha Inn, the Museum Tavern, for lunch when once in London. One more thing off of my Sherlockain bucket list.

Friday, December 16, 2016

An SHSSC Christmas tradition - The Adventure of the Fur-Trimmed Hat

The Adventure of the Fur-Trimmed Hat
By James C. O’Leary

I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes on Christmas Eve, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season. He was lounging upon the sofa in a chartreuse dressing-gown, the day’s newspapers well-studied and his black briar emitting a curl of blue smoke in the ashtray. Beside the couch was a straight-backed chair, and on the stile hung a seedy and disreputable fur-trimmed stocking hat, much the worse for wear. A lens and a forceps lying upon the seat of the chair suggested that the hat had been hung with care for the purpose of examination.
"You are engaged," said I, "perhaps I interrupt you."
"Not at all. I am glad to have a friend with whom I can discuss my results. The matter is a perfectly trivial one" (he motioned his thumb with a jerk in the direction of the cone-shaped covering), "but there are points in connection with it which are not entirely devoid of interest, and even of instruction."
I seated myself in his armchair, and accepted the glass of heated eggnog Holmes offered, for the day had been still and cold and now that night had fallen, it was colder still. "I suppose," I remarked after a sip of the landlady’s concoction and the warm glow that started to radiate from within, "that, homely as it is, this thing has some deadly story linked to it--- that it is the clue which will guide you in the solution of some profound mystery, and the punishment of some malefactor."
"No, no. No crime," said Sherlock Holmes, laughing. "Only one of those whimsical little incidents which will happen when you have four and a half million human beings cheek-by-jowl within the space of a few square miles. Amid the action and reaction of so dense a swarm of humanity, every possible combination of events may be expected to take place, and many a little problem will be presented which may be striking and bizarre without being criminal. You know Peterson, the commissionaire?"
"It is to him that this trophy belongs."
"It is his hat."
"No, no; he found it. Its owner is unknown. I beg that you will look upon it, not as a tattered tupplue, but as a conical conundrum. Your arrival is fortuitous as Peterson is downstairs with Mrs. Hudson getting a cup of tea and I as yet have listened to his story. We shall listen to it together. In the meantime let us see what we can deduce of the owner.”
"From his hat?"
"But you are joking. What can you gather from this old battered bonnet?"
"Here is my lens. You know my methods. What can you gather yourself as to the individuality of the man who has worn this article?"
I took the harried headgear in my hands, and turned it over rather ruefully. It was a red triangular plush cap with a white fur pom-pom at the point, and white fur trim around the base. The lining had been of red silk, but was a good deal stained. There was no maker's name, at least as far as I could tell, but sewn in once-golden thread were strange linear hieroglyphics. It was pierced in the inner brim for a hat-securer, but the elastic was missing. For the rest, it was exceedingly dusty, and spotted in several places, although there seemed to have been some attempt to hide the discolored patches by daubing them with red ink.
"I can see nothing," said I, handing it back to my friend.
"On the contrary, Watson; how many fingers am I holding up?”
“Your eyesight is fine. You fail, however, to apply reason from what you see."
"Then pray tell me,” I replied some asperity, “what it is that you can infer from this hat?"
He gazed at it in the peculiar introspective fashion which was characteristic of him when he took on the air of a disappointed tutor lecturing a particularly dense pupil. "It is perhaps less suggestive than it might have been," remarked Holmes, "and yet there are a few inferences which represent at least a strong balance of probability. That the man was highly intellectual is of course obvious upon the face of it, and also that he was fairly well-to-do, although he has now fallen upon evil days. He had foresight, but has less now than formerly, pointing to a moral retrogression, which, when taken with the decline of his fortunes, seems to indicate some evil influence, probably elves, at work upon him.”
“This may account also for the obvious fact that his wife has ceased to love him,” he continued, disregarding my remonstrance.  “He has, however, retained some degree of self-respect. He is a man who leads a sedentary life, goes out little, perhaps just once a year, is middle-aged, has grizzled hair which he has had cut within the last few days, and which he anoints with rather expensive avocado-cream. These are the more patent facts which are to be deduced from his blushing bucket. Also, by the way, that it is extremely improbable that he has gas laid on in his house, no doubt because he lives on an isolated farm raising reindeer."
“Surely, you’re joking!”
“You know I detest that nickname. I don’t even allow my brother Mycroft to call me that.”
“No, no; I meant you are certainly not serious.”
“Ah. I’m quite serious, my dear fellow.”

"How did you deduce that this man was intellectual?"

For answer Holmes slipped the linty lid upon his head. The fur brim passed over the forehead and settled upon the bridge of his nose. "It is a question of cubic capacity," said he; "a man with so large a brain must have something in it."

"The decline of his fortunes, then?"

"This hat is old. These type of plush fur lined hats have long been out of fashion. It is a hat of the very best quality. Look at the fur, and the excellent lining. If this man could afford to buy so expensive a hat. and has had no hat since, then he has assuredly gone down in the world."

"Well, that is clear enough, certainly. But how about the foresight, and the moral retrogression?"

"Here is the foresight." said he, putting his finger upon the little disc and loop of the hat-securer. "They are never solid upon hats. If this man ordered one, it is a sign of a certain amount of foresight, since he went out of his way to take this precaution against the wind. But since we see that he has broken the elastic, and has not troubled to replace it, it is obvious that he has less foresight now than formerly, which is a distinct proof of a weakening nature. On the other hand, he has endeavored to conceal some of these stains upon the plush by daubing them with red ink, which is a sign that he has not entirely lost his self-respect. The further points, that he is middle-aged, that his hair is grizzled, that it has been recently cut, and that he uses avocado-cream, are all to be gathered from a close examination of the lower part of the lining. The lens discloses a large number of hair-ends, clean cut by the scissors of the barber. They all appear to be adhesive, and there is a distinct odor of avocado-cream, which is rare in this part of the world and speaks of a wanton self-indulgence and further evidence of moral regression. This dust, you will observe, is not the gritty, gray dust of the street nor the dirt of the country, but the fluffy brown dust of the house, showing that it has been hung up indoors most of the time; while the marks of moisture upon the inside are proof positive that the wearer perspired very freely, and could, therefore, hardly be in the best of training."

"But his wife - you said that she had ceased to love him."

"This hat has not been brushed for months, perhaps a whole year. When I see you, my dear Watson, with a year's accumulation of dust upon your hat, and when your wife allows you to go out in such a state, I shall fear that you also have been unfortunate enough to lose your wife's affection, if not your wife herself."

"You have an answer to everything. But how on earth do you deduce that the gas is not laid on in the house?"

"One tallow stain, or even two, might come by chance; but, when I see no less than five, I think that there can be little doubt that the individual must be brought into frequent contact with burning tallow - walks upstairs at night probably with his topper in one hand and a guttering candle in the other. Anyhow, he never got tallow stains from a gas jet."
“But elves?”
“I am familiar with over thirty types of European writing systems. These markings sewn into the lining are Tomte runes, peculiar to an especially short Scandinavian race locals refer to as ‘elves’. Our friend the hat owner is not a Tomte himself as seen by the hat size but must have a deep association with them to adapt their writing. They are a happy but short-tempered race, given to much mischief. Loyal if treated well, but pranksters and thieves if crossed. Long association with them could again lead to moral retrogression.”
“And the reindeer farming?”
“There are several indications. One: this type of hat is still fashionable in northern climes. Two: the white fun, unless I am very much mistaken, is polar bear, again an indication the wear resides up north. Three: the Tomte live in Scandinavia and nowhere else. Four: there are reindeer hair on the outside of the hat. As the author of A Study of Ungulates and Ruminants and Their Association with Criminal Actives, Illustrated with Forty Color Plates I was able to identify the fur quite easily. It seems then highly probable our mysterious friend is a reindeer farmer.”
Footsteps sounded on the stair and after a knock on the door Peterson the commissionaire entered. He greeted us cordially and at Holmes’ urging began his tale.
“I had an important commission this evening, but because it was Christmas Eve, the cabbie decided not to wait for me. The streets were fairly deserted and there was not another cab to be found so I started to walk back home while keeping my eyes peeled for transportation. I was walking down Bartholomew Lane---“
Holmes sat up straight on the sofa. “You were in the City?”
“Yes sir. Quiet as a tomb.”
“Go on”
“Well, it was dusk and not a soul to be seen. I reached the corner when I suddenly heard the jingling of bells and out of the sky dropped this funny hat, right at my feet. It’s not quite a bobble or a toque and it had this queer sort of writing inside and I thought that if anyone could make sense of this happening and maybe return the hat to its owner, it’s Mr. Holmes.”
“What else.”
“What else did you find, Peterson?”
The commissionaire’s cheeks flushed. We knew Peterson to be an honest man and his reaction was one of embarrassment, not guilt. “We-ell,” he stammered, “after I picked up the hat and looked at it and took a step onto the way of going home, this piece of paper fluttered out of the sky right into my hand. I thought it was…a reward – in advance, like, for getting the hat back to its owner…’
“A reward?”
“You know, for doing a good deed…from…” Here Peterson looked up at the ceiling. He reached into his pocket then held out his hand. There in his palm was a clean, crisp five pound note. Holmes took up his lens and the note and examined it under the lamp and even held it under his nose briefly. When he turned back to us his manner was still phlegmatic but there was a most singular intentness in his eyes that told me he had chanced upon some clue of importance. Holmes went over to his desk. “I propose an exchange, Peterson, this fiver for yours. It’s not quite as new, but it will spend the same and I guarantee it has the same amount of luck as yours.”
Peterson took the note with some reluctance. Holmes turned back to his desk and scribbled out a message, handed it to the commissionaire along with some coins. “Please go to the telegraph office and send this before you go home. And,” he said placing a hand on the man’s shoulder, “I can assure you this felt-and-fur Phrygian will find its home ere long.”
As soon as the door close, Holmes tore off his dressing gown and headed to the wardrobe in his room, all the while speaking. “What a blind beetle I’ve been! You remember that pretty little problem of Helen Stoner’s at Stoke Moran? At first all the clues pointed to the gypsies but once on scene it became obvious it was that group of plasterers hired by her nefarious step-father.” Readers of these somewhat incoherent series of memoirs will recall “The Adventure of the Spackled Band”. “Well, my deductions about that hirsute headgear were perfectly reasonable, logical and entirely wrong, all because I lacked two facts.”
“The five pound note?”
“And the location.”
“Bartholomew Lane?”
“The corner of Bartholomew Lane and Threadneedle Street.”
A dark and sinister notion started forming in my mind. Holmes came out of his room and tossed me a pistol while checking to see that his was loaded. “Be a good fellow and hail us cab, eh, Watson?”

The horse’s hooves beat out a swift tattoo as our hansom headed to the City. “I believe you suspect Peterson’s fiver was a forgery.”
“You positively scintillate tonight, Watson.”
“So the hat is part of a disguise.”
“For over one hundred and thirty years Jules-Thomas and Sons has been operating out of the same building in the West End providing costumes and property for theater companies and acting troupes. Like many immigrants to our shores, they anglicized their name from the original Scandinavian Jultomten.”
“Exactly so, Watson. The Jules-Thomases are descended from that Scandinavian race locally known as elves and even today their scion are exceedingly short people. Early in the company’s history the family name was sewn into their costumes---“
“--- in Tomte runes.”
“Watson, your eyesight improves by the moment! We can now look at our muffed mantle in a new light. It was manufactured well over a century ago of the best materials and meant to be durable. It was designed to fit all heads so was made on the larger side, so it could accommodate wigs. There is also the well-known factor of actors possessing larger crania than the general population. To save costs, it is repaired frequently, such as the touch-ups of red ink. As there is usually strenuous action on stage during the course of a production, that would account for the hat-securer and the sweat stains. As there is not much call for this type of hat except during the holiday season, there would naturally be a many-months accumulation of dust in the storage area located in the oldest part of the building where gas has yet to be laid. The dust tells us one other thing; professionals like Jules-Thomas would not allow a costume to go out in such a condition. Therefore, it must have been stolen.”
“The freshly-cut grizzled hair then must belong to the thief.”
“Bravo, Watson! I see that marriage has not staled your infinite variety.  Cabbie, stop here.” We were let off at Cheapside and Queen Victoria Street and, being as inconspicuous as possible on the deserted streets, made our way to the “Grey Lady of Threadneedle Street”.  The Bank of England, the financial heart of the Empire stood dark, silent and imposing in the light of the gibbous moon. The air was still and our breath shot out in front of us like smoke from a pistol shot. We made our way along the bank’s façade on Princes Street where Holmes found a rope ladder almost invisible in the shadows. We climbed to the first level roof and surveyed the five story wall that stretched above our heads to the top of the building. Here the cunningness of the rope-ladder’s design was made clear as even in the bright moonlight it was practically invisible to the eye and from the street below would be non-existent.
With Holmes in the lead we ascended the wall in the bracing winter night air, up past the sloping shingles of the top floor to the narrow, relatively flat roof.  There, not far from us, silhouetted against the sky were a group of two-legged reindeer gathered around a skylight. Nearby appeared to be a large sledge piled high with packages. They spoke in whispers with their backs to us, antlers bobbing in the cold. Holmes took out his revolver and I followed suit. We crept to within a few feet of the costumed men then Holmes stood and in a quiet voice said, “Gentlemen, do not move.”
His voice rang out like cannon fire in the hushed darkness, seemingly turning the men to statues. Holmes edged closer to the skylight. “My friend here is known as the Deadly Doctor, so pray, be still,” he said sotto voce as he peered down in the stygian depths.  I took pride in Holmes’ complement of my marksmanship until the sniggering of one of the men reminded me of its possible double meaning. The cocking of my hammer shut him up.
Presently, a shuffling sound emanated from within the building and up rose from the black hole a head of long white hair, then a face surrounded by a full white beard. One red-mittened hand held the rope ladder attached to the skylight, the other a bag slung over a shoulder. Holmes clapped his gun to the man’s head. “Up and out slowly, if you please. That’s good. Now place the sack down. Right. Watson, you’ve heard me speak of this gentleman, but I don’t believe you’ve had the pleasure of meeting him. Doctor John Watson, Professor James Moriarty.” Holmes had pocketed his gun, grabbed the hair in one hand and the beard in the other and yanked away. There stood the former mathematics professor, his bald pate fringed with grizzled hair gleamed in the moonlight, his sunken eyes glaring with malevolence at the detective. “A masterful performance, Professor, although your costume is sadly incomplete.”
Comprehension broke on his features as the whole chain of events that led to his capture became clear. “The hat! If it wasn’t for that damned freak gust of wind--- “ Those were his first and last words of the evening as he clamped his mouth shut and refused to speak further.
Then from out in the street there arose such a clatter. “Watson,” said Holmes, his gun now back out and trained on Moriarty, “take that gentleman there” (he indicated one of the reindeer who would appear to be most at home at Newgate) “over to the ledge and have him report what he sees.”
I motioned the brute over and he peered down. “There’s a great lot of Black Marias, a fire brigade and a whole lot of coppers.” I motioned the man back to his herd.
“That will be Inspector Bradstreet, the Yard, the City Police and the ladder engine. I am afraid your brilliant plan of stealing the actual five pound note plates” (here he tapped the sack with his foot) “and substituting counterfeit plates to cause the financial collapse of the Empire is for naught, Professor.” City and Metropolitan Police swarmed to the roof and soon the two professional law groups were fighting over who would make the arrest and who would claim credit in the papers. Eventually, the criminals were led away and the lawmen cleared the roof leaving Holmes and I alone at the scene.
Holmes examined the “sledge”, which was a balsa cutout ingeniously constructed to fold into a small, portable square for easy transport, yet from the street or the window of a neighboring building would appear to be substantial.
“There is always a touch of the extravagant to Moriarty’s schemes. To create a tableau of Father Christmas visiting the Bank of England just to discredit any possible witnesses…” He shook his head. “Hum. I wonder…”
What is it, Holmes?”
“Peterson said he heard bells, then the cherry chapeau landed at his feet, yet neither Moriarty nor his ‘reindeer’ were wearing bells, and this cutout certain doesn’t have any. Where did the sound come from?”
Then above the distant sound of London there was the faint jingling of bells, which grew louder, then a voice from above said, “Good night, Mister Sherlock Holmes. Ho, ho, ho.” We both turned skywards and there across the waxing moon appeared four pair of reindeer drawing a sledge driven by a rotund bearded jolly man who waved at us. As we watched, the apparition turned to the north and rapidly disappeared clean out of sight.
I do not know how long we stood there transfixed but finally I whispered my companion’s name. That broke the spell. Holmes snapped, “Watson, you know my maxim that when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. As it is impossible for reindeer to fly, that the only vehicle able to lift such a sledge is a hot-air balloon, which was not in evidence, and further a hot-air balloon could not achieve such speeds as witnessed, there can be only one probability for our folie à deux; Mrs. Hudson spiked our eggnog with absinthe!
“However, as this is the season of forgiveness, we shall not reprimand her, or mention it to her, or,” he turned to me and spoke in a steely voice, “mention this incident to anyone, ever!”
Holmes strode the roof edge and the rope ladder, then stopped and stared thoughtfully at that spot in the northern sky where the apparition vanished and where now faintly glowed a star.
“You know, Watson,” he spoke slowly as a clock chimed midnight, “I am not one to celebrate holidays, but if I were to wish for a present, I can think of no better one than to be with my old comrade-in-arms, back in action and on the thrill of the chase, putting the most dangerous criminal in London behind bars. Complements of the season.” He stuck out his hand.
“Complements of the season, Holmes.”
We shook.

For inspiration, I’d like to thank John Foster and Gahan Wilson. ---JCO’L

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Dumbing down our readers?

While looking for a pdf version of HOUND to do some research I came upon the section I was looking for re-written like this;

"As I walked towards the hut, I saw that someone had certainly been using it. A path' had been worn' up to the door. I took my revolver out of my pocket, and checked that it was ready to fire. I walked'quickly and quietly up to the hut, and looked inside. The place was empty. But this was certainly where the man lived. As I looked round the hut, I knew that the mysterious man must have a very strong character. No other person could live in -conditions as bad as these. There were some blankets on a flat stone w~ere the man slept. There had been a fire in o:p.e comer. There were some cooking pots, and a large bowl half full of water. In the middle of the hut was another large flat stone which was used as a table, and on it was the bag the boy had been carrying. Under the bag I saw ~ piece of paper with writing on it. Quickly, I picked up the paper and read what was written on it. It said: 'Dr Watson has -gone to Newtown.' I realized that the mysterious man had told someone to watch me, and this was a message from his spy. Was the man a dangerous enemy? Or was he a friend who was watching us to make sure we were safe? I decided I would not leave the hut until I ,knew. Outside, the sun was low in the sky. Everything looked  calm and peaceful in the golden evening light. But I did not feel peaceful or calm. I felt frightened as I waited for the mysterious man. Then I heard footsteps coming towards the hut. As they came closer, I moved into the'darkest corner of the hut. I did' not want the man to see me until I had looked closely at. him. The footsteps stopped, and I could hear nothing at alL Then the man began to move again, and the footsteps came: closer. A shadow fell across the door of the hut. , . 'It's a lovely evening, my dear Watson,' said a voice I knew well .. 'I really think you will enjoy it more out here.' "

Once again I have to ask, would you keep reading Sherlock Holmes if they had been written in this manner?


Compliments of the Season from SHSSC

Blue 5

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"I'll have a Blue Christmas. . . ."

It's all about BLUE this month.

By Ethan Rilly

Now I'm really BLUE! What do you think about this?

Is this how you remember BLUE starting;

I went to visit my friend Sherlock Holmes two days after Christmas and found him sitting on the sofa  wearing a purple dressing-gown. His pipe was on the coffee table and a pile of newspapers was next to him. Beside the sofa was a wooden chair with a very dirty old hat hanging on the back. His magnifying glass was lying nearby and I guessed he’d been studying the hat. 
‘You’re busy,’ I said; ‘perhaps I’m disturbing you.’ ‘Not at all. I’m glad to have a friend to discuss this with,’ he said, looking at the hat. ‘It’s not a very important case, but there are some interesting points and we might learn something from it.’ I sat down in his chair and warmed my hands in front of the fire. The weather was very cold and the windows were covered with ice. ‘I suppose that hat is a clue in some deadly crime that you’re trying to solve.’ ‘No crime,’ said Sherlock Holmes, laughing. ‘Just one of those funny little incidents that happen in large cities, where so many people live together in a small space. Many problems are just strange without being criminal.’ ‘That’s true,’ I agreed. ‘Our last case didn’t involve anyone breaking the law.’ ‘Exactly. You’re talking about the Irene Adler case. Well, I’m sure this one will be the same. Do you know Peterson, the security guard?

Would you have read it if this is how it was written?

This is how BLUE is suppose to start; I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season.

Just reading the original one tries as best as one can his or her own English actors accent.

While preparing to re-read BLUE for some Christmas time research I came across the above version of BLUE here.

Now to be fair, this version is introduced this way; Intermediate readers keep close to the original stories but are retold in modern English using words from the top 2000 most common words in the British National Corpus. This means you do not have to learn words that are very uncommon or old fashioned. Other words are explained in footnotes.

While I understand the premise of the intent, I have to wonder why it would be necessary and would it make the reader want to read more about Sherlock Holmes, or any other book adapted this way.

The introduction also states that this adaptation is suitable for foreign intermediate learners and native 5th graders.
My daughter is a native 4th grader and I know she would have no trouble working through BLUE in its original format. Not to say she is smarter than other kids (we do however believe she is) but she has been taught how to work out things she doesn't understand. Or to at least ask questions.

And since the new version is already giving footnotes for 'difficult' words and such, I have to wonder why they didn't just do that with the original?

I am probably making this sound more serious to me than it really is. But when I read the opening paragraph, not yet realizing it was an 'easy' adaptation, . . .  well I though I had landed in a bad rerun of Sherlock Peorias rants on Elementary.

Okay, I'm better now.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Elementary Review - Season 5, Episodes 103 & 104

#103 - 'Bang, Bang, Shoot, Chute"

So far this episode has been one of my least favorite of what I think is the shows best season to date.

One of two risk taking base-jumpers is shot while free falling from a tall building. Which proves to be unnecessary, since his chute had been messed with anyway.

Which leads Holmes to suspect that two people had intended to murder the jumper.
  For me, this episode fell back on what had been its problem last year; an over complicated story line and not enough Sherlockianisms.
The jumpers wife wants him dead because he had an affair, and a partner wants him dead for other reasons.

While the storyline for episode #104 had some big holes in it, it was at least a fun episode because of Sherlockianisms and some available good discussion points.

Biggest storyline flaw was the sausage shop owners part in the story.
We are lead to believe that the shop owner is really on top of his business. The only one that has total access to the workings of his business.
Yet, a; he doesn't notice that there is more ground meat the next morning than he ground the night before. B; where are the bones? C; How did the murderer know about the sausage shop? Had he been a customer, which surely the owner would have known, or a connection could have been made by Holmes in the storyline (which may have made it to easy).
Once again, instead of just a good storyline or mystery, the writers had to make it overly complicated for no reason.

However! We do get a mention of the Six Napoleons, Musgrave, and the Beryl Coronet with Mr Holder.

A good discussion point is Holmes' arrogance and how it my relate to how he handles cases (and people).

I had fun watching this episode, so I can fairly give it;

and if it is fun, well, that's the whole point isn't it?

SDofSH - "Here's a story, of a lovely lady. . . ."

While known, now, mostly for being Mrs. Brady, Florence Henderson was also a wonderful singer.

Florence Henderson 1934-2016

Starred in 1970's 'Song of Norway'

Which also featured the wonderful Robert Morley (1908-1992)

Who, as we know, played Mycroft in 1965's 'A Study in Terror'

So, there you have it, there you are.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Slightly less productive.

My posting have become rather limited of late.
Not from lack of interest.

I am having some eye issues, so I am not at the computer as much, or reading as much.
And it has limited my art work also.

Hopefully in a couple of weeks I will be back to normal.

I know, you can hardly wait.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Seven Degrees of Sherlock Holmes - the Man from Uncle edition - Robert Vaughn

With the death of the last of the Magnificent Seven (1960), Robert Vaughn was best known for his time as an international spy in The Man from Uncle. For those of us in the 60's not mature enough for Bond, this was a great show.

Robert Vaughn 1932 - 2016

He had a very (very) small role in The Ten Commandments (1956)

Which we all know starred Charlton Heston who was in many Sherlock Holmes stories.

Charlton Heston (1923-2008)

Heston was Sherlock Holmes in stage and in film in The Crucifer of Blood.

Howard, thanks for the additional info.
Robert Vaughn at least once played Holmes on The Hollywood Palace.
Vaughn was Holmes, Phyllis Diller was Moriarty and Charlie Manna played Watson.

Bringing Robert, as Howard suggests, within One Degree of Sherlock Holmes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Elementary Season Five, Episodes #5 (101) and #6 (102)

 S5E5, 'To Catch a Predator Predator' finds Holmes and Watson on the trail of someone who killed someone killing sexual predators of young girls. A vigilante killing of a vigilante if you will.
S5S6, 'Ill Tidings' finds Holmes and Watson trying to find out who murdered a disliked Chef and some of his customers, which turns out to be a cover for an art heist.

While some eye trouble has kept me from spending as much time on my computer and art work I have been able to keep up with the episodes of Elementary, even if it is a day or so after the events.
And while I will not go into quite as much detail in my next few reviews I will at least comment.
Hopefully the eye problem will be resolved by the beginning of the year and I can get back to being a little more productive on this and my other blogs.

I would have to say that the last three episodes, including these two have been a few of my favorite of all the episodes so far.
A lot of what I have previously found fault with has, if not completely disappeared at least has been toned down a lot; i.e. the overly worked quirks of Millers Holmes and the over portrayed bad habits that seemed to have been used more for shock value than story advancement.

The last three episodes have seemed to be more cases driven and the opportunities for the display of Holmes' deductive than character driven.
That does not mean that character exploration has been totally dropped, but is playing less of a roll, at least for the time being.

So, for these two episodes I have to give the series;

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Elementary - S5E4 (#100) - 'Henny Penny the Sky is Falling", finally one to write about this season.

This episode opens with Holmes doing a good 'how deep the parsley sank in the butter' explination to Marcus on why a suspect could not have done what he said he did. The tools he used was a bowl of water and a 'poop' emoji.
Holmes of course thinking the 'poop' emoji was an ice cream emoji add a good piece of humor.

While still at the police station Holmes spots Gregsons boss having a conversation with the inspector which makes Holmes think he may be in trouble again with Gregsons boss.
This prompts Holmes to go back and investigate some of his past cases looking for something he/they may have done wrong.
Watson of course is less worried than Holmes knowing that Gregson "has their backs".
While having this discussion the duo get a call from Marcus about a murder. 
The victim, a Quantitative Analyst, is found in his apartment, pinned to the wall (like in Black Peter) with a fireplace poker. It is determined that the victim must have known his assailant, (also in Black Peter.)

It is first suspected that Russell Cole, the victim, may have been murdered by his boss, Mitch Barry, for matters to do with their shared interest in Barry's business, or Coles affair with Barry's wife.
Discovering that Cole was having an affair with Barry's wife, Holmes and Watson discover that Cole had a cabin in upstate New York where he worked on many of his projects. 
It is also discovered that Cole had also written a paper on asteroids that was shaking up the current theories on the size of asteroids and the effect they could have on earth should one hit earth.

Cole had been trying to get more money from his partner, a Congresswoman's right hand man, who was using the paper to make money on investments in asteroid mining companies. 

That is a very simple recap of the episode.

This episode was very well done, keeping my interest for the whole show.

The episode once again found Holmes and Watson comfortable in their arrangements and content with their jobs.

The episode also had well done Sherlockian 'skills' throughout.

-The first was the opening scene with Holmes and Marcus with the emoji and bowl of water.

-This was followed by Cole being pinned to the wall with the poker. Very 'Black Peter'. Although the Canon goes on to explain how some one would have to have had experience with a harpoon to be able to do that, while the 'harpooner', Len, in this episode seemed a little smaller framed and inexperienced too be able to attach Cole so firmly to the wall with his feet actually up off the floor. (And did you notice no blood was on the poker where it went into the other apartment?)

-Holmes lack of knowledge about astronomy was also used in this episode.

-His knowledge of botany as it pertains to poisons. 

-As was his disdain for attention and public recognition. He not only mentions that he does not want credit in the public eye, but he also brings up how that recognition could bring on hard feelings with people they are having to work with. We see that over and over again in the Canon about how some of the police and officials resent Holmes' involvement. 

-In association with the asteroid part of the show we meet Julius Kent, who like Victor Trevor in Gloria Scott was an old school mate of Holmes'.  The exchange of remarks between Kent and Holmes was also very well done.

The show is still very good at exploring the relationship between Holmes and Watson.

The season so far for me has lacked much of what I had hoped would continue to grow once the show found its place; the introduction of Canonical Holmes like habits.
Thankfully this one-hundredth episode measured up and hit its mark.

This was one of the best episodes in the series for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Elementary - Season 5, E2 (#98) - 'Worth Several Cities'

With the centenary episode fast approaching I almost chose not to review this episode.
'Worth Several Cities' fell into what seems to becoming a habit for this show; overcomplicated plot with little Sherlockian substance.

We open with Joan showing Shinwell an apartment and Holmes being kidnapped by a gang.
Holmes has been kidnapped by the gang to help the gang leader find who killed one of his smugglers.
For me, this element of the story took Holmes way to far out of his comfort zone to make for a good plot. While we must always realize Holmes is just human and is as susceptible to the pit falls of all men, we should never, fictionally, see Holmes in a situation where we don't feel he could be in control, at least by the end. The gang kidnapping scene left me feeling that people like the gang leader only leave Holmes free because he can't harm them and he is no threat to them and that he is just a minor irritation. "Let Holmes play in his sandbox, we have the whole playground."
While Canonically we find that a little in the realationship with Moriarty, we learn that in the end Holmes proved to be more than a minor irritation.
I don't however think that will be the case with this gang.
The exchange also left me feeling like Holmes was making a deal with the devil. While Canonically we accept the fact the Holmes will allow fate to handle some situations, this aspect of this episode was a little over the line, for me.
Nor did we get the sense that Holmes ended up having anything on the gang leader that would keep Holmes and Joan safe in the future.
And he just "convinced" the leader that the outcome should be acceptable to the gang.
While it is acceptable to see Holmes fail, he should not been seen as out of control in the end.

We also once again see Millers Holmes unable to find a Holmesian way to bring down the real murder and he resorts to standing outside with a bull-horn. Too much of Millers Holmes from season one.

Once again the story got too big for the conclusion and was too much of the same.

Millers Holmes is not a strong enough character to carry the show if you do away with any connection to the Canonical Holmes and have a too repeated storyline.

Now we can argue that that is one of the strong points of 'Elementary', that Holmes is only human, it allows to much for the character to stray to far from Canon. (Which many argue it already has.)

Canonically we do hear about monographs, and his observation of some of the clues is good.

The Joan/Shinwell story was a little too co-dependent this week.

Hoping to really like this season, I can only fairly give this episode;

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Gordon Speck, BSI - RIP

As with so many Sherlockians this week, we are morning the loss of a good man and a good friend.

I met Gordon through my involvement with the Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn many years ago and it was always a big disappointment when he no longer attended those events.
And as has been stated by many others, Gordon could best be described as a Gentleman.

We always looked forward to what ever he brought to a discussion and his always good humor.

The last time I saw Gordon was at the Gillette to Brett IV in 2014.

If he was the mark of a true Sherlockian, many of us can never hope to make those ranks.

He will be missed by many.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

'Elementary' Season 5 - Episode 1 (97) - 'Folie a Deux'

This episode started with a bang and then kind of went into a slow sizzle or maybe fizzle.

Once again it has been proven that the point the actual case has less to do with making the show good than does the character stories.

The cases lack any "wow!" factor or any idication that Holmes will or can spot clues that no one else is likely to see.

The solution of this case basically involved following a paper trail and making an observation at the scene of the crime (the first bombing) that should now be standard procedure at any public crime scene (spotting a suspicious individual at a bombing or arson).
After all, that is what Sherlock Holmes is all about; spotting things others will miss.

It may be a sign of the times that coming up with Holmesian traits in the modern era is too difficult to incorporate into 'Elementary', so that the characters around Holmes become more important than the personality of Holmes. Miller's Holmes still lacks the ability to convince us that he can be good representing an image of Sherlock Holmes. While we all have our own images of Holmes, there are certain individual traits we expect Holmes to have.

While we may have given up on that ever happening in 'Elementary' it doesn't mean we still can't have some Canonical fun with the show.

A new face was introduced this season in the character of Shinwell Johnson (actor Nelson Ellis). Bearing many similarities to the Caonical Shinwell, former criminal, willing to do the dirty work, informer, etc., he should be a welcome addition to the show. Just like in the Canon, at least in this episode, Shinwells involvement keeps him clear of actually having to deal with the police.

Also explored in this episode is Watson's possible need to be involved with something other than Sherlock Holmes. Canonically we see Watson okay with following Holmes around for a while after his return to London. His healing process needs a distraction. Than eventually he needs something more. He needs once again to be involved with something that makes him feel helpful before it's to late to help. Let's face it, some of the best lines and/or scenes in the Canon involve Watson being summoned to or dropping by Baker St. I don't think we come away from the Canon thinking of the relationship between Holmes and Watson as co-dependent (at least I don't), and perhaps 'Elementary' is making that even more clear than 'Sherlock', but the seperation of the two will become important at some time.

Lucy Liu's Watson has also reached that point. While Miller's Holmes tries to convince her she is doing good, she needs more than just helping to clean up a mess after a crime.
Part of that it seems maybe to involve Shinwell Johnson and his relationship with Joan and her once again helping someone heal. I doubt that we will see Joan moving out and moving on to other things besides detective work any time soon, but maybe we will she her taking up other pursuits.

While once again I find the exploration of character backstories the most interesting thing about 'Elementary', it's lack of any really good Holmes habits or interesting case keeps this episode in too comfortable a routine for me to give it more than

But I do believe it was a good start for the season.

Monday, October 3, 2016

'Sherlock Holmes and the Cryptic Clues', New book offers quite the howl this Halloween! By Michael McClure

Sherlock Holmes and the Cryptic Clues

By Michael W. McClure

From the publisher;

THE FINAL WORD in Sherlockian scholarship, this book takes you on a tour of the resting places of over 300 creations that were brought to life by that master storyteller, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Each Canonical cemetery represents a different adventure of the master detective, Sherlock Holmes. The illustrated tombstones found in the graveyards offer epitaphs that reveal the honoree's ultimate demise or particular plot in life. Whether funny, punny, poignant, or just plain awkward, the engravings represent the plights of hundreds of Canonical characters taken from all sixty stories. Every member of the elite Baker Street Irregulars and the nonpareil Adventuresses Of Sherlock Holmes is listed after the tale from which their Investiture was taken. Hundreds of detailed illustrations and humorous cartoons reveal that A.C. Doyle’s creations must have died laughing! Beware ... deathly prose doth lie within !

Having spent quite a bit of time with Michael at Sherlockian and other events and really appreciating his humor, I am really looking forward to this book and intend to get him to sign it very soon.
I always have a great time at his meetings and look forward to them every chance I get. We also share a love of Scotland which never hurts.

While I have yet to view the book (it was only announced today) I will give my thoughts on it as soon as I get it.
Get a copy and put one in your Halloween stocking!

Get a copy here!

Love the cover Michael!

Elementary Season Five has started. . . .

 . . . . but I didn't get to watch it yet. So. . . look for my thoughts tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

It's a bust!

It's speculation time.
I must admit I am not one to follow closely the news about upcoming episodes of 'Sherlock'. Feels to much like watching the news and the info you really want is not till the very end of the broadcast.

That doesn't mean I don't catch some of what is going on.

Two of the upcoming episodes have supposedly been named and the names released to the public.

They are; "The Lying Detective" and "The Six Thatchers".

While the web site, The Blog of John Watson has already done a piece on a broken statue mystery, we probably should not expect that to be the same story coming to us as "The Six Thatchers".

And, it would be very un-"Sherlock" to allow 'The Six Thatchers" to follow to closely the story line of "The Six Napoleons."

So what else could it mean?

Are Thatcher look-alike's being knocked-off?
Are roofing thatchers being knocked-off? Perhaps due to a thatcher strike.
Is there really something hidden in statues of the former Prime Minister? Probably something like a flash-drive or clues to who Moriarty really is.
Or maybe clues to when Natalie Dormer is coming back to 'Elementary'? (Oh, please, Oh, please, Oh, please!)
Or are six people being targeted, belonging the an organization called 'The Thatchers'?
Or (which is more than likely) am I not even close to what it could be?

What do you think?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Nope, I didn't make the party . . .

While I look forward to reading this, I see my name is notiecably absent from the list.

For good reason; I was never invited to the party.

Oh, well.

I look forward to anything by Chris Redmond, so it should be a fun read.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stay tuned. . . .!

Revered British actor Sir Derek Jacobi to play Sherlock Holmes in new adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles

Hot on the bloody heels of their Dracula adaptation starring horror icon Tony Todd as The Count, Canadian audio drama collective Bleak December have just announced that British stage and screen legend Sir Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius, Gladiator, The King’s Speech) will be donning the familiar deerstalker and pipe in a new audio adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Sherlock Holmes: The Hellhound is a darker retelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s terrifying thriller involving a family curse and a horrifying legend. The full-cast and lushly-scored audio drama will be released initially through Fangoria magazine’s “Musick” label later this year. Like Dracula, this Sherlock Holmes adventure will be executive produced by filmmaker and Bleak December founder Anthony D.P. Mann; Mann will also appear as Holmes’ faithful sidekick Dr. Watson.
Mann is “…simply over the moon to have Sir Derek play Sherlock Holmes for us. He is one of those golden actors that other thespians (including myself) look up to and aspire to achieve that level of rare ability as an artist. I’ve been a fan of his for many years, and can’t wait to hear him as Holmes.
Bleak December’s audio productions celebrate the rich history of radio theater and the spoken word format. Future audio releases planned include full-cast adaptations of Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeSherlock Holmes: The Hellhound will be available for download through Fangoria Musick in late 2016. Dracula will be available as of September 30th – just in time for Halloween.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"The Theatre, the theatre . . what's happened to the theatre?" Danny Kaye

Arts Club season opener Baskerville a thrilling comedic homage to Sherlock Holmes

Sept 8 – Oct 9 | Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
Tickets: starting at $29,
Comedy, mystery and Benedict Cumberbatch — well, two out of three ain’t bad.
The English actor who has helped repopularize Sherlock Holmes in recent years won’t be part of the cast when Baskerville opens at the Stanley, but a satisfyingly Sherlockian mystery and plenty of laughs ensure a good time will be had by all.
Written by Tony Award-winning playwright Ken Ludwig, Baskerville is a stage-bound take on one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous Holmes adventures, The Hound of the Baskervilles. The third Holmes novel, first published in 1902, finds Holmes and his trusty companion Dr. Watson investigating mysterious goings-on in the English countryside, and determined to save the latest heir to the Baskerville line.
The twist in Ludwig’s version, first produced in early 2015, is the addition of heaps of comedy, supplied by the supporting cast of characters — more than 40 roles, played by just three actors.
Auditions for the Arts Club production were held earlier in the year.
“I just brought in people I knew had really good comedic skills, are naturally funny people, are really good at English accents,” said director John Murphy. “There’s a Spanish, Swedish and German accent as well.”
The director says it was also important that cast members have “a lot of grace under pressure in terms of running around, sweating like crazy, changing a costume and coming on as a completely different character with a completely different mood, and able to pull it off.”
Alex Zahara, a mainstay of the Vancouver theatre scene in the 1990s before venturing into TV and movies, stars as Holmes.
“He’s perfect for the role,” Murphy said. “He’s a super dynamic actor, he looks great for the role, he’s got the intelligence, the intensity.”
Mark Weatherley is Watson. “He’s a great stage vet, he’s done shows for the Arts Club over the past 20 years. He’s very funny, but also very dry and very straight. He’s the character who grounds the whole play.”
It falls to Lauren Bowler, Kirk Smith, and Mike Wasko to handle the rest of the characters. “They’re all very funny, natural comedians, and chameleons as well. And they’re incredibly good at accents. It’s wonderful to watch those guys.”
Although much of the enjoyment of Baskerville is in the supporting characters, the mystery itself is satisfying.
“Absolutely, the mystery is there,” Murphy said. “And there’s a real gothic element to the original story that I’m trying to bring out. Conan Doyle said in A Study in Scarlet (the first Holmes novel) ‘without imagination there is no horror.’ So I’m taking every opportunity I can to engage the audience’s imagination.”
One method is to use shadow puppetry in a section where a character tells the story of one of the Baskervilles, Sir Hugo, and the notorious hound thought to be exterminating the Baskerville line.
“It’s such an elemental, childlike, imaginative exercise,” Murphy said. “If we can get the audience into that headspace where their imagination is cranked up and running on eight cylinders, where they can believe that shadow puppets are real, they can possibly believe that the hound is real. Maybe the hound of the Baskervilles is really more than just a story.”
Besides shadow puppets and costume changes, Baskerville’s mood and setting will be accented by video and props. 
“There are all sorts of moving pieces involved,” Murphy said.
The production that comes closest to it in terms of logistics is The Santaland Diaries, he says.
That show “has 600 lighting sound and visual cues. I would say this has less cues but is more ambitious in its movement. There’s someone who flies in the show, there’s rigging, there’s one projector in the front, two projectors in the back, there’s a large scrim that’s 20 feet by 12 feet, there’s a smaller scrim, all on wheels. There’s just so much going on. It’s definitely up there as one of the most complicated shows I’ve directed. Which I love.”
The only thing missing is Cumberbatch, whose depiction of a contemporary Holmes in the TV series Sherlock has helped renewed interest in the detective.
“He (Sherlock Holmes) is just a fascinating character,” Murphy said. “There have been so many film versions of him, going back to Basil Rathbone, and stage versions of him. There’s this version of Baskerville, there’s another one with just three actors. It’s definitely something in the collective unconscious that’s going on now, that there’s a spike in interest.”