I discovered, and become a huge fan of, Sherlock Holmes at an early age — somewhere in grade school. Too long ago to remember, so it feels like I’ve “always” been a fan. (Conversely, I can remember watching the first episode of Star Trek in 1966, so reading A.C. Doyle for the first time must be many years earlier.)
Per Doyle’s stories, Holmes has a well-defined center, but as adapted, extended, reimaged, even satirized, by others, his boundaries are extremely fuzzy [see The Real Sherlock Holmes].
There is even a Japanese anime version of Holmes: Case File nº221: Kabukicho.
Lately, for my mystery reading, I’ve returned to another old friend from my past: the Lovejoy series by British author Jonathan Gash. It’s a murder mystery series — the sort where the star, who is not a detective of any kind, in each book is confronted with a murder to solve. Usually against their will; they’d rather be doing anything else.
The Lovejoy series has the added attraction that each book spends a fair fraction of the text talking about antiques. The main character, known only as Lovejoy, is an antiques dealer struggling to make a living. He’s also an antiques “divvie” — he has a definite, if somewhat mystical, connection with genuine antiques. He can always tell the difference between real and fake (as he describes it, a bell goes off in his chest).
I just started reading them last week, and I was immediately struck by something.
There are many kinds of “comfort food” we resort to, from actual food — pizza always seemed a good choice in my view — to all the other distractions we use to give ourselves a bit of relief from the stresses of life. (Of course, that sort of thing can become addictive, but that’s another topic.)
Books have been a life-long escape to joy for me. Some are educational, and I love learning new things, but I think the best escape comes from fiction, and especially those fictions with long-running characters — people one comes to know. Sherlock Holmes, for example, is someone I’ve known for over 50 years.
And so are Hercule Poirot and Perry Mason.
One of the older notes on my idea board is a tiny Post-It™ with just a single word written on it: recrudescence. Wiktionary defines it as: “The condition or state being recrudescent; the condition of something (often undesirable) breaking out again, or re-emerging after temporary abatement or suppression.”
It is primarily a medical term referring to a disease reoccurring; the second Wiktionary definition is: “The acute recurrence of a disease, or its symptoms, after a period of improvement.”
But when I encountered the word several years ago, it struck me as a very good word for this “post-factual” era: the Dark Ages rises again.
How real is Sherlock Holmes, and what is the nature of his reality? On the one hand, Holmes is a fictional character from writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but on the other there is a Canon of 56 short stories and four novels defining that character. It’s hard to deny at least some reality to something so well defined.
Others have extended the concept of Holmes far beyond the original in books, movies, TV shows, and more. The original texts are in the public domain, so there is considerable freedom to explore the idea of a crime-solving duo comprised of a brainy detective plus a faithful sidekick.
As a result Holmes has a well-defined center and very fuzzy boundaries!
Some months ago, someone commented that I apparently watched a lot of TV. A recent Nielsen report claims the average American watches 5 hours per day, although age and race are factors. Children (2-11) watch a bit over 24 hours per week, and those 65 and older watch over 50 hours per week. It’s apparently close to a flat line with a dip in the teens.
My 50-64 age group supposedly watches nearly 44 hours per week (6.3 hours per day). For this TV Tuesday post, I thought it’d be interesting to see just how much I actually do watch.
It turns out I do watch a lot of TV; here’s the proof…
If “we are what we eat,” then what about what we consume with our minds? If the food we eat becomes the substance of our muscles and bones, doesn’t the information we absorb become the substance of our thoughts and emotions? We understand that it’s not healthy to live on junk food alone; do we have a similar sense regarding our mental health?
I think a lot about the media content we absorb so casually day in and day out. In the last three or four decades, we seem to have come to an ugly, unfortunate place for entertainment dining. Our diet now is rich in violence and sexuality, and it’s served in a visceral emotional stew of force and conflict.
I think it’s disturbing, especially considering how few seem disturbed by it!
I haven’t talked about movies for a while, and I’ve seen a bunch that are worth mentioning. Which is not to say necessarily mentioning them in a positive way, but there are two I really did like and highly recommend.
Of course, it depends on your taste in movies. Any recommendation has the implicit disclaimer, “If you like that sort of thing.” For instance, one of the films I’ve seen recently is The Raid: Redemption. It’s an extremely brutal Indonesian martial arts film that I found interesting and would recommend if you like that sort of thing. (I’ve never mentioned my love of Asian martial arts films; a topic for another time.)
I might touch on martial arts films today, but mostly I want to talk about a hockey movie, Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, Martians stealing our moms and a slightly magical film about noodles.
The next two episodes of TV Tuesday concern two shows that are easily in my Fave Five and sure contenders for Top Three. As I mentioned in the first post, there are two that really vie for the top slot, and one that would probably win. This episode is about that show.
This episode is about House, M.D.
As I’ve mentioned before, I watch television for stories that engage me, but more than that I watch television for the characters. This is one place where television shows — especially long-running shows — are superior to movies. A well-drawn character on a television series has a longer “life span” than any movie character can. To approach the life time of a TV character’s life, even for just a single season, requires something like the Harry Potter movies (eight movies amounting to almost 20 hours).