The art of procrastination…

So this morning, I decided that I would need some serious sustenance before diving in to the Alkali Flats (which actually weren’t as boring as I remembered, but more on that later) and ended up, three hours later (!), with this Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake.

I didn’t have any raisins, but I did have some dried figs which I decided to use instead and it turned out quite well, I think – very much along the lines of a Fig Newton. The result is a very impressive cake!

I also doubled the frosting recipe because I like my cinnamon rolls heavy on the frosting – I can’t really taste the orange in it, but I did have to substitute orange juice instead of extract since I didn’t have any and I imagine the extract would make the orange flavor here more pronounced. Still very yummy, though – and I think it’ll probably last me a while!

It’s that time of year again!

Girl Scout cookie time! And now that I’m eating chocolate (occasionally) again, I’ve been doing a bit of pining. No, not for the Thin Mints (I was never a huge fan), but for the Peanut Butter Patties and…the Samoas. But, poor as I am, Girl Scout cookies are a bit on the expensive side (I think they’re, like, a million dollars for a box that contains 5 cookies)* so I’m forced to make my own.

Enter the ever-yummy Baking Bites. She does provide a recipe that will result in authentic Samoas, but I was feeling lazy and decided to opt for the bar form of the cookie – they taste the same, no matter what shape they’re in. Which is yummy.

So, if you’re reading a long with me, I’d recommend taking a quick break from the Alkali Flats and whipping these up. I think Holmes would approve.

*No, I’m kidding. They’re $3.50 per box and are for a very good cause – I know, I was a Girl Scout myself and was once on the selling side of things (Claire [or any other of Internationals that may be out there], what’s your big Girl Scout/Guide fundraiser thing?). So, if you can, support your local Girl Scout!

A Public Service Announcement

Before you get lost in the maze that is my brain when it comes to Sherlock Holmes, I feel it is my duty to warn you of an evil that may be threatening you:

DO NOT GO SEE THIS MOVIE!

Don’t get me wrong, my mom and I did not go in with high expectations, but we thought Amy Adams is cute, the main guy is cute, Ireland is pretty, how bad can it be?! The answer is very. Basically, if you see this movie, you will have to sit through an hour and a half of the screenwriter insulting your intelligence. Every character is unlikable and every predictable plot device that you could ever, ever possibly think of happens to these unlikable people!

And that was all in the first half hour. After that, I turned to my mom and asked her what time it was. We decided that this made 27 Dresses look like Citizen Kane and decided to leave. I have never left a movie before! And I’m going to confess to something deeply shameful in an attempt to convince you of my seriousness – remember that movie I saw that I was too embarrassed to tell you about? Remember how I DIDN’T leave it?

It was Transformers 2.

My rating: Leap Year is worse than Transformers 2. ‘Nuff said.

Chapters 1-7 of A Study in Scarlet, Or, Well, hello there, gentlemen!

All right, I have a feeling I may have too much to say here and I haven’t come up with a great way of organizing my thoughts, but there’s nothing for it but to get typing – MY THOUGHTS, LET ME SHOW YOU THEM!

Right off the bat, we have to take into consideration that Watson may be a slightly unreliable narrator. Much is made of his wandering war wound (shoulder or leg?) and that he occasionally becomes confused about the date. Fandom, however, is quite accommodating, happily explaining away the war wound with many theories (most involve him crouched down for some reason and having the bullet pass through his shoulder and leg in one fell swoop, others insist that the bullet must have gotten into his bloodstream and traveled from shoulder to leg; NA, 12). So far, no explanations have been supplied as to how Watson can lose a few days during his narrative, though, happily, he occasionally manages to corroborate his start date – or rather Lestrade does (Baring-Gould seems hyper-occupied with attention to the timekeeping or, more accurately, the lack thereof, throughout.). Stephen M. Black, however, has quite a nifty theory, namely that Watson was actually killed at Maiwand and his orderly, Murray, assumed his identity (instead of carrying him to safety, as Watson tells us), explaining his absentmindedness regarding facts here and there (NA, 13). I don’t think it’s true, but I am giddy at the lengths to which fandom has examined and theorized!

Another great mystery is Watson’s bull pup, mentioned once here and never again. As many people have pointed out, Watson is not really in a position to own a dog – at the moment, he’s living in a hotel (who would be unlikely to allow dogs; before that, he’d just spend a few months on a boat journeying back from Afghanistan; before that, he was recovering from typhoid in a hospital, another place unlikely to allow dogs; and before that, well, he was busy being almost killed (or killed) in battle. Again theories abound – that the dog suffered a fatal accident and Watson’s nerves were overcome (also in place to explain his confusion with dates) (NA, 25) or that Holmes, not being a dog person, eventually made him get rid of it (NA, 26) – though this seems unnecessarily cruel and I refuse to believe it of Holmes. Carol Woods even posits that what Watson actually owned was a ferret and when Holmes pointed this out to him, he was too embarrassed to mention the animal again (35). I just wonder why ACD even bothered to mention it – was he intending to do intricate plots involving the dog? It makes no sense!

Which brings us to Watson’s list. Oh, the list!

Sherlock Holmes – His Limits

  1. Knowledge of Literature. – Nil.
  2. ”                    ” Philosophy. – Nil.
  3. ”                    ” Astronomy. – Nil.
  4. ”                    ” Politics. – Feeble.
  5. ”                    ” Botany. – Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.
  6. ”                    ” Geology. – Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes uon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them.
  7. ”                    ” Chemistry. – Profound.
  8. ”                    ” Anatomy. – accurate, but unsystematic.
  9. ”                    ” Sensational Literature. – Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
  10. Plays the violin well.
  11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
  12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.

Well, ladies? Did I just describe your ideal man? I know, right?! Seriously, I don’t know if I’m the only one here with a crush on Holmes, but Richard Asher would say that I’m not, describing Holmes as being “enormously attractive to women” (NA, 31). My only response to this is “Hell, yes!” (Also, there is this odd interlude where Holmes picks up a random book [De jure inter Gentes] and starts telling Watson all about it, who then asks who the printer is. What?! Who cares, Watson?! But one of the notes says that “several scholars not surprisingly conclude that Holmes was a devoted bibliophile” (NA, 83) and I am even more smitten!)

Also, it is mentioned that Holmes gives a merry laugh at one point. I cannot express how much I love that Holmes has a merry laugh. Love. It. In fact, Sherlockians Charles E. and Edward S. Lauterbach have provided us with a handy Frequency Table* Showing the Number and Kind of Responses Sherlock Holmes Made to Humorous Situations and Comments in His 60 Recorded Adventures (NA, 27):

Smile 103 Amusement 9
Laugh 65 Cheer 7
Joke 58 Delight 7
Chuckle 31 Twinkle (I would seriously give an arm and a leg to see this.) 7
Humor 10 Mischellaneous (No, I don’t know what a “Miscellaneous” response to humor is, but it makes me laugh.) 19
Total 316

*Apologies for my awkward table, but HTML does not make it easy!

Oh, and Holmes’ cocaine habit (there is a phrase I’ve seen around teh intarwebs “I’m on it like Holmes on cocaine.” which I dearly long to work into everyday speech.). Here Watson notices that Holmes sometimes looks as though he’s using some kind of narcotic, but assures himself that Holmes’ “temperance and cleanliness…[forbid] such a notion.” But, of course, we know that Watson is wrong, though Dr. George F. McCleary decides that it is a deliberate deceit on the part of Holmes who is merely playing a joke on Watson (NA, 31). Again, I don’t think Holmes could be so cruel.

Oh, and also Holmes’ violin! His Stradivarius! There is discussion about his violin because Watson describes him as playing sonorous chords with the thing flung across his lap (not an easy feat, basically). Which, as a note on page 37 points out, would work if it really were a fiddle (as Watson calls it) with the flattened bridge, but surely not even Holmes would do that to his Stradivarius! There are also theories (though supported by what, I’m not sure) that it was the viola that he played, not the violin. One note speculates that Holmes models his style of playing after Paganini (NA, 91) to which I can only respond “Guh.”

As you can see, I really don’t think this story is as much about the mystery (though there is actually one to be solved) as it is about the introductions. Watson gives us enough information to hook us and to keep us coming back for more adventures!

And now, miscellaneous thoughts [These are my thoughts.]:

  • Many U.S. editions omit the “B” [from their address] (NA, 28). [What? Why?!]
  • Regarding Watson’s list of Holmes’ limits, Edgar W. Smith says that “A list of Watson’s own points might, at this juncture, have been headed by the specification: 1. Knowledge of Sherlock Holmes. – Nil.” (NA, 34). [Ooh, burn!]
  • Ian McQueen is dubious that Watson would have had sufficient time to acquire a marked degree of facial tanning… It may be that Holmes was not so quick with his inference about Afghanistan as Watson would have the reader believe (NA, 42). [Aww, Watson’s trying to make Holmes look extra clever for us!]
  • And on the return side, “This statement (‘it’s useful to obtain the facts, although I don’t really need them’) seems to fly in the face of Holmes’ own careful doctrine respecting theorising in advance of the evidence, expressed earlier. It appears to be Holmes trying to impress his newfound colleague on their first case together” (NA, 66). [I am beside myself with teh cute!]
  • Here was an opportunity of taking the conceit out of [Holmes]. He little thought of this when he made that random shot. “May I ask, my lad,” I said, in the blandest voice, “what your trade may be?” “Commissionaire, sir,” he said, gruffly. “Uniform away for repairs.” “And you were?” I asked, with a slightly malicious glance at my companion. “A sergeant, sir, Royal Marine Light Infantry, sir. No answer? Right, sir.” (NA, 46) [Watson, you are too cute for words. Also? PWNED!]
  • “What’s that little thing of Chopin’s she plays so magnificently: Tra-la-la-lira-lira-lay.” (NA, 77) This one line is followed by perhaps the longest note yet, approximately a full page of theories regarding which of Chopin’s pieces he’s referring to here (made all the more difficult by the fact that Holmes is going to see a lady violinist give a concert and Chopin never wrote anything for the solo violin). [Such attentiont to detail! So much love, fandom. So much love. How many essays were written based on this one sentence?!]
  • On the aforementioned concert: “It was magnificent,” [Holmes] said, as he took his seat. “Do you remember what Darwin says about music? He claims that the power of producing and appreciating it existed among the human race long before the power of speech was arrived at. Perhaps that is why we are so subtly influenced by it. There are vague memories in our souls of those misty centuries when the world was in its childhood.” “That’s a rather broad idea,” I remarked.” (NA, 80) [Is there no romance in your soul, Watson? You are as bad as J’s Harris!]
  • In response to Gregson’s theory: “It’s quite exciting,” said Sherlock Holmes, with a yawn. “What happened next?” (NA, 106) [ILU, Holmes!]
  • The latter suggestion [that Stangerson was actually in Engand looking for Watson] is especially intriguing in light of Arthur Conan Doyle’s play Angels of Darkness, which places Dr. Watson in San Francisco, where he meets Jefferson Hope, who, with his dying breath, urges Watson to marry Lucy Ferrier! (NA, 113) [ACD’s what now with Watson where now?!]
  • “[Holmes’] eyes were sharp and piercing.” They were gray eyes, as we are told later on numerous occasions (BG, 154) [Mmm, dreamy…]
  • “[Holmes’] teeth may have detracted slightly from this impressive appearance for with his excessive consumption of shag they must have been heavily tobacco-stained and moreover we know that the left canine tooth had been knocked out by Mathews in the waiting-room at Charing Cross (“The Adventure of the Empty House”); but perhaps he wore a denture.” (BG, 154) [Great. Now I’m picturing Holmes with a grill…]
  • “Then I picked up a magazine from the table and attempted to while away the time with it, while my companion munched silently at his toast.” (BG, 158) Baring-Gould notes that “How Holmes accomplished this minor miracle is not known.” [I am dead with the laughing. Baring-Gould has a sense of humor!]
  • On a note describing who Dupin is “Ratiocinative hero of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), “The Purloined Letter” (1845) and “The Mystery of Marie Roget” (1842). (BG, 162) [What the hell is this word?! Using the process of exact thinking or a reasoned train of thought. Thank you, Merriam-Webster! Dumb it down a little, Baring-Gould.]
  • “Here is another indication that the year of A Study in Scarlet was indeed 1881 [Baring-Gould likes to use the weather to prove things like this – he’ll try it again later based on a comment that there had previously been no rain for a week.] Weather reports from the Times of London show that Friday, March 4, 1881 was ‘wet and unsettled,’ and the forecast was for ‘dull and cold, rain or snow.’ Saturday, March 4, 1882, on the other hand, was ‘cloudy’ but ‘generally fine.'” (BG, 166) [When is the weather in London NOT like this in March?! This proves nothing!]
  • Upon astounding the constable who discovered Drebber’s body by knowing impossible things about the case, he asks him “Where was you hid to see all that?” According to a note from Baring-Gould (177), “That Holmes was indeed on the spot at the time of the murder – disguised as the cab horse ‘with three old shoes and one new one on his off foreleg’ – was the astounding theory put forward by the late Robert S.  Morgan in his volume Spotlight on a Simple Case, a tour de force that must be read to be believed.” [INDEED! I think we all know what this means… WANT!]

So, yeah. Long post is long. And there’s so much more that I thought was super-cool in the annotateds that, in deference to the fact that not everybody may share my enthusiasm, I’ve decided to skip over despite really, really wanting to share (speculation regarding Lestrade, Gregson, Mrs. Hudson, Stamford and his many professions, Holmes’ eyesight [I maintain that he just likes the sound of Watson’s voice], the location of Lauriston Garden[s], the location of the nearest cab rank or newspaper stall, and whether or not Holmes might actually be a lawyer or even an American among many others!

See you next Tuesday for part 2 (chapters 1-6 or 8-13, depending on how your book is numbered) of A Study in Scarlet. I fully expect to be able to rein myself in next time, because the introductions are over but mostly because we’re off to the dreaded Alakali Flats. Be strong! Don’t let the boredom get you!

*Most of my notes, I think, come from the New Annotated simply because I find its format easier to work through and it is, therefore, the version that I’m reading first (I’m only reading the notes in the Baring-Gould). Much of the information is doubled up, but there is some that is unique to either volume, so if you see NA, that’s the Baring-Gould edition and BG is the New Annotated. No, I’m totally kidding – it’s the other way (the logical way) round.

Welcome to my new project!

So, in a fit of love for He Who Tops My Literary Crush List (Followed Closely By Skulduggery Pleasant) aka Sherlock Holmes (reignited by the wonder that is RDJ [and perhaps aided a tiny bit by Jude Law’s Hotson Watson]), I recently decided that I would reread all of the Holmes canon (yes, even the Valley of Fear – OMG, so boring!).

First, I thought that I would simply revisit my tattered, old copy of the complete Sherlock Holmes and then I realized that I had the copy of the Baring-Gould annotated Holmes that I stole borrowed from my dad’s library and thought it would do me good to use that copy instead.

Foolishly, on a whim, I decided to look up the New Annotated Holmes that came out a few years ago and discovered that (according to the intarwebs) it was one of those wondrous versions that talks about Holmes as though he were a real person.

Why did no one tell me this?! Probably in an attempt to save me some money, since that is the one thing I am unable to resist (apart from JKJ, of course), no matter how well I am managing to adhere to my book-buying ban. (Honestly, it’s like being on a diet, I’ll be going along, doing so well and then suddenly I’ll find myself doing something like eating an entire cake buying the aforementioned New Annotated.) Which left me with the question of which version to read?

Well, the obvious answer is to read through them both simultaneously, right? So that’s what I’m going to do.

The next question was in what order to do it. Baring-Gould seems to be in the order that the cases actually happened to Holmes (starting with The Gloria Scott) while the New Annotated seems to go in the order the short stories were published (starting with Scandal in Bohemia). Long story short, I’m going to go with the New Annotated and experience Holmes the way Watson intended. 😉

Except it’s a trick! Despite the short stories being the first volumes of both annotateds, the novels (well, two of them) actually came first. So after all that, I’ll actually be starting with A Study in Scarlet.

Which brings me to my final question – would any of you like to join me? Eventually, my plan is to read one short story a week and divide up the novels accordingly, so I’m thinking that every Tuesday I’ll post my thoughts about that week’s story along with any particularly interesting things I learn from the various annotateds and if anyone would like to discuss in the comments, you’re more than welcome to. And if not, I’ll just post anyway!

So get thee to your local library or bookstore and get ready to curl up with Sherlock (honestly, who wouldn’t want to do that?!). Next Tuesday I’ll post for the first part (chapters 1-7) of A Study in Scarlet. Hope you’ll join me! (And cross your fingers that I can actually follow through on this project…)

Nonfiction: Reference

The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson

Basically, this should have been called QI: The Book. It’s a book filled with questions that you think you know the answers to. And if you’ve seen all the episodes of QI (as I have!), you actually will know most, if not all of the answers. If you haven’t, then there is much knowledge to be imparted!

I think my favorite is the question about what noise the world’s largest frog makes. The answer is that it doesn’t make any noise since it’s mute. But, and this is where the book is at its most fun, do you know why, when asked what noise a frog makes, we all say ribbit, ribbit? It’s because that’s the noise made by the type of frog that lives in Hollywood and is part of their stock noise library (it probably has a more official name than that, but Josephine is sitting on my lap and I would have to make her get up to be able to reach the book and actually look it up) and, therefore, is used whenever they are filming in a jungle or swamp, &c, no matter where the film is actually set. Neat, huh?

The book is written with the same airy tone that the show has which means you’re only vaguely aware that you’re learning – the best way of doing it, if you ask me!

My rating: B+ (And I hope it goes without saying that you should all be watching QI [Stephen Fry is a god!])

I don’t think I’m smart enough for Terry Gilliam…

So…I think I liked it. I’m not ready to commit to that statement, though, because I’m still not quite sure I got it and I want to make sure I do before I make my final decision. At the very least it is a very pretty film and it’s nice (though a bit startling and quite a bit sad) to see Heath Ledger one last time.

As it is, the transitions between Heath Ledger and Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Ferrell as his substitutes work very well, but I’m curious as to how much the film was changed to accommodate his loss. It works the way it is because of the rules of the film, but I wonder what Gilliam’s original intentions were.

Also, this served as a good reminder of just how crazy Terry Gilliam’s films often are – I think the only other one I’ve seen was Brazil and that was along time ago, but I remember thinking pretty much the same thing – that really the only thing I was sure of was that I didn’t entirely get it. There are hints of his Monty Python roots, though, in the CGI effects which is kind of a cool throwback (even though I think it’s just that his style is so strong, not that it means anything).

My rating: I think you should see it. And then tell me what it really means!