“The Naval Treaty” Or, YOU KNOW WHAT’S UP NEXT, DON’T YOU?!

“The Naval Treaty” was published in two parts in October and November 1893 (way to make the next one come during the Holidays, ACD, that’s just what everyone needs) and takes place Tuesday, July 30 to Thursday, August 1, 1889.

Looks like I only have miscellaneous thoughts this week! [Let me show you them!]

  • When Holmes is interviewing Percy (and given that Watson totally used to bully him at school, I agree with Leslie that its odd Percy would contact him for help), Watson notes that he takes a few notes on his cuff. According to Leslie, Watson ‘observes that Dr. Mortimer used his shirtcuff similarly in The Hound of the Baskervilles, but the context suggests that Watson thought it a sign of untidiness and absentmindedness’ (NA, 680). [I’m not sure whether Leslie means that Watson thought Dr. Mortimer was untidy and absentminded or that Holmes is untidy and absentminded. Either way, we’ve got judgemental!Watson at our disposal!]
  • The doctor who looks after Percy on his trip home from town is named Dr. Ferrier. Leslie comments that ‘surprisingly, no one has suggested any connection with the Ferriers of A Study in Scarlet‘ (NA, 684). [That is surprising! The Holmesians do so love their tenuous connections.]
  • There’s this weirdly poetic moment with Holmes admiring a flower where he delivers this whole speech:
  • ‘What a lovely thing a rose is! . . . There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,’ said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. ‘It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to reset in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existance in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.’ (BG, 178). [Not only is he wrong (the color and smell of flowers attracts bugs to pollinate them, but I’m with Percy and Miss Harrison with a resound WTF here?!]
  • ‘It was a sound which a mouse makes when it is gnawing a plank, and I lay listening to it for some time under the impression that it must have come from that cause. Then it grew louder, and suddenly there came from the window a sharp metallic snick’ (NA, 698). According to Leslie, The Oxford English Dictionary credits “The Nava Treaty” as the first usage of this word to mean a sound (NA, 698). [Aw, look at you, ACD, coining words and everything!]
  • ‘S.C. Roberts, a tireless champion of the point of view that Holmes attended university at Oxford, points out that Holmes had several intimate conversations with Phelps (who had had a “triumphant” career at Cambridge), none of which made any reference to the school. “If Holmes had in fact also been a Cambridge man, it is almost inconceivable that neither he nor Phelps should have mentioned the University which they had in common”‘ (NA, 702). [I sense some snark there, Leslie – a tireless champion, is he? I wonder if this means Leslie’s in the Cambridge camp…]
  • When Holmes sends Watson and Percy off to Baker Street, Holmes says that ‘Mr. Phelps can have to spare bedroom to-night’ presumably meaning Watson’s old room. [Hmm, so Holmes is telling Watson to sleep in his room?]

ALL RIGHT, BRING IT, HOLMESIANS, I’M READY FOR THE CRAY-CRAY! IT’S TIME FOR ‘THE FINAL PROBLEM’!

*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.

In which I get my yearly allotment of outdoors in less than an hour.

We started off the morning by going berry picking at a local farm. It…was not my favorite thing that we’ve done so far. There was lots and lots of mud – like the kind of mud that you sink into – and lots of lots of bugs.

That is an acceptable bug. Most of the ones we experienced were not. Claire, not being put off by any sort of nature, was a trooper and did most of our collecting.

Claire is triumphant! After about an hour or so we had the above tomato, some raspberries, some blueberries, a handful of parsley, three ears of corn, and a lone blackberry Claire harvested. But we had to keep moving because we had lots of cooking ahead of us.

We went to see The Merry Wives of Windsor as part of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival in Bloomington and decided to bring along the world’s greatest picnic EVER! Claire ended up doing most of the work and my brownies did not turn out which was very disappointing – they’re in the fridge at the moment and we’re going to try to do some salvage attempts tomorrow – but she turned out quite a tasty feast! We had a cheese plate which included brie, Babybels, colby monterey jack, and mozzarella with fruit, crackers, and bread; cucumber, goat cheese, and sprouts sandwiches; hummus, tomato, spring mix salad, and avocado sandwiches; a super-yummy pasta salad; a very tasty fruit salad; and gourmet lemonade with fruit ice cubes. We ate like kings.

Oh, and the play was very good, too, but now I’m ready for bed. The End.

Alas, there were no quacking rats this time…

Once more, we headed off into the rain – we really lucked out with the weather for Six Flags and the arch! – but it didn’t matter because we were going to a place where it is 60 degrees year-round! If you’ve driven anywhere vaguely near Missouri, you’ve seen the billboards – we were off to Meramec Caverns!

And, as you can see, Meramec Caverns, along with having one of the rarest cave formations in the world (its famous ‘wine table’ – the only other example of it is in a cave in Capri [I think…it was there or in Cyprus]) and one of the largest (and most ridiculously used – the infamous opera curtain). Oh, and it was also a hideout for the similarly infamous Jesse James and his James Gang – to whom I am related (distantly – unless you were lying, Dad?). Our guide was very good – definitely a silver fox – I found myself oddly attracted to him – though I felt like he had a lot more information he could have given us (we were on a tour with quite a few children and I think he may have dumbed it down a bit so as not to bore them). And I had forgotten quite how over-the-top patriotic the little show they do at the opera curtain was – they play the Missouri state song and then a recording of Kate Smith singing ‘God Bless America’ while the guide flips lots of switches in time to the music to make the colored lights shining on the curtain change. And it ends with an American flag being projected on it.

Claire and I laughed – not like cruelly, more like a chuckle at how unsubtle it all was, but I think he heard us and I felt a little bad about it. But it really is ridiculous. But it’s still privately owned, so I guess they can do whatever they want with it!

And then it was back through St. Louis for…the Anheuser-Busch brewery for a tour!

We got to see the Clydesdales – which are much HUGER than I imagined them being – I always thought they were just, you know, slightly bigger than normal horses. THEY ARE NOT. They’re six feet tall at the shoulder and weigh 2,000 lbs! THEY’RE HUGE!

And I kind of want one.

We learned a lot about brewing beer and the history of the Anheuser-Busch corporation which was actually pretty interesting – they managed to stay afloat during Prohibition by selling bread yeast  – they were still the top seller of baker’s yeast up until the early 1990s! – and nonalcoholic drinks. And of course, we got to taste a beer – I thought they’d have more exotic beers for us to taste, but I guess that wouldn’t work if they actually wanted to sell beer, so it was pretty much their typical brands – Bud and Bud Light, but they had one that had lime in it and it was really nice! And I don’t even like beer!

Claire took this photo - isn't it pretty?

“The Greek Interpreter” Or, In which Holmes introduces us to Flipperman!

“The Greek Interpreter” was published in September 1893 and took place Wednesday, September 12, 1888.

We finally get a little bit of information about Holmes family here. Not much, but it has set the Holmesians to salivating. Michael Harrison finds it interesting the Holmes mentions his grandparents (and his relation to the French painter, Vernet), but not his parents. This omission makes him ‘wonder whether Holmes and his brother may have been orphans brought up in separate households “possibly by some dutiful but somewhat unaffectionate relatives–possibly not”‘ (NA, 637). June Thomson also sees an unhappy childhood in Holmes and Mycroft’s pasts. ‘She concludes that Mycroft must have experienced this situation as well, observing that both brothers were bachelors without friends and decidedly unsociable’ (NA, 637).

Ah, Mycroft. The Holmesians have a lot to say about him, too, but first I’m going to take issue with Watson’s description of him. We all know that Mycroft is, to put it nicely, on the round side of things, but Watson describes his hand as being ‘like the flipper of a seal’ (NA, 643). Please excuse my nonexistent photo editing abilities, but this is what Mycroft always looks like in my head because of that:

He's holding his flippers because the Diogenes Club doesn't take to that kind of silliness too kindly.

I know they’re not a seal flippers, but that’s what my brain has come up with and is relentless with it. Seriously, every time:

Holmes is totally cool with it by now, but Watson's still getting used to it.

But enough of that. Many theories abound regarding Mycroft and his mysterious job in the government. J. S. Callaway ‘suggests that Mycroft Holmes was the head of the Secret Intelligence Service of the British government’ (NA, 663). Some Holmesians suggest that Mycroft was either Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales or Oscar Wilde. One theory even suggests that Mycroft is himself an anthropomorphic computer – ooh, maybe he’s a Cylon! But my favorite is Ronald Knox’s theory. In “The Bruce-Partington Plans” Holmes ‘reveals to Watson that Mycroft’s position is so important that: “occasionally he is the British Government.”‘ (NA, 639) The question then becomes why didn’t Holmes tell him this in the first place.  ‘Ronald Knox dismisses Holmes’ lame explanation (“I did not know you quite so well in those days”) and . . . guessing that only the utmost discretion could have caused Holmes to keep his friend in the dark, Knox concludes, “he told Watson as little as possible about Mycroft . . . because there was a secret in Mycroft’s life which must at all costs be hushed up”‘ (NA, 639).

And what is his secret? Mycroft is in league with…Professor Moriarty. Dun dun DUUUUUUUUUNNNN! WE HAVE A MORIARTY SIGHTING!

  • One of the questions here is why it took Mycroft so long to get Holmes involved in the case. Mr. Melas tells Mycroft that the baddies are starving somebody and he waits two days to call Holmes? ‘Ronald Knox intimates some ulterior, perhaps sinister, motive, explaining, “The case was clearly urgent; here you had a man starving; Mycroft, for all his indolence, would surely have called in his brother if he had not been squared in the interest of the villains”‘ (NA, 654).
  • Knox also points out Mycroft’s seemingly foolish action of advertising in the papers for information. Surely the baddies would have seen it and know that Melas had betrayed them. ‘Knox sees this as further evidence that Mycroft, too clever to make such a naive error, was in league with the villains: “He was in effect sending a signal to his accomplices in Beckenham, to say, ‘Your secret is out, and the police are already on your track. Charcoal for two”‘ (NA, 655).
  • Knox is also convinced that Mycroft purposefully wasted time by suggesting they visit J. Davenport in Lower Brixton in order to buy his confederates more time out in Breckenham. ‘Was Sherlock taken in by Mycroft’s conduct? Knox believes not. While Sherlock says  nothing, “it is probable,” Knox asserts, “that Sherlock knew a good deal about his brother’s nefarious associations, and was at pains to conceal his knowledge”‘ (NA, 659).

Later it will become less clear whether Mycroft is a double agent ultimately working for Holmes or for Moriarty, but that’s all to come in “The Final Problem.”

Holmes’ description of the Diogenes Club as “the queerest club in London” and Mycroft as “one of the queerest men” leads Leslie to address whether or not the word had implications of homosexuality then as it does not. The answer? It did, despite the fact that ‘Watson uses it in many nonsexual contexts throughout the Canon’ (NA, 638). Graham Robb ‘slyly compares Holmes to Wilde as “the other leading wit and aesthete of the Decadent Nineties,” noting the detective’s love of “introspective” German music (any excuse for it),

his penchant for cleanliness, and his proud declaration that having “art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms” Remember also that Watson refers earlier to Holmes’ “aversion to women.” The sexuality of Sherlock Holmes is oft debated by scholars, whose views range from traditional (Holmes loves Irene Adler) to outlandish (Holmes was a woman)’ (NA, 639). And yet, you never give us sources, Leslie! The only one you mention (again!) is the erotica in which The Diogenes Club is an S&M club (The Sexual Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, if you were wondering). Okay, to be fair, he also mentions a scenario in which Mycroft was a co-founder of the Playboy Club of London, but that was written for the Playboy Club’s member magazine (although Leslie calls it a tour de force, so I’m intrigued!). Poor Mycroft, he runs either a gay S&M club or the Playboy Club – no middle ground for Flipperman! Where are my scholarly essays, Leslie?!

I’m intrigued by what went on in these gentlemen’s clubs – did dudes just sit around and smoke and play cards and read the paper and make outlandish bets? I know they often had different ideologies – like there was a conservative club and a liberal club and a unionist club and a club for men who liked art and, obviously, a club for men who liked complete silence. Still, it seems like there must be more to it… I’ll just have to get a hold of Ralph Nevill’s London Clubs: Their History and Treasures and find out for myself, I guess!

My miscellaneous thoughts! [Let me show you them!]

  • I think this is the first – I’ll have to keep my eyes open to see if it’s the only – time that Watson calls Holmes by his first name. It really threw me off for a while until I realized it was to help the reader keep the various Holmeses in the conversation straight. Though why he didn’t just call his Holmes Holmes and Mycroft Mycroft is beynd me!
  • Leslie notes that ‘the villains’ choice of charcoal fumes–with its strange, almost cinematic (not to mention inefficient) effect–seems a puzzling one, especially in light of the fact that they had already dealt Melas a “vicious blow.” Yet they are hardly alone in their folly, as [my beloved] D. Martin Dakin marvels: “It is an odd thing how many of the scoundrels with whom Holmes had to deal seemed unable to resist the temptation to dispose of their victims by some complicated and lingering process which left them a chance to escape…” (NA, 661). [I guess this is just the precursor of sharks with lasers on their heads. Or…]

  • Mr. Melas describing how they got him to go with them the second time says that ‘His visitor, on entering his rooms, had drawn a life-preserver from his sleeve, and had so impressed him with the fear of instant and inevitable death that he had kidnapped him for the second time’ (NA, 663). [Can someone explain what’s so scary about a life preserver and how the laughing man managed to hide one up his sleeve? (I presume it’s not, you know, a boating life preserver, but still…what is it?!]
  • “The Greek Interpreter” takes place during the Jack the Ripper killings, in fact, the fourth had just occurred on September 8. Many of the Holmesians seem convinced that he had a hand in attempting to solve it (though it would have ultimately gone in the failures column), but there is no explanation as to why it’s never mentioned. Maybe because it would have been such a high-profile failure? Baring-Gould also mentions that there is a theory that Watson was Jack the Ripper (BG, 594), so maybe Holmes was trying to cover up for his friend. [Talk about dark!Watson. Also, I’m pretty sure I read a fic like that once…]

Only “The Naval Treaty” and then it’s the money short story – we’re almost to “The Final Problem”!

*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.

Oh, I’m getting old!

Today we were at Six Flags and we really lucked out! We were there when the park opened and the whole day we didn’t wait in a line longer than 5 minutes. And the weather was great, too! Warm enough for the water tides – which are totally my favorites – but not unbearable.

We got completely, entirely soaked on the Tidal Wave (seeing that wave come at you when you’re standing on the bridge is so awesome!) and I finally got wet on the river rapids ride! That never happens! Or, if it does, it just splashes up over the side and lands in my lap. But this time, Claire and I ended up in the waterfall! It was very exciting. Then we went on the log flume ride which is an old favorite, even though it’s not nearly as splashy as the Tidal Wave (though really, what is?!) except for the time my physics class went to the Six Flags in Chicago for Physics Day – my group went on the log ride and I was in the back. Not going to get wet there, right? Right! Unless the three people in front of you all duck.

A big storm front rolled in a little after lunch and cooled everything off. It really looked very ominous – it got very dark and pretty chilly and the wind picked up quickly – and they closed the water rides for a while. But it cleared up without a drop of rain in about 45 minutes or so.

By this time, I was fading fast. Gimme a break, I’m very nearly 30 years old – after 6 hours in an amusement park, it’s time for a nap! Plus I was tired of having my neck bones realigned by the roller coasters (see my freakish neck in the accompanying photo). Stop judging me – I’m old! So we went on Batman (which has a ridiculously long walk up to it when there’s no line) and the Superman Tower of Power (a free-fall ride) one last time, got Claire a corndog and a soft frozen lemonade (OMG so good!) for me, and headed home, exhausted.

Tomorrow we’re off to Meramac Caverns and the Anheuser-Busch brewery!

Not a museum!

We are in St. Louis!

Originally our plan was to start at the arch and then move on to the St. Louis City Museum, but from a little outside of Springfield all the way into St. Louis, we hit a pretty big thunderstorm, so we decided to head to the museum first and try to wait out the weather so we could actually see things from the arch.

And, it turns out, I use the word ‘museum’ loosely. The City Museum is basically a combination of a pretty impressive indoor children’s playground, an architectural museum that seemed to be made up of bits that have fallen off of buildings over the years, collections of doorknobs, and random crap that people have unearthed around the city, including but not limited to, keys, pottery, old arcade games, a bug collection, a female mannequin with a demon’s head, and an old peep show…thing.

Turns out what we wanted was the Missouri History Museum which was very educational and taught us all about the 1904 World’s Fair, Charles Lindbergh, and the city itself. Also, being greeted by a violinist was a very nice change from the screaming children of the City Museum.

By the time we were done at the History Museum and had taken a little drive around the park where the World’s Fair was held, the storm had passed and the sun was out so we were off to the arch! To stand in line! Forever!

But finally we had our tickets! Before we rode the tram to the top of the arch, we saw a giant movie about Lewis and Clark which was really good and now I’m going to have to read some more about them – any recommendations, Janis? After your book, of course! Also, can you tell us what happened to Lewis’ dog? He sort of disappeared halfway through the film and we were worried about him!

Tomorrow we’re off to Six Flags – cross your fingers that we don’t overheat (it’s supposed to be 94 degrees tomorrow)!

Not bad…but not Pixar.

Okay, here’s the weird thing. Even though it stars people I like – Steve Carrell, Russell Brand, and the perfect-husband-height Jason Segel – and even though Gru is cute and the little girls are cute and the little evil details in the movie are awesome and the minions are now on my list of favorite things ever and the hero is a villain who doesn’t learn a lesson about not being a villain and you all know how I feel about that and there were quite a few things I laughed at, I’m going to let this movie throw off the perfect summer blockbuster tally a little.

I don’t know if my expectations for cleverness and wit were too high (because, like I said, it did make me laugh) or if the heavy-handed message bothered more than I’m realizing or if the EXTRAORDINARILY lackluster trailers put me in a bad mood, but for some reason, I left the movie feeling like I’d been let down. I think that’s as close as I’m going to get to putting it into words and I can’t really give you a good reason for it, so…

Summer blockbuster tally: 8-1-0 (See? It’s just a draw, so we’re only a little off the perfect record.)