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Posts Tagged ‘Sherlock Holmes

“The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic”*…

Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate has issued proceedings, complaining that Enola Holmes,  a recently released film about Sherlock Holmes’ sister, portrays the great detective as too emotional.

Sherlock Holmes was famously suspicious of emotions. “‘[L]ove is an emotional thing,’ he icily observed, ‘and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true cold reason which I place above all things’.”  “I am a brain’, he told Watson. ‘The rest of me is a mere appendix’.”

I can imagine that many professional scientists and philosophers would feel affronted if they were accused of being emotional animals. Holmes is a model for them. He’s rigorous, empirical, and relies on induction.

But here’s the thing. He’s not actually very good. Mere brains might be good at anticipating the behaviour of mere brains, but they’re not good for much else. In particular Holmes is not a patch on his rival, Chesterton’s Father Brown, a Roman Catholic priest. Gramsci writes that Brown “totally defeats Sherlock Holmes, makes him look like a pretentious little boy, shows up his narrowness and pettiness.Brown is faster, more efficient, and, for the criminal, deadlier. This is because, not despite, his use of his emotions.

In science it is rather more important to find out the right answer than to identify an answer that will fit one’s currently ruling paradigm. In moral philosophy it is rather more important to find the morally correct course than to identify one that doesn’t outrage the zeitgeist. Father Brown can help. Sherlock Holmes can’t.

Lessons for Philosophers and Scientists from Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown

For an example, see “Peirce on Abduction.”

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* G.K. Chesterton, The Innocence of Father Brown

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As we get in touch with our feelings, we might spare a thought for Humphrey DeForest Bogart; he died on this date in 1957. An actor whose career began in the theater, his motion picture roles made him a cultural icon; in 1999, the American Film Institute selected Bogart as the greatest male star of classic American cinema. While there can certainly be legitimate debate as to his most memorable role, his turns as a detective (Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon; Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep) are certainly among the contenders.

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“This land is your land, this land is my land”*…

 

Willie Nelson

 

“City of New Orleans” isn’t a song about New Orleans. It’s a song about a train called the City of New Orleans. Willie Nelson didn’t write it. But he made it a Grammy Award-winning hit in 1984.

Looking back, it’s easy to see how Willie Nelson came to it. Over the course of his career—a five-decade ramblin’ run that spans recordings as far back as 1962 and as recent as last year—Willie has written endlessly about his affection for (and occasional vexation with) cities across the land…

No one map could track all the sites and cities Willie sings about. He’s recorded songs about rivers: the Rio Grande and the Pedernales, the Mississippi and the Ohio, the Rhine and the Jordan. He’s played songs about trains: the Midnight Special, the Wabash Cannonball, the Golden Rocket, the City of New Orleans. (And, of course, a song about rainbows.) Georgia, Montana, Tennessee, and Texas all loom large over his songbook…

Still,  the map above does contain a  great many of them… An appreciation: “On the Road Again: Mapping All the Cities in Willie Nelson’s Songs.”

* Woody Guthrie

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As we celebrate one red-head, we might also celebrate others: it was on this date in 1887 that the (fictional) action began in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes short story, “The Red-Headed League”– a piece that Conan Doyle ranked second on his list of his twelve favorite Holmes stories.

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Sidney Paget‘s illustration of Watson reading the newspaper to Holmes and Wilson in “The Red-Headed League” in The Strand Magazine, where the story first appeared.

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Written by LW

December 9, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Man… generally cannot read the handwriting on the wall until his back is up against it”*…

 

Writing with stylus and folding wax tablet. painter, Douris, ca 500 BC

The wax tablet was an important contribution to the written culture of ancient civilizations because it was the first widely used device for casual writing, intended for individuals other than scribes. Before wax tablets, anything that was written down had to be considered of great and enduring importance. But once there is writing, there arises a need for temporary writing — a quick note to jot down and throw away the next day, an aid in calculating a math problem, a rough draft of a docu­ment that would later become permanent. All the other previous writing surfaces had been, for all intents and purposes, permanent. You could not bake a clay tablet to throw away the next day, or jot down something on an expensive scroll of papyrus and throw it away. And once something is literally carved in stone, it is figuratively ‘carved in stone.’ It can’t be unwritten. The wax tablet, therefore, was the original Etch A Sketch for the ancient world…

An excerpt from Paper by Mark Kurlansky, via Delanceyplace.com.

* Adlai E. Stevenson

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As we rock the stylus, we might recall that it ’twas on this date in 1852 (according to the stories) that Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick, Dr. John H. Watson, was born… while Holmes did occasionally say “Elementary!” (e.g., in “The Crooked Man”), he never actually said “Elementary, my dear Watson” to Dr. Watson in any of the stories/novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The phrase was actually a kind of homage, offered by P.G. Wodehouse, who first used it in Psmith Journalist in 1915; it found more common currency as it made it’s way into the scripts of the Sherlock Holmes films, perhaps most notably on the pursed lips of Basil Rathbone…

Ironically, it was on this date in 1930 that Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes’ creator, died.

Watson (left) and Holmes, as drawn by Doyle’s original illustrator, Sidney Padget

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (never actually seen in the room at the same time as Dr. Watson)

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Written by LW

July 7, 2017 at 1:01 am

The Annals of Relativism: The High Art of Doublespeak…

Judge Soggy Sweat (source)

In 1952, a young Mississippi State Legislator, Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat, Jr., spoke on the Assembly’s floor to the question of whether Mississippi should continue to prohibit alcoholic beverages (which it did until 1966) or finally legalize them:

My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

Sweat went onto to a judicial career, then taught law, and founded the Mississippi Judicial College (the first full-time state judicial education program in the nation; a division of the University of Mississippi School of Law).  But he is surely best remembered for his “if by whiskey” speech, the canonical example of the use in political oratory of a relativist fallacy, via doublespeak, to satisfy listeners on both sides of an issue.

Hear it here (reprised by Mississippi State Rep. Ed Perry on 100th anniversary of opening of the Mississippi State Capitol, as broadcast on public radio).

As we hear altogether too many echoes in the political discourse of today, we might note that today is a special day for Baker Street Irregulars the world over, Sherlock Holmes Day.  Sherlockian Carl Thiel:

Although Holmes’s date of birth is nowhere mentioned in the Canon (ie, all 60 stories written by Doyle), the 6th of January was first suggested by Christopher Morley (1890-1957) in his ‘Bowling Green’ column in The Saturday Review of Literature in 1933. Through the efforts of the Baker Street Irregulars, and largely the influence of William S Baring-Gould’s 1962 biography of Holmes (Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street: A Biography of the World’s First Consulting Detective), January 6th has become the traditional birthday of the great detective.

Morley wrote: ‘I have not looked up the data, but if, as an astrologer has suggested, Sherlock Holmes was most likely born in January, some observance is due. Therefore, if the matter has never been settled, I nominate January 6th (the date of this issue of the Saturday Review) as his birthday.

Morley, incidentally, believed the year of Holmes’s birth was 1853. Subsequent tradition has settled on 1854, largely due to the fact that in the story ‘His Last Bow’ (which takes place in August 1914) Holmes is described as a ‘man of sixty.’

In the 60 original stories, Holmes was depicted in illustrations as wearing a deerstalker cap in only four. Nowhere does Doyle mention that type of headgear.
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First Impressions…

 

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Via the always-rewarding Dangerous Minds, a simple– and simply wonderful– graduation film made by Jurjen Versteeg, who explains the idea behind his project:

Designed as a possible title sequence for a fictitious documentary, this film shows a history of the title sequence in a nutshell. The sequence includes all the names of title designers who had a revolutionary impact on the history and evolution of the title sequence. The names of the title designers all refer to specific characteristics of the revolutionary titles that they designed.

This film refers to elements such as the cut and shifted characters of Saul Bass’ Psycho title, the colored circles of Maurice Binder’s design for Dr. No and the contemporary designs of Kyle Cooper and Danny Yount.

This title sequence refers to the following designers and their titles: Georges Méliès – Un Voyage Dans La Lune, Saul Bass – Psycho, Maurice Binder – Dr. No, Stephen Frankfurt – To Kill A Mockingbird, Pablo Ferro – Dr. Strangelove, Richard Greenberg – Alien, Kyle Cooper – Seven, Danny Yount – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang / Sherlock Holmes.

 

As we remember to “tell ’em what we’re going to tell ’em,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1946 that the first Cannes Film Festival opened.  It had originally been scheduled for September, 1939 as an “answer” to the Venice Film Fest, which had become a propaganda vehicle for Mussolini and Hitler; but the outbreak of World War II occasioned a delay.

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