Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Quickly, Watson, get your service revolver!"

Took Chris and LawMom out to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie today; and we all three loved it.

Is this movie an accurate depiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous literary invention? That depends.

If you are a fan of the Sherlock Holmes of the books, then yes. If you are a fan of the Hollywood version of the detective -- then no.

This is going to come as a shock to some folks, but Basil Rathbone was a lousy Sherlock Holmes.

Sir Arthur penned a Sherlock Holmes who was a young man -- probably in his late twenties, but no older than mid-30's -- who was a genius, yes, but also manic-depressive.

In "A Study In Scarlet", Sir Arthur -- through Dr. Watson -- described how Holmes would be seized by melancholia and would lie upon his sofa, in the dark, for days without speaking or moving; in other stories, Holmes would be "seized by an intensity" and go for days without eating or sleeping, until he fainted.

He is -- as written by Doyle -- an eccentric, who kept his unanswered mail nailed to the mantel with a pen-knife; his tobacco stored in the toe of a shoe; and his cigars in a coal-bin.

He is an addict, who self-medicates his depression with a 7% solution of IV cocaine, with occasional forays into morphia use.

He is also a prize-fighter. In "The Sign of the Four" McMurdo, a retired prize-fighter of some renown is acting as a servant to a house. He refuses to allow Holmes and company into the house because he doesn't know them, until Holmes announces that he is shocked that McMurdo doesn't recognize Holmes as the amateur who went three rounds with him at a fighting club in London. McMurdo responds that if Holmes had stepped up and hit him with his right cross to the jaw, McMurdo would have immediately recognized him; and goes further to announce that Holmes had wasted his fighting skills by not becoming a professional.

And I think my earlier post regarding "Baritsu" covers stick-fighting and such.

As for Watson, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Dr. John H. Watson as a survivor of the Second Anglo-Afghan War, where he was injured by a jezzail bullet during the Battle of Maiwand. While not a genius (as is Holmes), Watson is not only intelligent enough to solve mysteries himself (The Hound of The Baskervilles), but astute enough to easily follow Holmes' reasoning.

Capable and courageous, Watson was a ladies man, a combat veteran of a particularly nasty war, a respected medical professional, a gentleman of the Victorian Age and a crack shot whom Holmes regarded as his best friend and trusted as his back-up for 56 published adventures and uncounted others from 1887 to 1914.

He was neither a bumbler nor a fool, and he was definitely not an incompetent as Hollywood has tended to portray him.

If you are a fan of the Sherlock Holmes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books, then go see this movie.

If you are a fan of the Hollywood Sherlock Holmes, go see Avatar.

If you are a Hollywood movie critic who claims that a pugilistic Sherlock Holmes isn't "faithful to Doyles vision" then I'd like to make one little comment:

You're supposed to read books, not eat them.


Thursday, December 24, 2009


In 1893, an English civil engineer by the name of Edward William Barton-Wright went to work for the E.H. Hunter Company in Japan.

While there, Barton-Wright studied jiu-jitsu and Kodakan Judo, before returning to England in 1898.

Once in England, Barton-Wright took what he had learned of those two Japanese martial arts, and combined them with English pugilism to form what he called "The New Art of Self-Defence".

While teaching this pragmatic art, Barton-Wright met Swiss Master-At-Arms Pierre Vigny, who introduced Barton-White to the French art of Savate Dèfense and Vigny's own variation of Canne d'Arme which used walking sticks and umbrellas.

Barton-Wright called this early mixed martial art "Bartitsu" (a portmanteau of the words "jiu-jitsu" and "Barton") and taught it to a great many people in London -- including women. Which was definitely a first for the time.

Unfortunately, E.W. Barton-Wright wasn't very skilled as a promoter, and although he is rumoured to have continued training and development of Bartitsu until the early 1920's, for all intents and purposes Bartitsu ended in 1903 with the closing of Barton-Wright's Bartitsu Club in London.

Bartitsu might have vanished forever, except that an author -- who occasionally published articles in Pearson's Magazine alongside the articles of Barton-Wright -- happened to pen some books about a bloke who liked to solve mysteries and who was well-trained in an art of self-defence called "baritsu".

We don't know if "bartitsu" was mis-spelled because of copyright issues, or mis-remembering, typographical error or a goof-up on the part of the editor -- but we do know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous detective was thoroughly acquainted with the eclectic mix of savate, judo, boxing, wrestling, cane-fighting and street-scrapping that is the legacy of E.W. Barton-Wright.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Sometimes I think the previews are the best part of the whole theatre-going experience; mostly because I think that not only do they show the best parts of the movie, but the movie I make in my head is ever-so-much better than anything Hollywood is going to turn out.

For example:

The scene is a placid street in a small town in West Texas. A nattily-dressed man gets out of a rental car and, carrying a large case, walks up to the front door of Rancho LawDog.

The doorbell is rung, and answered by a man of average height with what looks like a plastic orange rodent stapled to his upper lip.


"Mr LawDog, I have a proposition for you. May I come in?"

Against his better instincts, LawDog allows the man into his sanctum sanctorum, and even brews a cup of tea.

"Mr LawDog," says the nattily-dressed man, opening the case to reveal a Black Box With A Big Red Button, "If you press this button two things will happen. The first is that I will give you a million dollars. The second is that a random stranger, someone whom you do not know, will die."

"Pull the other one, mate, it's got bells on."

"I assure you, Mr. LawDog, I am quite serious."

"You're going to kill someone who's a complete and total stranger to me, so that I can have a million dollars."

"No, Mr. LawDog, you are going to kill a total stranger so that you can have a million dollars."

"Oh. Did you happen to mention your name?"

"No, Mr. LawDog, that information is not necessary for this transaction to be completed."

"Sooo ... basically, you're a complete and total stranger?"

"Yes, what does that ..."

Two forty-calibre gunshots ring out, and the nattily-dressed man convulses and slides off the sofa to the floor. LawDog pinches the bridge of his nose and heaves the mighty sigh of a man beset by the tribulations of the world, then rises and steps around the coffee table. A third shot rings out. Always pay the insurance.

Keeping the muzzle of his pistol trained upon the corpse in his living room, LawDog weasles his cell-phone out of his pocket and hits speed-dial.

"Tole's Mule Barn, head jackass speaking."

"Hey, brother, you wouldn't happen to have any of that quicklime left, would you?"

"Sure do. Need it?"

"Yeah, and if you could bring a shovel with it, I've got a beer for you."

"Aw, crap. Again?"

"Yeah. Figure we'd stick him under the gardenias."

"Not unless you moved the Cthulu cultists from last month."

"Oh. Nuts. Hmm. You got any room in the wife's herb garden?"

"Nope. Had a pack of Jesuit ninja assassins through Friday evening. One of these days they're going to realize that this thing is a hammered leaf-spring wired to a broom-handle by a Pakistani blacksmith and then there's going to be some red faces at the Vatican."

"I wondered why I kept running over throwing stars with the lawnmower this weekend." Ruminative pause. "Suppose we could stick him in the rutabaga patch with the mummy."

"Sounds good ... ohh ... better double the hole."

"What? Why?"

"You got a Spooky Henchman lurking in your driveway."

"What? Hell! I'm up to my elbows in parts here! What sort of of bargain-basement creeps are they minting these days?! Can't even wait a courteous amount of time ..."

"Relax. I'll get him on the way over. Need anything else?"

"Nah. 'Preciate it, bro."

End Movie.

See? Much better than anything Hollywood turns out these days.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Curses! Foiled again!


The scene: A teeny-tiny office in North Texas. A map of the United States covers one wall, and LawDog is currently measuring a route betwixt Bugscuffle, Texas and PaddlefasterIhearbanjos, NotTexas.

LawDog: "muttermuttermutter."

Enter, stage left, Baby Officer, snarfing a Cretaceous honey bun, recently excavated from the depths of the office snack vending machine.

Baby Officer: "Whatchadoin'?"

LawDog: "We're picking up one of our critters in some godforsaken hole in a corner of NotTexas that I've never been, so I want to have a good feel for the route. You do realize that honey buns aren't supposed to -- you know -- crunch?"

Baby Officer (crunching happily): "I'm young, I gotta cast-iron stomach. You do know that the Sheriff bought a GPS for these trips, right?'

LawDog: "Yes, I did hear that. Weren't you using said GPS unit when you went to Tyler by way of Waco last year?"

Baby Officer (shrugging): "Nah, that was one of your fellow dinosaurs. He didn't enter the destination information properly -- Garbage In, Garbage Out."

LawDog: "I like my maps. Look, they're even laminated."

Baby Officer (rolling eyes): "Okay, Lewis Clark, have it your way. I'll go grab the paperwork and the vehicle."

LawDog (yelping at Baby Officers retreating back): "AND Clark! Lewis AND Clark! Two different people!"

Scene closes with LawDog firmly removing the Garmin GPS unit from it's Cordura case, lofting it into the open filing cabinet, and authoritatively slamming the file shut while muttering sulphurously.


The scene: The interior of a standard police cruiser, some distance away from the Bugscuffle County Sheriff's Office. LawDog is in the shotgun seat, staring in disbelief as Baby Officer manages (more or less) to drive, text on a cell phone, and pound down a 64-oz Cappuccino Mongo Shake from Giblets Coffee House and Cafe -- all at the same time.

Baby Officer (attempting to lick the last bits of sugary caffeine goodness from the bottom of the half-gallon barrel): "Ey! Eb geb Gee Pee Ess oug!"

LawDog: "That's not a feed-bag and the last drop will do fine without you. I swear to Shiva -- when your heart jumps out of your chest and starts vibrating down the road, I am not picking it up. Now what did you say, in English this time?"

Baby Officer (slightly manic grin): "Whoo, that's good stuff. Pass me the Garmin, wouldja? Hey! It's not in here!"

LawDog (piously): "Goodness. I do believe this here is a Teaching Opportunity in the Arcane Art of LandNav. Now, this here is what we call 'a map'..."

Baby Officer: "Hold on, I got the GPS app for my iPhone. Give me a sec ... yep ... here it is ... how do you spell, 'PaddlefasterIhearbanjos' ... dude, stop banging your head on the dashboard!"



Sunday, December 06, 2009


I was down in Houston the other day, bored out of my skull, so I hie'd myself over to the local bookstore for some brainfood.

Is it just me, or has the fantasy section been over-taken by a large number of not-really-heavily-armed ladies, most dressed in mini-skirts and/or lace camisoles, or the like -- all fighting vampires?

I'm all for the fantasy genre attracting more readers of the distaff persuasion, but from my brief perusal of the back covers, I get the idea that a lot of these books seem to be cookie-cutter versions of the same basic plot (Harlequin Romance meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, minus the humour.)

Is that about right?