Not a bad weekend, all in all. The storms did no damage to my house that I’m aware of. I’d planned on doing something constructive and diligent in terms of house maintenance, but wasn’t able to manage it. On Sunday I gathered with other Sons of Norway members at Wabun Park in Minneapolis, and oddly enough it wasn’t for anything having to do with Vikings (much). We had a picnic to celebrate the centennial of our district. Somebody had spoken vaguely of dressing in period for 1910, so I made an effort. I wore a white dress shirt with a tie, light-colored khaki trousers with suspenders (Y shaped. You’ve got to have the Y configuration). And I topped it off with my panama hat. I actually looked sort of like I might have come from the 1930s, if you didn’t look too closely, but I made the effort. This paid off when somebody showed up with a 1913 Moline automobile, and I got to ride around in it a little because I was dressed right.
Sometimes—rarely–virtue is rewarded in this world.
Also watched the DVD of Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey.
What shall I say about this very odd concoction?
Modern technology has allowed filmmakers to re-create Victorian London in glorious detail, to the delight of all history lovers.
But you’ll learn more about the way actual Victorians spoke and thought by watching Basil Rathbone in “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.”
Robert Downey’s performance was great, and not entirely sundered from the literary character he was playing. At moments, Conan Doyle’s detective was recognizable. But not from appearance.
Why has it become a sin to dress neatly? When was the last time a movie hero dressed up, in any movie?
“But Holmes was a bohemian, a misfit,” people will say. “Watson himself describes him as untidy.”
Well, yes and no. Here’s what Watson actually says, in “The Musgrave Ritual.”
An anomaly which often struck me in the character of my friend Sherlock Holmes was that, although in his methods of thought he was the neatest and most methodical of mankind, and although also he affected a certain quiet primness of dress, he was none the less in his personal habits one of the most untidy men that ever drove a fellow-lodger to distraction.
This is the formula for Holmes, according to the “Sacred Conan”: dresses neatly, keeps a messy room.
Worse than that, on a couple occasions Downey’s Holmes walks out on the street with nothing on his head.
This is an even greater sin than the occasion when, in “Murder By Decree,” Christopher Plummer as Holmes wore his deerstalker cap and Inverness cape to the opera.
Listen—until the early 20th Century, gentlemen in the western world never went out of doors without hats on. It wasn’t done.
There was even an American cartoon character named Happy Hooligan, who spoofed that societal norm by wearing a little tin can balanced precariously on top of his big round head, satirizing the fact that a man would wear almost anything he could get his hands on, rather than appear publicly bare-headed.
(This, by the way, is where the term “nut” for someone who acts strange and crazy came from. The first social rebels who went out without hats were called nuts, and the term stuck even after its reason for being had passed away.)
I would have truly enjoyed seeing Downey do Holmes properly. As it was, I can’t deny I had a good time with the steampunk Holmes.
But I am left asking, “What need does it serve?”