Wednesday, 26 November 2014


Sundog Rising!
Reflections on living the life literary by the Urban Sundog

Soundtracks, Real and Imaginary

I never write without music playing.

I haven’t done so since the seventies, if I ever did before that. For example, while I’m typing this I’m listening to Jefferson Airplane, from the sixties. Much like I did in the seventies, when I started getting serious about this game.

Does having music on while writing stimulate the creative faculties? I’m not certain one way or the other about that. I do know that I found it useful to listen to classical music while trying to write philosophy essays. There did seem to be something tangible there that helped me to order my thinking. But in general, I’d have to say …

Nah. I just like listening to music. A lot.

Because I do that, whether I choose to or not certain musical artists sometimes become the unheralded soundtracks for certain of my larger pieces of writing. For example, I got it into my head when I wrote a novel that is the first in the mystery series I’m starting to peddle, Sticks, Stones and Breaking Bones, that the soundtrack to the writing of this book, as with philosophy essays, needed to be classical music. So I created a pile of classical playlists and quite enjoyed them while drafting the original manuscript. Then I got to the editing stage and discovered a country swing number by Raul Malo made the perfect tune to play over the credits should the book ever be made into a movie. Go figure.

I bought a lot of music in the seventies, and didn’t really explore that option again until the last five years or so with I-Tunes. The option of only purchasing the songs you want off an album appeals to me immensely. Not to mention the vast array of artists to choose from you’d never find CDs by in Winnipeg music stores.

As a result, I usually indulge in nine new songs a week. Three on Monday for my wife, who prefers vocal and smooth jazz, with some latin and a little bit of bluesy swing thrown in for good measure. And then another three each on Wednesday and Friday that rarely anyone in the house ever listens to but me. While I’m writing, and, sometimes, cooking.

I’ve gone on a bit of a hunt lately, re-gathering digitally the best of what I used to listen to on lp in the seventies, but I also like to do what I call I-Wanders. Track down a song I like and see where the recommendations I-Tunes gives you for other tracks I might like may lead me. As a result, I’ve discovered a stack of new artists I wouldn’t have found otherwise since I started doing this writing thing full time three years ago. They have really represented the unstated soundtrack more than anyone to the writing I’ve done since sitting down to the first blank page of Reality Fiction One in 2011.

In general, some notable discoveries have been Amanda Palmer’s wonderful in-your-face street artistry; the techno-goth rhythms and dark sensibilities of Blutengel, Collide, and Ego Likeness; the disturbingly atmospheric Black Tape for a Blue Girl (great album covers); the opera-swing-metal merging of the Diablo Swing Orchestra; the B-film rockabilly delight of Horrorpops; the mysticism and eccentric flair relatively of Wendy Rule and Phoebe Legere; the noir minimalist pop of the Raveonettes; and the Tiger Lillies who are — well, they’re the Tiger Lillies.

But seven artists in particular have kept me going, happily joined by an eighth I only discovered this year, which proves to me that there are still gems out there to be found.

I started off on a Goth kick, and tuned into Jill Tracy, Rasputina and Emilie Autumn early on.

Jill Tracy’s horror movie soundtrack cabaret is highly appealing. The woman has a tremendous sense of style, with more than a touch of the sinister thrown in. I enjoy her stuff so much I even picked up the complete personal instrumental soundtrack she wrote for F.W. Murnau’s silent vampire classic, Nosferatu. I haven’t actually coordinated playing it at the same time as watching the movie yet, but I intend to.

Rasputina is just too cool for words. I mean, electric cellos? How can it not be great? her album of cover songs is good, but it’s her original material that really stands out. Actually, the name of the cello group is Rasputina, the central artist we’re talking about is Melora Creager. A great voice, a wonderful cellist, and a musical original.

I don’t know why more people haven’t picked up on Emilie Autumn, given the plethora of stories like Jian Ghomeshi’s outlined a couple of weeks ago here, and Bill Cosby’s which has arisen since. Her last album, Fight Like A Girl, should be the soundtrack of the movement. Of course, her statement on her previous album, Opheliac, where she said she wants to perform music that will offend everyone may have something to do with it.

But the fact of the matter is Emilie Autumn was a musical prodigy who proved herself equally proficient at classical music and pop through rock at an early age, and followed that up by enduring hellish episodes in her life that inspired amazingly intense and often remarkably beautiful music. She’s one of the few I buy whole albums by, not just specific songs.

After discovering these three ladies, I decided it was time to make a detailed study of the music of David Lynch movies. This meant building playlists by Angelo Badalamenti, Julee Cruise, and David himself. I’ve got a whole folder of playlists now called Lynchville. Let’s face it — has there ever been a better TV soundtrack than Twin Peaks?

And then I started writing things like The Twitchy Gal

Trying to trace down David Lynch music led me to someone else I may or may not have discovered otherwise. Lana Del Rey does a mean cover of “Blue Velvet” on her Paradise album. And for those of you who may be beginning to suspect if you’re actually reading the books I’m posting on the Realficone blog, this fortuitous discovery led to the keystone moment that inspired my Theda Bara Novelletta, Thirty-One Across.

I’d never heard of Lana Del Rey. Even though she is by far the most famous of the people I listen to today. I discovered Lana Del Rey looking for David Lynch songs, and found “Ride”, which blew me away immediately, on the Paradise album searching for “Blue Velvet” led me to. Then two days later, her name came up as an answer in the Metro daily crossword puzzle.

So in this case, music did definitely inspire my writing. One hundred fifty pages later …

And I couldn’t be happier. Yes, she gets some weird press. But the truth is she writes brilliant lyrics with a powerfully assertive point of view, her voice is a lot better than most people will give her credit for, and the music is textured and layered, increasing in appeal the more you hear her songs.

I guess I’m a fan.

And then there’s Lou Reed. Good old, weird old, whacked out, drugged up, dead old Lou Reed. Who has been dead for almost a year now.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I once proudly wore my Sally Can’t Dance tee shirt regularly to a Winnipeg high school where if you mentioned the name Lou Reed everyone else thought you were talking about Lou Rawls. After Lou died, I made a concerted effort to fill in the gaps on my collection of his music, and now have put together no less than five eighty-minute plus playlists of my favourite songs spanning his five plus decade career, from the Velvet Underground all the way to Lulu, the joint effort he did with Metallica that was his last album.

I once wrote a poem where I decided I didn’t have the nerve to devote my life to art like Lou Reed did.

But it’s still fun to wonder what would have happened if I had.

So on the whole, I have to say I-Tunes is one part of modern technology that has actually contributed in a genuinely positive manner to my daily life. Not that you can find everything on I-Tunes. I still can’t believe you can’t find “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris there as of this writing. But while I was trying to locate another unique hit from the sixties that also isn’t available — “Fire”, by Arthur Brown — I did discover a cover of that song by an artist who is my new favourite discovery of 2014, for her own unique body of work. Lizzy Mercier Descloux. I was saddened to discover I didn’t know she existed until after she died. But her music lives on.

I wonder if someday someone will say the same thing about the writing I’m doing while listening to her.



Continuing the Grand Tradition!

Local writer Cathy Macdonald debuts her first mystery novel
Put on the Armour of Light
from Dundurn Press, at McNally Robinson Bookstore in Winnipeg
November 30, 2014,  1 pm in the Travel Alcove.
The launch will also feature an interview between Cathy and
local CBC Radio personality Terry MacLeod.

For more information on Cathy and her sleuth Charles Lauchlan, check out her website at:

and blog at:



This week:

Continuing The Twitchy Gal with Chapter Thirty-One posted on Monday and Chapter Thirty-Two coming on Friday, November 28th at:

A plan is made! A plan is implemented! A plan begins to swirl madly out of control!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

bring back wishbone!

Sundog Rising!
Reflections on living the life literary by the Urban Sundog

The Little Dog with the Big Imagination

What's the story Wishbone?
What's this you're dreaming of?
Such big imagination for such a little pup.
What's the story Wishbone?
Do you think it's worth a look?
It kinda seems familiar like a story from a book.
Shake a leg now Wishbone let's wag another tail.
Sniffin' out adventure with Wishbone on the trail.
Come on Wishbone.
What's the story Wishbone?
What's the story Wishbone?

(Tim Cissell and Lynn Adler)

We were lucky. Our only child made his debut in 1994, and Wishbone made his television debut in 1995. Which guaranteed there was at least one quality kids TV show on all through Dylan’s childhood.

The fact that the show was literary as well was an astounding bonus! Every episode, Wishbone, a live action Jack Russell terrier, would enter a great work of literature as one of the piece’s central characters. The book adaptation would illustrate some important point regarding the framing story usually concerning Wishbone’s owner Joe Talbot and his two friends David Barnes and Samantha Kepler. Joe’s widowed mother Ellen and neighbour the flaky Wanda Gilmore usually got involved somehow too.

But the main appeal of the show was always the book adaptation in the middle. Played out with a full human cast of supporting characters, everyone would treat Wishbone as if it was perfectly normal for Sherlock Holmes or Dartagnan to be a tiny dog, and could hear his voice perfectly, thereby enabling full interaction. Wishbone has a voice in the framing story as well, but the kids never get to hear it. Even though he often provided some very rich commentary on what was going on in their lives at the moment.

Wishbone’s human voice was provided by Larry Brantley. I considered searching out a picture of Larry and putting it in here. But no, the symbiosis was too complete. The dog was Wishbone, but so was Larry’s voice. You can’t spoil the illusion.

Wishbone ran on PBS from 1995 through 1998, and stayed on in reruns until 2001. I judge there were at least 47 episodes. From Frankenstein to personal favourites like Don Quixote and Pride and Prejudice. Don Quixote featured Wishbone playing Sancho Panza in probably the most magical segment of them all. The series was often praised for staying true to the original texts, even in their less than Disneyesque or kid-friendly aspects.

According to Wikipedia, Wishbone won four Daytime Emmies, a Peabody Award, and honours from the Television Critics Association.

It was a special part of Dylan’s childhood for him and my wife to settle on the couch at the same time everyday and sing along to the opening theme. And then immerse themselves in whichever masterpiece the players chose to bring to a young yet appreciative audience that day.

Of course, Dylan’s tastes in music have somewhat changed over time.

What appeals to me most is that even if Dylan never gets around to reading the classics himself, he’s been exposed to their existence and their values in a way that totally proved they still have relevance. And the show had good jokes too. Such as Wishbone introducing his version of Rip Van Winkle as taking place in the Catskills. Which was a laugh because cats don’t have skills!

What more could you ask for in a kids show?

So thank you Soccer, Slugger, Shiner, Phoebe, and Bear, for providing the physical presence for Larry Brantley’s magic.

And is there any good reason not to revive this show for today’s audience? They’re supposed to love books more than ever after Harry Potter …



Continuing the Grand Tradition!

Local writer Cathy Macdonald debuts her first mystery novel
Put on the Armour of Light
from Dundurn Press, at McNally Robinson Bookstore in Winnipeg
November 30, 2014,  1 pm in the Travel Alcove.
The launch will also feature an interview between Cathy and
local CBC Radio personality Terry MacLeod.

For more information on Cathy and her sleuth Charles Lauchlan, check out her website at:

and blog at:



This week:

Continuing The Twitchy Gal with Chapter Twenty-Nine posted on Monday and Chapter Thirty coming on Friday, November 14th at:

What do you do when the forest just starts throwing you back at yourself?

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

the ghomeshi epic

Sundog Rising!
Reflections on living the life literary by the Urban Sundog

Controlling the Narrative

I intentionally waited 2 weeks after beginning this draft before posting it. Waiting let me feel less … controlled.

Plus, I also decided it was interesting to detail as it happened how I had been manipulated, how I came to realize I had been manipulated, and how I could no longer believe anything after that. It’s the story of constructing a narrative with multiple authors. And the very art of narrative construction itself. And its failure as well.

Wednesday, October 29th:

Up front, I have no reason to think Jian Ghomeshi is guilty of anything. But on second day assessment, I have to say I also have no reason to think the woman, unnamed as I write this, whom he accuses of tormenting him and ultimately costing him his job is necessarily guilty of anything either. The fact is, as the narrative unfolds, I not only don’t know, I can’t know.

So this isn’t a piece about Jian Ghomeshi and his former sex partner. This is a piece about the narrative Jian Ghomeshi, his former sex partner, and the CBC are currently starring within.

What’s my role in the narrative? Insignificant, certainly. I’m only one of the people the story is being delivered to, more intrigued by the meta-nature of the event than the personalities involved. What’s intriguing to me is how key to the issue it is for the principals to make me think a certain way regarding everything that happens, regardless of how peripheral I am to the story.

As the narrative came to involve me, Jian Ghomeshi broke the story in a posting to his Facebook account the day before yesterday, announcing in an earnest, appealing manner that due to some unfortunate choices in the bedroom and regarding the person he was making those choices with, he was the victim of a smear campaign regarding his sexual practices and an accusation of sexual abuse regarding the woman in question. All of which he denied quite convincingly in the Facebook posting. But the upshot of this background to the story was that the CBC fired him from his prominent position as host of Q, because of allegations regarding the unsavouriness of his image as emerging from the background drama. Ghomeshi’s reply was his Facebook posting and to sue the CBC for $55 million.

The story came to my attention on Facebook. I was checking what my “friends” were posting, and one of them had re-posted Ghomeshi’s post, laying out the story according to Jian.

Naturally I was convinced. So were all my “friends”. I’ve listened to Q, Jian Ghomeshi is likeable, seems honest, and I didn’t feel I had any reason to think twice about the matter before believing him. His Facebook posting felt very personal and sincere. So, yeah, Jian, I’m with you all the way —

— except for that $55 million. Sure the CBC are easy to see as a villain, but they are publicly funded. Some of that $55 million if you win will come from me. So that figure certainly feels a tad … egotistical.

Over the rest of the day, there was a big fuss in the traditional media as Jian’s statement on social media went viral. By the end of the day, it seemed popular opinion was clearly in the Ghomeshi corner. And rightly so, from what we knew of the narrative so far.

Then: Day Two. The backlash begins.

Checking Facebook the next morning, I find a debate raging concerning accusations tossed at Jian saying this is yet another example of an enabled male in a position of power using his influence to manipulate the woman in the story into the role of antagonist. If Ghomeshi gets away with it, it will be harder once again for any woman who is a victim of sexual aggression to successfully bring attention to her case. It’s not two individuals anymore, it’s all evil men and virtuous women.

My initial reaction to Facebook was oh, sure, Jian’s being victimized again by the radical feminists. Give the guy a break.

Then much later in the day, I caught up with the narrative again in the regular media.

There I discovered that before he made his Facebook appeal Jian Ghomeshi hired PR firm Navigator to spin his image through this conflict. According to an article in The Metro, “Toronto-based digital communications strategist Taylor Mann told Metro Ghomeshi’s swift response to the news of his firing through his Facebook page — hours before details of the allegations came to light — has left him in control of the story’s arc.” Mann says he’s under no illusions that Ghomeshi’s Facebook post was “organic”. “Because he got out there first he has [controlled] and will continue to control the narrative.”

I must have heard that new buzz phrase before — “controlling the narrative” — but I never paid much attention to it. The odd thing was hearing the phrase used again that same evening I read about Ghomeshi attempting it while my wife and I were watching an episode of Castle on television, and the police captain states the clear villain in that hour of mayhem could not be allowed to be perceived as “controlling the narrative” in the copshow world’s media.

Put all this together, and it led to a lively discussion with my wife, and a reevaluation of the facts in my own mind.

First off, there are no “facts”. We are discussing a narrative. With a structure as follows: the story breaks on Facebook sympathetic to the supposed protagonist, the antagonist is vilified; followed by backlash on behalf of the antagonist, initially easy to dismiss because of the sympathy already established for the protagonist the day before; followed by the introduction of the concept that the entire event is only a narrative, and therefore there is no reason to believe anything we’ve heard so far and shouldn’t be so quick to make up our minds about either side.

But where do we find the true information to settle the issue with a balanced view of the facts?

When examined clearly, is the conflict we are supposedly resolving so publicly really whether Jian Ghomeshi is a sex offender or not? No. The actual conflict is Jian Ghomeshi suing the CBC for firing him. For $55 million. What can we expect as a resolution?

Hard to say, really. Yet everything seemed so clear initially.

But stepping back one level is what makes the story so illustrative of our times and so interesting. The media, social or traditional, are not giving us the facts they adore to ideologically emphasize to us is their business. Both sectors of the media are only the conveyors of a narrative, a fact openly acknowledged within their own pages. The experts aren’t debating the “truth” of the matter in their public analysis of the subject, but rather arguing who’s ahead on points controlling the development of the storyline.

Somehow that doesn’t seem fair to either the woman involved, or Jian Ghomeshi. I was prepared to believe his statement at first, and would still like to think it’s true. I don’t know that it’s not. But as it’s really all just a story, being tweaked and primped for our perverse news entertainment enjoyment, how can I or anyone else ever know for certain?

Or trust anything in the media again?

Additions to the original blog as events — sorry, the story, continues to unfurl. All of the above was written on Day Three of the story. What follows is as it came to me, not as I went looking for it:

Day Four: 8 woman have now come forward accusing Ghomeshi of abusive behaviour. Actress Lucy DeCoutere is the first to identify herself. Now that there is a face to hang his original story on, Jian is looking less like the protagonist and thanks to Lucy, the women involved are sounding less like the antagonists. Still, nothing has been proved either way. A lawyer goes on record stating Ghomeshi knows he would never win a $55 million dollar civil suit, and he must have a different reason for suing the CBC than he’s saying.

Day Five: Author Reva Seth identifies herself as another woman Ghomeshi abused. Prominent Canadian musicians and authors are signing a petition in support of the women with claims against Jian. Navigator says it is no longer representing Ghomeshi, and his publicist agency Rock-It has dropped him as a client as well. Toronto’s Police Chief has urged “any person” who has been the victim of a sexual assault to report it. When I first read that, I assumed the Chief meant anyone who had been the victim of a sexual assault by Jian Ghomeshi. Not anyone in general. Indicating how the spin has definitely spun on Ghomeshi. By the end of the week, the protagonist is looking much more like the antagonist.

Ghomeshi responds on Facebook by promising to contest all allegations made against him directly, but will not discuss the matter with the media. ??? He hasn’t been charged with anything. The media is the only arena in which this narrative is happening. But now he’s not supplying subtext anymore?

Later in the day: veteran Canadian musician Stephen Fearing posts: “it would be a real blow to my community to see this show [Q] disappear because of the ugly truth that is Jian Ghomeshi.”  So as a nation, we’ve gone from mostly believing Ghomeshi’s story on Monday, to declaring him “the ugly truth” by Friday. As always, with absolute certainty we know the “truth”. After all, it’s on Facebook.

Day Six: The Toronto Police open a criminal investigation into Ghomeshi regarding sexual abuse. The CBC claims they fired Jian because they had graphic proof of his violence towards a particular woman. There seems to be no public sympathy left for our protagonist. However, it’s still all one person’s story against that of others. But the others now significantly outnumber Ghomeshi and are telling a presumably unified story. Which he still denies, and claims there is no proof for.

Days Seven through Eleven: The narrative has become a bad joke, with the media desperately searching for items to keep it alive. Even Jian’s new lawyer has already made him the brunt of black humour in public. Everything Ghomeshi has ever done his entire life is now being revived and given a negative spin. From golden boy to whipping boy in just over a week. The dominant theme is now outrage over how women are treated regarding sexual aggression. According to what female “friends” are saying on Facebook, every woman alive has been sexually abused.

Day Twelve: The inevitable conclusion is reached by consensus on Facebook this morning. All men are shit. I’m quoting. Every woman is innocent and a victim, and every man is a victimizer and a criminal. And that’s the only final word possible.

Day Fifteen: Interesting postscript. Former Liberal MP Sheila Copps started off the Ghomeshi narrative by leaping to Jian’s defence on twitter. A statement she later retracts. Today she announced that she has been a victim of sexual assault in the workplace herself, on Parliament Hill. Taking control of a new narrative, or …?

What, exactly? I’m really not sure anymore.

Jian Ghomeshi started off by establishing control of the narrative. Then, that control disappeared. Very likely because apparently he was only stringing a narrative. “I never did anything without the full consent of every woman involved.” At first we believed him. Then other voices came forward saying, no, that isn’t true. And then we believed them. But no single voice stepped forward to maintain a new narrative control on the other side, so within 12 days the “voice of the people” expressed through social media had swung to the story that all men are scum and all women are victims. Degrading to the entire human race. Very sad.

Do I believe that conclusion? Hardly. No more than I believe Jian Ghomeshi’s opening narrative now. From probable lies to meaningless sweeping generalities in less than 2 weeks. And then on to the next story.

So at the end of this retrospective, I ask are the facts actually out there? To prove or disprove any narrative?

Of course they are. But spinning so fast we’ll never recognize them.



Continuing the Grand Tradition!

Local writer Cathy MacDonald debuts her first mystery novel
Put on the Armour of Light
from Dundurn Press, at McNally Robinson Bookstore in Winnipeg
November 30, 2014,  1 pm in the Travel Alcove.
The launch will feature an interview between Cathy
and local CBC Radio personality Terry MacLeod.
We won’t acknowledge the irony of that one after the above post, now will we?

For more information on Cathy and her sleuth Charles Lauchlan, check out her website at:

and blog at:



This week:

Continuing The Twitchy Gal with Chapter Twenty-Seven posted on Monday and Chapter Twenty-Eight coming on Friday, November 14th at:

The arrival on the scene at the UFO incident by the Women in Gray, and a conversation of mythological proportions. So these two satyrs walk into a temple, and …

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

many faces of sherlock holmes

Sundog Rising!
Reflections on living the life literary by the Urban Sundog

Hounds and Baskervilles

And I haven’t even seen the Robert Downey Jr. version, let’s get that straight right up front.

When I started thinking about this week’s entry, I figured, well I must have seen 2 or 3 at least — wait a minute. More like 5 or 6 if I stop and think. No, wait again. More like …

How many?

Doing my research, I discovered there have been more than 85 actors who have played Sherlock Holmes on the screen! And once I started seriously listing them, I can say I’ve seen at least 13 of them. Eight different versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles alone! And that’s not counting the true hound, the Wishbone version I watched with my son way back when. Which now I think of it, gives me a subject for a future post. It’s time to start a Let’s Bring Back Wishbone movement!

In the meantime, chronologically, I’ve seen all the following actors play Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective, in one form or another:

Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing, Robert Stephens, Stewart Granger, Nicol Williamson, Christopher Plummer, Jeremy Brett, Michael Caine, Matt Frewer, Richard Roxburgh, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jonny Lee Miller, and Andrew Gower

Who have been ably assisted by the following Dr. Watsons:

Nigel Bruce, Andre Morell, Colin Blakely, Bernard Fox, Robert Duvall, James Mason, David Burke, Edward Hardwicke, Ben Kingsley, Kenneth Welsh, Ian Hart, Martin Freeman,
and … Lucy Liu?

Feeling like the odd doctor out at the old boys club, no doubt.

That’s 13 Holmeseses and 13 Watsons. But to be accurate, Jeremy Brett’s Holmes had both David Burke and Edward Hardwicke as Watson, while Andrew Gower’s David Kingsley/Sherlock Holmes on CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries doesn’t have a Watson to call his own. Although he does have Inspector William Murdoch, so it’s difficult to think of him as deprived.

It’s also difficult to think of any other character from literature who has been so immortalized in film. The only possible competitor would be Count Dracula, but that’s a subject for another day. Or perhaps, rather, night. Some of the earliest film versions of Holmes were made in Germany during the silent era, demonstrating his international appeal. "Mein Gott, Vatson, you dumbkopf!"

Once I discovered just how many different portrayers of Holmes there have been, I actually feel a little embarrassed to say I’ve only seen 13. So in a far from complete list, here’s how I would generally classify the actors I’ve mentioned.

First off, I’m upping the number to 15. I’ve decided I will count Wishbone and Robert Downey Jr. So, to begin with:

1. The Sherlock Holmes I’ve chosen not to see:

Robert Downey Jr. I’ve got nothing against Robert Downey Jr., I think he’s a fine actor. Or Jude Law as Dr. Watson. But the glossy, superficial image of these movies don’t appeal to me as a valid treatment of Holmes. There’s enough quality out there I can afford to skip him. Maybe my loss.

2. The Sherlock Holmes I was most disappointed by:

Nicol Williamson, in The Seven Percent Solution, 1976. With Robert Duvall as Dr. Watson. I know the movie did well, but I was hoping for so much more from Nicol Williamson.

3. The two Sherlock Holmeses who made the least impact on me:

Robert Stephens in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, 1970, with Colin Blakely as Dr. Watson; and Stewart Granger in a made for TV 1972 Hound of the Baskervilles, with Bernard Fox as Dr. Watson. I honestly don’t think Robert Stephens did that bad an acting job, but he didn’t have the physical presence for a memorable Holmes. I remember Christopher Lee in a bald wig as brother Mycroft much more vividly from that movie. And Stewart Granger was just too large, too silver haired, and too … Stewart Granger. Not always a fault in an actor playing Holmes, but all I remember is a particularly wide man in a deer stalker hat smoking a pipe.

4. The two odd duck Sherlock Holmeses

Matt Frewer, with Kenneth Welsh as Dr. Watson, and Richard Roxburgh with Ian Hart as Watson, both in Hounds of the Baskervilleses, 2000 and 2002 respectively. Again, Matt Frewer is just so undeniably physically bony Matt Frewer no matter what role he plays. The lack of an English accent didn’t help. Kenneth Welsh was more convincing as Watson. And then what was going on with Richard Roxburgh? Now there was an actor who again should have really torn the role apart, but the script has Holmes floundering helplessly in mortal peril at the end with a particularly strong and pissed off Watson needing to come to his rescue. Mess with the balance of weight between the two characters at your peril. Watson needs to be strong, and can flourish in a solo scene, but he should never overshadow Holmes when they’re sharing the screen. They can be shown as equals, but make Holmes inferior for a moment to the supporting cast and you’ve lost the mystique.

5. The Real Hound of the Baskervilles Sherlock Holmes

Wishbone, what can I say?

6. The funniest Sherlock Holmes

Michael Caine, in Without a Clue, 1988, with Ben Kingsley as the much smarter Dr. Watson. Making the inversion I said couldn’t work, work. Watson is the real genius but lacks the panache to carry off the stories, so he hires an actor to be Holmes for him. The imbalance can only be made to work as a comedy. An underrated movie, with both Caine and Kingsley demonstrating knacks for physical comedy you wouldn’t necessarily expect.

7. Today’s Television Sherlock Holmeses

Head to head, you’ve got Benedict Comberbatch in Sherlock, and Jonny Lee Miller in Elementary. With Martin Freeman and Lucy Liu as their respective Watsons.

I started off quite enjoying Sherlock. Having Steven Moffat as a producer/writer was an overwhelming plus in my mind, because one of the only characters that outdoes Sherlock Holmes for me is Dr. Who. But both my wife and I agree this series suffers from a major imbalance in weight between Holmes and Watson. We got tired of the way Comberbatch treats Martin Freeman extremely quickly, despite agreeing both actors were doing remarkable acting jobs.

At times the series comes across to me as having too much of Dr. Who. Comberbatch’s Sherlock often seems like a detached alien being from the rest of the human race, but here, that doesn’t necessarily work. Ultimately Holmes annoyed both my wife and me too much for us to continue watching the show. We saw the first six episodes before quitting.

Then we have Jonny Lee Miller, who I would give the award to for performing the best fully realized character who is Sherlock Holmes-like. I don’t fully see him as Sherlock Holmes, despite the name. But I do see him as a complete individual who is worth watching in his own right, with Sherlockian overtones. Likewise for Lucy Liu. And I find the balance of weight between these two characters pretty much perfect.

And thinking of Lucy Liu as Watson made me wonder why there's never been a female Sherlock Holmes -- and then I remembered there was! Shot right here in Winnipeg! A kids TV series running from 1996 to 1999, The Adventures of Shirley Holmes! Don't know how I forgot, we taped all the episodes and mailed them on VHS to a niece of our own living in Saskatchewan in a town that didn't get the station. The series starred Meredith Henderson as Shirley, Sherlock's great grand-niece, solving crimes in modern times with the help of an unlikely Watson, John White playing Bo Sawchuk, an ex-gang member.

But another surprising favourite on the Canadian small screen is Andrew Gower’s performance on the Murdoch Mysteries series as David Kingsley, a boy who was traumatized so badly in his youth he retreated into the fantasy of becoming Sherlock Holmes, who is entirely only a literary character in this series. But Gower’s Holmes is a very solid version of the icon. I didn’t expect to enjoy him, but I did. His character has appeared in the series twice so far. Arthur Conan Doyle as a character in the show has also been known to drop by Murdoch’s turn of the 20th Century Toronto as well. After all, it's a tenet of the show that Murdoch has to meet anyone who was anyone between 1890 to 1910.

8. The three runner up Holmeses

In fourth place, Peter Cushing from 1959’s Hound of the Baskervilles, with Andre Morell as Watson; in third, Christopher Plummer from 1979’s Murder by Decree, with James Mason as Watson; and in second and first-runner up — Basil Rathbone in a number of movies from 1939 on, with Nigel Bruce as Watson.

Cushing brought a debonair flair to the role, and Christopher Plummer’s thoughtful performance in what is probably my favourite Holmes movie of all time ranks him high. Combining Holmes and Jack the Ripper certainly wasn’t a mistake. And I have to say James Mason is my favourite Watson of all time.

In that movie. The TV adaptation the same duo did of "Silver Blaze" falls pretty flat.

But closest to the top is the always iconic Basil Rathbone. His characterization is superb. It’s the quality of the stories told in these films that lets you down. And Nigel Bruce playing Watson pretty much straight for bumbling humour also holds back what might have been the most stellar portrayals of all time.

9. So the Winner, and still Champeen!

Jeremy Brett. Anyone who has seen him in the role needs no further explanation. Ably aided by David Burke and Edward Hardwicke as his two Watsons, both right up there behind James Mason for me, with Hardwicke just edging Burke out for second place in the Doctor race.

Jeremy Brett was the actor who made you believe he was Sherlock Holmes.

What I can’t believe is that he also played Freddy Eynsford-Hill in 1964’s My Fair Lady. Jeremy Brett? Sherlock Holmes singing "On the Street Where You Live"?

Now there was an actor.



Continuing the Grand Tradition!

Local writer Cathy MacDonald debuts her first mystery novel
Put on the Armour of Light
from Dundurn Press, at McNally Robinson Bookstore in Winnipeg
on November 30, 2014,  1 pm in the Travel Alcove
(not 2 in the Atrium as originally posted.)

For more information on Cathy and her sleuth Charles Lauchlan,
check out her website at:

and blog at:



This week:

Continuing The Twitchy Gal with Chapter Twenty-Five posted on Monday and Chapter Twenty-Six coming on Friday, November 7th at:

“Whatever saves my butt at the end of the day is James Joyce to me!” Reflection by Lou Moon on the Retreat being rescued from destruction by UFO crash with moments to spare by an unlikely literary device.