May 22 – Sherlock Holmes Day

Posted on May 22, 2018

On this date in 1859, a Scottish family of four became a family of five - on its way to becoming a family of eleven! - as little Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born.

When little Arthur grew up, he gifted the world with an icon:

Sherlock Holmes.

This fictional detective is mostly known for his incredible observation skills and amazing deductive powers. Everything else, it seems, is negotiable. Holmes original-flavor lived in London and worked with Scotland Yard, lived during the Victorian or Edwardian Eras, had a male sidekick named Dr. Watson, smoked a pipe, wore a tweed suit complete with a shoulder cape and a deerstalker cap...

But some adaptations show us a different Sherlock. For example, these days we have a British Sherlock living in NYC with a female Dr. Watson, without a trace of a pipe or a deerstalker cap to be seen.

Sherlock Holmes is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most portrayed movie character in history: more than 70 different actors in more than 200 different movies.

The variety of Sherlock portrayals (above)
are not quite as varied as the Dr. Watson portrayals,
thanks to Lucy Liu!

Sherlock also appears in stories, books, plays, radio plays, video games, and TV shows. There are Sherlock museums, societies, deductive games, and events.

A few interesting bits about Sherlock:

  • Even though many of us have heard Sherlock's famous words, "Elementary, my dear Watson," Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes stories never had the detective say those exact words. Holmes sometimes called his deductive solutions to crimes that stumped others "elementary," and he sometimes referred to his friend as "my dear Watson," but the two were never said together. 
    Note that a current TV show about Holmes is called Elementary.

    • Some experts say that modern fandom was begun by the fans of Sherlock Holmes. Not only did tons of people write fan letters to Doyle, many people also wrote to Sherlock Holmes, asking him to find a missing purse or to hire the writer as a housekeeper or something like! I'm sure some people were fully aware that they were writing to a fictional character, but apparently some truly thought that Sherlock Holmes was a real person living in London at 221-B Baker Street.

      (Some letters were actually sent to 221-B Baker Street, even though the numbers didn't actually go up that high on that particular street!)
    • Doyle apparently wasn't as fond of his fictional character as others were. When he killed Sherlock Holmes in a story by having him pushed off a cliff above some waterfalls, British society went into mourning. People dressed in black or wore black armbands. Loads of angry letters were sent to the newspaper that published the Holmes stories. Many people canceled their subscriptions to that newspaper. Tons of letters pleading for a revival were mailed to Doyle himself. I imagine a few were written to 221-B Baker Street.

      After ten long years, Doyle finally gave in, resuscitated Holmes, and wrote a few more Sherlock stories. But in the meantime, tons of OTHER people began to write Sherlock Holmes stories. While Doyle was alive! And probably fuming!

      Today we would call all of this outpouring of additional Sherlock stories "fan fiction." That term hadn't been invented back then, of course, but also that phenomenon had never been seen before. Again, modern fandom was born around Sherlock!
    • When Baker Street in London was renumbered, the Abbey National Building Society occupied number 221. The society got so much mail addressed to Sherlock, a secretary to deal with fan mail was hired.

      Later, a Sherlock Holmes Museum was opened - but not at 221 Baker Street (still the Building Society), but instead at 239 Baker Street. The museum wanted the Royal Mail to deliver any letters addressed to Sherlock to them, but the Building Society fought the idea!

      Finally, the Building Society closed their doors, and the Sherlock Museum was given the number 221, despite the fact that it was still located between 237 and 241...And of course, the museum does now get the Sherlock mail!

    Also on this date:

    May 21 - Naval Glories Day in Chile

    Posted on May 21, 2018

    May 21, 1879. Peru vs. Chile. Battling it out navy-style, in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

    This was the Battle of Iquique, part of the War of the Pacific.

    Basically, Chile had two old wooden warships, and Peru had two more modern "ironclad" ships that were much, much harder to damage with cannonballs and such.

    As you can imagine, Peru won.

    But, you say, why would Chile have a holiday on the anniversary of a lost battle?

    Arturo Prat
    It is because Chile's Commander Arturo Prat was considered so brave and honorable, refusing to surrender, that many young men from Chile joined the navy after he was killed in action.

    Also, Peru's battle leader, Rear Admiral Grau, was also honorable. When the Peruvian ironside sank the Chilean ship, Grau ordered boats to be lowered to the water to rescue "enemy" sailors before they drowned. And he returned all of Prat's possessions to the Chileans and Prat's widow, which was a way of honoring the fallen commander. So Chileans use the holiday as a way of honoring brave and honorable people on all sides of military actions.
    Miguel Grau

    Finally, even though Chile lost that particular battle, the sudden enthusiasm in and enlistments by other Chileans led to victory in the war. 

    Folks in Chile could use the day to celebrate the natural beauties of their Pacific Coast:

    Also on this date:

    May 20 – Happy Birthday, Cher

    Posted on May 20, 2018

    Cher is far from the only celebrity known by one name. Of course, there's Beyonce, Elvis, Prince, Madonna, Pink, Eminem - the list goes on and on!

    But Cher was one of the first only-one-name-needed stars I ever knew, as she burst onto the world stage as one half of the folk-rock act Sonny and Cher, in 1965. 

    But of course, Cher has another name. Actually, quite a lot of other names!

    This singer / actress was born on this date in 1946, in a town in way-way-way-southern Southern California: an Armenian American girl named Cherilyn Sarkisian. At one point she was adopted by one of her step-fathers, becoming Cheryl LaPiere. She has recorded under names as varied as Bonnie Jo Mason and Cleo (part of Caesar and Cleo). 

    High school yearbook
    photo -

    hard to believe she felt
    unattractive, isn't it?
    In high school, Cher felt unattractive and untalented. She wanted to be famous, but she wasn't sure how that would happen. She was a bit disheartened that there weren't dark-haired Hollywood stars (at the time) - it's always easier to imagine succeeding in a field or a place if someone that looks a bit like you is already succeeding there. 

    She's gorgeous - but she does not look
    particularly ordinary. Sometimes it's hard
    to feel beautiful when you look different!

    Cher began to work for a performer named Sonny Bono; he later became her friend, her performing partner, and her husband. (She became Cher Bono at that point.) I did not realize that Sonny wanted to launch Cher as a solo artist, but Cher was too nervous with stage fright and wanted him out on stage with her rather than behind the scenes. Cher was able to calm her nerves by looking at Sonny, and she later said that she sang to the audience through him.

    Sonny and Cher outside of the Hilton.
    Members of the mega-huge rock band the Rolling Stones advised Sonny and Cher to go to England, and when the two did so in 1965, they were thrown out of the London Hilton because of their outfits (what???) and instantly became material for photographers and reporters and - literally overnight - fans. Sonny and Cher were wearing clothes that were not at that time known or popular, but bell bottoms, striped pants, ruffled shirts, and fur vests became enormous hits in England - and soon in America as well. Some girls even ironed their hair straight and dyed their hair black to look like Cher!

    The song "I Got You, Babe" also became a huge hit in England, and later the U.S.

    Cher became confident enough to launch her solo career in 1966, and both Sonny-and-Cher and Cher-only projects went forward full-steam ahead until the couple divorced in 1975.

    Here are just a few of Cher's accomplishments:

    • With Sonny, being the "it" couple in rock.
    • With Sonny, selling over 40 million records.
    • TV variety show The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour - 3 years.
    • Solo, more than 30 charted songs, including four #1 hits.
    • Reaching the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in FOUR different decades - the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
    • TV variety show Cher - 2 years.
    • Acting on Broadway.
    • Critical acclaim and commercial success as a movie actress.
    • Academy Award for Best Actress (Moonstruck).
    • Speaking of awards: 1 Grammy, 1 Emmy, 3 Golden Globes, 1 Cannes Film Festival Award, and a special CFDA Fashion Award!
    • Altogether, selling more than 100 million records worldwide - one of the best selling artists in history.
    • The only artist to date to have a #1 single on a Billboard chart in every decade Billboard has been charting records.
    • Wow!
    According to Wikipedia, one of Cher's names is Cherilyn Sarkisian La Piere Bono Allman. Phew-y!

    Also, Cher was known early for her unusual clothes - clothes that set trends. Well...the trend of her being a trend-setter AND the trend of her being known for unusual outfits has continued her whole life!