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Lateral Thoughts on Life.

The Purloined Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes is one of the world’s most loved fictional characters. He has launched several copy cats and spawned a million imitators. Everything from t-shirts, to movies, to comic books, to books (of all genres) and even museums, have used him as an inspiration.

In fact two of TVs most popular characters today, George House and Adrian Monk, both owe a debt of gratitude to the highly rational and eccentric detective. House actually lives at an address referencing the 221B of Baker Street.

The huge popularity of Holmes and ( his loyal “Boswell” ) Watson, has perhaps over shadowed a previous character that was just as important. Who did Holmes and his creator “borrow” from ?

I  speak of Dupin, a character created by Edgar Allan Poe, in fact Dupin’s adventures began the whole detective genre before the word “detective” even existed. Like Holmes, Dupin had a male friend who narrated all his tales and he relied on logical deduction to perform amazing feats like reading people’s minds and of course solving crimes that the ever bumbling police forces could barely comprehend.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, inventor of Sherlock Holmes, realized his debt to Poe by making reference to Dupin in “The Study in Scarlet”, Holmes very first published adventure.

Watson mentions Dupin in passing and Holmes says that Dupin is a rather “inferior fellow” to himself. Doyle later said, “Each [of Poe’s detective stories] is a root from which a whole literature has developed… Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?”

Detective C. Auguste Dupin first appears, in the first detective story ever,”The
Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841). He reappears in “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” (1842) and then in “The Purloined Letter” (1844).

“The Purloined Letter’ by Poe is definitely one of my favorite stories of all time. In this short story Dupin saves the day by being able to understand the mind of his opponent. His opponent is quite formidable, being that rare type of individual who has mastered both Art and Science,  or as Dupin puts it, he’s both “mathematician and poet”.

Also this fearsome opponent is without scruples and honor.

Sherlock Holmes had fearsome opponents also, none moreso than the Evil genius Moriarty.


In fact at one time Moriarty, whom Holmes termed “the Napoleon of Crime”, was feared to have killed Holmes by causing him to fall over the Reichenbach Falls.

Sherlock was able to survive only because he knew a martial art, called Baritsu, in the books. Bartitsu was an actual martial art of the time, developed by Edward William Barton-Wright, and perhaps this was what Doyle was referring to. Bartitsu in fact was like Jeet Kune Do, an eclectic
fighting art which had practical techniques to win at any likely fighting range.

Wikipedia notes, “As detailed in a series of articles Barton-Wright produced for Pearson’s Magazine between 1899 and 1901, Bartitsu was largely drawn from the Shinden Fudo school of koryū (“classical”) jujutsu and from Kodokan judo, both of which he had studied while resident in Japan. As it became established in London, the art expanded to incorporate combat techniques from the Tenjin Shinyō, Fusen and Daito schools of jujutsu as well as British boxing, Swiss Schwingen, French savate, and a defensive la canne (stick fighting) style that had been developed by Pierre Vigny of Switzerland. Bartitsu also included a comprehensive physical culture training system.”

Such details, which Conan Doyle added constantly to the Holmes stories, made the character very life-like and he had many weaknesses too.

For instance although his mind was an efficient computer he was very messy in his personal habits and he is often characterized as Bohemian. Sherlock Holmes also had a Cocaine and possibly a Morphine addiction.

The recently released version of Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jnr. even speculates that Holmes may have had Bipolar disorder. Although many fans will not like this portrayal,  in Holmes first appearance in “Study in Scarlet”, his biographer Watson says ;

Nothing could exceed his energy when the working fit was upon him; but now and again a  reaction would seize him, and for days on end he would lie upon the sofa in the  sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or moving a muscle from morning to night.
This description gives some credence to the possibility.

Another source of inspiration for Sherlock Holmes and perhaps the reason that Watson is a Doctor of Medicine is Dr. Joseph Bell.Bell, who once employed Doyle as a clerk, emphasized the importance of close observation in making a diagnosis. To illustrate this, he would often pick a stranger and, by observing him, deduce his occupation and recent activities. These skills caused him to be considered a pioneer in forensic science (forensic pathology in particular) when science was not often used in the investigations of crimes.

This apparently “psychic” ability, in reality based on keen observation and logical reasoning and sometimes elements of Forensics, was also common in the adventures of both Sherlock and Dupin.

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December 27, 2009 Posted by | blog, current news, fiction, Lateral Thinking, non fiction, Psychology, writing | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Gift of the Magi, written by O. Henry.

THE GIFT OF THE MAGI

by O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony  that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”

The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling–something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: “Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the “Sofronie.”

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation–as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value–the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends–a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do–oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?”

At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: “Please God, make him think I am still pretty.”

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two–and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

“Jim, darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again–you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!’ Jim, and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice– what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.”

“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

“Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?”

Jim looked about the room curiously.

“You say your hair is gone?” he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you–sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with sudden serious sweetness, “but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?”

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year–what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs–the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims–just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

“Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.”

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

“Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

December 24, 2009 Posted by | fiction, humor, writing | , , , | Leave a comment

Tiger’s Wood and 18 Holes.

There’s nothing funny about Domestic Violence but I do think that the comedians, like those on Saturday Night Live and Wanda Sykes, got the recent Tiger Woods story more accurately than the News channels did.

It seems more plausible to me that Tiger was being whopped by his wife and running for his life than the news reports that said that he just crashed and was rescued by his wife who smashed his rear window with a golf club to take him out of the car.

We’ll probably never know the full story but someone was discussing the whole incident with me and she made an interesting comment.

She said that the amount of women Tiger has shows that he has some kind of mental problem and that it would have been better if he had had one serious woman on the side. Her comment totally surprised me but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why at the time. It sounded logical enough, less affairs means less betrayal right ?

Later that week on Facebook another lady I know wrote an interesting blog about Emotional Betrayal and how much it hurts yadda, yadda, yadda. I remember thinking to myself that no man would ever have wrote about Emotional Betrayal without mentioning Sexual Betrayal first. Suddenly I realized what I found jarring about my other good friend’s comments.

I realized that the average man is more affected by Sexual Betrayal than Emotional Betrayal. Women are exactly the opposite usually.

Basically it’s another one of the many areas in which men and women differ.

Should the toilet seat be left up or down ?

We all agree that you should not cheat.

However I think men are more worried about the Sexual aspect of cheating than the Emotional.

If you are in a marraige or long term relationship would you prefer that your partner is suddenly discovered to be cheating on you with several people, none of whom have a deep emotional attachment with them, or would you prefer to discover that they are having a long-term deeply emotional affair with one person ?

The interesting thing is I believe most Women will answer this question differently from most Men.

Most men would prefer to hear that there’s only one other man, or “Joe Grind”, since that means less sexual betrayal. Most women would
prefer to face less emotional betrayal, as many “floozy” type affairs would suggest, than to hear that there’s another woman who their guy might actually love.

We all agree that cheating is bad and of course the Emotional and Sexual Betrayals can overlap or transform from one to the other but where there is a distinction I definitely think that men and women are going to react differently.

So in conclusion I’d like to make a startling and original announcement ;

Men are  from Mars and Women are from Venus.

Bet y’all didn’t know that !

December 8, 2009 Posted by | blog, current news, humor, non fiction, Psychology, writing | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Secret to Success by Jim Rohn.

This article is by Jim Rohn and published here in memory of him. He passed away Dec 5, 2009.

Do you want to achieve your most important goals? In my opinion it gets down to two simple words, “easy” and “neglect”. People often ask me how I became successful at the early age of 31, while many of the people I knew did not. The answer is simple: During that 6-year period of time (age 25 to 31), the things I found to be easy to do, they found to be easy not to do. I found it easy to set the goals that could change my life. They found it easy not to. I found it easy to read the books that could affect my thinking and my ideas. They found that easy not to. I found it easy to attend the classes and the seminars, and to get around other successful people. They said it probably really wouldn’t matter. If I had to sum it up, I would say what I found to be easy to do, they found to be easy not to do. Six years later, I’m a millionaire and they are all still blaming the economy, the government, and company policies, yet they neglected to do the basic, easy things.In fact, the primary reason most people are not doing as well as they could and should, can be summed up in a single word: neglect.

It is not the lack of money – banks are full of money. It is not the lack of opportunity – America, and much of the free World, continues to offer the most unprecedented and abundant opportunities in the last six thousand years of recorded history. It is not the lack of books – libraries are full of books – and they are free! It is not the schools – the classrooms are full of good teachers. We have plenty of ministers, leaders, counselors and advisors.

Everything we would ever need to become rich and powerful and sophisticated is within our reach. The major reason that so few take advantage of all that we have is simply neglect.

Neglect is like an infection. Left unchecked it will spread throughout our entire system of disciplines and eventually lead to a complete breakdown of a potentially joy-filled and prosperous human life.

Not doing the things we know we should do causes us to feel guilty and guilt leads to an erosion of self-confidence. As our self-confidence diminishes, so does the level of our activity. And as our activity diminishes, our results inevitably decline. And as our results suffer, our attitude begins to weaken. And as our attitude begins the slow shift from positive to negative, our self-confidence diminishes even more… and on and on it goes.

So my suggestion is that when giving the choice of “easy to” and “easy not to” that you do not neglect to do the simple, basic, “easy”; but potentially life-changing activities and disciplines.

To Your Success,
Jim Rohn


Credit Statement to be included in Reprints:

This article was submitted by Jim Rohn, America’s Foremost Business Philosopher. To subscribe to the Free Jim Rohn Weekly E-zine go to www.jimrohn.com Copyright © Jim Rohn International. All rights reserved worldwide.


December 6, 2009 Posted by | current news, Lateral Thinking, non fiction, Psychology, Strategy, success | , | 2 Comments