Peter Blau enjoys cocktail hour with
Red Circle members
Cards introducing our website greeted members at their dinner places
Mary Burke and Nancy Feldman share a laugh over dinner
Dana Richards (above) pays tribute to
Martin Gardner (below)
The Red Circle of Washington, DC gathered at the National Press Club on Friday evening, December 10, 2010.
After a lively cocktail hour and a pleasant dinner, Peter Blau introduced The Red Circle's first webmaster, Alan Rettig. Alan presented the Red Circle's brand new website to the members, and clicked through some of its highlights. The site was developed in the time since Peter asked for volunteers at the September meeting. In addition to Alan, great thanks are due Bob Howard, who volunteered to handle the "back office" issues like server space, content management systems and the mysteries of html code.
Alan asked members to help spread the word about the site to both their Sherlockian and "pre-Sherlockian" friends. He pointed out that sometimes a website referral from a friend can spark an interest in those who aren't already fans. Alan also mentioned that the beta test version of the site had been shared with some of the foremost proprietors of other Sherlockian sites, who were universally enthusiastic about the effort and who provided valuable insights and suggestions. Many of them graciously offered to put a link to our Red Circle site on their own pages. In addition, postcards like the one distributed at our meeting--and reproduced opposite--have been provided for the "goodie packets" at the upcoming birthday celebration dinners in New York, getting the word out to the more than 300 dedicated Sherlockians who will attend.
We intend to continually post fresh news and features on our site, and Alan said he hopes our members and friends will check back often for updates to Black Peter's Logbook and the other enjoyable items on our pages. Finally, Alan invited one and all to contribute to the site with monographs, Sherlockian trip reports and other relevant writings and photos.
Martin Gardner was a prolific writer who died this past May. Although he may be best known for writings on popular science and mathmatics, his 75 books covered a multitude of subjects. The Red Circle's Dana Richards was a friend of Gardner's, and is currently looking carefully into his life and letters, with an eye toward a biography. Peter turned the meeting over to Dana for some insights into Gardner's connections to Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, and noted Sherlockian John Bennett Shaw.
Dana pointed out that Martin Gardner's books tackled many subjects, from philosophy to Oziana, from mathematics to Chesterton, from pseudoscience to poetry, from magic to religion. And, of course he wrote about Sherlock Holmes.
When Gardner attended Tulsa Central high school, John Bennett Shaw was at a nearby parochial school. They became fast friends, and in 1937, during a summer of directed reading together, Gardner brought Conan Doyle to the table and Shaw brought Chesterton. Among their readings that summer was Vincent Starrett's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.
In 1960 Gardner released his best-selling book, The Annotated Alice, published by Clarkson Potter. Gardner knew W. S. Baring-Gould and introduced him to Potter, and in 1962 Baring-Gould and his wife published The Annotated Mother Goose. Of course, Sherlockians know that Baring-Gould went on to do The Annotated Sherlock Holmes for Potter in 1967.
Gardner was tireless in his efforts to debunk pseudoscience. His interest in the fringes of science started when he picked up most of Conan Doyle's spiritualism books in Chicago in the 1930s. In 1975 Gardner published "The Irrelevance of Conan Doyle" in a Michael Harrison anthology. This article combined an attack on Doyle's extreme credulity with a whimsical bit of Higher Criticism.
Red Circle members were fascinated by Dana's string of connections between Martin Gardner and things Sherlockian, and all look forward to his further investigations into the work of this versatile thinker and author.
The next meeting of the Red Circle will be held on March 11, 2011.