Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The greatest book you've never read!

Forget those AWFUL, PUTRID Steve Martin movies! They are zero, nothing, nada like the original book!

What book? Cheaper by the Dozen, by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. (Illustrations on the first printing, which I show here, were done by Donald McKay.) (That's right; I stole my parents' copy of the book and kept it for myself!)

The Steve Martin movies showed an inept father of 12 whose lesson to be learned in the first movie (I haven't had the stomach to watch all of the second one) was this: Children are king. Whatever they want, the parent should provide, no matter what the dreams the parent has to give up to achieve that.*

Phooey! Frank Gilbreth would have had a fit!

Frank and Lilian Gilbreth were industrial engineers, the first to do motion studies of various professions. (Look 'em up on Wiki for some fascinating facts.) Their firm operated from 1910 until 1924, when Frank died. After that, Lillian, who was also a psychologist, took over the business. But this book isn't about the business, it's about their family. As the dedication reads:

who only reared twelve children
who reared twelve only children

Can a man shave faster by using two razors? Yes, but he loses time
in administering first aid to himself afterward.

Frank, who was crazy about kids, wanted to see if the improvements he'd made in industrial efficiency could work in a familial setting. (He also knew he had health problems and wanted to make sure the family would survive well without him.) So from the birth of his first child, Anne, he began experimenting.

He asserted that baby monkeys could function at advanced levels compared to human babies, and tried to get Anne to, for example, learn to swim while she was still an infant. Oh well, that didn't work, but other things did.

The family grew, gaining 12 kids in 17 years. (Poor Lillie!)** The Gilbreths instituted family councils, sealed bids for household jobs the kids could do in addition to their regular chores, and such things as learning from language records during "unavoidable delay" (using the bathroom).

Gilbreth painted Morse code on the walls and bedroom ceilings of the family's vacation house, and the kids used their silverware at dinner to tap out messages—and receive rewards—during dinner. CAREless CHILDren: dash dot dash dot = C. I'll always remember that.

The children buried coffins of pencils for advertising newsreels, helped develop the touch typing system (aided by sharp taps of a ruler to their heads when they made mistakes), and they lived in fear of a younger sibling skipping a grade to land in their class.

If one got sick, they all did, and set New Jersey health reports suddenly skyrocketing. There's one section that deals with the kids' tonsils coming out. For some time Frank had been wanting to capture multiple identical operations on film so he could teach doctors how to operate quicker. Now all but one of his kids needed tonsillectomies. Perfect! He decided to have the operations done at home while a cameraman filmed everything.

I'll let you discover what happened along the way.

Anne wasn't keen on wearing long underwear, so she
got a job and bought her own clothing.
The Jazz Age arrived just in time for the older kids, three girls, to be in high school and dating. Bobbed hair, nylons, short skirts, stripped-down Model T's, and greasy-haired collegiate sheiks made Frank Gilbreth's blood pressure skyrocket. Still, he and his wife managed to muddle through and even enjoy the process—a little—along the way.

The ending is sad, but the rest of the book is great fun. There's a sequel, Belles on Their Toes, that I read ages ago and recall that it seemed a bit repetitive. It did mention that Mary, the second child, had died at age five of diphtheria. At Lillian's Wiki page, I discovered that there was also a stillborn baby girl in the Dozen (which was always referred to that way, though after Mary died there were only 11). The eleven Gilbreths who survived childhood ALL graduated college (imagine!) and lived long lifetimes, like their mother. You can read more about the family at this website or here.

Because Amazon is offering the book at only $1.99, I bought it just because, and discovered that Ernestine had written an introduction to the book (which maddeningly listed the questions people most often asked her, without giving any answers), and that there are photos at the end of the book showing the family back then and as time went by. The 1923 photo includes them all, and sure enough, all the girls have bobbed hair. There's another picture from the 80s with Frank Jr. and three brothers, but the brothers aren't named, darn it. The 1920 picture of Frank Sr. and Lillian doesn't show Frank as being nearly as large as the book paints him. Don't know if he was having a good year or if the book was just using literary license. (This could have been the point at which he began slimming down on doctor's orders.)

The main point to take in is this: you'll enjoy this book enormously! In addition to being a memorable family comedy, it also shows the transition society made moving into the Twentieth Century and celebrates that rarity of the time: a professional, educated woman. If you haven't seen the 1950 movie with Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy, save it until after you read the book. There was also a 1952 movie, Belles on Their Toes. Audible has an audiobook of Cheaper, and the sample sounds pretty good.

*It also showed that you can dream up a book, write it, get it published, and become a best-selling author within the space of something like 3 months. Riiiiight.
**Make that 13 kids in 17 years, counting the still-birth daughter. Lillie also birthed all those kids at home, except for the last one, Jane, whom she had at a hospital. Lillie came home wondering why she hadn't done that before, because it had been such a pleasant experience.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

No new blog this week...

…Because I'm sick. Currently I'm more interested in the fact that I just picked up two boxes of lotioned Kleenex and a bottle of Dayquil.

The only good thing about all this is that I'm catching up on Maverick and Deep Space Nine—both first seasons. Good stuff! (Though so far Maverick's plots have revolved around a "mistaken identity" theme.)

Stay healthy out there!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The apple doesn't fall far...

This morning for some perverse reason I was watching The Roy Rogers Show during breakfast. Well, that and the news and QVC in little blips as I surfed. I noticed that Roy had a male sidekick named Pat, a man with a rubber face who made all kinds of OTT expressions and generally played Barney Fife to Roy's Andy Taylor. Pat was dumb as dirt.

But in this morning's half-hour episode, poor Pat got hit on the head. A lot. I counted at least three times that he was hit so hard he went unconscious. The bad guys on the episode miraculously missed being shot (of course none of the good guys were), even though everyone had unlimited ammunition. Well, except at one point Bad Guy #1 ran out of bullets, Roy jumped him, they had a fist-fight, and the next thing you know, Roy's grabbing BG#1's hand, in which BG is holding that empty gun, and the gun fires into the air.

As Bats-Man (from Mad Magazine) once so wisely noted, "TV writers have no logic!"

But the bad guys also got hit on the head, several times, to the point they were rendered unconscious. I figure that because poor Pat got hit so hard on the head so often was the reason why he was so slow of wit. Keep that in mind…

A couple months ago one of the Legion of Super-Heroes groups on Facebook was talking about Superboy #197, Sept. 1973, the one where the cover has Saturn Girl's gawd-awful bikini miscolored, and where cover artist Nick Cardy used an old reference, which is why cutey Element Lad is wearing a Legion flight belt from the Legion's earliest days.

This was still early, around the seventh or so issue, of the beautiful Dave Cockrum run of the Legion. Each story unveiled new costumes for the Legionnaires. Dave had previewed four of the costumes in The Legion Outpost, the Legion Fan Club's fanzine that I dutifully subscribed to, and I was excited to open up each new issue (if it had a Legion story) to see what other costumes would be showing up. I was mad about costumes! Still am.

(By the time this issue came out I had been notified that Dave was using my suggestion of a new look for Light Lass. He'd already designed one but had forgotten that she and Lightning Lad [for whom Dave had designed one of the all-time spiffiest comic book costumes EVER!!!] were twins. Mine matched the new LLad costume, which was no coincidence as I had dashed off a new design as soon as I'd received the Outpost with the new-look Lighting Lad on the cover, and sent it off to DC. Ayla's new threads premiered in Superboy #202.)

ANYWAYZ, that's not what we're here to talk about. Scripts for both stories in this ish were by Cary Bates. The first story was "Timber Wolf: Dead Hero, Live Executioner!" But we aren't concerned here with ol' Brin Londo, he of the Wolverine 'do.

We are merely concerned with page two. (You should be able to click on these for a larger view.)

Spring is in the air; in fact it is April as Lana Lang and her next-door neighbor, Clark Kent, lounge under an apple tree. Tra la! How could anyone have problems with this?

Well, first it's April. Those are ripe apples overhead. I believe the earliest apples in the continental US ripen in July.

Secondly, Lana (an intelligent and fashionable young woman) is wearing white. And she's sitting on grass. Grass leaves stains; everyone knows that, especially those of the female persuasion because they're usually the ones who have to launder the family clothing. Lana has not spread out a blanket to protect her lovely white outfit from the grass. This story would be taking place in the late Fifties, extremely early Sixties, since Superboy by this time was lagging 15-20 years behind his stories as Superman. Stain-fighting technology now is not the best, but back then…

Lana expresses normal teenaged curiosity, wanting to learn the first practical steps of romance. She'd like to try a kiss with her friend. For some reason Clark is not so inclined. In fact he's sweating bullets about the thought of kissing gorgeous Lana, the only long-lasting opposite-sex-type interest in his boyhood.

Have the Kents been so puritanical in bringing up Clark? Has Red Kryptonite affected his natural desires and/or curiosity? Has he been questioning his sexuality? Man, it's just a kiss. Perhaps he's afraid that one kiss will unleash years of hot teen lust and he'll have Lana on her back in seconds! Well, he does do that, but not in the way you might imagine.

(Though I doubt Clark would do anything counter to the Comics Code he lives by. He's not like the hero in my Three Worlds series, who at intimate moments is too powerful for his own good, and is completely frustrated by his limitations when it comes to human contact. You can get the first book in that series free if you sign up for my newsletter [on top of the right-hand column here].)

In the midst of all this, Clark's alerted by a signal that means that the Legion of Super-Heroes needs his presence immediately.

Immediately, as in: 1000 years from then.

At this point in DC continuity, the Legion existed in the 30th Century. Clark could wait a couple weeks before heading off to the future. There was never any direct connection exhibited, any kind of time warping that showed that the Legion's future was EXACTLY 1000 years to the moment in the future. After all, Supergirl also visited the Legion, and she was from the present day Superman era as opposed to the Superboy era of the past.

So really, Clark has no reason to react quickly. But he does.
He uses his heat vision to prune off two large, ripe apples…

I'm sorry, but two apples falling on the top of your head are not going to make you black out. Clark had to use his super-breath or something to increase the apples' velocity so as to increase the force when they hit.

And they knocked out Lana. Superboy refers to this as a "nice nap."

I was going to explain this myself, but the website "Explain like I'm five" does it so much better than I could ever do. BiPolah (haw!) says to a questioner who has watched violence in movies, "There's a pretty fine line between knocking [movie characters] out and causing permanent damage, and it's not like they're out for hours so you can stuff them in a cupboard while you go off robbing the place. People that are knocked out from head trauma are usually out for a few seconds, perhaps minutes. Even there could be serious damage or a concussion. If they're out for much longer, you're probably looking at permanent brain damage or death."

mjcapples agrees: "Any time when you experience unconsciousness, it is a life-threatening injury that risks permanent brain damage. The exact ease of causing injury depends on several factors, including the location of the strike, the amount of linear and rotational force, and the duration of the impact. For example, impacts to the side of the head are well documented to cause injury much easier than impacts to the front or back. Also, a linear hit causes different damage than a hit with a rotational aspect, which is linked to breaking the blood vessels that feed your brain.

"As far as a general rule for head injury though, one of the basic formulas for head injury (the Head Injury Criterion), states that a score of 1000 is about a 50% risk of death and a score of 250 being a good indicator for a concussion."

I repeat: It's a "nice nap."
Let me get this straight. In order to respond to an emergency that is not an actual emergency either in terms of time travel or in what Clark finds when he arrives in the 30th Century (read the story), Clark injures his supposed close friend to the point where she likely has sustained a concussion (not a minor injury) and might indeed be lying near death while he departs.
While Lana never went stoopid after this story (she was never as dumb as Lois Lane was often depicted), one has to wonder how she managed to survive, and survive still with brains intact, unlike Roy Rogers' Pat.
We don't see Lana after the main plot has ended. Did she die? Did Superboy replace her with a robot, clone, or parallel-world double? Sure, she showed up in the second story in the book, but she looked decidedly different. (And don't tell me that's just because Bob Brown and Murphy Anderson did the art for that story!)
Threatening Mr. Clark Kent's ideas about his own sexuality does not seem to be a safe thing even for Clark's friends to do. Hm.
What do you think?


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