Saturday, February 22, 2020

Scholastic book cover: "The Ghost Rock Mystery"


  • Title: The Ghost Rock Mystery
  • Author: Mary C. Jane (1909-1991)
  • About the author: I included her biographical information in this 2014 post about Mystery by Moonlight. One of the author's relatives wrote to Papergreat in 2017, which I included in this 2017 post. And, on Goodreads, check out one person's wonderful tale of actually meeting Mary C. Jane.
  • Cover illustrator: Gerald McCann (1916-1995)
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services (TX 334)
  • Cover price: 35 cents
  • Year: First printing, August 1962 (first published in 1956)
  • Pages: 122
  • Format: Paperback
  • Provenance/destination: Much like the last book I featured, I'm fairly certain I picked this up at a used book sale. After this post is finished, it will be donated to a Little Free Library or book sale.
  • Excerpt from back cover: "If Janice and Tommy are to help Aunt Annabelle, they must prove that Mountain View House is not really haunted. And there is no time to lose."
  • Some chapter titles: "Trouble for the Border Patrol," "But Not After Midnight!" and "The Pride of the Border Patrol"
  • Dedication: "To my favorite Vermonters Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Jessie Wheeler Freeman"
  • First sentence: "When Janice saw the pink envelope in the mailbox her heart leaped joyfully."
  • Last sentence: [Omitted because it's a spoiler.]
  • Random sentence from the middle: "They ate their gingerbread and cream in a silence that was disturbed only by the swish of the rain against the windows."
  • Rating on Goodreads: 4.02 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt #1: In 2017, Tania wrote: "There are a few topics that might be considered hot button issues today, such as illegal border crossings, but I felt they were handled in a way that children would understand both then and now."
  • Goodreads review excerpt #2: In 2012, Holly wrote: "I just want to make mention of how much this book confused me as a child with the description of aliens. I didn't understand this meant people illegally in a country. I was imagining them carrying little green men across the countryside on horses, which was completely out of sync with the rest of the story."
  • Unrelated personal recommendation of modern novel about border crossings: Signs Preceding the End of the World, by Yuri Herrera (translated by Lisa Dillman)
  • Rating on Amazon: 4.8 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review: In 2014, GJ wrote: "I first read this book as a child in the early 70s. I would love to curl up with it in my bed on a stormy night, and usually stayed up all night until I finished reading the entire book. Having long since lost my copy, I was delighted to find it again on Amazon. Reading it again brought back wonderful memories. I still love this little book, and highly recommend it to children."
  • And a great link: For a deep dive into Mary C. Jane and a look at some wonderful book covers, check out this 2005 post by Shawn Purcell on The Journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Keys to surviving nuclear war: Caves, laxatives and tobacco

When I wrote about the Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices two years ago, discussing an, ahem, interesting "spaghetti" recipe, I noted that a writer in The New York Times had once called the book "one of the greatest oddball masterpieces in this or any other language."

Oddball might have been an understatement.

The Herters, George and Berthe, had a lot of opinions. Most of them were about food and recipes. But they also chimed in on whatever they felt was right and wrong with the world in the 1960s. And, like many folks living in the midst of the Cold War, they had themselves some notions about what to do in the event of nuclear war. Of course, everyone thought about that topic to some extent. Many even had plans, perhaps. But the Herters had thought about it a lot. And they published those thoughts in the book, in the form of telling readers what they believed was the best approach to Surviving the Nuclear Apocalypse.

It is, in fact, one possible approach.

Here are some excerpts from the unforgettable two pages that conclude their book:

  • "In reading some of the official rot put out about survival in case of a bombing attack it shows that people putting it out have no first hand knowledge of what they are talking about. I am just going to take the time to say a few words about it here as if an attack comes I do not want my friends dying needlessly. I have been through bombings and have talked to people all over Europe who have been bombed out and what I say here are the true facts of the matter not political dribble."
  • "The would-be authorities tell you to go into your basement and put up a wood lean-to against one wall and get under it. This is the surest way to get killed in a bombing attack and is the thing you must not do."
  • "Get in any kind of cave, ditch or valley as far away from buildings as you can and lie on the ground face down. If at all possible get in a cave."
  • "If the weather is cold all canned goods will freeze and spoil."
  • "If the weather is cold have a reserve of lots of blankets."
  • "Have a reserve of food consisting of dried beans, dried peas, dried potatoes, dried milk, bacon, canned shortening, sugar, peanut butter, powdered coffee, and tea, chocolate, salt, pepper, macaroni, flour and baking powder."
  • "Have at least 1,000 matches in a waterproof container. In World War II matches in some countries were $25.00 a box on the black market when available."
  • "Have a small .22 caliber rifle and at least 1,000 rounds of ammunition. It will kill small game and birds and can be used to protect your home."
  • "Have a pint of iodine, a year's supply of laxative and 100 bufferin tablets. If you live in an area where biting flies and mosquitos abound have a year's supply of bug dope and ten yards of a bug net."
  • "Have 5 one pound cans of tobacco. This is your fortune. If there is any food or material available that you need, the tobacco will get it for you when money will not."
  • "When you get away from buildings stay in a cave for 3 days to avoid radiation fall out."

I'm not sure where to start. Obviously, basing nuclear war survival plans on World War II air-raid survival tactics is folly. There wouldn't be a black market. No one would care about money. It is unlikely anyone would trade food for tobacco. And I'm not sure how long that carefully stashed bacon is supposed to last.

Of course, whether you're on the Herter Plan or the one once provided by the State of Delaware, the likelihood of long-term survival in a nuclear winter is not good. So maybe sitting in a cave with some chocolate and laxatives is as good a way to go as any.

I'll close with some excerpts from Goodreads reader reviews of Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices:

  • "This is possibly the most incoherent, bizarre, misinformed, misanthropic, and unintentionally hilarious cookbook ever written . . . insofar as it can be called a cookbook at all."
  • "Whether you want the Virgin Mary’s favorite spinach recipe or how to prepare for a cobalt bomb, Herter covers it."
  • "Half of this book is utter bulls--t. The other half is useful tips that made my cooking better. ... I actually found many of his ideas had some merit and tried them, finding some surprisingly good outcomes."
  • "One of my favorite things about Herter's books is that so many of them feature pictures of toddlers holding shotguns posing by dead animals."

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Why didn't MegaForce
win all of the Oscars?


This advertisement for MegaForce appears on the back cover of the September 1982 issue of the comic book "Marvel Two-in-One."1

What the heckfire was MegaForce?

Seriously. I was smack-dab in the target market when this movie came out — 11½ years old in the summer of 1982, but I had never heard of it until stumbling upon it in 2020. When I saw this advertisement, I was sure that was Chuck Norris. Or perhaps a time-traveling Bryce Harper. Nope. It was Barry Bostwick (!!), the old guy from that 1990s sitcom Spin City.

Yep, Barry Bostwick starred in an epic action movie from the summer of 1982 and, folks, it was an epic failure.

In fact, its level of failure was so immense, you might have figured that I would have heard about it for that reason. Nope. It wasn't even good at being a failure. In his review for The Washington Post, Gary Arnold wrote: "It's difficult for Bostwick to impose a plausible semblance of battle-ready authority when he's expected to strike commanding poses in form-fitting gold or silver jumpsuits with his fluffy coiffure tied off by a baby-blue scarf." Ouch.2

In addition to being a MegaBlunder, MegaForce also had incredibly bad timing. It came out during the fabled Movie Summer of 1982, finding itself competing for attention with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Poltergeist and Tron (all of which I did see in theaters that summer) and also Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Conan the Barbarian and Rocky III.

I should also point out that Barry Bostwick's character's name was "Ace Hunter," and there were other characters named Dallas, Zara, Professor Eggstrum and Sixkiller. (After MegaForce bombed, it's kind of amazing that The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, which was not dissimilar, was released two summers later. It also bombed. But that fact that Buckaroo was clearly in on its own joke has given it a lasting spot as a cult movie. No such luck for MegaForce.)

This advertisement at least tried to stir up some interest in MegaForce with the target audience. It offered, for just $1, an official MegaForce membership kit, which included a patch, a membership card and a reflective bike decal. I guess kids were on their own if they wanted Ace's iconic headband. The ad copy states:
"JOIN TODAY. Saving the world for freedom is a full-time job. So if you think you're hot we'll give you a shot. Blast your way into history. Join the fighting men of MegaForce today."
The fighting men...

MegaForce seemed to have a bit of a misogyny problem, on top of everything else.

According to Wikipedia, Bostwick did everything he could to sell the movie. "You know what's good about this film?" he said. "It's plausible. We need an international force like this to keep the peace. I wouldn't mind betting that one day there's a real MegaForce operating somewhere in the world."

Or maybe even somewhere out of this world...


Speaking of movies...

Adding to the list of films I shared the past two months (1, 2), here's what I watched in January:
  • Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)
  • The Last Man on Earth (Ubaldo Ragona & Sidney Salkow, 1964)3
  • La Pointe Courte (Agn├Ęs Varda, 1955)
  • Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)

Footnotes
1. Here's a whole series of posts about groovy stuff inside an old issue of "Marvel Two-in-One":
2. Arnold, who retired in late 2005 after 36 reviewing films for The Washington Post and The Washington Times, among other gigs, also included this line in his MegaForce review: "Barry Bostwick is obliged to cut the silliest martial capers since Captain America retired his tights and cape." I suspect a lot of critics who had to watch silly superhero flicks in late 20th century never saw the Marvel Cinematic Universe coming.
3. This is one of my and Ashar's favorite films, so we watched it again. We find something new each time. And we have a lot of questions.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Acme Motor Car Company advertisement


This is a circa 1909 advertisement for cars produced by The Acme Motor Car Company of Reading, Pennsylvania. The company was in business from 1903 to 1911, so this was getting toward the end of its run. According to Wikipedia, some of Acme's production infrastructure survived with SGV and then Phianna for about a decade after its 1911 demise.

Acme, vying for its continuing existence in a burgeoning but competitive market, touted itself as "a Real Motor Car for discriminating automobilists" in this advertisement, adding that "Every car made by this Company is still running in the hands of its owners."

The cars touted, along with a "perpetual guarantee," were:

  • The Acme "Sextuplet": Price of $4,500, or about $129,668 today
  • The Fairmount "Sextuplet": Price of $4,500
  • The Standard "Quad": Price of $3,750, or about $108,056 today

This was about a year after Ford brought affordability into the American car market with the $850 Model T, which was the equivalent of about $24,500 today. So you can see where higher-priced automakers like Acme were on the way to the dustbin of history.