#168: Famous Relativity 3

168.1  The first 2 installments of “Famous Relativity”…here and here…have been among the most popular of my blogs…and this third go-around proved of special benefit to yours truly. Over the past several years, I have accumulated a huge number of bits and pieces, supposedly “organized” in various folders on my computer desktop, but as time wore on, that organization became haphazard at best. This gave me a chance to go thru everything and sort it all out…and I found far more famous relationships than I realized I had. Mind you, these will be ones that are generally less well known, and of interest mainly to Baby Boomers. I’ll assume you already know…or simply don’t care…who Kate Hudson’s mom is, and whose daughter Jennifer Garner isn’t.

inset 1

168.2  We start with a couple from Disney. In the Fifties and Sixties, the 7 Corcoran siblings were all over the place on TV and movies. Best remembered were Donna (left) from the original version of Angels in the Outfield…Kevin as Disney’s “Moochie” (center)…and Noreen (right), the niece on John Forsythe’s series Bachelor Father, and also a recording artist. Hugh, Brian, Kerry, and Kelly had a few scattered parts in this and that…and yes, sometimes some of them appeared together. I wouldn’t say these were ugly children…sure, they had heads like little pumpkins, but they could act and that was the important thing.

inset 2

168.3  Then we have Mouseketeer Darlene Gillespie. She was the most talented of the kids hired for the first season…by far the best singer…and was tabbed for stardom, even given her own “serial” Corky and White Shadow. Alas, talent isn’t everything when you’re Annette, who had that indefinable “something”…and Darlene faded into the #2 slot. Before, during, and after Disney, she was part of a singing group with her sisters. Seen here are Gina (bottom, left), the youngest, 10 years Darlene’s junior, and Larrian. They even performed together on Talent Roundup Friday….by this time older sister Patricia had left the group. Gina went on to play the little sister on the short-lived 60s sitcom Karen…best remembered today because the Beach Boys sang the theme song…check it out here.

inset 3

168.4  And how about mothers? Interestingly, 2 acting mothers who would later be eclipsed by their acting daughters had supporting roles on Jock Maloney’s Yancy Derringer, 1958-59sort of a half-hearted (hoof-hearted?) attempt to recreate the Paladin character. Charlie McCarthy’s “little sister” Candice Bergen’s mother Francine as the saloon owner, and Sally Field’s mother Margaret Field, then using the name Maggie Mahoney, as an Irish immigrant who sets her cap for ole Yance.

inset 4

168.5  Fathers and sons. Top row, these dads appeared in all types of roles over the years, but pop up most often in Westerns. Rance Howard (left) is in 4 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and 3 episodes of Happy Days…so watch for him! Walter Clarence Taylor II was nicknamed Dub as a child…for the Dubba-U of Walter…he was in a large number of B-Westerns as a sidekick character named Cannonball, and was often billed as Cannonball Taylor instead of Dub Taylor. Son Buck was Newly on Gunsmoke.

168.6  Neil Oliver “Bing” Russell is best known as recurring character Sheriff Clem Foster on Bonanza…he was also in The Magnificent Seven, altho not as part of the septet. His love of baseball prompted him to buy the independent Portland Mavericks of the single-A Northwest League in the 1970s. He ran the team like the second coming of Bill Veeck, with a bit of Charlie Finley thrown in…signing Jim Bouton not once but twice, hiring baseball’s first woman general manager, using tri-colored bases, once stealing 7 bases in the first inning, having the fielders rotate thru all the positions in a single game, that type of thing. In 1971 at age 20, son Kurt Russell decided to give pro ball a whirl, as his father had done in the minors in the late 1940s.

168.7  After 2 years at single-A ball with decent numbers, Kurt began 1973 with double-A El Paso, an Angels farm team. After 6 games he was batting 9/16, a .563 clip when a collision at second tore a rotator cuff, and that was that. A comeback attempt later that summer with his dad’s team fizzled…never mind that he was at the same time an executive with the club, going the concept of “player/manager” one better. A one game, one-at bat encore 4 years later with the Mavericks marked the end. Was he any good? Scouts at the time said yes, a natural hitter from both sides of the plate…unfortunately, the constant tug of tinsel town proved too distracting, and he neglected the other facets of his game…but he did love to hit!

inset 5

168.8  Art Carney (left, center) was the youngest of 6 boys from Mt. Vernon, NY. Fresh out of high school, his first show business job was as a comic singer and impressionist with the Horace Heidt Orchestra…an audition arranged by his oldest brother Jack, a talent scout. Another brother, Fred, worked as a TV director in the 1950s…that’s him far right, from a 1954 burlesque special, with nattily attired brother Art. Fred switched to acting late in life, with small roles in Bustin’ Loose, Meteor, Dallas, and Rockford Files, among others. And small world…for a time Art Carney’s agent was Joe Funicello, Annette’s younger brother.

inset 6

168.9  Do you figure El Exigente, The Demanding One, was any relation to fellow Columbian coffee-nista Juan Valdez? I honestly couldn’t say. I do know that Savarin’s spokesman thru the 1960s and 70s was the older brother of Ricardo Montalban, older by 17 years. Other than hawking java, Carlos is best known as the dictator in Woody Allen’s movie Bananas…but his main gig was behind the scenes as a voice actor, and he was famous worldwide as the Spanish language spokesman for Marlboro cigarettes.

inset 7

168.10  It’s been said that actor Christopher Lee (left) was “related” to James Bond author Ian Fleming (right)…sources say they were “cousins” or “step-cousins…one actually spells it out, arriving at sort-of cousins…“As it happens, Ian Fleming’s mother was sister to Christopher Lee’s step-father, thus making them cousins through marriage.” You think? Guess we better suss this deal out, long-hand…

chart 595

168.11  For the record, Ian Fleming’s mother was known as “Eve” and his step-father as “Ingle.”  While Christopher Lee’s mother was of Italian nobility, there is some dispute as to whether she was a Marchesa, the feminine form of Marchese, in English Marquese/Marchioness, one step down from a Duke…or a Contessa, counterpart of a Conte, in English Earl/Countess, 2 steps down from a Duke. Most of Europe has some equivalent of Count/Countess…in the UK, he’s an Earl…there is no such thing as an Earl-ess.

168.12  So what does Chart 595 tell us? From Ian’s point of view, Lee was Ian’s uncle’s step-son…from Lee’s vantage point, Ian was Lee’s step-father’s nephew. Well, someone who is your uncle’s son and your father’s nephew is surely your 1st cousin…put step- in front of everything, I suppose it works out. At least Lee and Ian are genealogically of the same generation, so no removeds needed. Here at Related How Again?, we prefer in a case like this to say they were “connected” rather than “related”…and when pressed for details, simply say one was the nephew of the other’s step-father…just that and no more.

chartt 596

168.13  Granted, “by marriage” is a general catch-all for use when 2 families are thus associated, but “cousin by marriage” sounds more like your spouse’s cousin…and the goal of kinship terminology is to  pinpoint an individual’s position on your family tree, which “cousin by marriage” clearly doesn’t. Comes to that, “step-1st cousin” is also ambiguous…it could very well mean the sons of 2 step-brothers, Chart 596. In fact, one hapless website calls Ingle Ian’s step-cousin…it should be uncle…a slip of the pen? Who can say?

168.14  And parenthetically, can you real have a “slip of the pen” on a computer? Well, here “pen” refers to writing…as opposed to a “slip of the tongue,” which is speaking. It means you intended to say one thing but by mistake said something else…like: “My father breast-fed me for the first 6 months.” Obviously, a slip…they meant “mother” not “father.”  So…”slip of the keyboard”? 

inset 8

168.15  BTW and TBT, Kate Hudson’s mom is Goldie Hawn, seem above as a dancer in her first TV appearance, on an Andy Griffith variety special from Feb. 1967. And Jennifer Garner is an interesting case…for example, what do you do if your last name is McDonald and you want to open a restaurant? You hire a phalanx of sharp shysters…or save yourself the money and aggravation and chose a different name. In show biz, it’s generally considered bad form to change your last name to a famous one, trying to hitch a ride on somebody’s coat-tails. But what if that is your last name?

inset 9

168.16  And not only was Jennifer Garner born a Garner, but James Garner wasn’t! His last name was Bumgarner. He had a brother Jack Garner (left, center) who was also an actor…he was on many episodes of Rockford Files in various roles, including recurring character Lt. McEnroe in the 6th and final  season. And altho he never appeared on the original Maverick, he was Jack the Bartender on the 1980s version Bret Maverick. Be with us again next week, when things come out, sorry to say, half-baked…

wicked ballsy


If you don’t watch HBO’s Game of Thrones, this means nothing to you…still, if you’re curious, ask the water-cooler crowd next chance you get.


 Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#167: FAIL!…Welcome Knuckleheads

inset 1167.1  Always picking on Uncle Wiki why? Maybe because they deserve it…now there’s a novel approach! Because anybody, whether they know what they’re talking about or not, can put something in…and just as quickly, somebody else can take it back out. Above, we see that happened within the space of 2 months. Details of changes can be perused by clicking the “view history” tab.

inset 2

167.2  And indeed, it was wrong for 2nd cousins…half the relationship of 1st cousins gives you half-1st cousins…half again gives you 2nd cousins…1/8…1/16…1/32 respectively. They got tripped up by using the concept of “degrees.” There are several distinct meanings for the word “degree” in genealogy…one applies to cousins only, others to all relatives…and since they’re different they obviously don’t agree. You’re better off not talking about degrees unless you indicate exactly what you mean.

167.3  But beyond that flagrant fail, it’s worth examining just how sloppy these 2 opening paragraphs really are, bearing in mind that anything can be changed at any time…

A cousin is a relative with whom a person shares one or more common ancestors. Completely wrong. A person shares ancestors with all their blood relatives…so your uncle, your grandmother, your son, your half-sister, they are all your “cousins.” Not!

In the general sense, cousins are two or more generations away from any common ancestor, thus distinguishing a cousin from an ancestor, descendant, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.
And since that first sentence was wrong, they have to immediately take it back…bumbling, stumbling. Also I object to the phrase “in the general sense”…which means there is some specific sense in which what follows does not hold true. I’d love to hear about numbered cousins who are less than 2 generations removed from a common ancestor…unless you mean “0th” (zero-th) cousins, i.e. siblings, in which case OK…and were you math major?

However in common parlance, “cousin” normally specifically means “first cousin”.
Fair enough, I suppose…I’d be tempted to say “cousin” by itself always means 1st cousin…be it normally, specifically, or both. It’s true you could refer to a 2nd cousin as “your cousin”…trouble is, everyone would assume you meant your 1st cousin…then again, some people don’t mind being misunderstood as long as they’re technicality correct, God bless ’em.

Systems of “degrees” and “removals” are used in the English-speaking world to describe the exact relationship between two cousins (in the broad sense) and the ancestor they have in common.
That parenthetical “in the broad sense” tells me whoever wrote this knows, or at least suspects, a fundamental truth of our kinship system, but doesn’t want to come right out and admit it…and that truth is that 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. cousins (what I call “numbered cousins”) are of your generation. A removed cousin is of a different generation, and thus is not your cousin but somebody else’s cousin! In other words, cousins “in the narrow sense” are the only cousins you can have. You’ll also notice they use the word “degree” to mean 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. This is something different from the “degree” you’ll see stated in civil law and and various church rules, which applies to all relatives, not just cousins.

Various governmental entities have established systems for legal use that can more precisely specify kinships with common ancestors existing any number of generations in the past, though common usage often eliminates the degrees and removals and refers to people with common ancestry as simply “distant cousins” or “relatives”.
All cousins are relatives…not all relatives are cousins…IT’S THE LAW! “Distant cousins” tends to mean 2nd or beyond, but there is no generally agreed upon definition.

167.4  But fine…you get the feel of it…the rest of their “cousins” article teeters back and forth between sense and nonsense, clarity and confusion. It’s typical of the flailing and failing that is Uncle Wiki’s hallmark…you’d think they’d have the common decency to be at least slightly embarrassed by it, but they seem not to be…the Age of Mediocrity in full bloom.

167.5  TBT, the only definition of “cousins” you’ll ever need is this: Cousins are descended by an equal number of generations from a pair of siblings. That’s it…nothing more than that.

167.6  But as hinky as Wiki can get with the facts (and what qualifies in their minds as a “fact” to begin with) it is still only a matter of degree…there’s that word again! They’re hardly the only offender…and to their credit, they don’t charge for any of it…unlike….

inset 3167.7  …WolframAlpha, aka Wolfram|Alpha…yeah, I did think about calling this blog Related|How|Again? but I was embarrassed that I didn’t know what a “|” is called…a line?  Uncle Wiki does a decent job describing what this subscription service is about (left) so I decided not to rewrite it. It was created by physicist Steve Wolfram…his book “A New Kind of A Science” is, well, interesting….a bit over-ambitious perhaps. It’s too complicated to get into here, except to say his theory is that all of reality, at its fundamental level, is not analog but digital…based on “cellular automata”  algorithms, which are easily modeled on a computer. I was fiddling around with these 25 years ago on my prehistoric Commodore 64…only I didn’t write a book about them…d’oh! The Game of Life is typical…see here

inset 4

167.8  This program lets you query kinship relationships gratis…perhaps as a kind of free sample. I saw it recommended on another genealogy website and figured I’d give it a try. Much to my dismay, for 1st cousins I got a degree of relationship equal to 1/16…it should be 1/8 (below left). To further check this, I tried brother, and sure enough, again incorrect…1/4 instead of ½…crazy.

inset 5

167.9  Well, you hardy need an advanced degree in Intergalactic Environmental Psychology from Silo State Teacher’s Aide Junior College at Dr. Smithsville to see what’s going on. I suspected it right away, and confirmed it by trying “grandson”…it came out correct at 1/4. To be absolutely sure, I did grandfather and mother…both also correct. See what’s happening? For direct ancestors and descendants it works fine…for collateral relatives they are too small by a factor of 2…see my corrections below.

inset 6

 167.10  So what’s a “brother” who’s related to you by 1/4, not the correct ½? Your half-brother of course. They are figuring degree of relationship based on just one line of descent, father’s or mother’s, when it should be both…thus they are wrong for all collaterals, starting with full siblings. Yes, despite the fact that they picture both father and mother in their diagrams, they are still only counting relationship thru one of these parents, not both. And it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that if you try asking them “half-brother” or “half-first cousin,” you get no answer at all…they don’t think such things exist.

inset 7

167.11  Could I resist pointing all this out? No chance…A and B are a couple of messages I left at various related websites…turns out a lady named Ann Turner C had beaten me to it by 4 years. Good for her. Ultimately, these morons replied to me D and they’re not budging…they insist that they’re correct. Amazing but true…caveat emptor big time, sez me. How confident can you realistically be of anything else Wolfram|Alpha tells you if they can’t get simple kinship calculations right?

167.12  Now last week I promised you some “deep thoughts.” I will not deny that Chart 593 below is complicated…but study it, because once you have it, you understand the principle of sexual reproduction…and the mathematics of kinship follows directly and logically. But let’s dive in…

167.13  Genes make you the organism you are…they control everything. The innovation of sexual reproduction is that you have 2 complete sets of genes…call them Column A and Column B…one from your father, one from your mother. With asexual reproduction, there is only one set of genes…and that is what an organism’s offspring gets…it’s in effect a clone. The problem is that if the parent has a “bad” gene, the offspring gets it automatically…and depending on how bad it is, the offspring may not last long enough to reproduce, as the parent was fortunate enough to do.

167.14  With sexual reproduction, the existence of 2 sets of genes gives you a “second chance”…if a bad gene is present in Column A, it might not be in Column B…and since the offspring gets a random combination of A’s and B’s, the chance that you get the bad gene is reduced to 50%…with asexual, the chance is 100%. And even if you get a bad gene from one parent, you may get a good one from the other parent, and if the good one is dominant, it takes over and the bad gene is inactive, or recessive. Again, you have the chance to side-step that bad gene.

167.15  Needless to say, this innovation has been a whopping success. As a consequence, organisms that reproduce sexually can change or mutate more quickly than asexual…they can adapt to changing environmental conditions, and bottom line, survive. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that this adaptability was an added bonus…the basic idea was to bypass bad or detrimental genes. At any rate, let’s see how sexual reproduction creates the degree to which kin are related. You have between 20,00 and 30,00 genes…in Chart 593, I have simplified that to just 8…4 in Column A, 4 in Column B.

chart 593

167.16  You get only one set…here it’s Column A, in blue…from your father, and that’s a random mix of your father’s A’s and B’s. We can simulate this by flipping a penny…heads you get Column A, tails you get Column B. For your brother, we flip a dime…and top left of Chart 593 shows the 4 possible outcomes…you both get A…you both get B…you get A, he gets B…you get B, he gets A. Over thousands of genes each will occur about 25% of the time. Also notice that as a result, your father’s genes form 4 categories…those you both get, those neither of you get, those you get but your brother doesn’t, and those he gets but you don’t…and again, each category is 25% of the total of your father’s genes.

167.17  If you now look at the bottom of Chart 593, you’ll see that of the 4 genes you and your brother get from your father, you will share 2 of them…in this case, dark blue 1 and light blue 2. That’s 2 out of 4. Same identical thing happens with your mother…total, 4 shared out of 8…a relationship between you and your brother of ½.  And since half your genes come from your father, you and he are automatically related by ½…it’s just that the ½ with your brother and ½ with your father come about in different ways.  Contrast this with the case of half-brothers, Chart 594.

chart 594

167.18  Here, since the mothers are different, no genes are shared there…only the 2 of 4 from the father…total, 2 shared out of 8…a relationship of 1/4. And that’s it…I defy the knuckle|heads at Wolfram|Alpha or anyone else to dispute it…because they can’t…it’s cold hard scientific and mathematical fact. Should I now draw a similar chart for 1st cousins? I could…but there’s no need to…because as I said, all of kinship flows from these 2 fundamental results…½ genes shared between father and son, ½ between brothers.

167.19  And as a quick example of how that would work…consider your father’s brother…as, brothers, they are related by ½. Now if you had the identical genetic makeup as your father, you too would share half your genes with his brother, your uncle. But you don’t…you only have half of your father’s genes…so you share 1/4 with your uncle…it’s just that simple.

167.20  Further, if your father shared all his genes with your uncle, your father would be related to your uncle’s son, your 1st cousin, by ½…but he doesn’t, he only has half his brother’s genes, so your father’s relationship to your 1st cousin, his nephew, is 1/4. Now just as before, put yourself in your father’s place…to your 1st cousin, your father is 1/4…so you are half of that, 1/8. And so it goes, up, down, and sideways along the family tree…rock solid mathematical relationships that no cellular automata can alter.  As for Wolfram|Alpha, I’m reminded of something my Dad would say: You may be smart, but not smart enough to admit when you’re wrong. See you in 7, for another round of Famous Relativity…


 Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#166: How wise Was My GEEK

166.1   wiseGEEK is a website that describes itself as “clear answers for common questions.” One question might be: why answers for questions instead of answers to questions? My answer is: it’s the new grammar, the “close enough” grammar…certainly better than answers about questions or answers on questions, wouldn’t you agree? Unlike Wikipedia, I have never seen wiseGEEK cited as a source of information…in fact, wiseGEEK doesn’t have a page on Wikipedia, surprise of surprises.

166.2   Sadly, the wiseGEEK page on cousins is anything but clear…awkward and confusing in spots, flat out wrong in others. It does prompt regular comments, in the form of questions about kinship, which I answer there…and here. They won’t let you link to another site…and here is much better since I can include a diagram…seeing is believing, nez pah? The questions tend to focus on: can we get married or at least date, without going to jail? But there are all kinds, some simple, some complex. Time to get caught up…

chart 586

166.3  Before anything else, there is an error in the statement of the question: “Christy and Alan are my Mum’s [Miriam’s] first cousins.” Christy is, Alan isn’t. Miriam and Christy’s mothers are sisters, so they are 1st cousins right enough. But Miriam’s mother and Alan’s father are 1st cousins, so they are 2nd cousins. Also, Christy and Alan, married, are 2nd cousins, as you can see on Chart 586.

166.4  Because your mother is related to both Joe’s mother and father, you and Joe will be related to each other in 2 ways: 2nd cousins, since Miriam and Christy are 1st cousins…and 3rd cousins, since Miriam and Alan are 2nd cousins. Total relationship 1/32 (= 4/128) + 1/128 = 5/128.  By percentages, 3.9% related, 96.1% unrelated. Anything beyond 1st cousins 87.5% is completely legal everywhere in the world…and even 1st cousins are legal in most of the world and about half the states. So that’s a go! Plus they’re right, Jeff really does have nothing to do with this…sorry, Jeff.

chart 587

166.5  To begin with, 2 clarifications…some people reading that first sentence might think it means your Dad’s brother married your Dad’s sister…we will graciously assume that this aunt is on the other side of the family, your mother’s. Also, not to get picky, but if there are “direct cousins,” what in the world would be “indirect cousins”? Actually, there is neither, also obviously.

166.6  What we have here is something that was much more common a few generations ago than it is today: 2 siblings from one family marrying 2 siblings from another family. The resulting cousins are called “double 1st cousins”…1st cousins thru their fathers and thru their mothers…1st cousins in 2 different ways. What’s more, while “single” 1st cousins share only one pair of grandparents, doubles share both pairs. Since being related to someone in more than one way is unusual, it’s understandably confusing to many people. The rule is: both ways count! So your total relationship is 1/8 + 1/8 = 1/4…you are as closely related to your double 1st cousins as you would be to a half-sibling. And the years spent trying to figure this out are now…officially…over!

chart 588

166.7  For sure, you and your girl-friend are 3rd cousins, as per Chart 588…completely legal in every state in the union and every country in the world. You have mathematics working for you, as your degree of relationship is 1/128…meaning you are 99.2% unrelated. And if that doesn’t sound like very much, it’s because it isn’t very much…for all intents and purposes, you are not genetically related at all, altho genealogically, you are 100% related…but there’s the difference between genealogy and genetics, you see.

chart 589

166.8  When you hear, for example, that somebody’s great grandfather is somebody else’s great grandfather’s brother, you should immediately glom onto the fact that they are of the same generation…brother to brother…hence their descendants of each generation will be “straight” numbered cousins, with no “removeds.” Not here tho…its grandmother to one, grandmother’s aunt to the other…meaning we’re in “removed” territory. Since an aunt is one generation away from the niece, it’s going to be “once removed.”

166.9  Then we simply slide down the “cousin ladder” as I call it…your mother and your girl-friend”s grandmother are 1st cousins…you and her mother are 2nd cousins…you and her are 2nd cousins once removed…so that really does make you and her some type of, doesn’t it? As I said, seeing really is believing.

chart 590

166.10  You might think I’m picking on the poser of this question…if so, believe what you like. I am here to help, nothing more. The fact remains that this is an excellent example of what happens when somebody hasn’t the slightest idea of how our kinship system works, and so just takes a wild stab at it. They are asking: what is my 5th cousins’s 8th cousin to me? Feeling compelled to supply an answer, they think that adding 5 + 8 is logical…resulting in “13th cousins” with “by marriage” tacked on just in case. It isn’t logical…it isn’t anything. In genealogy, it has no meaning or significance whatsoever.

166.11  You will notice that on Chart 590 I have not delineated the cousin ladder…sibs, 1C, 2C, 3C, etc., as I normally do. In this case, there’s no need to. You know how you see ads on the internet promising to solve some problems with “a weird trick”? This gets my goat, since usually it’s not weird at all…just something you never thought of…and as such, it really isn’t a trick, just a way or a method. But whatever you call them, there are several of these in genealogy, that even folks who understand the basics aren’t aware of. Here the rule is simple: to you, your Ath cousin’s Bth cousin is whichever is larger, A or B. If A and B are the same number, the answer can be anything from siblings up to and including Ath cousins.

166.12  So your 5th cousin’s 8th cousin is your 8th cousin, 8 being larger than 5…left side of Chart 590, in green. The caveat is that this is only true if you are related at all…because this 8th cousin may be on the other side of your 5th cousin’s family, in which case they are no relation to you…right side of Chart 590, in pink. I’m tempted to think that’s really what’s going on in this case, since “by marriage” was mentioned…but no way to tell for sure. Computers stop dead in their tracks when confronted with “insufficient data”…I plow on.

chart 591

166.13  When it comes to famous vs. non-famous, I just shrug and say: Everybody’s related to somebody. Here, we simply do what we should always do: start with the siblings. Despite what the wiseGEEK cousins article says, figuring cousins from a common ancestor is imprecise and best not done…always look for and start with the siblings…and if they turn out to be half-siblings, everybody going downward will be halfs*…half-1st cousins, half-2nd cousins, etc. …like it or not.

* Since genealogy blogs can be rather dry, I try to make this one as wet as I can stand it…which means I’ll go off on tangents at the drop of a hat, and sometimes drop my own hat. Would you have preferred I said “halves”? Hockey fans will immediately recognize this quirk as they have a team in Toronto, historically called the Maple Leafs, not the Maple Leaves. There are various explanations as to why this is so, but it really boils down to accepted English usage. In some cases, a thing described by an  irregular plural noun is not sufficiently like that basic thing to merit the use of the irregular plural.

For example, the teeth of a gear are considered to be enough like the teeth in your head to be called teeth not tooths. On the other hand, if somebody gooses you…then it happens again…you were correctly the recipient of 2 gooses…nobody would say 2 geese. For some reason…perhaps the global dumbing-down is to blame…some people are hesitant, when talking about the computer mouse, to say 2 mouses, thinking 2 mice sounds better. Trust me, it doesn’t…it sounds, well, dumb. And since there is no such thing as halve-cousins, I will not say halves but rather halfsmuch as my spell-checker wants to change that to halts.

166.14  Zero in on the siblings in Chart 591 and work your way down from there. Your great grandfather and Friedrich Ebert’s father are brothers…your grandparent (child of your great grandfather) and Ebert are 1st cousins…you are 2 generations removed from your grandparent, so Ebert is your 1st cousin twice removed. As Archie Bunker would say, ipso fatso.

chart 592

166.15  Banishing confusion is my business, brother! See that = in Chart 592? That’s like an impassable boundary…it means somebody you’re related to got married…and on the “other” side of that marriage, nobody is related to you by blood. The closest relatives on the spouse’s side could be called “in-laws”…further away, you could say “by marriage”…but even then, many people think these terms are only appropriate when it’s your marriage that’s the origin of it all…with the exception of sibling-in-law, which you can have without being married if you at least have a sibling. Still, usage varies…so to say Charlie is your 1st cousin by marriage is not the worst crime in the history of humanity, not by a long chalk. Deep thoughts next week…bring your bathing cap and dive in, won’t you?


 Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#165: All in the Super-Family

165.1 Last week we looked at Superman…born Kal-El…and his blood relatives. Now he is an extraterrestrial, simply because he’s not from this planet. Is he a Homo sapiens? He’s pretty much assumed to be…still, the idea that he came from a larger planet with higher gravity only goes so far in justifying his enormous strength and, at first anyway, leaping ability. It does nothing to explain literally flying, invulnerability, and certainly not X-ray vision, “heat-vision,” super breath, and all of that. So while he probably isn’t of the species sapiens, he’s undoubtedly of the genus Homo. For 76 years everybody’s  acted as if he could…um…”mate” with an Earth woman, altho I don’t believe he officially has. Officially…

165.2  Point is, it’s not much of a stretch to assume that Superman’s genetic connection to his relatives is identical to ours…which is to say, for example, he isn’t more closely related to his father than his mother, nothing like that. One thing we didn’t mention last week was that those various parallel dimensions…Earth-Two, Earth-Three, etc. …had “their own” Superman counterpart. Are you related to your alternate world counterpart? Genetically identical? You might say yes, otherwise on what basis would your counterpart be identified as your counterpart in the first place? On the other hand, maybe “counterpart” simply means being of similar status or in the same circumstances in your “world” as somebody else is in theirs…and not necessary being the “same” identical person. Guess is depends of how parallel is parallel, no?

165.3  But it can get mighty tricky…take Hyperman, alias Chester King, seen below, top row left. As told in the story “The Superman from Outer Space!”…Action #265 (6/60)…he rocketed from the doomed planet Zoron to become the resident super hero of the planet Oceania, which looks an awful lot like Earth. He is physically identical (sans uniform) to our Superman…and they use this fact in a charade to convince Lois (once again) that Clark Kent is not you-know who. Mind you, this parallel Earth-like world is still in our universe or dimension…the original Earth-One.

inset 1

165.4  But nothing is simple in the DCverse…in an alternate reality, Kal-El has a brother Knor-El, who as Ken Clarkson becomes the Superman of the United States…while Kal-El as Charles LeBlanc is Hyperman, the Superman of Canada. As Superman himself once remarked: “What th–?” At any rate, that’s “our” Hyperman above, top left…along with some other variations on a theme. Anti-Superman and Anti-Batman turned out to be Perry White and Commissioner Gordon with temporary superpowers that made them younger but also turned them evil…makes perfect sense to me. But you want more? I’ll give you more…there was really no end to the combinations and recombinations, nez pah?

inset 2

165.5  I might also mention that for a time in the early 1960s, DC concentrated a great deal on what they called The Superman Family…not literally his relatives, but rather all the important cast members populating the many Superman-related comic books. Below is a typical group portrait from about 1960…can you name everybody? Answers after today’s wicked ballsy.  BTW, Superboy isn’t included, since he is the same person as Superman, altho we do see some of his buds from the futuristic Legion of Super-Heroes. Well, there were even some Superbaby stories if I recall. Anyway, I’ve included Superboy as he appeared in an unsold TV pilot from 1961, 2 years after the death of George Reeves, TV’s Man of Steel.


165.6  This “Family” idea was swiped from Superman’s major Golden Age competitor, Captain Marvel, who famously headed the Marvel Family, with Billy Batson Jr., Mary Marvel, Uncle Marvel, the 3 Lieutenant Marvels, even Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, and Black Adam, the Captain’s evil look-a-like, who would occasionally join forces with the good guys. Today tho we’re going to look at Superman’s other family…his adopted parents here on Earth…again, that’s “our” Earth…Earth-One…all the rest of them can blog for themselves…

inset 3a

165.7  As was typical, it took several years before they settled into an official story that they were able to stick to. In Action #1, dated June 1938 but on the newsstands in April, the capsule containing the infant Kal-El is found by a “passing motorist”…he is raised in an orphanage, and is Clark Kent as an adult, with no explanation of how he got that way. A year later, in Superman #1, this origin tale is expanded to include his foster parents…seen above, left…Mary Kent and her at-that-time unnamed husband. Notice how as Clark grows older, their hair goes from white to brown…over the years they have most often been shown as gray-haired, but not always, above right.

chart 584

165.8  By Superman #53 in 1948, they are John and Mary Clark Kent…2 years later he is Jonathan for the first time, and a year after that she Martha. In response to a reader’s letter in Superman #148 (10/61), her full name is given as Martha Hudson Clark Kent. Older generations of relatives got filled in as the years progressed. Playing the Fan Logic Game, it is not inconceivable that for a time Jonathan might have been commonly been called John, and Martha known by some as Mary…such things do happen in real life after all.

165.9  Where we do get into trouble is the 1942 novel “The Adventures of Superman” written by George F. Lowther…he calls them Eben and Sarah…and oddly enough, they are also called that on the George Reeves TV series…altho of the 104 episodes, Superman’s parents only appear once, in the first episode, “Superman on Earth.” It’s also Eben in the 1948 serial starring Kirk Alyn…the Internet Movie Data Base says his mom is Martha, but she is not named in the film, and neither Kent is listed in the credits. Then in the unsold 1961 “The Adventures of Superboy” pilot, they are back to Jonathan and Martha…go figure.

chart 585

165.10  We know the basics for Lois Lane, Lana Lang, and Supergirl…Chart 585. Lois grew up on a farm in Pittsdale. Linda Lee Danvers lived with her adopted parents in Midvale, not Smallville…she was co-temporaneous with Superman, not Superboy…still, it could have been Smallville but it wasn’t. She initially lives in an orphanage as Linda Lee…and is Linda Lee Danvers or just plain Linda Danvers when she lives with her foster folks.

165.11  The situation with Lois’ siblings is interesting. Susie Tompkins was introduced in 1943…Lois’ sister’s daughter who comes to live with her for a spell. Susie’s parents are never mentioned, but her being “from the country” as stated below is significant, since it suggests that her father is not in show business. Meaning what? Meaning that he was not a Lane who changed his name to Tompkins…he was the Tompkins, thus Susie’s mother was a Lane…and Lois’ sister really is her sister, not her sister-in-law. In the weird world of DC, you have to nail these things down! Susie appeared in quite a few stories, rather juvenile ones as you might expect, and she disappears after 1955.

inset 4

165.12  4 years later, Lois’ adult sister Lucy, a stewardess, is introduced as Jimmy Olsen’s love interest. She is portrayed as Lois’ only sibling, and is unmarried…unless her husband and daughter Susie died and no one ever mentions it, which seems spectacularly unlikely. And with 76 years of story-telling, it wouldn’t surprise me if relatives of Perry White and Jimmy Olsen were mentioned here or there…I did a little digging, found nothing…well at some point, in some medium, Perry’s wife Alice has an affair with Lex Luthor and a son by him, Jerry White, whom Perry believes to be his son…but not Baby Boomer-era material, so easily disregarded, sez me. Non-canonical? How about anti-canonical! Next week, a bunch of Q’s get A’ed…see yez…

wicked ballsy

wicked ballsy

32 of TV’s Superman episodes, the first 2 seasons, were filmed in black and white…the other 52 were in color. Now when viewed in color, that rich blue and red suit worked fine…but notice how it looks in black and white…no contrast, the colors blend together. For the black and white episodes, everything was colored so that it would look “right” when viewed monochromatically. Supey’s uniform was brown and light blue-gray, what we used to call “cadet gray”…or was that “cadet blue”?

Speaking of the TV series, we might as well address that urban legend about the gun…that villains would empty their clips at Superman, bullets ricocheting off his chest…then in desperation, they’d throw the gun at him…and he’d duck! D’oh!


This turns out to be one of those rare urban legends that is absolutely true, altho it happened only once, in the 8th episode of the 1st season, “The Mind Machine.” And it wasn’t George Reeves who ducked, but his stunt double Dick Van Sickle. Above, (1) bad guy Lou Cranek (played by Victor Buono look-a-like Dan Seymour) should know better, but figures maybe his bullets can do what other’s couldn’t…no such luck. (2) In desperation, he winds up to hurl his weapon…(3) and altho it sails well high of the mark, Superman ducks, just for good measure.

Now throughout this scene, there is a lot of punching and jumping around…sometimes it’s Reeves, especially in closer shots…other times it’s Van Sickle…who knows, maybe he was simply a better ducker. At any event, above, lower right we compare the 2, and below that, a clearer picture of Van Sickle as both Superman and himself.

Superman Family Answers…

fasmly answeers A couple of niggling notes…Mr. Mxyzptlk’s name was originally spelled Mxyztplk, with the P and T reversed…Lightning Lad was originally called Lightning Boy…Prof. Phineas Potter is Lana Lang’s uncle as per Chart 585…and Lori Lemaris is a mermaid from the city of Tritonis, on the sunken continent of Atlantis, introduced in 1959.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved