Our Gods Wear Spandex by Christopher Knowles

I honestly didn't know what I was getting into when I picked up this book. I thought it was going to be a compendium on the origins of various superheroes as portrayed out in the comic books. Actually what it is turns out to be even more interesting.

It turns out that much of the comic book history is rooted in the old occult religions of bygone eras. What the author does here is delve into those mysteries and point out how the writers and artists blended those beliefs in the creation of the comic book superheroes and supervillains.

This is not near as boring as it might sound. Entertaining style of writing lends a lot to the appeal of reading Knowles' book. Plus, he delves into the specific inspirations for various cult heroes of the comic book world, names which are instantly familiar to even the most passing interest fans of the genre; Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Alan Moore, and yes even Superman creators Siegel and Schuster had interests in those old occult beliefs.

The illustrations by Joseph Michael Linser add added dimension to the reading, hearkening back to the Silver Age art of the comics history. All in all, I recommend this one with an unabashed 9½ stars.


Rickles' Book by Don Rickles

If you have ever seen Don Rickles, either at a show or on one of his numerous appearances on late-night talk shows, you know that Don is a very funny guy. His style comes through in great abundance here as he takes a walk down memory lane, starting with some of his early childhood memories, right on through his trials and tribulations as he tried to achieve some spot in the stardom that is the world of stand-up comedy.

Rickles book starts out with the hilarious tale I've heard him tell many times, of trying to impress a date by having Frank Sinatra show up at the table and say "Hi" to him. Its classic Rickles and so is the rest of the book.

Rate this one 7½ stars.


Bolls, Polls, and Tattered Souls by Stewart Mandel

Ever wonder why a team that went undefeated in its regular season isn't playing for the national championship? (Univ. of Hawaii was 12-0 at the end of 2007 season, but is playing in a lesser bowl, while two teams, Ohio State and LSU, who have lost during the regular season get to play for the crystal trophy.)

Ever wonder how some teams always seem to be in the top 25 pre-season rankings, despite the lackluster results from their season's end the previous year? Ever wonder how come there are so damn many bowl games in post-season, most of which if they were regular games probably wouldn't even be on TV locally much less nationally?

Stewart Mandel answers these questions and many more in his highly entertaining book. If you have more than a passing interest in college football, you will find lots of eye-opening points and opinions here. From the opening chapter on the hooks and crooks of the BCS and how the bowl games are determined, to the problems inherent in the ranking of college teams, and a chapter on how the Heisman doesn't always get it right, the writer has a style to keep you interested. The only chapter that really bogged down, for me, (mainly because the topic didn't interest me) was the one on college recruiting. But otherwise, the book was very entertaining and a handbook for how to do things right if anyone in charge ever has the inkling to do it.

Rate this one 6 stars


I Sold My Soul on Ebay by Hemant Mehta

The premise of this book is fairly simple. An atheist decided to "sell his soul on Ebay" or in reality to take on the burden of having to attend the church of the winning bidder's choice for a number of times commensurate with the winning bid. In this case, the winning bidder, one former pastor, decrees that Mehta visit a variety of churches and write his views on his experiences.

As a result, the author makes various excursions, both in his own area, and to some churches of national recognition, (one is Joel Osteen's megachurch) and observes not only how people react to him as a visitor, but to the program the church presents. All this is done as an atheist with an open-minded view as to how it is all done, with an eye on how each church could potentially be drawing or even repelling the potentially unsaved masses.

As a church-going Christian myself, I think that there is some interesting views that the author makes that can be taken into account for many churches. For instance, he says and I think rightly so, that too many churches have a long song and praise session that may tend to bore those who are new to the church. Actually, there are probably more than a few members of these churches who harbor the same feelings (myself as one).

Taken for what it is, open-minded people from both sides of the church door should find this book pretty interesting. I won't give away whether or not the atheist becomes a Christian, you will have to read the book to the end to find that out, but you can be entertained in the meantime with his observations.

Rate this one 6 stars.


Unusually Stupid Politicians by Kathryn and Ross Petras

If you really want to know who you are paying to represent you you in DC or your local capitaol building, you should read what they have to say in public. Anybody can manufacture a press release to put themselves in a good light, but the real cream of the crop comes in public speaking.
And not everything that comes out of a politician's mouth is pure gold. Sometimes, what they have to really say can be downright disturbing on one level or unintentionally hilarious on another level.
Brother and sister Petras have collected some gems here, the oldest of which only dates back to the late '80's or early '90's, so they are stilll fresh. And given light of the current political landscape, can be very enlightening. Although Republican comments predominate the book, there are plenty of Democrat faux pas to give the other side a laugh or two, also.
Typically, a book like this will have some slanting in it, it can hardly be avoided. Given that they consistently refer to Sen. Joe Lieberman as "Democrat" ("D") , an obvious snide jab as to whether the Senator is really a Dem, they seem to have shown their hand pretty well. (Just asking, but would Congressman Ron Paul have been referred to as a "Republican" ("R")?) But other than that one thing, I had no objections to the book. I thought it was pretty good.
I'll rate this one 7 stars.


If I Did It by O. J. Simpson

I hadn't intended on reading this book. To be honestly blunt, I grew tired of all the crap from both sides when the original trial was going on, not to mention that Simpson had the temerity to do his shennanigans with the Bronco on the L.A. Freeway during a game of the NBA finals.

Add on to that every year for the 13 years after the fact, you had some lame-brain on talk radio mentioning the trial and the fact that, despite the jury verdict, O. J. was "guilty as sin". And some jackass would call in to refute that statement. And nobody would let it just pass, even though countless other similarly "miscarriages of justice" have since lapsed into only the subconcious, if that, of the public.

But the recent events surrounding Simpson in Las Vegas prompted me to check this one out. I have to admit, by the time I got to the chapter on "The Night in Question" I wanted to kill the girl myself. She is painted in broad strokes as an extremely unstable person, who is at times sane, but as often on the verge of going off like a bottle rocket.

Whether or not this is in fact the "Confession of the Killer" as the Goldman family so named it, it is an insight into the life of Simpson before the night of the crime, as well as what potentially could have happened.

I'll give this on 5½ stars.


Fanatic: 10 Things All Sports Fans Should Do Before They Die by Jim Gorant

The author's premise derives from a dinner conversation that had several of his dinner companions trying to come up with the ultimate list of sporting events that should be seen live and in person. Over a period of several days/weeks, Gorant brought up the subject again and again with various friends and colleagues and narrowed it down to ten. He took a year and made it his goal to visit these 10 events.

  • The 10 events as he decided are:
  • The Super Bowl
  • The Daytona 500
  • The Final Four
  • The Masters
  • The Kentucky Derby
  • Wimbledon
  • A game at Wrigley Field
  • A college football rivalry game
  • A game at Lambeau Field
  • A game at Fenway Park

I take issue with some of his selections. For instance, tennis is about as fascinating as watching ants collect stuff. And in the chapter on the rivalry college football game, he passes a comment that "the NBA is unwatchable...". OK, consider he lives in New York, and I gather, spends some time in Philidelphia. No wonder he feels that way, but I disagree if you consider the top flight teams. (As of this writing, all three Texas teams are soaring....) And I may be the only true southern redneck who thinks NASCAR is only interesting on the final 10 laps.

Given that, I think this is a pretty fascinating book, if you can overlook the occasional derogatory comments towards people of Southern heritage. The best chapters, by my somewhat biased viewpoint, are the ones on the Super Bowl and the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry game. Of course football is my main abiding passion, so there.

Rate this one 6½ stars.


You Can Lead a Politician to Water, But You Can't Make Him Think by Kinky Friedman

The Kinkster has been one of my favorite authors since I first discovered his mysteries back in the halcyon days of my college years. He has been a regular guest on the "Sam and Bob Morning show" on local KVET radio for as long as I can remember. I thought many times over the years that we had a kindred spirit. When in 2005, he announced his intention to run for governor of Texas, my first thought was he'd be better than the goons and goombahs running things now.
As time went on I realized that my kindred spirit was much more than just a passing fancy. Much of what Kinky said on the campaign trail made beaucoup sense. Unfortunately for those of us who fell in behind the Kinkster's drive to the governor's mansion, he fell short of the needed majority to move in to said residence.
With this new book, Kinky recounts his journey, as well as espousing and clarifying his stance on the major issues of his campaign. But this is not dull, dry political prose, a la the editorial page of most newspapers, nor is it (entirely) ranting against political foes, a la Sean Hannity. Although he does take some occasional digs at current governor Rick Perry and at the Democrats, it is done tongue-in-check with the great style and wit that Kinky has developed as a writer.
Covering every issue he encountered during that long foray into political stumping, and establishing exactly what his stance is and why, this book is an excellent primer for those who are unsure what is wrong with politics, in Texas or elsewhere, although the focal point, necessarily, is Texas. And if you can read the chapter "Thou Shalt Not Kill" without shedding a few tears, well then, Gov. Rick Perry needs some new campaign supporters for the next election.
I rate this one 9½ stars.


Runnin' With the Big Dogs by Mike Shropshire.

Another football book. The true unvarnished story as it were. The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma since 1900, have met every year, to play a game in one of the hottest rivalries in college football. Over the course of those years, there have been antics both on and off the field. Sometimes characters crop up on either side, including the aforementioned Joe Don Looney from my last review.
"The Red River Shootout" as it is most commonly known today, has had its share of the limelight. Most years, one or even both teams have been bowl bound. In the early years (up until 1994, when the SWC was disbanded and the teams went to other divisions), this meant the Cotton Bowl was in Texas' sights, and any one of the other major bowls was on the horizon for OU.
Because it has been held in Dallas for most of those years, a lot of hijinx have occured in the neighborhood of the Cotton Bowl stadium and the hotels where the two teams stay during the weekend of the game. Some of this is from the frenzied fans, and some is the result of the team members themselves. Craziness when mixed with liquor (which was not quite as controlled in earlier years as it is now...) can lead to some prety outrageous stunts. Don't miss the Joe Don Looney chapter. A guy after my own heart.
I rate this one a full-blown 10 stars, even if the writer is a little biased on the OU side.

300 Pounds of Attitude by Jonathan Rand

This is a great book for any fan of American football, specifically the NFL. In bite size vignettes, Rand covers some of the more outrageous characters in the NFL. Here you'll find stories about Philadelphia Eagles' Tim Rossovich, he who once took a bet and ate glass. You'll also find out why Carolina Panthers' Rod Smart chose to wear "He Hate Me" during his term on the XFL. Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, who once missed out on practice because "My hair hurts" is here. Keystone Kops style bumbling, talk radio style trash-talking, sideline wars like the one where Buddy Ryan took a swing at fellow assistant coach Kevin Gilbride when both were coaching the Houston Oilers.

"Attitude" is just chock full of fun stories ranging over the last 40+ years of NFL. You get the funny side and the scary side of many of the badasses who took to the field. Don't miss out on the chapter on Joe Don Looney, who has to be up for an award just for being the closest in attitude to his name...
I give this one 9 stars.


Where has the time gone?

I have a stack of book reports I need to get around to writing. My time is limited these days to only going to the library to get on the 'Net, though, so it may take a while. You can expect a new one or two a day if that time ever allows me enough to write them. See you soon.


The Tao of Willie by Willie Nelson (with Turk Pipkin)

The premise of this book is how to live life according to Willie's interpretation of the Tao te Ching. The Red-Headed Stranger gives some great insight into life and happiness, and how to live for the now. My favorite line says it all "Are you happy now?"
The book is chock full of anecdotes from Willie's life, as well as a smattering of his favorite jokes, all applied to the idea of the Tao In essence, he says, there's no sense in getting all keyed up over things in life.
It is part biography, and you will get a few tales of the different stages in his life, though I think that the idea that he was intentionally applying the Tao to his life at an early age is a little far-fetched. It's easy to see that in his current life, however.
When you get through this book, if you don't feel calmer and more happier, then you obviously read it too fast, and missed the basic principles. Even if you don't use this as a Cowboy Taoist bible, you should be able to come away with a clearer respect for the ideas incorporated within.
Rate this one 7½ stars.