Sunday, April 20, 2014

Book review - Brooks: The Biography of Brooks Robinson by Doug Wilson

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (March 4, 2014)

In Brooks: The Biography of Brooks Robinson, Doug Wilson gives us the first comprehensive biography of the legendary Baltimore Orioles third baseman--the greatest defensive third baseman of all time.  Wilson does a fine job in telling Brooks' story.

The only downside is that Wilson was unable to sit down one on one with Mr. Robinson for an interview.  This is, in part, due to Brooks' time in recovering from injuries sustained in early 2012 at a South Florida casino.  Wilson was able to speak with Earl Weaver prior to his passing away in January 2013 and a number of teammates, too.

Robinson is a class act and one of the nicest players you will ever meet.  It is because of this that Robinson stands out in the Golden Era of baseball.  His being on the Veterans Committee played a large role in seeing to it that Ron Santo was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.  Until his recent bout with cancer and injuries of late, you would have a hard time getting him to say no.  While other Hall of Famers would sign their autograph and move on to the next in line, Brooks not only signs but he also makes small talk with those people that he's signing for.  He takes pictures with them as well.

Robinson grew up a Cardinals fan in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he attended Central High School--graduating a few years before it was put on the map in the Civil Rights movement.  His family instilled a hard work ethic in him.

From 1955 until his retirement in 1977, opponents learned that they shouldn't hit the ball towards third base.  In doing so, it was an automatic out with the vacuum cleaner stationed at the base in Robinson.  The Cincinnati Reds learned this the hard way during the 1970 World Series.

Brooks played all 23 seasons of his career with the Orioles--a feat that would be rare in this day and age alone considering free agency and salary dump trading.  He became a role model both on and off the field as he honored the game with elegance, class, and character.  In his career, he won 2 World Series, selected for 18 All-Star Games, won 16 straight Gold Gloves, and three MVP honors: AL, All-Star, and World Series.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Book Review: Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel's Soul

Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel's Soul by Daniel Gordis

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Schocken (March 4, 2014)

Menachem Begin is one of the most polarizing figures of our time but Gordis has penned a well-written biography of the former Israeli Prime Minister.

This isn't just Begin's story but also a story of the State of Israel.  Begin was the PM who made peace with Egypt when he signed a historic peace treaty with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat when Jimmy Carter was the president of the United States.

Once referred to as a fascist by rival David Ben-Gurion, Begin became the first Israeli to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  This is a man that was both complex and controversial.  Even though he was not really religious, he was still very proud to be Jewish.

A Polish native, Begin admired Revisionist Zionist Ze’ev Jabotinsky and became a leader within his Betar movement.  He would later be placed in prison by the Soviets in 1940 and joining the Free Polish Army in 1942.

It was after he joined the Irgun in 1943 that he was able to achieve an instant notoriety for the organization's bombings.

Begin was a right-winger and belonged to the Herut party.  They played opppsites to the Labor governments.  It was a surprise when the party won in 1977.  Through Begin, Israel was able to outreach to the Ethiopian Jews and the Vietnamese "boat people."

It was Begin who made the decision to bomb the Iraq nuclear reactors in 1981, an act that is now seen as being a courageous foresight.

After resigning in 1983, Begin lived in seclusion until his passing in 1992.  He would not be buried beisde his fellow Israeli PMs.  Instead, he would join his Irgun comrades.

What Gordis' perceptive biography does is give us new insight into Begin's life and how his influences continues to live on.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: Hollywood Said No!

Hollywood Said No!: Orphaned Film Scripts, Bastard Scenes, and Abandoned Darlings from the Creators of Mr. Show by Bob Odenkirk and David Cross with Brian Posehn
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 9.10.2013 edition (September 10, 2013)

This book, in essence, is a collection of never-before-seen scripts and ideas.  It contains the full-length scripts for both Bob and David Make a Movie and Hooray for America!

There's a section in the book that contains "constructive" notes written by a "studio executive."  Furthermore, we're treated to a bonus section of scripts from Mr. Show and beyond.  Bob and David also reminisce on what went right and wrong as they add on both context and back story to the scripts.

We can only imagine what these unproduced scripts would have looked like on the big screen.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book Review: The Truth

The Truth by Michael Palin
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (August 13, 2013)

Michael Palin is one of the funniest people alive on this planet.  After all, he belongs to the sketch comedy troupe known to everyone as Monty Python.  He's not just a comic actor in the movies but also an accomplished author of both fiction and non-fiction alike.

With The Truth, Palin makes a return to fiction, writing a warm and witty story of an everyman, a tantalizing offer, a journey to India, and a search  for, what else, the truth.

The main character is Keith Mabbut, a writer whose life is at a crossroads.  His marriage is over and his ex-wife is already engaged.  His children are both on their own paths with a son involved in theater and a daughter in a relationship.

Trying to figure his life out, Mabbut is offered the opportunity to write the biography of the elusive Hamish Melville.  Melville is an influential activist and a humanitarian.  Mabbut's journey takes him to India, where he soon feels rejuvenated.  The more he learns about Melville, the more he grows to admire the figure.  Is Melville really who he claims to be?  The truth, as Mabbut discovers, is whatever we choose to make of it.

Wonderfully insightful and compelling, Palin uses his skills to tell the (fictional) story of a man on an extraordinary adventure.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Money is "Speech" yet Kentucky Senate Won't Let Kentuckians use their "Speech" on Expanded Gambling

You know how Mitch McConnell believes in the idea that money is free speech, right?  How come nobody has sued the Commonwealth of Kentucky for having no choice but to be forced to use their "free speech" in states like Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio when they would rather be spending in on slots and the like in Kentucky.  It's not fair.  It's not right.  And the horse breeders will continue to send their horses to run races out of state as the industry dies a slow death each year.

And yet, every year that the issue comes up in the General Assembly, the Kentucky Senate has a slogan:
The Senate: Where Gambling Bills Go to Die.

It's so much that House Speaker Greg Stumbo won't even make an effort to pass a bill in the State House knowing full well that it will just die in the State Senate.  It's unfair to those of us who wish to use our HARD EARNED MONEY to help the KENTUCKY ECONOMY.

And yet religious conservatives and moralists like Martin Cothran and Focus on the Family don't want that to happen.  In doing so, they are hurting the Kentucky economy.  They are stopping progress from happening.

Don't want tolls on the new bridges in Kentucky?  The state could have had the money if it weren't for the lack of expanded gambling.

Money from gambling would go back into the state economy and the state budget.  It would help the horse industry and the educational system by having more money around in the state budget.

And yet, it is the religious conservatives who continue to use their beliefs to prevent it from happening.

I can't live in a state where my opinion doesn't matter.  I don't like people FORCING THEIR OWN OPINIONS on everybody else because they are morally opposed to it.

Where are the laws that ban shellfish and pork?  Those are foods that are not kosher and unclean but yet restaurants serve them and people eat them anyway.

But that's beside the point.  Religious conservatives are stopping progress in this state but as long as Mitch McConnell believes in the idea that money is speech, it seems like it's time to rise up and file a class-action lawsuit on the matter.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review: Leading Man

Leading Man (Vintage Contemporaries Original) by Benjamin Svetkey
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Vintage (September 3, 2013)

Svetkey, a writer for Entertainment Weekly, writes a novel in the tradition of David Nicholls and Nick Hornby.  His debut novel is hilarious, bittersweet, and heartwarming as he writes about that one thing everybody needs: love. Love of all kinds, really.  The type that lasts.

Maxwell Lerner is 26 years old and he thinks he has his entire life figured out.  He's dating his high school sweetheart, Samantha.  Max is a low-level reporter for a prestigious magazine (This is where Svetkey's experience comes in handy).  Both Max and Samantha live in a walk-up studio apartment together.  That is until she leaves him for his childhood hero, Johnny Mars.  Mars stars as Jack Montana in the action-adventure films.

Getting dumped by his girlfriend for his childhood hero sets Max up on a mission to get inside the glamorous Hollywood world and win her back.  He becomes an entertainment journalist so that he can go to press parties and red carpets, not to mention visiting those exotic locales.  He gets interview scores of celebrities.  Samantha's life takes an tragically unexpected turn and Max gets an education, in both life and love, that he never saw coming.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Recently Published Sports Books

What follows are a few recently published sports books that might be of interest.


The Divine Nature of Basketball: My Season Inside the Ivy League by Ed Breslin
During the 2011-12 college basketball season, Breslin spent the season assisting Yale head coach James Jones.

Wrigley Field Year by Year: A Century at the Friendly Confines by Sam Pathy
As Wrigley Field turns 100 years old, many books are being released to honor the Friendly Confines' centennial birthday.  What this coffee table book does is detail each year of existence.  This is the first such book that does just that.  It does more than cover just the Cubs about also the Federal League baseball team that first played at Wrigley as well as the Chicago Bears of the NFL.  In addition to the year by year approach, the book is divided into nine chapters.

Facing Mariano Rivera: Players Recall the Greatest Relief Pitcher Who Ever Lived by David Fischer
Fischer compiles 150 testimonials from opponents, teammates, scouts, managers, etc. to get an idea of what it was like to face Mariano Rivera.  It's written in the same way as that of Facing Ted Williams.  Some of the players include Hall of Fame inductees, future Hall of Famers and other notables like Roberto Alomar, Derek Jeter, Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, David Ortiz, Nomar Garciaparra, etc.

A Tribe Reborn: How the Cleveland Indians of the ’90s Went from Cellar Dwellers to Playoff Contenders by George Christian Pappas
What this book does is tell the story of how the Cleveland Indians became contenders in the 1990s.


A Game of Brawl: The Orioles, the Beaneaters, and the Battle for the 1897 Pennant by Bill Felber
The 1897 pennant race was the most cutthroat in baseball history.  It also was a struggle to define how the game of baseball would be played.