Bob Hope On TV: Thanks For the Video Memories
Publisher: BearManor Media (December 15, 2017)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
No other modern entertainer can claim the longevity or scope of what Bob Hope accomplished between 1919 to 1997, nearly 80 years in show business. Before his death at the age of 100 in 2003, Hope was a vaudevillian, actor on stage, radio, film, and television. He helped define just what a “stand-up comic” is. He was also a singer, dancer, sometime athlete, and author. He starred in 54 feature films, appeared in many more, and hosted the Academy Awards show 19 times, more than any other host.
Those Academy Award Shows are among the seemingly countless Bob Hope TV appearances chronicled by Wesley Hyatt in his Bob Hope on TV. The heart of his book, not surprisingly, are the numerous specials Hope hosted for NBC television starting in 1950 which continued until 1997. Among those specials were a number of shows performed live before military audiences for the USO (United Services Organization), including the 1970 and 1971 Christmas specials taped in Vietnam, now listed in the Top 46 U.S. network prime-time telecasts. Both were seen by more than 60 percent of the U.S. households watching television.
Add in all the specials hosted by others and TV shows Hope guested on, it’s obvious Hyatt had a daunting task simply cataloguing but one part of the Bob Hope legacy. Gratefully, Hyatt gives us much more than capsule descriptions of each Hope TV outing. Decade by decade, Hyatt gives us useful introductions that describe what Hope’s career was like during each of these periods of his small screen life.
I must admit, Hyatt’s critical analysis of each special, in particular, make it surprising Hope’s tenure with NBC ran for as long as it did. After the 1950s, Hyatt uses few compliments to describe these programs. Hyatt claims that Hope got further and further out of touch with contemporary tastes and mores, especially regarding equal rights for women. During the Vietnam war, Hope was a conspicuous supporter of that unpopular conflict and was a known backer of beleaguered President Richard Nixon. Hyatt goes beyond these already well-known aspects of Hope’s public life and knocks most of the skits and monologues for much of Hope’s TV career. As Hyatt made every effort to screen as many of the Hope appearances as he could, one wonders if boredom crept into his critical eye or if Hyatt is using contemporary standards—as in his distaste for Hope’s targeting of gays—to measure broadcasts that might not have always earn high ratings, but remained popular for many reasons. Audiences kept coming back again and again even as the generations changed. Advertisers usually supported Hope for long periods of time, especially Chrysler (1963–73) and Texaco (1975–85).
Whether or not readers agree with Hyatt’s often unhappy critical analyses or not, without question, you got to be a major fan of Bob Hope to want this lengthy tome. There’s a whole lot of old-timers in that number. And we must all applaud Hyatt for his incredible task of doing the research for this volume. From hunting down rare and obscure copies of the old broadcasts to screening nearly everything he could find to interviewing surviving participants, notably joke writers like Bob Mills, Wesley Hyatt has compiled an impressive work of research most libraries should want to shelve, especially those with good collections of books dealing with entertainment. Bob Hope fans of whatever generation you belong to may well want to skim through these pages—Bob Hope on TV isn’t a cover to cover read unless, like Hyatt, all this television minutia is your cup of tea.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Aug. 2, 2018:
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Press & Publishing Release date:
May 14, 2018ISBN-10:1941948035065ISBN-13: 978-1948035064
It should be no surprise that December’s Soldiers was published by Defiance Press this year. Not only does the house champion Texas writers, but a month before they issued Marvin Tyson’s fictional account of what might happen after Texas secedes from the U.S, they published Daniel Miller’s non-fiction Texit: Why and How Texas Will Leave the Union.
Tyson’s new sequel to his 2015 Fall of the Western Empire opens when an ex-president of the U.S. is drawn into a scheme by a group of rich Chinese underworld figures who will take care of his massive gambling debts if he’ll help ignite a war between the U.S. and the newly created Republic of Texas. They hope such a war would distract all eyes from their planned takeover of all the crude oil leases in Texas. Ex-president Jackson isn’t the only political leader working for the Chinese. An important senator and the Attorney General are also mixed up in the plot.
Opposing them are the presidents of the U.S. and Texas who want a smooth transition for Texas from statehood to independence. A more than capable group of Texas investigators try to connect the dots between troublemakers in Texas and Washington, the leaders of the conspiracy, and the Chinese bosses. And that takes some risky and deadly doing.
The stakes couldn’t be higher in this fast-paced tale of political intrigue. Both Texas and the U.S. are called on to help out Europe in its current economic crisis, the U.N. is concerned about any potential war, and a number of states in the American heartland announce they wish to follow Texas’s lead and secede from the union. The U.S. government says that simply can’t happen. The rich well of main and supporting players includes the movers and shakers at the top of the political heaps as well as the investigators in the trenches who engage in gunfights and prison escapes in their quest to avert any larger wars.
As a result, Tyson has us in locations in or near Austin, Texas and Washington. as well as important scenes set in Macau, China, and the mountains of Kurdistan. In short, Tyson paints a large canvas that isn’t confined within the borders of Texas.December’s Soldiers is a thriller that should appeal to readers well beyond those interested in any potential Texas secession.
It’s, in part, a page-turner of an espionage tale as well as a layered and very believable political thriller. It’s refreshing to meet so many positive political leaders in a story with no shortage of optimism. I have to admit—I have no idea what the title means. I can’t connect it with anything I read. For now, consider December’s Soldiers a hot summer read for hot summer nights.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on July 1, 2018
Author: Scott Moses
Publisher: Laughing Warrior Publishing (June 14, 2018)
Publication Date: June 14, 2018
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
The premise of Fools of Parody is established when a spaceship lands on earth bearing two powerful, god-like aliens, Anu and Matrona. They’ve been to earth before, helping shape the evolution of life here but haven’t stopped by for two thousand years. They are very unhappy with how humanity has turned out and have decided we have nine months to clean up our act. Or else.
They claim humanity is the only alleged “advanced” species in the galaxy that doesn’t embrace unconditional love and joy. They’ve sent us a series of messengers to teach us, including “the fourteen Dalai Lamas, Muhammad, Martin Luther King, Jack Robinson, RosaParks, AbrahamLincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking, Nikola Tesla, Susan B. Anthony, Mother Teresa, Be-nazir Bhutto, Leonardo da Vinci, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Langston Hughes, Shel Silverstein, Oscar Wilde, and the list goes on.” Now, they’re collecting seven contemporary humans to try to teach us how to get past our drive to separate ourselves into all manner of conflicting groups that can’t seem to get along. Perhaps dolphins or eleven other species might be better at being the dominant species on earth?
Along the way, we meet characters like Major Delia Coulinbaugh, aliens with different agendas from Anu and Metrona, as well as humans with alien DNA. To say more opens the door to potential spoilers. Suffice it to say the cast of characters and unpredictable events broaden the canvas in a number of surprising ways.
The humor of this book isn’t present on every page. Long sections read as more-or-less straight-forward narratives and expositions. Still, in the early pages we read a series of penis jokes. Shel Silverstein as an agent of love and joy? FBI agent Doxy Sculder has a name that’s a mash-up of the leads in the X-Files, Dana Scully and Fox Mulder. A drug kingpin named Floyd Maybury?
But, for me, much of the alleged humor gets lost in the complexity of the stories and the actions of a growing cast of characters whose motivations and relationships aren’t always clear. On the other hand, all the plots and sub-plots contribute a lot of suspense to the tale, which is the main element that kept me turning the pages. This is a book that demands close attention as you go along, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s quite a trip Moses takes us on, or should I say trips? You decide.
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Texit: Why and How Texas Will Leave the Union
Release date: April 21, 2018
I lived over twenty years in Texas where I earned both my masters and doctorate degrees. My father grew up in West Texas and then lived over thirty years in Dallas. While my Mom grew up in Arkansas, she too lived in Dallas with Dad until her death in 2015. Most of my extended family, both maternal and paternal, have lived in Texas for decades.
I say all this because author Daniel Miller implies talk of Texas independence has been part of Texas culture for a very long time. First I heard of it. True, from my childhood on, I’ve known many Texans who have a very strong pride in their state to colorful extremes. One of my Dad’s books he got sometime in the ‘30s or ‘40s was called Texas Brags, a collection of things distinctively Texan.
But Daniel Miller, president of the Texas Nationalist Movement, goes beyond all that. In his view, I shouldn’t be surprised I haven’t heard much about Texas independence as he believes the majority of Texans who would like to secede just don’t talk about it. He preaches secession and his case isn’t based on an exaggerated sense of state pride but an astonishing range of documentation and research.
Part of his thesis is that the Federal Government is over-reaching, bloated, wasteful, and Texas could do very well without it. He believes the Federal government has strayed very far away from its fundamental principles. He preaches a dogma most conservatives, in any state, would agree wholeheartedly with. In fact, you don’t have to be Texan to get into Miller’s world view. He thinks secession is a universal concept for anyone craving independence, freedom, Self-determination and self-government. After all, he writes, State governments are essentially sub-divisions of the Federal government which would be more responsive to citizens if they untangled themselves from Washington bureaucracy.
Perhaps the most convincing part of the book is his plan for a gradual move to state independence, not some radical instantaneous break from the union. First, a statewide referendum needs to take place to demonstrate the will of the people. Then, a period of adjustment would move the state from inter-dependence on the U.S. into becoming a new nation. He says Texas already has everything it needs to be self-sufficient. The new government would have to figure out multi-lateral treaties and determine ownership of Federal properties like military bases and arsenals.
I have to admit, while much of his book is chock full of facts and figures, Miller Makes a number of assumptions and generalizations as to why those Texans who would prefer independence can’t get politically organized. I wonder about all the citizens who weren’t Texas born and consider themselves patriotic Americans.
Texit expands on the themes of Miller's first book, Line in the Sand (2011), which addressed the roots of Texas Nationalism and the practical implications of national self-identity for Texans. Miller’s controversial books and media appearances certainly deserve serious attention as he presents a well-thought-out case despite some global generalizations about what Texans think and want. Still, he isn’t just some spokesman for a minor fringe element in Texas who just blogs his ideas for anyone interested.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on June 4:
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From Grief to Creativity
By Dr. Wesley Britton
For decades, I presume, counselors, therapists, and teachers have told mourners that writing journals can be very therapeutic when dealing with grief. On the other hand, I recall a writing teacher who commented that he read a lot of student submissions that were probably very therapeutic for the writer but of little or no interest to any readers.
Naturally, many of us write things intended or should be intended to be private or for a small family circle. But when the blogosphere and social media exploded, many of these formerly private journal entries went online for anyone to read. In some cases, these blog items ended up becoming books.
Yesterday, I attended a Hospis Support Group for those of us who have lost a spouse and the topic of writing journals came up. Then, listening to other people describe episodes, events, or moments before or after their spouse’s death, something occurred to me.
What we were discussing could be a useful writing prompt for writers who very much want to appeal to a reading audience. True, if we are describing something attached to an actual emotional moment, the emotional impact, certainly for the writer, could have a special wallop unlike anything else we scribe. And there’s no reason not to consider crafting similar scenes describing moments for fictional characters.
I doubt I’ve just said anything new. But it might be an opening for authors looking for ways to introduce a new character or situation they haven’t considered before. So, I offer this example from my second week of grief. One thing I noticed was by choosing one rather tight setting, I was able to illustrate some characteristics of my late wife in a rather succinct way:
There she sits, the spectral image of the short-haired Betty Britton leaning forward on her relatively new couch. She wanted that couch from Bob’s Furniture last year after she decided that would give her her own space to relax on when at home. Better than her old recliner, apparently.
When she was home and not confined to a hospital or rehab bed, Betty sat or laid on that couch with a little table-tray in front of her with her various small possessions surrounding the space where she placed her breakfast and dinners. That’s where she ate her Meals on Wheels which she usually liked better than I ever did. There, she enjoyed her cans of ginger ale, chocolate Glucerna, and cups of ice. Once upon a time, she loved crystal lite but, for some reason, lost her desire for that. She loved her morning coffee in that huge cup of hers into which she poured her sweet vanilla creamer. She usually filled that cup to the brim but rarely drank enough to make it worthwhile.
She had a little shallow glass cup in which she kept the change for the Share Ride drivers. They insisted on the $3.50 in exact change for each trip, coming and going to the dialysis center. By the cup was a stack of one dollar bills for the same reason. She had her strips of blister-packs of her daily pills organized by the Medicine Shop for her complex prescription regimen. She had her glasses which she often lost and the cell phone which she lost just as often, usually in her bed or couch cushions.
She had her blood sugar Glucometer which she needed to use more regularly than she did. Oh, she got so mad with me for asking several times a day what her sugar level was. That was until her visiting nurses let her know I was doing a good thing by keeping up with her numbers. “I’m a grown-ass woman! I can do whatever I want! I don’t need you watching over my every move!” Oh yes, she did.
The last time she went into the hospital, Ron Collins came by to make a few changes Betty wanted. She often had a difficult time rising from her couch without help. She often complained the TV was too low for her to see over her walker. So Ron put the TV on a riser it still sits on. He put little risers under each of the couch legs to make it easier for Betty to get up and down. She never made it home to try these things out.
So the image I’m seeing and hearing on the couch is the image of a Betty eating her dinner with all her necessities spread around in front of her. Oh yes, the mail too. The little table is gone now as it rather crowded that side of this little living room. But that was the place Betty spent most of her waking hours last year when she was home. Me, I can’t go near that couch. It hurts just to know it’s there.
“Here,” the spectre says, holding out a plastic Solo Cup, “get me a glass of ice. No water.”
Damaged Beyond All Recognition (Infinity's Trinity Book 1)
Print Length: 361 pages
Publisher: Alan Felyk; 1 edition (January 1, 2018)
Publication Date: January 1, 2018
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Reviewed by Dr Wesley Britton
I admit it. Alan Felyk has an imagination I simply envy. The tag line for his new Damaged Beyond All Recognition is “Extending the literary traditions of Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams ...” Vonnegut, certainly. Adams, well, from time to time. It’s certainly true that this novel is going to appeal to readers who like high-minded humor laced into a complex, layered yarn.
Three unusual protagonists anchor the proceedings. First, there’s Paul Tomenko who is a famous writer chronicling events in the counter-culture in Colorado in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Suddenly, he finds himself traveling to and from God's library somewhere outside the Universe. That’s the current God, the less than omnipotent being in a long chain of less than omnipotent beings.
For example, there’s no longer an afterlife for humanity to ascend to. Humans can no longer access memories from their past lives in previous versions of the Universe or acquire new memories. So who can replace God when he dies as he is coming very close to that point?
It’s Paul who has to find the solution to this dilemma with the help of his two lovers, the genius genetic Maggie Mae Monahan and the Sci-Fi novelist Allie Briarsworth who intuitively senses events from the past and future.
Paul’s brain creates some unusual supporting players like the gatekeeper to God’s archives who is a doppelganger for Cher and the very helpful librarian who is a doppelganger for actress Katharine Ross. Clearly, these women came from Paul’s unfulfilled carnal wishes. Toss in Gronk and Grita, two six-year-old neo-Neanderthals who are the most intelligent humans on Earth due to reconstructed DNA. Did I mention the story includes traveling across multiple planes of existence or a species of aliens who want to obliterate humanity so they can become the supreme creations of the cosmos?
Metaphysics have rarely been treated with such originality or irreverence. This is entertaining science fiction with a cerebral framework, lively tone, well-drawn characters (with overly restrained sex lives, sad to say), and the unexpected on nearly every page. You should probably make a point of not missing this one as you too might be a figment of Paul Tomenko’s imagination. Wait till you find out where you’ve been. Talk about a Big Bang . . .
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on April 24 at:
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THE GRAY WOLF OF CHICAGO.
"Hitching his way out of Northern Michigan, Gareth Manion, a gutter punk with wolf-like abilities, heads to Chicago to start a new life for himself. Unbeknownst to him, the Windy City is plagued by a super powered gang, whose leader is always seeking ways to increase his own prowess--and Gareth has become their main target.
Unfortunately for them, they don't realize how powerful Gareth really is.
Friendship, romance, vengeance--this is the explosive origin of the hard boiled superhero, GODAN, back when he was known as THE GRAY WOLF OF CHICAGO."
Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1987712870
“Rob Williams’ Sins of Variance poses one of science fiction’s crossroads in a difficult future of dark choices for the human race.”
Sins of Variance takes place 500 years into the future in Gloucestershire County, United Kingdom (near Wales). Mankind has changed through genetic engineering, almost to the point of being unrecognizable from what we know today. Advanced genetics has brought about a complete “optimal” set of genomes preferred by the society. Though variation has been bred out of most humans, there are rare individuals with unique inner characteristics who have been deemed unacceptable by the society. They struggle because of these personal differences, and some find their world is not really what they have been led to believe.
The author would rate the book on the high side of PG-13 due to violence.
The Ardent Writer Press
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Fairies, Robots and Unicorns?--Oh My!
A Collection of Funny Short Stories Sarina Dorie
Print Length: 158 pages
Publication Date: April 29, 2016
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC ASIN: B01F06DFDW
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
While I’ve read more than my fair share of sci-fi, I haven’t read all that many short stories in the genre and even fewer intentionally humorous SF yarns. Some have stuck in my mind, such as one tale in which a female author had a group of “Wendys” rebelling from the adolescent chauvinism of Peter Pan and his Lost Boys expecting the Wendies to forever take care of all their domestic needs.
Excluding one anthology of Harry Harrison stories, Fairies, Robots and Unicorns was the first collection of light-hearted offerings I ever sat down to read. I’m glad I did. I don’t plan on it being the last collection of such fare I spend time with. In particular, Sarina Dorie is often wickedly clever, laugh out loud funny, and extremely original, one of my favorite characteristics from an author in any genre.
For example, “Five Tips for Slaying a Unicorn” is a bit of humorous advice told in a list, a literary device the author wanted to experiment with. “Speed Dating Books” is about a trip to a bookstore where books try their seductive best to get buyers to take them home. “Debbie Does Delta Draconis III” plays with thinly-disguised characters from Star Trek, or at least alien surrogates for them, who invade a lawyer’s dreams.
Some stories aren’t so much comical as offbeat or simply quirky.” Eels for Heels” is a weird modern fairy tale where a woman is cursed by a sea witch who gives her eels magically attached to her heels until she finds her true love. Not every tale tries to be comic. In one of my favorites, “The Quantum Mechanic,” a more straight-forward sci-fi story features some hiccups in the space-time continuum with happy results, at least for one soon to be involved romantic couple. Likewise, “Cinderella’s Holo-Wand” is a cautionary tale about wanting to use technology to transform from an undesirable body into hopeful physical perfection.
In such a collection, few readers are likely to like everything. I wasn’t too fond of “Red as a Pickle” which has aliens draining away all the colors on earth until they are outwitted by a housecat. “The Office Messiah” is a rather underdeveloped play on the philosophy of Jesus as juxtaposed against workplace realities. “Blackboard Galaxy” is a simply odd tale of a human teacher trying to deal with alien children who expect to be eaten when they are bad. Eaten but restored to health unlike digested human food.
Some yarns are obvious parodies as with “The Optimist Police” where negative thoughts are criminalized. I’m certain every reader who’s ever tried to work with tech support from any company you can think of will emphasize with a starship captain under attack from aliens unable to get help until he extends his warranty in “Interstellar Tech Support.” Speaking of parodies, “Lady Chatterly’s Computer” is a very clever take-off of the D.H. Lawrence novel.
Some titles, like “Confessions of the Orgasm Fairy” and “Robo-rotica,” might suggest the collection isn’t intended for YA readers. But the content really isn’t anything too heavy for most teenagers. “Robo-rotica” is the most explicit of the fantasies, describing hot sex between two machines. If that titillates you, then be concerned. Be very concerned.
Among the many characteristics we learn about Sarina Dorie is that she has a background of classroom teaching, that she has an Italian mother, she likes food, and, of course, enjoys sex. At least invoking it in her writing. This collection is but a thin slice of her 100 or so short stories which you can learn more about at—
Fairies, Robots and Unicorns is entertaining, light reading with its occasional social commentary delivered with more than a spoonful of sugar, sometimes just silly, often simply twisted, sometimes wickedly funny. It’s the sort of collection you can read in short sessions as some of the tales are extremely short indeed.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on April 7, 2018