ON THE BOOKSHELF

Interviews and Reviews of todays newest and best books.
Reviews

“Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father’s Unsolved Murder”

By Robert Crane and Christopher Fryer (University Press of Kentucky)

This book is really the story of two Robert Cranes: the radio DJ-turned-actor (called Bob) who is best remembered as the lovable star of TV’s Hogan’s Heroes; and his son (best known as Bobby) who agonized over the mystery of his dad’s unsolved and violent murder and who has had a successful career as interviewer and magazine columnist, and who was actor John Candy’s publicist up until the star’s death. Both stories are fascinating  for very different reasons.

TV star Bob Crane was a charming lady-killer who was one of the fill-ins for Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. He left Bobby’s mom for 20 years for his co-star Patti, and later divorced her, too. Bob was fascinated by new electronic technologies, starting with his childhood and guiding his success as the top Morning DJ in the nation’s #2 market for years. It took a dark turn when Bob Crane began making private sex films with beautiful and sexy women. He might have been quite a filmmaker even he had been able to use his skills openly with different topics and more clothes. He was sharing a house with Bobby since his divorce from Patti, and was starring in and producing a play in Arizona when he was bludgeoned to death in his motel room bed.

The police were hopelessly out of their depth trying to find the killer. Bobby was convinced that his greedy and cruel stepmother was behind the murder, while the police were sure it was Crane’s rough pal and hanger-on, John Carpenter. No one was ever convicted. Patti and her son Scotty got everything in a controversial will, and augmented it by uploading Bob Crane’s sex films to a website and charging to view it. This sickened Bobby, his mom, and his siblings, but they couldn’t stop it.

Bobby had gone to work with his dad many times, first in the DJ booth, and later on the set at Hogan’s Heroes and other acting jobs. He didn’t want to act, but he liked interviewing actors. One of his first big successes was a biography of rising star Jack Nicholson, released in the late 1960s. Bobby went on to write interviews for Oui and its parent magazine Playboy, as well as many other periodicals. He befriended actor John Candy because he had done some successful publicist work for a mutual friend; Candy hired Crane to be his publicist, a career that was wonderful up until Candy’s sad death at age 43 of a heart attack on a movie set.

Booby’s first wife, Kari, a brilliant and passionate artist and photographer died of breast cancer. He married again several years later to Leslie, giving him a stepdaughter and a new lease on life. Bobby Crane gave Hogan’s hat to his younger half-brother and auctioned the iconic leather jacket worn by Sinatra in the movie Von Ryan’s Express, by his dad in Hogan’s Heroes and by Greg Kinnear in the Bob Crane biopic Auto Focus in 2001. The book includes an “interview” with his dad, using Bob’s own words from previous articles. It’s one of the pleasant surprises in his frank but affectionate book.


Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. For October 10, 2015

“GOTHAM: The Complete First Season”

(DC Comics/Warner Bros.) in Blu-Ray and Digital HD (4-Disc, 22-episodes)

What in Gotham created the incredible villains that one day would be faced by Batman? And what created a vigilante? Layers of corruption undergirded Gotham for decades. The monsters that will stalk Gotham a decade later are in the formative state here. The man who will grow to be their worst nightmare is now a determined 12-year-old orphan with a fiercely protective guardian. The woman in-between was a smart & spunky 13-year-old who lives by her wits on the street. She will become Catwoman. GCPD Detective Jim Gordon brings hope to Gotham, and his courageous determination to do the right thing lifts his partner Harvey Bullock out of the darkness.

Our story begins with a double-homicide in an alley, when Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife were murdered.  A young police crusader, James Gordon, gets the call along with his partner Harvey Bullock. When they catch Wayne’s killer, Oswald squeals to the MCU cops that Fish Mooney set it up. When Gordon pushes the investigation, he and his partner are captured by Fish’s minions. Then Falcone shows up: no cop gets killed unless he says so. They are released but Gordon must kill Oswald, which he fakes.

When the city sends all street kids to juvenile hall, traffickers kidnap the whole bus-full. Selina Kyle fights for her street kids against the vicious ring. Gordon and Bullock save them all. Leaving a bloody trail of random victims, Oswald (“Penguin”) Cobblepot returns to Gotham. He offers to be Gordon’s mole in the coming mob war. A vigilante tricks corrupt men and sends them skyward attached to a weather balloon!

The Waynes had planned to raze the old Arkham District in order to build low-income housing and a new modern mental-health facility. Falcone has taken over the project, but he is opposed by another aspiring mobster, Salvatore Maroni. The Arkham Project is turning into a mob turf war, and someone is killing councilmen. When Maroni’s place is hit, Oswald becomes a valuable asset. Gordon races to the mayor’s house with Bullock following to stop the professional assassin.

A new street drug called “Viper” draws calcium from the body to gain the super-strength but then the users’ bones dissolve and they die. The newest version is called “Venom”, and doesn’t have the side-effects. A mad chemist is planning to use it for revenge against Wayne Enterprises, which fired him. Bruce suspects the Board is guilty of misconduct. Maroni sends for Gordon when Oswald tells his story, and Jim verifies the account, giving Maroni a weapon against Falcone. Fish and Falcone sent a maniacal assassin named Victor to bring Gordon back for “questioning” or execution. After intimidating the entire Police force they engage in a running battle with Gordon, who is rescued by Montoya & Allen. Healing from 2 bullets, Gordon visits Bruce. Falcone and Maroni’s brief turf-war ends in a ceasefire. Bullock joins Gordon in arresting Falcone and the Mayor for conspiracy! Falcone maintains that the he is not the enemy: the enemy is anarchy. Cobblepot is actually a snitch for Falcone.  Edward Nygma is the Gotham CSI, with a twisted sense of humor but a scientist’s keen eye. Twisted case of the day: business owner has his rising stars fight to the death in an abandoned office setting! Gordon gets captured and becomes the next target. Bullock shames the precinct into helping him find the missing Gordon, who wins his “bout”.

An honest ADA, Harvey Dent, wants to use the idea of an eyewitness to go after a corrupt businessman, Dick Lovecraft. The Mayor reopens a “renovated” Arkham Asylum and moves all the criminally-insane prison inmates into it.

Bruce gets into a fight at school, which he wins in the second round. He worries that he stays angry, and asks Alfred to teach him how to fight. Selina “Cat” Kyle gets caught B&E, and tells Gordon that she saw who killed the Waynes. He arranges for Bruce and Alfred to keep her safe at the mansion until she can testify. She is good for Bruce, making him have fun.

Assassins head to Wayne Manor to find Selina so she spirits Bruce away while Alfred holds the trio off. She leads him through the labyrinth of the city, avoiding the assassins until Bruce is safe. Gordon is re-assigned to Arkham, and someone starts practicing giving inmates electroshock therapy. One of the victims is an inmate who was masquerading as a nurse; the killer is Jack Gruber, and he drives out of Arkham. To get his job back, Gordon must catch Gruber, and Bullock will help. Gruber is after an ex-partner-in-crime, Maroni, who is brought to the GCPD. Gruber electrifies the building, but Gordon outsmarts him. He grows close to his ally from Arkham, Dr. Leslie Thompkins.

When a murder witness is killed in police custody, Gordon collars a cop, only to be told his perp is part of an ongoing undercover operation. Butch rescues Fish as she is being tortured, but she is determined to kill Penguin before they flee town. Bullock is trying to keep Gordon from being killed by the protected criminals and dirty cops, who are tied to the Police Commissioner. Gordon asks Penguin for help with the dirty narcs, and he eagerly agrees to do a favor for his friend. Fish escapes and tells Maroni that Penguin is a mole. This leads to his putting Oswald in a car being crushed, but he escapes. Bullock is chasing a killer who scares his victims to death. Dr. Crane is researching terror, and harvests the adrenal glands from his victims! He injects his son, driving him insane, and is killed in an exchange of gunfire.

A nice date to the circus for Jim Gordon and Dr. Lee Thompkins turns into a brawl between clowns and acrobats, with a murdered Snake Dancer. A circus psychic brings a cryptic message; Lee interrupts their dinner date with the answer! Her son was the killer. The young aerialists who will become the parents of Dick Grayson decide to marry. Fish is held in a bizarre prison and she turns it on its ear by organizing the inmates. Barbara returns home to find Jim gone but Selina and Ivy living there. Bruce drops some bombshells at the meeting of the Board of Wayne Enterprises. Penguin reopens Fish Mooney’s place but the premiere is sparsely attended. Butch didn’t die, and he has been brainwashed by Victor in order to help the club.

 

A guy in a red hood leads a bank robbery gang and the hood seems to change the wearer! Their signature move: tosses some of the stolen cash to the poor.  An old military comrade of Alfred’s stays at the Wayne mansion for a few days, but he’s in trouble, and when Alfred catches him stealing he stabs him. The Board at Wayne Enterprises hired him to kill Bruce! Barbara tries to convince Selina to use her good looks as a weapon, but Cat demurs.  Fish goes to extreme lengths as she negotiates with the sociopath/doctor.

The Police Commissioner is dirty, and he collects information on every single cop in order to keep him or her in line.  Harvey and Jim take Oswald to a secret country house where the PC has a secret stashed. It turns out to be his mentally-ill daughter, who killed her mother 20 years ago. Gordon deals with the PC: blackmail files get shredded, Gordon gets promoted, and Loeb’s daughter is safe. But Gordon had to grant a future favor to Penguin, and Harvey worries about it. Fish discovers she’s on an icy island and plots her escape. Bruce seeks Alfred’s assailant.

Gordon is handed a cold case. The Ogre targets young women, takes them home, holds them hostage when they try to leave, then kills them. (Loeb set Gordon up, because the killer threatens to attack anyone close to any cop who tries to find him.) So Gordon calls a press conference and announces the GCPD will find the serial-killer.  Meanwhile, Bruce invites Selina to the Wayne Charity Ball, and sends appropriate clothes for her to choose. (They make a sweet couple!) Ed Nygma confront Miss Kringle’s violent boyfriend and stabs him to death while defending himself.

Oswald is conflicted as he has tried to keep his elderly mother ignorant of his homicidal tendencies, but Maroni tells her the truth. Bruce discovers Wayne Corporation is corrupt. The Ogre had plastic surgery a decade earlier; he donated $10K to the Wayne Charity so he could capture Barbara Kean. Gordon is frantic to find her. Harvey goes undercover at a sex club, and finds a hooker who had been attacked by the Ogre. Jim & Harvey find the killer’s lair, but he left with Barbara to kill her parents. They find her and kill him.  Oswald triggers a mob war. Gordon races to save Falcone, believing he alone can prevent chaos, but Falcone is ready to retire. Now is the time for law and order, he tells Gordon, and gives him a knife which was a gift years earlier from Gordon’s father. Selina reinvents herself to emulate Fish. Ed Nygma has a psychological episode, Barbara tries to murder Lee during a therapy session, and Bruce finds an important clue about his late father’s true nature.

The Special Features present how GOTHAM was imagined. This backstory exploration allows the writers to show the downward spiral path that the villains walked. The new season starts soon, with two sets of eleven episodes known as “The Rise of the Supervillians”. I can’t wait!


Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. For September 12, 2015

“Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good”

By Steven Garber (principal of Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture)

Martin Luther made vocation an important aspect of the Protestant Reformation almost 500 years ago. All vocations could and should honor God, not merely the sacred ones. No job was too humble to serve Jesus, who came to earth in the humblest human form to serve us.

What will you do with the life God has given you? What can you do to exhibit the compassionate heart of Christ toward the poor, the disenfranchised, the trafficked, and the hopeless? How can you help your children develop their heart as well as their mind?

Every time God made a covenant with humans, “a relationship is offered, a revelation is given, and a responsibility is expected.”  “If we lose God in the modern world, then we lose access to these four great ideas-meaning, purpose, responsibility, and accountability.”  The author states that “there is responsibility for knowledge; we must know rightly, and do rightly.”

The author is a book-lover (as am I) but we both realize their limitations: you can’t learn to throw a Frisbee or to swim by merely reading a book. “Words have to become flesh”. Further, we flourish as humans when we are connected to others; not having a sense of relationship means we also lose a sense of responsibility. Our vocations give us the opportunity to serve others, because we want our time spent on our jobs to matter, to “make sense of the hopes and dreams” of one’s life.

This book is a rich resource, powerful and passionate. It should reread, often.

“Work, Play, Love: A Visual Guide to Calling, Career & The Mission of God”

By Mark R. Shaw (director of the World Christianity program and professor of historical studies at Africa International University in Nairobi, Kenya)

“Just about everything I know about work, I learned selling newspapers.” So began the author’s quest for balance between work, play and love. This is not a book about choosing a career, or a theology of work; rather, it is about realizing that we have not just ONE calling but a cluster of callings. The work-life balance the author proposes is the “wisdom worker” model, and the biblical underpinning is the book of Proverbs.

Islam & Christianity: Compares Basic Teachings and Beliefs"

By Rev. Bruce Green with Andras Szalai (Rose Publishing, distributed by Veritas Communications)

As the Middle East seems to be its most religiously divisive in centuries, what is the difference between Christianity and Islam? Both are monotheistic faith originating in the Middle East: Christianity in the 1st century AD and Islam in the 7th century AD. Both have what they consider to be divinely-revealed and inspired scriptures. Both teach the necessity of following God (Arabic name is Allah, translated as "The One".) Both teach that God(Allah) created the universe. There are, however, significant differences .

Muslims believe that Islam (which means "submission" to Allah) is the original religion, and that Allah appointed thousands of prophets to warn and guide humanity, including Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. in 610 Allah sent an angel to dictate the Quo'ran to the last prophet, Muhammed. After his death in 632, Sunni Islam spread rapidly through Arabia and into North Africa, often accompanied by the sword.

In contract, Christians believe that Adam, the first man, brough sin into the world which cursed it. Prophets tried unsuccessfully through ancient Israel to keep God's followers as a righteous people, but sin constantly derailed their efforts. Jesus, the Son of God, came to undo that curse by paying the punishment for all sin at the cross. He rose from the dead to show God was more powerful than death, and will return in the Last Days to claim His followers and bring justice to the world.

Mulsims believe that Allah is the One True God. Christians believe that God is One but He is a complex unity, revealed in Creator Father, Savior Son, and Sustainer Holy Spirit. It is a Holy Mystery and has nothing to do with Mary being God's consort (which would be heretical and idolatry). Allah's ultimate attribute is His will, which causes everything to happen. God's ultimate attribute is His love, which motivates all His actions.

The Quo'ran is considered divine in its original Arabic form. The Bible is considered divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit Its historicity is proven by such aracheological discoveries as the Dead Sea Scrols, which prove the Bible has not been "corrupted" as Muslims believe.

Muslims consider Muhammed the "seal of the prophets", who reformed the polytheistic and animist religion of the ancient Arabic people, and serves as the perfect example to follow. Christians believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT Law and Prophets.

Islam teaches that Paradise is possible if Muslims practice the Five Pillars of Islam. There is reward for following and penalty for disobedience in Islam; no savior, but mercy is possible. In contrast, Christians believe eternal life is a gift of grace from God through Jesus the Christ. Earning salvation is impossible due to our pitiful sinful nature.

Christians and Muslims have been in constant war against each other, but the real culprit is Satan. Following the Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5-7) is the best way for Christians to imitate Jesus and share with Muslims. They need grace.Don't ever offer your left hand or use it for eating or gift-giving. Be gender-sensitive. Treat your Bible with respect. Don't turn the bottom of your foot or shoe toward a Muslim. Practice modesty. Don't assume your Muslim friend understands your meaning of "Christianity".  Discuss but don't argue. Christians shoud not insult Muhammed, who had much in common with many OT prophets & military leaders. Lift up Jesus instead. Talk about Jesus, who Muslims call Isa Al Masih. It is fine to offer to pray for them, even in the Name of Jesus. But don't pray in the Name of the Father because they have a misunderstanding about the fatherhood of God.  Be hospitable. Build a relationship.

“Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy”

By Frank McLynn (Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group)

The author states, “Genghis Khan was the greatest conqueror the world has ever known. He and his sons vanquished peoples from the Adriatic to the Pacific, eventually reaching Austria, Finland, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Vietnam, Burma, Japan and Indonesia. His empire stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Arctic Ocean. Mongol influence extended as far as Mali in Africa. The Mongol empire covered 12 million contiguous square miles-an area as large as Africa and bigger than North America. By 1240 Mongol conquests covered most of the ’known’ world. If ever the phrase ‘great man’ applied in history, it applied to Genghis. “

The climate and environment on the steppe produced a particular kind of hardy people. The Mongol invasions resulted in vast tracts of formerly cultivated land being reclaimed by forests. They spread terror and cruelty and massacred millions in their conquests. However, the Mongols did open up the world, serving as a transmission belt for trade, technology, science and culture. They might have accidentally spread the Black Death. The Mongols left no great art, architecture, literature, agricultural advances or technological ones. However, Genghis Khan and his heirs changed the world.

“On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Lands of the Nomads”

By Tim Cope (Bloomsbury Books, now in paperback)

For a contemporary take on the breadth of the Mongolian Empire of Genghis Khan, an Australian adventurer undertook a journey on horseback across the entire length of the Eurasian steppe from Mongolia to the Danube River. It was a 6,000-mile trek that took 3 years across scorching desert, deep forest, swamps, glaciers, and the subzero “starving steppe”. Traversing Mongolia into Kazakhstan, Turkey into Crimea, Ukraine into Russia, ending in Hungary.

He made incredible friends and ate indescribably horrible food, mostly boiled meat, eating everything of a slaughtered animal but its toenails. Tim Cope saw his long-time girlfriend leave the trail to her job and got married all while Cope was on the trail. His personal tragedy went deeper, however: his beloved father was killed in a car accident.

I learned plenty about Mongol and Kazakh culture, the strength and hardiness of the Mongolian ponies and camels, their dedication to their goats and sheep, and their deep cultural virtue of hospitality.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. For August 18, 2015

“Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future”

By Ashlee Vance (ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)

At 6 feet tall, broad-shouldered, sturdy and thick, he seems an unlikely genius. Musk holds resolve “in the highest regard, and he respects people who continue on after being told no.” It’s because resolve is an essential part of his personality, and he has shown plenty of naysayers that he can back up his innovation with execution.

His stated life’s purpose is to turn humans into space colonizers, beginning with Mars. In Silicon Valley, he has built a rocket research lab and manufacturing plant plus a solar energy company to run his incredibly popular electric cars, the Tesla. Fellow CEOs in Silicon Valley views Elon Musk with reverential awe. It’s understandable.

Musk is the chairman and largest shareholder in SolarCity, a booming solar energy company. He intends to set up solar-powered electric recharging stations across the nation so that drivers of his Teslas can plug in and charge up for free. The main building of SpaceX is more than a half million square foot rectangle, where they make rockets from scratch.

Elon Musk had a brutal childhood in South Africa, and came to America through Canada to seek his fortune. That started with being the largest shareholder in PayPal. “With SpaceX, Musk is battling the giants of the U.S. military-industrial complex, and with nations—most notably Russia and China. SpaceX has made a name for itself as the low-cost supplier in the (space) industry.” Tesla Motors does not sell their sleek, super-cool all-electric cars in traditional dealerships, but through the website and in Apple-like gallerias in high-end shopping centers.

More like Thomas Edison than Howard Hughes, Elon Musk is “an inventor, celebrity businessman, and industrialist able to take big ideas and turn them into big products. He’s employing thousands of people to forge metal in American factories at a time when this was thought to be impossible. Born in South Africa, Musk now looks like America’s most innovative industrialist and outlandish thinker and the person most likely to set Silicon Valley on a more ambitious course. Because of Musk, Americans could wake up in ten year with the modern highway in the world (again).” This time it would be “ a transit system run by thousands of solar-powered charging stations and traverse by electric cars. By that time, SpaceX might well be sending up rockets every day, taking people and things to dozens of habitats and making preparations for longer treks to Mars.”

We talk to technology journalist Mr. Ashlee Vance this Sunday ON THE BOOKSHELF on WTBF-AM/FM about his new biography of Elon Musk!

“Our Auntie Rosa: The Family of Rosa Parks Remembers Her Life and Lessons”

By Sheila McCauley Keys with Eddie B. Allen, Jr. (Tarcher/Penguin, a division of Random House)

Just in time for her birth anniversary comes a sweet and powerful book by her family about a civil rights icon from Montgomery, Alabama. To her family, she was a sweet lady who loved them, who had the heart of a mother toward them despite being unable to have her own kids. Rosa Parks’ husband was a quiet man also, a barber, who was devoted to his wife.

Rosa Parks never considered herself a “great” woman (although everyone else does). She was a devout Christian who had a history with the bus driver who insisted that she move to create an empty row “barrier” between white and black passengers. Mrs. Parks became secretary of Montgomery’s chapter of the NAACP in 1943 (when she was 20) and state secretary in 1948. “She was well-connected and schooled in protest. She moved to Detroit after the Montgomery Bus boycott, worked as a seamstress, taught an adult vocational sewing class, and in 1965 went to work in the office of Congressman John Conyers. “Some years later Mrs. Parks started working on their vision for a youth nonprofit agency, the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development.”

Amazingly, Rosa Parks kept her hate mail, but she kept no resentment in her heart. She even forgave the young addict who invaded her home, beat her and robbed her when she was 81.  She believed in justice and forgiveness.

**

I’d like to also mention another book about bravery in the Civil Rights Movement. “Elbert Parr Tuttle: Chief Jurist of the Civil Rights Revolution” by Anne Emanuel (The University of Georgia Press)

He led the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the federal court with jurisdiction over most of the Deep South, during the most tumultuous years of the civil rights revolution. He became chief judge in 1960, and over the next several years ruled over landmark cases that overruled the delaying tactics of recalcitrant segregationists. He fought as an activist judge to end Jim Crow and protect the constitutional rights of black Americans. They worked without political support and the sworn opposition of almost every elected official in the Fifth Circuit.

At his funeral, U.S. Congressman John Lewis spoke this tribute: Tuttle helped to “usher in the new South, a new America. Under the rule of law, Judge Tuttle created a new generation in the South.”

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. For February 3, 2015

                                                                    “God’s NOT Dead”

A powerful original drama from Pure Flix: “God’s NOT Dead” starring Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper, David A.R. White and Dean Cain (PG)

Josh Wheaton is in a quandary: his new philosophy professor insists that all students sign a paper declaring that “God is dead”, at the risk of failing 30% of the class by refusing. Josh is a Christian and he knows the truth, so he stands against the assignment. The cynical professor Jeff Radisson offers a challenge: debate him in front of the class. Josh’s controlling girlfriend forbids him to do it, but he knows it is the right thing to do. Visiting a local church, the pastor encourages Josh to use this opportunity to witness to a jaded and lost class.

Meanwhile, Amy, a vegan activist confronts “Duck Dynasty” TV star Willie Robertson and his wife Korie about the “morality” of “luring animals to maim or murder”. He responds, gracefully, that he doesn’t kill anything he doesn’t eat, but the bigger issue is eternity. When she sees her doctor, it’s grim news: she has cancer, it’s already on the move and they need to act fast. When she tells her hotshot boyfriend Marc Shelley, he ends their relationship. (By the way, his mother is suffering from dementia.) His young sister Nina is Professor Radisson’s girlfriend, and she is a Christian.

Josh gets his day in front of the class but the professor isn’t willing to concede a single point. Indeed, he threatens to destroy Josh’s future career! Josh’s girlfriend dumps him. When Radisson’s colleagues mock Mina and her faith at a dinner party she is helping to host, she leaves. The next day she breaks up with him. Radison tells Josh the reason he lost his faith was when his mother died despite his childhood prayers for her healing.

Pastor Dave keeps trying to leave town with a visiting missionary friend (Reverend Jude) but can’t. He finally realizes why when a young Muslim student Ayisha comes to see him: she has decided to follow Jesus and her father threw her out. Meanwhile, Amy gets terrible news: she is going to die.

In a powerful scene, Josh pushes Radisson into admitting that he hates God. Gently, Josh replies, how can you hate someone in whom you do not believe? The class will get to vote on which wins the debate. His stance on God has changed the lives of students in the class.

Marc goes to see his mother, telling her that she is the kindest person he knows yet she has dementia, and he is the meanest and his life is fine.  She answers him that sometimes God allows the devil to tempt us into thinking life is “fair”. He is startled that she spoke sense to him.

There are some surprises for the main characters before the story ends. God is glorified and faith is rewarded. Don’t miss this one!

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for February 19, 2015

“The Color of Justice”

A novel by Ace Collins (Abingdon Press)

The year is 1964 in Justice, Mississippi. When a pretty teen girl is found brutally murdered, the local newspaper calls the young man arrested for the crime as a “coldblooded killer and rapist”. Local attorney “Coop” Lindsay is approached for help by the young man’s aunt. The white lawyer, a preacher’s kid, suddenly finds himself faced with racism’s ugly truth: in a town called Justice, none will be available for an innocent man accused of crimes just because he is black and the victim is white.

Sheriff Wylie Estes wasn’t certain that Calvin Ross was guilty. There seemed to be far too many unanswered questions and inconsistencies. He knew that the white folks of Justice automatically considered that a black man murdered the girl, but he also knew that if Calvin Ross were white he wouldn’t even be a suspect. However, Estes warned Coop that it would ruin his life in his hometown to become the advocate for the defendant.

Coop thought he understood what it would mean. He underestimated the viciousness of Jim Crow. The local newspaper editor referred to the lawyer as a “traitor to his own kind” for defending a black teen. The district attorney figured it was an open’n’shut case; after all, he didn’t really need evidence, just inflammatory speech. Ross would be condemned by the court of public opinion and then the jury.

Crazy things start happening to Coop. The town’s richest man offers him a ton of money to get of the case, so that John David Maltose can bribe Calvin’s way out of execution ad eventually jail. Coop is surer than ever that Calvin is innocent. Someone in an old pickup tries to run Coop down, and later forecloses on Ms. Hattie Ross, forcing her to leave the ramshackle building she calls home. The Lindsays promptly move her into their home. More evidence starts piling up to show that Calvin is being framed (and rather amateurishly), and Coop discovers that Becky Booth was pregnant when she was murdered. Maltose turns into a genuine ally. A fake KKK group burns a cross in Coop’s lawn and then kidnaps his wife while the trial is progress, offering to let her go in exchange for his dropping the case.

The judge is incensed that such tactics are being tried to subvert justice, and drags out the trial so they can find Coop’s wife. They do, and Calvin Ross is found “not guilty”! Coop tells his wife he’ll be home after he and Calvin get something from his law office.

It is the last time anyone sees either Coop or Calvin. A half-century later, Coop’s grandson returns to Justice to solve the mystery of his grandfather’s disappearance. He recruits a vivacious redheaded law student to help and it almost gets her killed. Someone is still hiding terrible secrets, but young Coop’s faith is strengthened by the tribulations just as his namesake’s was. You’ll be shocked when you discover the identity of the real killer!

As always, Ace Collins combines exceptional storytelling with top-rate research to create a plot that is not only possible, but also extremely probable. He never fails to satisfy the armchair detective in me, and gently teach lessons of faith and faithfulness along the way. Don’t miss “The Color of Justice”!

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. For February 24, 2015

“The Mistletoe Promise”

By Richard Paul Evans (Simon & Schuster)

Few authors have so consistently written successful holiday books as Richard Paul Evans. Beginning with his self-published first novel, “The Christmas Box” (a copy of which I still own), he has produced interesting and original plots, compelling characters and satisfying stories with holiday themes. His latest continues that delightful trend.

Elise is a sad and lonely woman, looking for an ungrateful boss. Nicholas is one of the partners in the large legal office on the 4th floor of the building where Elise works, too. Both are attractive people, but alone, and both carry a terrible secret. Nicholas approaches Elise one day at the building cafeteria with a proposition: as the holidays are approaching and they are both alone, why not pose as a couple? They could attend the obligatory functions and so forth. It would be strictly platonic and only until Dec. 24th.

Elise agrees. Nicholas will pay for everything; treat her like his girlfriend and she will introduce him as her boyfriend. It is a good arrangement. They enjoy each other’s company, their co-workers and friends are pleasantly surprised. They eat together almost everyday, and it’s nice to be part of a couple. Elise and Nicholas are drawn to one another, but the contract is binding.

What will happen when the contract expires? Will they find a way to continue a relationship, or merely chalk it up to a pleasant holiday situation and return to their lonely lives?

“The Christmas Cat”

By Melody Carlson (Revell, a division of Baker PG)

Garrison Brown has been in Africa drilling wells with a mission team. He returns home when his beloved grandmother died. She had raised him after his parents died, and after Garrison grew up and left Gran kept pet cats. His task is to find good owners for them all and after proving their worthiness give them a check from her estate. Garrison is terribly allergic to cats, and he plans to start a halfway house, so the sooner he places the cat the sooner  he gets on with his life.

But life gets complicated swiftly. He’s very attracted to a neighbor but she hurts her feelings when she doesn’t fit his grandmother’s terms of “adopting” a cat. As the cats are adopted, he asks for help fixing up his Gran’s house to sell, but does he really want to do so? If he can afford to stay, can’t he make this town his home again?




“John: Biblical Imagination Series”

By Michael Card (IVP)

With this edition, singer-songwriter Michael Card completes his creative commentary series on the Gospels.  I am delighted to read it but a little sad that the series is over. Michael Card brings a musician’s sensitivity and a devout believer’s appreciation for the first book by the “beloved disciple”.

The Gospel of John opens with “arguably the greatest words ever written”. It sets the tone for the entire Gospel. John and the other Eleven had lived at Jesus’ side, heard His words, seen His compassion, been his best friends for three years. John shares this incredible experience, the wisdom of years spent living as Jesus led him. John writes as a pastor, living 50 years in the pagan opposite of Jerusalem, the city of Ephesus. His unique focus on Jerusalem (where two-thirds of his gospel is set) would connect with his first listeners, who also lived in a “temple town”.

John virtually bases his Gospel on the Wisdom Books, quoting or alluding to them 27 times. These books demonstrate the inadequacy of wisdom, that only God’s person intervention makes life meaningful and complete. The other principal theme of his Gospel is based on a passage from Deuteronomy: that is of being “sent” by His Heavenly Father. The theme of Jesus as a “prophet like Moses” is expressed in a multitude of ways. The themes of darkness and light are a result of the filter of decades of time. John also makes plenteous use of parenthetical speaking, making him “wonderfully present in his Gospel.”

Michael Card looks at the Gospels with fresh eyes. (For example, what if the wedding at Cana is that of His disciple, Nathanael? It occurs right after we first meet him, and he is from Cana.) There are 92 unique stories in the Gospel of John. The author calls some of them “unmiraculous miracles”; that is, miracles that occur “off-stage”, without being told that Jesus was there when they took place. Jesus just spoke the word and people were healed “The miracles is not the point; it never is. The harvest is all that matters.”

Michael Card quotes his mentor, William Lane:” The followers of Jesus should always work at the level of their own inadequacy.” (For example, the feeding of the 5000. Jesus simply says the blessing, with no miraculous language, and it happens.) Jesus speaks four significant promises in John’s 8th chapter: The one who follows Him will never walk in darkness; the truth will set them free; they will be truly free; and they will never see death.

Another motif of John is misunderstanding. He is not misunderstood because He has “been obtuse or obscure, but because the wisdom He spoke and embodied was not, could not, be grasped only through the intellect. That wisdom could only be comprehended through relationship with the Word who had become flesh.”

Purchase of this book is available through Amazon by clicking on the picture at the top of this article.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for September 23, 2014

“The Musketeers” Season 1”

(3-DVD set)(BBC)

The rousing new series based on the classic book is everything you expect and much more! The realism of the depiction of life in 17th century France is exceptional: the vile food, the miserable inns, the filth, the corruption, the political intrigue, the secret (and not-so-secret liaisons), and the violence.

D’Artagnan travels to join the Musketeers, but enroute a masked man claiming to be “Athos of the Royal Musketeers” murders d’Artagnan’s father and steals money. As the young fencer heads to Paris for revenge, he runs afoul of a fat middle-aged Spanish diplomat accompanied by a strikingly beautiful young woman names Adele. Later in the evening, she shows up at his door. The next morning, the diplomat is dead and d’Artagnan escapes to Paris. Athos has been arrested, but his friends know it is a set-up. The beautiful Adele is Milady de Winter, the Cardinal’s secret weapon.

D’Artagnan goes undercover in order to infiltrate a peasant’s revolt that plans the death of the king and queen. The Musketeers are forced to ally themselves with the Cardinal (played with evil gusto by Peter Capaldi) to keep the king safe. Vadim is convinced d’Artagnan is untrustworthy, so he is left chained to the huge pile of explosives in a tunnel beneath Notre Dame. It’s all a double-cross, as Vadim plans to steal the royal jewels! The magician’s trick almost works.

When the Musketeers capture a trader who deals in slaves, they retreat to a fine house that belongs to Athos! He married Adele there, but she was a killer and he hanged her on his estate. He still grieves. Adele shows up, alive, to burn down the mansion and kill him. She had bribed the executioner and escaped death, but her hate burns bitter and deep. Adele is planning to use d’Artagnan to destroy the Musketeers.

The Duke of Savoy, the king’s brother-in-law, is attacked when he comes to sign a treaty, and an old friend of Aramis is caught. He claims Captain Treville was involved in an ambush of Musketeers five year ago, where 20 members were killed on a training exercise in Savoy.

A birthday party for Porthos goes awry when a trap is set to frame him. An amazing woman, the Countess de la Roche, who promotes equality and education for women, is tried by the Catholic Church for heresy. A kangaroo court convicts her and condemns her to death, when the Cardinal is stricken. He is poisoned, and the Musketeers race to discover the plot. D’Artagnan and his lovely landlady Constance declare their love for each other.

A vicious prisoner, Labarge, sparks a competition between the Cardinal’s Red Guards and the King’s Musketeers. D’Artagnan’s farm has been destroyed and he is penniless, still without a commission. The Cardinal hires the cloth-merchant to spy on his tenant, d’Artagnan, and puts Labarge as his champion to fight Captain Treville. Labarge cheats and breaks the captain’s shoulder, so the King allows him to choose a replacement. D’Artagnan fights and kills Labarge, and the King commissions as a Musketeer! He must move.

The King confides to the Cardinal that the Queen has been unwilling and unable to provide an heir. If only she were dead, he mused, and I could wed someone like the German princes, Charlotte. The Cardinal sends a killer. Aramis grabs the Queen and the Musketeers ride, followed by masked mercenaries. When they take refuge in a nunnery, the nuns bravely stand with the Queen, including Isabelle, the former fiancé of Aramis. The mercenaries are Irish soldiers like musketeers, and determined. They gain entrance and Isabelle dies defending herself. The Queen and Aramis share their love for each other. The killers tunnel into the nunnery cellar. Meanwhile, d’Artagnan and Porthos reach the Captain, find a link to the assassins, and arrive in time to rescue the beleaguered nunnery.

In the season finale, Athos threatens to kill Milady de Winter. When d’Artagnan intervenes he is shot in the side. She asks him to leave the Musketeers and join the Cardinal, then approaches Harrison, her old partner in crime, to hedge her bets that the Musketeers die. (She doesn’t know that it is a ruse to uncover the truth in the plot to kill the Queen.) Constance is trapped by her concern for d’Artagnan, but almost escapes, until de Winter shows up. Her husband alerts the Musketeers as to her disappearance.

The ruse to expose the Cardinal’s complicity in the plot to kill the Queen is successful, and she confronts the Cardinal. He begs mercy and she grants it because of his devotion to France. She warns it will never happen again. Milady is captured, but offers Constance in exchange for her own life. The Musketeers know they are riding into an ambush, but they cannot abandon Constance. Their fierce fighting and brilliant strategy result in victory! Athos decides not to kill the villainous Milady. Constance’s husband tries to commit suicide, so she will not leave him despite her devotion to d’Artagnan.

The Queen has wonderful news: she is pregnant! (Apparently that night with Aramis was magical indeed. The Cardinal has suspicions, but is silent for now.)

Can’t wait for Season 2 to begin on BBC!

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for September 9, 2014

“Thomas Nast, Political Cartoonist”

By John Chalmers Vinson

(The University of Georgia Press)

Sept. 27 is the birth anniversary of one of America’s most influential journalists, one who used drawing rather than writing to greatly shape voters’ attitudes in the 19th century. The most remarkable thing about this book is that it contains reproductions of 8 earlier cartoonists and 146 examples of his work.

Thomas Nast never stopped studying and learning how to draw. His first job was at Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, followed by exceptional work for Harper’s Weekly, the Sunday Courier, and The New York Illustrated News. He traveled to England to cover the developing sport of boxing; followed the fighting of Garibaldi as he sought to unite Italy; traveled to art galleries in Italy and France; then settled back in the USA to begin his career as Champion of the Union. He was a tireless supporter of the Union cause in the Civil War and of President Lincoln. Nast’s greatest service to the Union may have been his opposition to the Copperhead peace movement and reelecting Lincoln in 1864. He would draw about 60 pictures for Harper’s during the war.

His support of Grant set the stage for his greatest triumph: breaking the back of the infamous Tweed Ring at Tammany Hall in New York City. Boss William Tweed had built an elaborate and corrupt fiefdom within the city, arranging citizenship and jobs for poor immigrants, and bilking the city and state huge overcharges on construction work. Kickbacks of 60% from government contracts made Tweed and the Ring wealthy and powerful. Thomas Nast brought it down through his powerful political cartoons exposing the corruption of the Tweed Ring.

“Nast at the height of his career was the acknowledged master of American cartooning. He is still universally accorded that recognition. In rich abundance he possessed the moral purpose, courage, adherence to truth as he saw it, incisive wit, and high artistic skill that must be the endowment of any successful caricaturist. Certainly no less important was his ability to awaken pubic interest in his work and influence public attitudes”, states the author. ”His greatest years were likewise Harper’s greatest.” He was the master of his craft, and every political cartoonist since his time must be held up to his work for comparison.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for September 27, 2014

“What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life”

By Dawn Wells with Steve Stinson (Taylor Publishing)

It has been 50 years since we first met those stalwart castaways on Gilligan’s Island. The most memorable to me has always been the charming and demure Mary Ann, who could be the first to wear tiny shorts on TV yet never look inappropriate or out of place. Through the years, actress Dawn Wells has played many wonderful stage roles, but the part of Mary Ann has been and always will be animated by Dawn Wells.

Far from being annoyed at being identified for her entire career with a role she played for only a few years, Dawn Wells has embraced the positive values of the virtuous character of Mary Ann. This clever and inspiring book is filled with the wisdom accumulated by a lifetime of living as a lady. And make no mistake: Dawn Wells (and her alter-ego, Mary Ann) is the genuine article, a real lady.

Her book would be welcome if only for the wonderful photos and the great stories, but her insight on life, show biz, good choices, manners, morality, being alluring without being cheap, the work ethic (or how to get a job and keep a job), and how to live well no matter how long you live. Good girls can finish first!  Dawn Wells of Reno, Nevada, represented her home state in the 1959 Miss America pageant, and beat out 350 other girls to be Mary Ann.

Her character was (and continues to be) sexy without being sleazy, positive without being naïve, cheerful without being foolish, and ladylike without being stuffy. The Professor was always trying to make their life easier or get them off the island, so he never realized what a treasure she way, but in real life Russell Johnson always respected and appreciated Dawn Wells. She also made a life-long friend in Alan Hale, Jr., a big guy what a big heart and the strength of a bear. She adored Bob Denver, the star of the show who never took himself too seriously. Jim Backus and Natalie Shafer were seasoned pros who taught her a lot and gave her wonderful role models and friendship.

Dawn Wells talks about persistence, being prepared (the best way to be lucky), and being beautiful. She tells of her family, of her big loving dad and her bloved stepmother, and of her industrious and adored mom. She sprinkles in little stories about her adventures and career, and warns that thinking with our “little brains” often gets us into trouble that our “Big Brains” have to handle. Dawn Wells also shares the stories of her heroes: they are not famous people, but they are courageous in quiet ways.

Give a copy of this book to a teenager, and keep another copy to read. It bring a smile and of appreciation for her good advice. It is like a visit with a beloved long-time friend.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for September 26, 2014

“Churchill’s First World War”

The centennial remembrance of the Great War, also known as World War I, has begun. Among the BBC’s excellent new DVDs is “Churchill’s First World War”.

The Second World War was Churchill’s time of destiny, but he learned many hard lessons in the First War. He was brash and bold but not always wise: he was clobbered by political intrigue. Churchill was a decorated veteran: a cavalry officer, escaped POW, and journalist in the Boer War. As head of the UK’s mighty Royal Navy, Winston prepared for the growing collision with Germany as early as 1911.

Churchill led from the field in Antwerp, but his enthusiasm caused him embarrassing press coverage and ridicule from his peers.  When the Ottoman Empire came into the war as an ally of Germany and Austria-Hungary, Churchill proposed a strategically sound but logistically inadequate join army-navy assault. Disgraced after the Gallipoli fiasco, Churchill was sacked as Lord of the Admiralty, and blamed for the entire campaign’s failure.

He was devastated, overwhelmed by depression. His dreams of fame and glory were shattered. Churchill, who held the rank of Major, went to the trenches in 1916. His lovely and brilliant wife Clementine became a vital resource for her husband in all his dark hours: their correspondence, her providing decent food for him, and guarding his reputation. She also organizes nine canteens for munitions workers.

He wanted to emulate his famous ancestor, The Duke of Marbury, and served with the Grenadier Guards, his ancestor’s unit. He was assigned command of a battalion, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and he flourished there due to his concern for the men’s needs. (A “war on lice”, the scourge of trench soldiers, is a major success.) His interest in politics remained strong, and on a pass addressed Parliament. It went badly. He returned to the trenches, where his indifference to personal danger inspired his men. Clementine encouraged him, fearing for his life, but knowing his political ambition to be dearer than life to him.

Having seen firsthand how the Allied generals throw away men in useless massive assaults, Churchill returned to London in order to convince the leadership to expend vehicles and armor rather than soldiers. He became a vocal critic of the war leadership. By summer 1917, the new PM called on Churchill to head the industrial effort for war materiel. It is perfect for his energy and passion. The tank, one of his pet projects, became a great weapon. He visited the troops in the field to encourage them and observe the war’s progress. The spring 1918 German offensive used vast amounts of British shells, planes, tanks and guns, but Churchill’s team replaced them. It was his greatest triumph of the war.

“Royal Cousins at War”

The centennial remembrance of the Great War, also known as World War I, has begun. Among the BBC’s new DVD sets is the excellent 2-part series, “Royal Cousins at War”.

Three of the kings of Great Powers in Europe were first cousins: King George V of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, all grandsons of Queen Victoria of England. “This is the story of how family dragged Europe into the abyss, a family tragedy.” It would destroy the political system of monarchy that had led the continent for centuries.

Wilhelm II had a disabled left arm, due to a difficult birth. It remained a source of embarrassment, and he sought to overcome by being aggressively belligerent, “hyper-male”. This directly affected his love for military uniforms and having a bigger military than his cousins. His mother was Vicky, oldest daughter of Queen Victoria of England, who had solid German ancestry on both sides. She was traumatized by her son’s handicap, and he was desperate for her affection. Happily, his grandmother loved him & he her.

His cousin George was six years younger. King Edward VII caused his mother Alexandra to bond strongly with all her children. The mothers of George and Nicholas were Danish sisters, and the two were physically very similar They had joyous family get-togethers in Denmark where George met his Russian cousin Nicholas, son of Alex’s sister Minnie. Sadly, Wilhelm was unwelcome at the family reunions as the Prussians had taken Danish territory. He was the cousin none wanted to see.

When Wilhelm I died at age 90, his son Fritz was dying of throat cancer. He would not make Germany a democracy. The emotionally-crippled Wilhelm II became Kaiser. His cousin George became king in 1910, and like his cousin Nicholas, he was fearful for being king.

Nicholas and Alexandra were a genuine love-match. The unspoken issue was hemophilia, passed through Queen Victoria, striking the Russian royal family. Wilhelm continued his boorish ways. His paranoia grew concerning England and Russia, but his cousin-kings were as clueless about leadership as was he.

Wilhelm was seen as the brash, destabilizing force in European politics. He feared the power of Great Britain but longed for the respect of his English relatives, including the King. The disastrous Russo-Japanese War resulted in widespread revolution in Russia. The Empress’s embrace of the Mad Monk, Rasputin, who claimed to help her hemophiliac son, contributed to the instability of Russia

The events of August 1914 led to war between cousins, something none of them ever wanted. It would rip apart Victoria’s extended family, lead to Communism in Russia, set up the Nazis in Germany and kill 10 million people.

“How The West WON: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity”

By Rodney Stark (ISI Books)

In academic circles, particularly in ivy-league schools, it has become vogue to disparage the contributions of the West to world culture. The very political incorrect scholar Rodney Stark rebuts that false interpretation of history.  “Modernity developed ONLY in Europe and North America. Nowhere else did science and democracy arise; nowhere else was slavery outlawed.”

Far from being disasters, the falls of European empires, from Rome to Charlemagne to the Holy Catholic, actually cheered on innovation and lead to the rise of the middle class. Empire exists to provide for the leaders. Eliminating the need for supporting those who contribute so little for the welfare of the majority of subjects broke the stagnation of the empires.

Scholars in the 19th century, seeking to minimize Christian influence and success on civilizing the West, invented the term “Dark Ages”. It is a complete fraud. The era from 150 to 750 A.D. brought an explosion in innovation and invention, particularly in agriculture. This in turn brought about better nutrition for the common people. Constant fighting among themselves brought about new military technology and tactics. Christianity was embraced by the Germans and Vikings, the Muslims converted with the sword and moved into Spain and the Balkans.

Two of the most important catastrophes facing the West were climate change and disease. The “Little Ice Age” of 1300 to 1850 followed the “Medieval Warm Period” of 800 to 1250 (when Greenland was actually green.) The Viking benefitted the most from the warm conditions; populations went down during the “Little Ice Age”, especially when coupled with the bubonic plague that arrived in 1347. The Black Death decimated Europe, killing at least 30% of the population and perhaps as much as 60%!

Christians invented universities so that believers could read and understand the Bible. The great scientific achievements of the 16th and 17th centuries were produced by scholars noted for their Christian piety! Explorers left Europe to discover the world and carry the faith with them. In contrast, Muslim leaders had to buy military technology and experts, and almost all “Arabic” innovations originated with conquered populations of Hindus, Persians, and Nestorian Christians. Ihe author states, “the Islamic world was backward then, and so it remains.” Intellectual dissent is repressed.

“The Industrial Revolution was the culmination of the rise of Western civilization that began in Greece 2700 years ago. It was the product of human freedom and the pursuit of knowledge. From early days, the rise of Western modernity was a function of freedom-freedom to innovate and freedom from confiscation of the fruits of one’s labors.”

“37 Days: The Story of the Final Weeks Before the Outbreak of World War I”

August begins the centennial remembrance of the Great War or World War I. BBC has several new DVDs presenting different aspects of this terribly destructive war.

Stars Ian McDiarmid and Tim Piggott-Smith

It’s a countdown of political blunders, leadership posturing, and foolish decisions that led to the most destructive and useless war ever experienced in Europe. The 5-week descent into catastrophe began with the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand, heir of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, in the contested Balkans by a young Bosnian-Serbian separatist. The archduke foolishly visited on the holiest day in Serbia, a decision that cost him and his young wife their lives, and provided the catalyst for global war.

Kaiser Wilhelm, oldest grandson of England’s late Queen Victoria, was determined to make Germany a world power. He considered Austria as a weak empire, and saw the murder of his ally as a reason to respond militarily. His first cousins, Czar Alexander II of Russia and King George V of Great Britain, were treaty-bound to each other. After three weeks, Austria sent an ultimatum to Serbia which England and Germany both consider impossible for any nation to accept.

Amazingly, the Serbs accept the humiliating terms yet the Austrians consider them “cosmetic”. It seems to the British foreign secretary, Sir Edward Gray, that it is an excuse to go to war, one which the decaying Austrian Empire is ill-equipped to fight. Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill is convinced the Germans will back up the Austrians. The German diplomats buried Gray’s offer to host a peace conference as they knew the Kaiser wanted a “quick, clean war, over before the Russians knew about it.”

The Russians saw very well what was happening, so they began mobilizing their vast army. This forced the Germans to do so in defense of their borders. The Kaiser wanted to control a local war in Serbia oblivious to the huge war that was being built, until he realized the danger. But his cousin the Czar was not interested in dialog, and the French mobilized in response to their ally Russia’s mobilization.  

The Kaiser considers attacking France through Belgium for a quick war, but it will violate Belgium’s neutrality that has been intact since 1832. France’s ambassador pleads with the British Foreign Secretary to send 2 divisions to France, while the German ambassador has no idea what the German High Command is planning. The Belgium government will not stand idly by but will oppose German military intrusion. They did not ask England and France for help. The die is cast, and catastrophe awaits all of Europe.

“Batman: Assault on Arkham: DC Universe Original Movie”

Blu-Ray, DVD & Digital HD Ultraviole7

Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, and language

DC Comics, Warner Bro. Entertainment

Amanda Waller leads Task Force X, a super-covert government force known as “the Suicide Squad”.  Headed by “Deadshot”, an assassin, and made up of Harley Quinn (former psychiatrist at Arkham, driven mad by Joker), Killer Frost (who can shoot ice), Captain Boomerang , King Shark (crazy killer-monster), and Black Spider, a roster of rogues who know Arkham Asylum and its residents very well. That’s why Walker is sending them to break into Arkham to retrieve top-secret files stolen by The Riddler. Batman captured Edward Ngygma (aka The Riddler), as he did most of the inmates of Arkham. (KGBeast was a Suicide Squad member until he tested the “you’ve got a bomb implanted in your neck by the boss so you have to obey” law.)

Deadshot calls on a former client, The Penguin, for help breaking into the asylum. He offers it and sanctuary, which they accept. Deadshot is no pleased with his colleagues, considering criminals as undisciplined and undependable. But the plan to infiltrate Arkham goes very well. Deadshot , disguised as a guard, accompanies Harley (recaptured by Batman); Boomerang, disguised as an EMT, brings in Frost as a “cold corpse”; King Shark swims in; and Black Spider portrays a new kitchen cook.

When the mission turns into a gun-battle, subtlety goes out the window. Batman notices the video feed is a repeat from the day before, and heads to Arkham to see why. Meanwhile, the Suicide Squad breaks into the storage facility for the super-villains’ belongings, including their weapons. Harley gets her big hammer, Killer Frost gets Mr. Frosts’ ice-gun; Deadshot tries to stop Batman without killing him, but apparently Black Spider takes the Bat down. Frost breaks away on a solo order from Waller to kill Riddler, but he knows how to disable the neck-bombs. The Suicide Squad was set up to cover his murder, and they won’t all survive.

Meanwhile, Batman seems hurt but not dead, until Joker sees his head blown off!. Riddler had taken the Squad to the medical center to fry the neck-bomb circuitry, which worked for all but one. Riddler realizes why the Black Spider is holding back: it’s actually Batman in disguise! Joker comes in shooting , grabs Harley, and unveils that his “dirty bomb” in hidden in Harley’s giant mallet. He starts the timer, then opens all the cells. He plans to escape in all the chaos, as the Gotham police make a valiant stand against the super-criminals. Seizing a police copter to escape, Deadshot discovers Joker and Harley hiding in the back. An enormous battle ensues, with Batman joining, who defuses the bomb. Did Joker die in the falling helicopter?

(The next DC animated feature finally starts AQUAMAN.)

Check out dccomics.com for more adventures of your favorite DC characters in original animated movies and graphic novels.

Here are some wonderful recent movies distributed by Word Entertainment LLC.

“The Perfect Summer”

Starring Eric Roberts, Sydney Penny, Louis Mandylor, Adam Horner, Katie Garfield with Jason Castro

(UP Entertainment)

Jake Reynolds is 17 when he and his mom Alyssa move into his grandpa, Lou’s beach house. It’s not his idea of a “perfect summer” at all: no Wi-Fi, Internet or cell service, plus his grandpa’s odd cooking. Jake’s dad died the summer before, and he feels out of place. A lovely local surfer girl (Kayla) is interested in Jake, but her ex-boyfriend Tyler is a giant jerk.  Lou decides to teach Jake how to surf, and it’s a lot harder than it looks. Tyler and his pal attack Jake and destroy his grandpa’s surfboard, which drives Jake back into his shell. Lou tells him not to let this situation cause him to quit, or he will regret it, just as Grandpa has regrets. They rent a replacement board so Jake can keep practicing, and Lou confronts the bully who wrecked his surfboard.

Jake practices pushups, and getting up on the board. It turns out his grandpa is a surfing legend who quit at the top of his game. Jake and Kayla grow closer but he is determined to avoid an emotional attachments so he won’t get hurt again. Lou sees this summer as a time to reconnect with is estranged daughter and grandson, and he leads an AA session each week at church. When Jake’s mom goes out on a date with her boss, Jake goes berserk and runs off to the beach where he grabs a board and dashes into the night surf next to the pier! Lou, Alyssa and Kayla rush to find Jake, and discover him on the shore. Happily, he is uninjured. Lou comforts his daughter, and she is relieved when Jake apologizes for over-reacting.

He is determined to still compete in the surfing contest. Lou tells him not to surf for any other reason than love of surfing. Jake may not come in first, but he will win the most important prize of all.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for August 1, 2014

“Season of a Lifetime”

(Endorphin Entertainment)

The inspiring true story of Greenville, GA head football coach Jeremy Williams, who turned around a losing program into a powerhouse. This despite being terminally ill with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. The coach graduated his players, helped them get college scholarships. When the hit TV show “extremely Makeover” decided to remake coach’s house to accommodate his ALS, and created a wonderful facility for the football program. Jeremy decided against retiring, declaring that he can show the love and power of God to help you through adversity to his players and his town. It is an awesome documentary and a fitting tribute to a brave Christian.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for August 9, 2014

“Camp”

Starring Michael Mattera, Asante Jones, Grace Johnston, Matthew Jacob Wayne and Miles Elliot (The CAMP Movie LLC/Roebuck Media)

To impress a client, a self-absorbed financial advisor, Ken Matthews, volunteers as a counselor at a camp for kids in the foster care system. His young camper is 10-year-old Eli, whose mom died of a heroin overdose and whose father is violent and abusive. They get off to a bad start, and the camp director Tammie Pickens has to continually remind Ken to turn off his cellphone. A fellow counselor, a combat veteran who was a bitter camper there years earlier, tries to straighten out Ken, but it takes discovering Eli’s tragic past for Ken to finally get it. “Find one thing about them to like, and pray,” said Tammie. Can Ken make a difference to Eli in just a few days? And can Ken, whose dad died when he was 12, reconnect to God?

Other campers include real sisters who only get to see each other at camp because they are living with separate foster families; a sweet kid who pretends he’s from another planet; children who don’t know how to read or swim or play; girls who are afraid to fall sleeps because that’s when bad things happen to them; boys who are used to being beaten. This marvelous and powerful movie is based on a real place, campers and stories, Royal Family Kids. It is an extraordinary ministry!

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for August 9, 2014

“When Calls The Heart: The Dance”

Inspired by the best-selling series by Janette Oke, starring Lori Loughlin (Frontier Productions LLC, produced by Michael Landon Jr.)

Set in Cold Valley, Alberta, in 1910, the series features Elizabeth Thatcher, a cultured Easterner who is the town teacher. She likes a young Mountie, Jack Wynn, but he discourages romance. In the middle of a school lesson, two wagons of bachelor workers arrive to reopen the mine. However, having new eligible men in a hard land where people die of all manner of things has brought hope to the “remarkable and courageous” widows and single women of town. A poetry-loving miner named Billy Hamilton charms Elizabeth, a kind miner named DeWitt Graves courts young widow Mary Dunbar, and all are going to the upcoming dance to welcome the miners. Her son Caleb fears his late father is being replaced, so he goes to the dance in his dad’s coat. The next morning they go to church together, too.  Soon the town enjoys the “Miner’s Games”, and the constable traps a thief but it’s not who he expects. He still doesn’t trust Hamilton. Is it just jealousy, or a lawman’s instinct?

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for August 9, 2014

“Veil of Tears”

Narrated by Natalie Grant (Gospel for Asia LLC)

Islam treats women like pieces of a human, but Hinduism’s dark secret is that persecution of women is commonplace and encouraged. This documentary exposes the cultural persecution of millions of women in India. In a land renowned by its beautiful monument to husbandly devotion (the Taj Mahal), there is no shortage of crime here when it comes to violence against women. Rape is commonplace, yet 90% of rapes go unreported. Girls and women are afraid that no one will want to marry them if it is known they are not virgins. Oppression against women into sewn into the fabric of India.

In a land boasting the 3rd strongest in the world, India has a wide gap between very rich and horribly poor. The caste system exacerbates this enormous divergence: being Dalak (“untouchables”) mean you have an unbreakable curse of grinding poverty. Almost every child born in the slums will never leave it. Living in endless piles of garbage and refuse, they drink from the same water that serves as Laundromat and toilet. If a boy from a higher caste marries a woman from a lower caste, the higher caste in-laws are free to kill the wife. Gambling is a major past-time among young men, who combine the nightly events with alcohol abuse as well. This results in virtual abandonment of their families, leaving women and children to eat garbage. Husbands may send out their wives and daughters as prostitutes to neighbors in the slums.

In the unique region of Punjab, seat of the Sikh religion, when girl babies are born it is a great tragedy. A second daughter is believed to indicate you are cursed. Abortion for gender selection is rampant: 11 million in India every year. Likewise in other regions, peopled mainly in remote, isolated villages, children are a burden. Parents will often sell their children so the kids can survive, which generally means slavery or sex trafficking.  Girls are married off, but many times it is to men who turn them into prostitutes. The Bride Dowry system is another tradition that contributes to poverty and murder. 80% of bank loans are for dowries, and unpaid dowries often result in bride-burning and false suicides. If a husband dies or any reason, it is the wife’s fault. There are hundreds of thousands of widows living in deep poverty.

The suicide rate of women in India is 21 times the rest of the world.

There is hope, however: the church in India is transforming the attitudes of men and the lives of women and children. The followers of Christ are establishing schools in remote villages, setting up common cooking facilities, and teaching them a new way to live. The cycle is being broken, women are finding new identities in Jesus, and hope here and in eternity.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for August 15, 2014

“Hidden Kingdoms”

From the makers of PLANET EARTH, narrated by Stephen Fry (BBC Worldwide Ltd/ Discovery Channel)

Remember the movie, “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”, that showed the backyard as a very different place when children where shrunk to the size of insects? As humans we relate to the large animals on the planet, but the ground beneath us is packed with tiny beings. This remarkable 3-part series explores the lives of the “wee beasties” that share our earth, and gives us a glimpse as their world on their level! The photography is breathtaking in all of these sequences. “Using groundbreaking filming techniques including extreme low angles, wide angels, special lenses, slow-motion, pitch shifting audio and even ‘blue screen’ to create an interpretation of the miniature world as our heroes see and experience it.”

Episode One: Under Open Skies

In the African savannah, we meet the tiny speedster known as the elephant shrew or sengi, due to its long flexible proboscis. Compared by size it is faster than a cheetah, and it knows the tiny trails intimately, but when an elephant steps in its path, the sengi falls prey to the monitor lizard pursuing it. Its orphaned child must learn to fend for itself. She will create and maintain her own clean trails for rapid transit, but its path is assaulted by elephant manure. Rescue comes from an unexpected source: thousands of dung beetles come flying in to create balls of dung to roll away for food (and to attract a mate!) Pound for pound, dung beetles are stronger than an elephant, and they can push a lifetime of family food in a straight line. A flash-fire caused by lightning races through the savannah, but those creatures who survive go back to what they do best.

Across the world, in an Arizona desert, grasshopper (or scorpion) mice are raised in a dangerous world. They are immune to the venom of a scorpion or centipede and so vanquish them, and sound a warning howl afterward to defend their territory. A deserted highway has lured many large insects to their death, so a brave young grasshopper mouse seeks its first hunt. A rattlesnake knows it’s a prime place to hunt (and there are more rattlesnakes here than anywhere else in the world.) Barely escaping the rattler’s attack, the mouse runs to a dry creek, but a storm turns it into a raging torrent.

Surviving a flashflood, the scorpion mouse is now exposed in the scorching heat to a team of falcons. He seeks refuge in a cow skull and is saved only because a colored lizard is careless enough to become prey.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for July 8, 2014

Episode Two: Secret Forests

In the ancient forests of North America, autumn brings the annual fall of acorns, the event that every chipmunk has been awaiting. For the smaller animals, it is a dangerous barrage. A chipmunk crams up to 4 acorns into its stretching cheeks for the trip back to its tunnel. It will take 100 acorns to last the winter. Moose also like acorns, eating up to 100 kilograms so they can last a winter. Older chipmunks are notorious acorn thieves, too.

 

In the Amazon jungle, the multiplicity of animal species makes competition for food fierce. How can a tiny canopy-dwelling tree shrew thrive? They are born acrobats, capable of tree-to-tree leaps across enormous gaps, and they must eat every two hours! They must compete against wild boars, orangutans, and other greedy jungle giants, and evade pythons and other predators.  The constant rain brings moisture, but the giant drops imperil the tiny creatures, and it takes valuable time from the tree shrew’s constant hunt for food. A bear-sized armored pangolin feasts on a fire-ant nest, so the tree shrew finds a carnivorous pitcher plant but its sweet juice is an instant laxative! This night, he goes to bed completely empty.

Meanwhile, chipmunks are among the last creatures to hole up for the winter, especially if their larder is not filled. It is life or death for them. Hunting for the last few nuts to stuff in his cheeks for storage takes him to the enemy’s lair: an owl sleeps for now, but night awakens the deadly foe. The young chipmunk’s only chance is to get his nuts back from the thief who took them. A fierce fight ensues, and the desperate youngster has won. He will be able to reclaim his acorns, and will not starve to death this winter.

Few tiny creatures in the secret forests survive one month. Those who do, gain wisdom enough to last for years.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for July 9, 2014

Episode Three: Jungles

In Rio de Janiero, marmosets hunt for the castoffs of the 6 million humans who live there. They use the power cables to traverse the streets and look for discarded food, but they face competition from cats and dogs. Acting as a team, the marmosets serve as watchouts and scouts for the foragers. But a broken powerline kills one and separates the others. Daytime Burrowing Owls freely mix with humans on the famous beach, where the predator birds set a trap with discarded fruit to capture insects.

Around the planet, over 30 million people are crammed into a concrete jungle called Tokyo. A pair of captive rhinoceros beetles serves as gladiators for betting humans, some fruit their reward. When they lose, the rhino beetles take off, but since insects navigate by the light of the moon the brilliant night landscape lures them into a waiting predator. The bat is not distracted by light: they use sound and their radar to guide them to the insect feast. Hungry geckos get warmed up by the lights and can strike faster than in the wild. The winds from traffic break its grip on the buildings but they can glide for a long way to safety (if they can avoid the huge praying mantis!) Female praying mantis generally eat the heads of their male partners after mating to provide protein for the newly fertilized eggs.

Back in Rio, rats, scorpions and tarantulas are not the companions a lost marmoset desires. But the greater danger is from cats! Surviving the night, the marmoset dares another powerline and is reunited with his lost family.

With over half the earth’s human population now living in cities, the little heroes of the Hidden Kingdoms must find a way to co-exist.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for July 10, 2014

“Why the Japanese Lost: The Red Sun’s Setting”

By Bryan Perrett (Published in Great Britain by Pen & Sword Military, distributed in USA by Naval Institute Press)

On the 69th anniversary of the end of WWII, here’s a history lesson about the rise and fall of the Japanese Empire. It starts in the 13th century, with the first external threat to the island kingdom. The Mongols launched a naval invasion from Korea and China, but it was wrecked by a “Wind of Heaven” or “Divine Wind”, which in Japanese is Kamikaze. In the 16th century Japan decided to invade China by way of Korea, but the Koreans had developed an entirely new kind of warship. The “Turtleship” bristled with cannon below the deck, which was iron-plated to repel boarders, and a dragon’s head prow that discharged sulphurous smoke or noxious gases. The invasion failed.

In the early 17th century Portuguese missionaries came, followed by the Dutch, English and Spanish. They were tolerated at best. In 1853, the Americans came to establish trade. Japan was essentially a medieval state ruled by a Mikado, assisted by a Shogun, the Daimios (great nobles) and Samurai warriors. In the late 1870s Japan decided to build a first-class modern navy, and hired the British Royal Navy to teach them and build them ships. They tested their new prowess against the Chinese a few years later, and beat them, gaining Korea.

When Russians used the Boxer Rebellion in 1900’s China as an excuse to extend their influence into Manchuria and Korea, Japan went to war. The inadequate ships and personnel of the Russian Pacific Ocean Squadron were no match for the determined and technologically superior Japanese fleet. Little Japan defeated Giant Russia and became a Great World Power in 1905. During the next three decades Japan became increasingly militaristic. Desperate for raw materials to build and maintain a modern nation, by the early 1930s Japan set her sights on old rival China.

Depending on the USA for raw materials like scrap metal and oil, Japan bogged down in China and perpetuated atrocities on civilians. When America cut off supplies, the Japanese made plans to attack our fleet at Pearl Harbor, the British at Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, and the Philippines within 24 hours. Their first strike was a thunderbolt and within a month achieved the high watermark of the Imperial Japanese Empire. But they had “awakened a sleeping giant” as Admiral Yamamoto warned the Emperor, and it would demolish their nation and hopes of empire, as well as kill millions of Japanese.

The book over half the book on the battles in the Pacific in WWII, with great attention to detail in the seminal battles of Wake Island, Midway, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, Tarawa and the rest leading to final victory.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for August 9, 2014

“What Would Our Founding Fathers Think? A Young American’s Guide to Understanding what Makes Our Nation Great & How We’ve Strayed”

Written and illustrated by David Bowman (Plain Sight Publishing, an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc.)

The book states three critical facts:  “(1) The United State of America was & is the greatest nation on Earth; (2) Today, the United States of America is in serious trouble; and (3) You will inherit the USA-and its problems-in just a few short years.”

Imagine that the great inventor Benjamin Franklin created a time machine so that he, James Madison and George Washington could travel to the future to see how their “noble experiment in government” turned out. Unfortunately, they came to the 21st century, and were horrified at how far America had deviated from its origins. They decided to explain to the young people of today what went wrong.

First, imagine the United States of America is a giant pyramid. The original foundation was “God & Religion”. Even though Americans did not all worship exactly the same way, we were united by a set of common beliefs. “There is a God who crated and rules the universe. We should worship that God. We should treat others the way we want to be treated.” They understood that “having a religious people would lead to the next level of our pyramid, which is Values & Virtues”. Examples: be responsible, be a hard worker, be generous, and be honest.  Values & virtues give us freedom just as the kite string allows a kite to fly. The next level of the pyramid is “People Govern Themselves.”

Because people who work hard, are responsible, are generous and honest, because they know how to control themselves, they can take care of themselves. “Limited government protects people’s rights.” The Federal government is limited to a few powers: military, foreign relations and interstate commerce. Government can’t just do whatever it wants, and neither can elected officials, because we built into the system checks and balances.

The opposite, which is what we have today, is built on a tiny foundation of “lack of God & religion”, topped by a lack of virtues & values, on top of which is “people need to be governed”, and finally the massive top is Federal government. This will lead to a top-heavy pile that will collapse. So by understanding what needs to be changed, one additional fact can be added: “Under your stewardship the United States of America will continue to be the greatest nation on Earth.”

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for August 10, 2014

“Heroes, Rogues, and the Rest: Lives that tell the story of the Bible”

By J. Ellsworth Kalas (Abingdon Press)

One of the things that proves to me that the Bible is true is that it never sugarcoats its main characters. We get their stories, warts and all. This also encourages me because if these people could be so foolish, confused or clueless and yet they serve the Lord, there is hope for me, too.

The Bible is actually the story of God and His relationship with His creation, especially humans. God is the one continuous character across the entire Bible. He is a God who acts, who interacts with His creation.  He is powerful, He communicates with us, and He honors His creation by speaking to it with words. He cares for us, He is patient, and He entrusts us with the work of His church.

Adam & Eve teach us that humans are choice-makers in a moral universe, defines by God We are responsible creatures. Our life is never cheap because the very breath of God is in us! “To be human is to be wonderfully complex.”

Noah was the greater weight of righteousness in the human race that was straining” to destroy itself by the weight of its own iniquity.” Abrahams faith journey is actually breath-taking: he took the son he waited 100 years to have to sacrifice on the mountain, trusting that the God who gave Him in the first place would restore him to life. Jacob the deceiver got his comeuppance from his crafty father-in-law, yet he became Israel, “he strives with God” and his son Joseph would save the family in Egypt.

Moses, one of the towering cultural personalities of the world and a key biographical figure in the Bible, demonstrated humble leadership.  Samuel teaches us the purpose of government. David teaches us to sing and be honest in our emotions before the Lord. Prophets, especially Elijah, aimed to keep the Chosen People true to their calling.

Peter, Andrew, James and John show us how ordinary people are privileged to walk with Jesus. Martha and all those Marys taught us how to serve. “It is impossible to imagine the biblical story without the man from Tarsus, blinded by God’s light so that in time he saw better than anyone, then passed his vision on to us.”

The final important personality of the Bible is the One who was there from the beginning: the Son of God. He died, He rose, and He will come again.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for July 21, 2014

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