Book Review: Coach’s Book As Close To The Best As Possible

Jacket design by Ashley Caswell

I do not watch the Dr. Phil Show very often, in fact I may see two episodes in three months if that often. On top of that, I have never been a major fan of books in the self-help departments, for many reasons: one is that the people that write these books assume all things are equal and anyone has the same resources to everything in the world, second, the authors (most of the time) make readers feel so guilty about your current life that they feel worse after reading them, and finally, a lot of the books are just to promote the writer’s facilities that they work at, so they don’t reveal all the things in their books, so that the reader has to go out and either buy more of their books, or have to pay to go to their facilities.

With these points out of the way, one day I was actually watching the Dr. Phil Show at my parent’s house when I became intrigued by a person who was on his team of associates plugging his new book. For some reason, the book resonated with me, where I had to seek out a copy to check out. Best Self : Be You Only Better by Life Coach Mike Bayer (Dey Street Books, 2019) changed my opinion about these types of books.

Bayer’s book deals with having a better outlook in every aspect of life, from the workplace, relationships, and hobbies, in order to be your “Best Self” (which is not only the title of the book, but a description of the ideal character the person intends to be).

If you are a follower of Bayer, or Dr. Phil, you may have seen him on this show using some of these techniques that he uses in the book. The early part of the book shows a technique where the reader creates a character, which is the ideal “Best Self;” the person he or she wants to become. The second is the “Anti-Self,” the person who is the opposite of that person, almost like the villain , and the person that the reader does not want to get out and take over their lives. Being a fan of role playing games growing up, I thought this was an interesting, and original idea to incorporate, especially where the person is encouraged to be as detailed as possible (regardless of their art skills), describing the Best and Anti-Self ‘s characteristics and goals, weaknesses etc, just like creating a game character.

From there, Bayer walks through little tips that the person can use to encourage more of the Best Self, and less of the Anti-Self characters, using everyday situations, (along with some of the stories from previous clients) from work situations to dealing with things like road rage, and not having fun in the workplace. Throughout most of the chapters there are exercises that stretches the thinking, as well as getting the reader more acquainted with who they are in their lives, and where they want to be heading. This book is not to be read straight through like a normal novel, but is more effective having a notebook beside you, and experiencing these exercises and quizzes during the chapters (especially if you are like me, who does not like writings in my books, and as the author states, the goals will change throughout the months as you head towards being the Best Self). The exercises enhance the 7 SPHERES where the person’s best self needs to be looked at, and how they are part of the overall goal. The SPHERES are an acronym for the different areas in life, such as the workplace, health of the person, and education among other things.

The only problems I had with the book was during the Education chapter of the SPHEREs, where the writer assumes all things are equal. For example, Bayer encourages that the Best Self should want to be educated in something, always wanting to learn something.   Although I agree with this statement, the writer states that if the Best Self wants to learn a new trade, or is being passed over at work due to lack of technology, he states that the person go out and find the tools to improve that. All things are not equal here, because some of the things cost money, and if the Best Self is living in a situation where funds are not available, or the techniques are not offered, it may make the reader feel a little down. For instance, not everyone lives in New York, where many libraries may offer many computer classes (some smaller towns only offer “How To Use The Internet” as a course), or due to license fees, they are not offered. Or if saving money to get out of debt is part of the person’s Best Self goal, how are they going to afford to be able to pay for the computer program to help them move on? Granted , heading towards your Best Self is not going to be easy, but I thought these points were missing in his writing, which also goes into the workplace section, where he encourages people to incorporate an enjoying atmosphere in the workplace, as opposed to just punching in and getting a paycheck.

I love this concept of the workplace, but once again, not all things are equal. Bayer gives a quiz where the person decides if the problems at the workplace is you or the other people around you, along with sometimes having to decide to leave that job for something else. He does encourage the person to look at their finances before just walking out of a job, but sometimes (from my own experience) the problem can be the co-workers, and yet the HR people don’t care at all. There (in my opinion) is a myth in the writing that the HR people at businesses are all out to help each other create the best possible outcome for the business. There are many HR people who are unqualified and could care less about what goes on in their workplace, and are not always there to help out. Also, if my Best Self wants to get paid for his writing in the future, but can’t find that avenue (especially where all the local papers are owned by one company and have the same staff for years that don’t accept freelancing), it’s not as easy as the writer makes out to just go out and find the other avenue and freelance, where most of the online freelance sites are scams. And if everyone who wanted to be their own boss could do it, there would be no employees, and only bosses, which is not realistic either. Keep in mind that I have just started this journey of the book’s suggestions, and maybe he sees something down the road that I am not seeing yet, as opposed to a new person just discovering the ideas (I am not knocking Bayer or his achievements).

Another great aspect of the book is that Bayer uses his own life story as illustrations, from his past with addictions, to the fact that he does not have 15 Master Degrees and is a higher up in academia. His down-to-earth approach, along with his easy to read writing comes off as non-judgmental which is a relief, as opposed to other books in the genre that I have read. Finally the fact that he encourages the importance of spirituality and religion in a person’s life is a breath of fresh air, where many of these books refuse to allow people of faith to use the skills along with their values of a higher being. Christian readers do not have to fear that the book is filled with New Age theology, or vice versa.

I enjoyed this book, especially doing the quizzes and exercises throughout the chapters. I encourage those that want to read this book to have a journal or a notebook beside them and actually participate in the book, as opposed to just reading it (stop by a local dollar store and buy a small notebook on the way home- it doesn’t have to be anything fancy). Even if you are not a Dr. Phil watcher, this book can help those looking to change certain aspects in their lives by using an unique and creative way. The writing is not judgmental nor stereotypical in the genre; I am reminded of the joke I heard one time that says “I just bought some self-help cassettes. After listening to them I felt inadequate because I didn’t have the CDs.” Anyone can take something away from this book without fears of not measuring up.

 

Best Self : Be You, Only Better by Life Coach Mike Bayer (Dey Street Books, 2019) ISBN : 978-0-06291173-5 can be found at bookstores and online at Amazon.com or at : deystreet.harpercollins.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 333

Language: Mild

Geared For: 16 and Up

For Fans of: Self Help, Dr. Phil, Life Coach

Book Review: Vader Time Well Spent

Cover art by Iron Skull Productions. Title Page Art by Tye Harris.

There were certain wrestlers who I just did not like in professional wrestling, regardless of how they were portrayed by the different leagues. A few of them were The Fabulous Freebirds (especially the WCW era with Jimmy Garvin and Michael Hayes), Bam Bam Bigelow, Stan Hansen, The Ultimate Warrior, and most of the ECW roster were some of the names I never got behind. Another one was Vader (also known as Big Van Vader).

I remember following him in the AWA as “Baby Bull” Leon White, and just couldn’t get behind the character; he seemed over pushed to me at the time fighting for the AWA title a few times against Stan Hansen. I was a big Nick Bockwinkel and Curt Hennig fan in the AWA, so whenever White started getting a bigger push in the league, I longed to see Hennig or Bockwinkel in a classic match instead of the “Awe Shucks” persona with a trucker hat in title matches, which was what “Baby Bull” came off as at the time (along with it was hard to get behind a 300 pound man with the nickname “Baby,” thanks to promoter Verne Gagne). Of course, when White signed WCW in the 1990s, Vader was put against my favorite wrestler Sting, who was one of the top stars of the league. Vader came in so strong against Sting as the unstoppable monster, even beating him for the WCW title, really ticked me off as a young teenager. I cheered for some heels (bad guys) in wrestling, but having someone dismantle Sting as Vader did, was just too much for my taste, making Sting not as tough as he originally was in my eyes at the time.

It’s Vader Time: The Story of a Modern Day Gladiator by White, along with Kenny Casanova (WOHW Publishers, 2019), tells how White became an international wrestling star, along with his life outside the ring, with tremendous health struggles along the way. Casanova , who was mentioned at the 2019 WWE Hall of Fame (thanks to Brutus Beefcake), also helped write books by Kamala, Brutus Beefcake, and ECW’s Sabu (You can read my review of Beefcake’s book, along with a Q&A with Casanova, on the Slam Sports Wrestling site).

After the Foreword from Mick Foley that starts the pages off, the book grabs the reader immediately with White telling the story about the match in Japan against Hansen, where Vader’s eye popped out of its socket (among other injuries during the brawl). The hardcore matches pile up from there, along with the many injuries from his college and pro football and wrestling careers. Tales such as knee and shoulder injuries, along with concussions, are all detailed in the book.

White discusses how he started training in the AWA after walking into the locker room one day as a fan straight into the locker room, coming face to face with Bruiser Brody, along with how being trained by Brad Rheigans led him to the world of wrestling to avoid going back to his life of small crimes in Compton, CA which he lived in his youth. After several football injuries, (including a gruesome story where a college teammate had to have a doctor’s assistance with making a hole in his head with a power drill) White learns his stiff style of wrestling by working with some of the toughest wrestlers at the time, including Brody, Hansen, and Otto Wantz in Germany.

White , after leaving the AWA, goes to Japan where he receives the Vader gimmick from promoter Antonio Inoki. This part was informative in the reading, due to the detailed description of how the character was created from a Japanese comic book, to how the horned headgear that he wore to the ring was created. The back story about the helmet headgear and its symbolism in culture was more than just a gimmick that was given to him; details on how the helmet’s steam blowing out of it worked , and the other wrestlers who were originally considered to be the Vader character was also insightful.

The book covers Vader’s WCW and WWE careers as well, including great behind the scenes stories about Sting, Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Ron Simmons, and Mick Foley. There are signature events in his career that are covered too , such as The White Castle of Fear, the 1993 Beach Blast mini movie (where the executives at Turner Home Entertainment decided that wrestling heels blowing up a boat with a spy little person was a great idea), the WCW title reigns, Foley losing his ear in a match with him, and the time he injured preliminary wrestler Joe Thurman, which ended Thurman’s career. Tales about backstage politics by Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Eric Bischoff, and Hulk Hogan are also discussed in the writing. Vader’s take on the 1997 Montreal Screw job between Bret Hart and Michaels, from his point of view, to his appearances on the TV show Boy Meets World are also featured.

The book isn’t all about his wrestling career in the American, Mexican, German, and Japanese leagues. The publication covers the emotional tales about the injuries White accumulated throughout his career, which made for serious health problems toward the end of his life, from his battles with sleep apnea, arthritis, breathing problems, and being in a coma. The emotional diagnosis of his heart and the last year of his life is covered by his son, which gives another aspect of the events. One meeting with a doctor discussing his health issues gives a special meaning to the subtitle of the book , using the term “gladiator”, which ties the cover to the theme of the book, gives the complete package its fullness (no spoilers here, but the title wasn’t just randomly chosen).

Vader, along with Casanova, combines humor with the inner workings of wrestling on top of an emotional backdrop which many wrestling fans should enjoy. Usually self-published books are filled with grammar errors and unchecked facts, which sometimes makes it hard for me to review. Although editors sometimes miss errors here and there, it should not be so evident to distract from the overall book. The writing here does just that, by keeping the story going, in which I kept reading page after page, because the tone kept me wanting to read more.

After reading this book, I started to go back and watch some of the highlighted matches that are available online to re-watch Vader’s matches. I think one reason I disliked him so much against Sting (looking at it now, knowing more about how wrestling is presented) was that White was just that good at being the monster heel, which was his job. Dusty Rhodes’ booking of him as unstoppable worked big time, and also made his WCW title loss to Ron Simmons more shocking because no one could beat Vader at the time, even the top star Sting. By the time he got to the WWF, he was not only injured (as told in the book), but , in my opinion, was limited in what he could do, which weakened him after the dominate years in WCW and international tours that made him outshine everyone on the rosters (with help from the boost of the wrestling magazines, like the ones owned by Stanley Weston). I did get to see him live in 1997 in Youngstown , Ohio verses Kane at a live event with the WWF (he was scheduled another time, but wasn’t there).

I was hoping for a part about Vader returning to the WWE as a part of the Table For 3 show, where he was with Sting, and Diamond Dallas Page, or maybe why he agreed to do it. The only part he discusses here is his brief returns in matches against Heath Slater, and inducting Stan Hansen in the WWE Hall of Fame. Being a Sting fan, many wrestling books briefly mention him in passing, so the more stories about him I can get is good with me , and this book is one of the books with several stories about The Stinger, especially how much he helped Vader in his WCW matches (which as a Sting fan, I figured it was the office making him look bad by getting destroyed in matches at times- this book dispels that myth, by stating how Sting helped plan out the matches and took Vader under his wing to teach him a different style of wrestling that he wasn’t used to). At almost 400 pages, the book does a great job covering Vader’s life, without missing much.

This was a very enjoyable book, especially since I was not a huge Vader fan. The cover of the book is amazing , with Vader standing in front of the Rocky Mountains with the helmet and skulls below his feet. When the book came in the mail, and I opened the package, I was in awe of how well done the packaging covers (both front and back) were designed, which again, sometimes self published books tend to ignore. Don’t let not being a Vader fan prevent you from checking this book out (if you weren’t a fan of his gimmick), because there are great tales about the AWA (which tends to get overlooked in books), WCW, WWF, and the Japanese leagues and stars. Being not a huge fan of Japanese wrestling, I thought the extended tales about his time in Japan would drag and lose my interest, however this was not the case.

Along with the touching tales of forgiveness throughout the book, from White’s problems with certain wrestlers to reconnecting with his son (after years of being on the road) before Vader’s 2018 death, the book gives a new look on the person who was a dominate monster in front of the audiences, yet a different man when he was away from the cameras.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Kenny Casanova and WOHW Publishers.

 

It’s Vader Time : The Story of a Modern Day Gladiator (WOHW Publishers, 2019) by Leon White and Kenny Casanova (ISBN: 978-1-941356-08-1) can be ordered at http://www.wohw.com. You can also find out more about the author at :www.kennycasanova.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 397

Language: Moderate

Geared For: Ages 12 and up

For Fans Of: 1980s-1990s Pro Wrestling, Autobiographies.

Book Review: The Perseverance of Randy Travis Entertains

Cover Design by Jason Gabbert. Front cover photo: Warner Music

During the mid 1980s, one of the biggest country music acts was Randy Travis. Travis was hitting the charts with songs like “On The Other Hand,” “1982,” and “Diggin Up Bones,” among others. In the book, along with Ken Abraham, Forever And Ever, Amen (Nelson Books, 2019) ,Travis takes the reader through his musical, and personal journey from the top of the charts, along with his health and financial problems.

Travis discusses how he got his start in music playing in a duo with his brother, performing in clubs until his brother was sent to prison, where Travis ended up having to go solo. Several years later, he describes how every country music label turned him down (some of them several times) for being considered “too country” to them, arriving just after the boom of the Urban Cowboy era. The John Travolta film made country music more popular, where a more pop sound was wanted in Nashville to appeal to the masses, where acts like Kenny Rogers, Juice Newton, Dolly Parton, and The Oak Ridge Boys were crossing over on the pop charts.

While working at a club, where he was also the cook, the owner , Lib Hatcher, took a liking to him and helped him avoid his own personal troubles with the law, by taking over as his guardian. Travis eventually made Hatcher his wife and full time manager, who he ends up decades later seeing the controlling nature she had over his life and finances.

Travis used three name changes and struggled to get a major label deal, which came about in 1985, and in 1987, topped the charts with his most famous song “Forever And Ever Amen,” written by Paul Overstreet, which became Travis’ third number one single at the time. Travis then started topping the charts with successful albums and singles.

The book tells some interesting stories, including his friendship with George Jones, Josh Turner, Jimmy Dickens, and other country acts. Entertaining tales about when he played pool with Minnesota Fats, and the time he stood up Mick Jagger for dinner in London, were also very entertaining.

Throughout the book Travis talks about his faith in Christianity, along with his personal struggles involving alcohol, and the stress of non-stop touring on the road being one of the top music acts at the time. He covers his film career, along with his funding to help create Pure Flix movies, which released the successful God’s Not Dead series, among other Christian films.

Many readers may want to know if he covers the 2012 incident , which Travis was arrested after crashing his car, which made all the tabloid shows after the video was leaked out. Travis tells what happened that night, the arrest, and the aftermath of the incident. Travis also talks about how his divorce from Hatcher made him see similarities in his life with the relationship between Elvis Presley and his manager Col. Parker. This part of his life, is somewhat similar to the character in the George Strait 1992 film Pure Country, where the female manager starts shoving the new boyfriend into the spotlight, using the current star’s success, which Travis explains Hatcher did with an European singer.

In what is the most emotional aspect of the book (not counting the aftermath of his divorce, where he finds out that money and insurance payments were all misused), is the ill health, which led to him to flat line and have a stroke that took years to recover from (which he is still doing). For a person who made his living in music and with his voice, the sudden health issue , and his struggles in rehabbing just to be able to walk and talk, is not only emotional, but gives me a new respect for the man as a person of faith, along with the willpower to keep moving on.

The book is easy to read, with short chapters (another plus for me), and is filled with some great stories on country music, the road, and a man struggling with health and money issues in his later years. This is one of the better music related books I have read. One does not have to be a major fan of Travis to enjoy the book (I liked several of his songs, but honestly was not considered big fan of his music) to find time well spent on an inspiring writing filled with hope, faith, struggles, and the power to keep moving forward.

 

Forever And Ever, Amen by Randy Travis with Ken Abraham (Nelson Books, 2019) ISBN: 9781400207992 (ebook), 97881400207985 (hardback) can be found on Amazon and at : http://www.harpercollinschristian.com.

 

For information on Randy Travis, go to: http://www.randytravis.com

 

The Overall

Pages: 304

Language: None

Geared For: 13 and Up

For Fans Of: Country music, Christian Books, Music, Autobiographies.

Childhood Classic: My First Cassette

An Innocent Man by Billy Joel was released by Columbia Records in 1983.

  Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see some of those in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com

 

 

Just like remembering your first concert, the first album, cassette, or compact disc a person buys is just as much part of a person’s memory. The first cassette I ever bought for myself, after saving up allowance money, was An Innocent Man. My brother and I shared the 45s of “Uptown Girl” and then “The Longest Time” before I bought the whole cassette. Since we had “The Longest Time” on 45, I must have purchased it in 1984 after several singles were out in the stores, because I also remember not too long later I got my second cassette as a gift, the self titled New Edition release.

Growing up, I always like the bands of the 1960s, so this album by Joel, which was tribute to these acts, was not too far off the track musically for me. I don’t think I remember Joel’s earlier work at the time, although I wrote a research paper in 5th grade on music, and mentioned Joel in the paper. My teacher at the time had seen him live several times at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, and I remember him telling me about the show.

Joel was one of the top acts at this time, getting all kinds of local and national radio airplay, along with his videos on the video shows (I did not have MTV at the time, so shows like “Friday Night Videos” and the local Akron/Canton video show hosted by Billy Soule played his videos).

The opening track, “Easy Money,” which was featured in the 1983 Rodney Dangerfield film, was a great opener to the album, and I would play the song on the way to visiting the casinos when my friend’s band would play there (as little as two years ago-the song is still on my play list). Throughout the song, and the album, I became a fan of drummer Liberty Devitto’s strong snare drum sound.

“An Innocent Man” was a song that , at first, I was not a major fan of, but during my adult years, I grew to love the song more. The lyrics are strong and describe the human nature that most pop songs did not at this time. Being 11 years old when I got this cassette, I was more into the hit singles of the albums than deeper cuts mostly.

“This Night” was one of the fewer deeper cuts on albums and the cassettes that I always listened to. The song had the Doo Wop sound to it, almost reminded me of another group that I was a fan of at the time, Sha Na Na.

“Tell Her About It,” “Uptown Girl” and “The Longest Time” were already blaring on my radio, so I was not unfamiliar with these singles, singing along with my friends during recess at school and in music class, where every Friday we were allowed to bring in a 45 or record to play and study and dance to as a reward. Thankfully our music teacher, who was also the drama teacher, was a fan of popular music like Hall and Oates, Duran Duran, and Joel. We did not have the old grey-haired teacher who hated rock music, like the professor I had in my college music class.

“Careless Talk” and “Christie Lee” were songs that I grew to love more in my college and post-college days, especially when I started playing in local bands, and we started writing original songs. Why not try and copy the great songwriting of Billy Joel, right? Unfortunately the rock/blues band I was in didn’t lend to that kind of 60’s pop.

The last two songs, “Leave A Tender Moment Alone” and “Keeping The Faith” were two other songs that I remember loving from the first time I heard them. I loved the harmonica in “Leave A Tender Moment,” seeing the video of Joel playing live on the Akron/Canton video show, “23 Music Videos,” hosted by Billy Soule, on WAKC Channel 23- a channel where I also got to watch Memphis wrestling .

“Keeping The Faith” was a popular video , with Joel in a court room trying to plead his case to a jury. I remember us kids re-enacting music videos during recess at times, with this one being one of them (another was “Method of Modern Love” by Hall and Oates). We had to use our imaginations back then before the cell phones and internet to keep us occupied.

I bought a Billy Joel video collection years later on VHS, which had the video of “Keeping The Faith” on it. Videos at one time were a visual interpretation of the songs, and Joel standing next to the giant jukebox was a great visual with a song about his musical heroes. I always love the lyrics in the song of “The good ole days weren’t always good/and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”

Even though some people scoff at videos made in the 1980s, they were a new genre for musicians, and there were no set rules on how to do them. Some were cheesy, some weren’t, but they helped sell records, which was the goal. Although I had a few of the 45s, the videos helped me enjoy this release even more. I listed this album as an underrated album that many people either missed in the stores or that they are not mentioned among the artists’ best work on an older article. It’s hard to imagine that people forget An Innocent Man, which spawned 7 singles, and if it wasn’t for Thriller by Michael Jackson, it would probably been the album of that year.