“The Faith of Dolly Parton” works nine to five. May we hear an amen?

As I reminded everyone, over and over and over, that Dolly Parton are I are bosom buddies. And she likes to say, “breast friends”.

So when I see yet another book about her, a book she has not authorized or sanctioned, I get a teeny bit concerned. More about her silicone? Her love for drag queens? More news about the horrendous amount of plastic surgery she continues to have?

Not here. In The Faith of Dolly Parton (Zondervan , $22.99), Dudley Delffs spotlights 10 lessons he has drawn from Dolly’s life, music and attitude. His reflections are personal, practical and profound as Dolly’s example reminds us all to trust God during hard times, stay grounded during good times, and always keep our sense of humor.

But what drives Dolly to be so giving and loving towards others? Delffs examines the depth of Dolly’s faith and how it influences her life. Readers will identify with him as he recalls a simpler place and time when his own life-long love of Dolly began. In a way, Delffs and Parton have walked a faith journey together.

Delffs starts the book simply with “I love Dolly.” He continues, “Like the University of Tennessee, the Smoky Mountains, biscuits and gravy, the works of Flannery O’Connor, and the lonesome sound of the night train echoing from beyond the pasture on the farm where I grew up, Dolly Parton is woven into the fabric of my life.”

Readers can take away their own life lessons through each chapter’s Divine Doses of Dolly, where they can apply faith lessons from Dolly’s life to their own particular situations via questions and exercises, a relevant theme song from Dolly’s discography, and a short prayer they can use in their own time of “talkin’ with God.”  The Faith of Dolly Parton is the perfect gift for anyone who loves Dolly and her music, those looking for inspiration, and music fans in general.

“In The Name of the Father” is an unflinching portrait of a football dynasty that transcends the sport

We should stop worrying about who refuses to stand, who knees, at the beginning of each game. They have rights, pesonal beliefs.
And we have the right and belief to recommend In The Name of the Father: Family, Football, and the Manning Dynasty (Liveright Publishing , $29.95), an unflinching portrait of a football dynasty that transcends the sport itself, sheds new light on a family everybody knows but few truly understand. Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning’s storied careers would be remarkable as singular accomplishments, but taken together they know no parallel in the history of American sport.

Mark Ribowsky explores the father-son/brother-brother bond (and often rivalry) that drove the Mannings to success and reshaped college and professional football over the last 50 years.

Archie Manning was born in tiny Drew, Mississippi in 1949, and was profoundly shaped by his father’s suicide. A star at Ole Miss, Archie would win the SEC Player of the Year award in 1969 and become a kind of regional folk hero and legend before he had even turned 21. Yet no amount of fan worship and God-given talent could salvage his pro tenure with the New Orleans Saints in the ’70s, which went on to an abysmal record in the league.

Determined to be a presence in his sons’ lives as well as a financial bulwark, Archie turned his attention to his three boys: Cooper, Peyton and Eli. Cooper may have been the most talented of the three: A wise-cracking wide receiver whose entire football life came to an abrupt halt when he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and was never allowed to play a down again. This shook the family to the core and provided extra motivation for Peyton. He bucked Archie’s legacy, rejecting Ole Miss in favor of rival Tennessee, where—like his father two decades prior—he became a campus god and a national sensation.

The unlikeliest success story though would be little brother Eli, who did follow in his father’s footsteps by going to Ole Miss but suffered in the shadow of Archie’s collegiate achievements and Peyton’s more recent fame. Never quite as good as Peyton, and always considerably more awkward, his NFL career would take off after signing with the Giants, an association that has had arguably more dramatic highs than Peyton’s ever did, but also much lower lows.

Ribowsky colorfully recounts these moments of triumph and loss, but also the savvy marketing of the Manning brand that father and sons has so skillfully capitalized on for years; the trilogy has become as immediately recognizable as some of our most memorable political dynasties, and perhaps no less influential. In Ribowsky’s telling, the Mannings have always been bigger than football. They’re as American as capitalism itself.  In the Name of the Father is a quintessentially American saga of a lineage that forever changed the game.

The life of apostle Paul is told in N.T. Wright’s definitive “Paul: A Biography”

For heaven’s sake, this is a great new book!

In the definitive Paul: A Biography (HarperOne, $29.99)renowned Bible scholar, Anglican bishop and bestselling author N. T. Wright offers a radical look at the apostle Paul, one of the most important figures in Christianity. The book illuminates the humanity and remarkable achievements of this outstanding intellectual who largely invented Christian theology—transforming a faith and changing the world.

For centuries, Paul, the apostle who “saw the light on the Road to Damascus” and was transformed from zealous Pharisee persecutor to devoted follower of Christ, has been one of the church’s most widely cited teachers, Paul is responsible for the earliest writings from within the Christian movement.  While his influence on Christianity has been profound, Wright argues that Bible scholars and pastors have focused so much attention on Paul’s letters and theology that they have too often overlooked the essence of the man’s life and the extreme unlikelihood of what he achieved.

To Wright, “The problem is that Paul is central to any understanding of earliest Christianity, yet Paul was a Jew; for many generations Christians of all kinds have struggled to put this together.” Wright contends that our knowledge of Paul and appreciation for his legacy cannot be complete without an understanding of his Jewish heritage. Giving us a thoughtful, in-depth exploration of the human and intellectual drama that shaped Paul, Wright provides greater clarity on the apostle’s writings, thoughts, and ideas and helps us see them in a fresh, innovative way.

In Paul, Wright reveals:

  • Why we think of Paul as a “religious” figure, but this is a modern mistake. Of course, worship, prayer, and spirituality were central to his life, but he was a public intellectual with an agenda to transform the world and a philosophy to back it up. 
  • Paul was thus a figure much more like Rousseau, or Marx, or Vaclav Havel, than Billy Graham. He had glimpsed in Jesus a new way of being human together, and he worked tirelessly to make it happen.
  •  How for Paul there was no such thing as “Christianity” in the sense of a “religion” different from “Judaism.” What mattered was that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead had shown him to be Israel’s Messiah and the world’s Lord: a Jewish message for the wider world. 
  • How Paul stood at the confluence of three great cultures: the Jewish world with its passionate monotheism; the Greek world with its subtle philosophy; the Roman world with its all-powerful empire. Paul believed that Jesus, not Caesar, was “Lord”; he saw that in Jesus there was a new way to think; he believed that, in Jesus, the One God of Israel had done what he’d promised, rescuing his people and the world. He held these together in a powerful, radical new combination. 
  • Some of Paul’s philosophical contemporaries believed that the point was “to go to heaven when you die.” That was never Paul’s position. He believed in new creation, a new world of space, time, and matter formed by God’s spirit rescuing and transforming the present world. 
  • Paul’s message to individuals was that they could become part of this new world here and now – if they gave up worshipping the non-gods of the pagan world and behaving accordingly (“sin”). As Messiah, Jesus had died on behalf of Israel and the world, and whatever “past” anyone had could be forgiven. 
  • Paul founded communities of forgiven sinners whose only membership badge was “faith”: faith in “the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” This meant, shockingly, that people of all sorts and backgrounds were on exactly equal terms, supporting one another in living the new-human way. 
  • What drove Paul above all was the sense that in Jesus the One Creator God had revealed his utter, radical, unbreakable love. For Paul, this meant a debt of love which only love could repay, love for God and practical, resourceful love for people. 

Paulis a compelling modern biography that reveals the apostle’s greater role in Christian history—as an inventor of new paradigms for how we understand Jesus and what he accomplished—and celebrates his stature as one of the most effective and influential intellectuals in human history.

“Razzia” is a gorgeous, haunting film from a most talented female director out of North Africa

Look up the word “razzia”, and you discover is means “a hostile raid for purposes of conquest, plunder, and capture of slaves, especially one carried out by Moors in North Africa.”
Welcome to Razzia, a film by the most talented Nabil Ayouch. It stars performers you may not have heard of (yet)–Maryam Touzani, Arieh Worthalter, Amine Ennaji, Abdelilah Rachid, Dounia Binebine–but their talent  dominates the screen.

In this searing and mesmerizing drama, five Moroccans from different social and religious strata are pushed to the fringe by their extremist government. Spanning  three decades and several storylines, director Ayouch weaves an intricate tale of lost loves, forbidden desires, and fragile dreams in modern day Morocco.

An additional sidenote: The Moroccan Entry for the 2018 Academy Awards, Razzia was the Opening Night Film at the 2018 New York Jewish Film Festival.

A pair of new MHz releases are so good, the air will only get hotter

We ask the dear gods and goddesses at MHz to forgive us. We ask because we are so engrossed in two of newest releases that we haven’t found time to brag about them. Until now.

Detective Montalbano: Episodes 31 & 32
Murder, betrayal, office politics, temptation . . . it’s all in a day’s work for Detective Salvo Montalbano. With his always loyal and sometimes effective police squad he solves crimes in Vigata, crossing paths with housewives and priests, liars, saints and Mafia dons. He also wages a personal war with his own demons, which fight against his professional ideals and personal commitment to beautiful long-distance girlfriend, Livia.
Yet there’s always time to indulge a long-standing flirtation with his ultimate temptress, Italian cuisine. The series is filmed in the ancient, sun-washed Sicilian city of Ragusa, and is based on the international best-selling mystery novels by Andrea Camilleri.

Episode31:  Merry-Go-Round
Bizarre kidnappings of young women in Vigàta are happening for incomprehensible reasons. Montalbano also investigates an arson and the disappearance of a young business owner known for being a playboy and big spender. He realizes the key to solving the cases lies in the identity of the young man’s girlfriend, a mysterious woman whose identity the man kept secret from friends and associates.

EPISODE 32: Amore
Montalbano is out of his depth when it comes to matters of the heart, so the disappearance of beautiful Michela Prestia leaves him totally stumped. She’d escaped a tragic past of abuse and prostitution and rebuilt her life with a man she loved.  It seems unthinkable she would walk away. An elderly theatrical couple helps Montalbano understand a little more about the complexities of love.

Then there’s . . .

Antarctica, a three-part documentary featuring stunning visuals captured by photographers Laurent Ballest and Vincent Munier as they explore the frozen continent, comes from Luc Jacquet, the director of March of the Penguins. Traveling aboard a French polar icebreaker in 2016, they documented the marvels of the continent, both on the ice and under it. This series showcases their work and serves as a chronicle of the effect climate change is having on the unique and diverse wildlife in this harsh environment.

The story is told in three overlapping installments: Antarctica’s Secrets and Antarctica: Living on the Edge highlight the flora and fauna of the rapidly changing continent, and the feature-length In the Footsteps of the Emperor focuses on the life cycle of the emperor penguin. The photography is unforgettable particularly the underwater sequences and the penguins are arguably even more compelling than they were in the Oscar-winning documentary March of the Penguins.

Get ready for the expedition of a lifetime.

“Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lives” hits a home run!

PBS Distribution has hit yet another home run.

American Masters—Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lives in now on DVD and Digital HD. The new program, co-produced by Albert M. Tapper Productions, in association with Major League Baseball, David Ortiz’ Big Papi Productions and Nick Davis Productions, explores not only the Baseball Hall of Famer’s remarkable on-field accomplishments but also his complicated relationships with family, teammates, press, fans and himself.

During his remarkable career with the Boston Red Sox, Williams earned many nicknames—The Kid, The Splendid Splinter and Teddy Ballgame, but the only nickname that he wanted was “the greatest hitter who ever lived.” In that pursuit, he combined his preternatural gifts with a fierce work ethic to become widely regarded as one of the greatest ever to play the game of baseball and in the process elevated the science of hitting in ways still emulated today.

Through never-before-seen archival footage and in-depth interviews with those who knew and studied Williams, including his daughter Claudia Williams, author/journalist Ben Bradlee, Jr., veteran baseball writer Roger Angela, and award-winning broadcasters Bob Costas and the late Dick Enberg, the program demonstrates the power of the heroic myth-making culture in which Williams flourished. Lesser-known topics explored int eh film include Williams’ Mexican-American background, his experiences serving during World War II and the Korean War, and his deep rage over his mother’s virtual abandonment of him and his younger brother.

Narrated by Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor Jon Hamm,  the documentary also looks at the legendary player’s impact on the game of baseball and his relevance in the almost 60 years since his retirement, highlighted by Williams’ iconic achievement—he is the last player to hit over .400, finishing the 1941 season batting .406. Former players—including Baseball Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Wade Boggs, three-time All-Star Jim Kaat and current Cincinnati Reds first baseman and former National League MVP Joey Votto—share how Williams’ philosophy, commitment to greatness and approach to hitting influenced them in the film.

“Pink Floyd: Album By Album” will rock and roll fans

Pink Floyd fans will fly to the dark side of the moon with Pink Floyd: Album By Album (Voyageur Press, $30),  a stunning and unique look back at their discography. Author Martin Popoff’s work features in-depth, frank and entertaining conversations about all the band’s studio albums, including their soundtrack efforts and the instrumental/ambient The Endless River. He moderates discussions on each album with rock journalists and musicians, including legendary Genesis and solo guitarist Steve Hackett, original Alice Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway, and Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery, all offering insights, opinions, and anecdotes about every release.

Together, the conversations comprise a unique historical overview of the band, covering everything from early albums with the iconic Syd Barrett to the songwriting tandem of Roger Waters and David Gilmour; the impeccable talents of drummer Nick Mason and multi-instrumentalist Richard Wright; those mega tours undertaken in support of the albums; the monster success of breakthrough LP Dark Side of the Moon; interpersonal conflict; the band following Waters’ 1985 departure; and much more.

Popoff also includes sidebars that provide complete track listings, album personnel, and studios and dates. Every page is illustrated with thoughtfully curated performance and offstage photography, as well as rare memorabilia.  Pink Floyd fans will discover so much about the legendary band it’s likely they won’t look at–or listen to–Pink Floyd the same way after reading this book.

“Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Fifth Series” still works, all these years later

We still laugh, in and out.

Political correctness met its match with Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, NBC’s groundbreaking variety series that became a cultural touchstone and part of the fabric of ’60s-’70s America.Every Monday night at 8 p.m. from 1968-1973, straight man Dan Rowan and wisecracking co-host Dick Martin led a supremely talented comic ensemble through a gut-busting assault of one-liners, skits, bits and non sequiturs that left viewers in hysterics and disbelief.

Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Fifth Series (Time Life) from features all 24 episodes.  And what fun! After years of shameless name dropping, Dick finally gets his wish when bombshell Raquel Welch kicks off the new season with her first and only appearance on the show. Former Hogan’s Heroes POWs Richard Dawson and Larry Hovis escaped CBS to join the cast. And, along with alumni Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Jo Anne Worley and Teresa Graves, they help to celebrate Laugh-In‘s landmark 100th episode (it aired on September 1, 1971).

Other guest stars:  Steve Allen, Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, Carol Channing, Charo, Petula Clark, Bing Crosby, Tony Curtis, Henry Gibson, Gene Hackman, Rita Hayworth, Hugh Hefner, Bob Hope, Arte Johnson, Paul Lynde, Liza Minnelli, Agnes Moorehead, Joe Namath, Carroll O’Connor, Vincent Price, Carl Reiner, Debbie Reynolds, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bill Russell, Vin Scully, Doc Severinsen, Jacqueline Susann, Tiny Tim, John Wayne and Henny Youngman.

“The Wonderful Mr. Willughby: The First True Ornithologist” soars

From the acclaimed author of Bird Sense and The Most Perfect Thing, Tim Birkhead, flies high with his The Wonderful Mr. Willughby: The First True Ornithologist (Bloomsbury, $27 hardcover), a biography of the man who pulled the study of birds out of the dark ages and formed the foundations of modern ornithology.

For the first time, Willughby’s story and genius are given
the attention they deserve. He lived during the rapidly accelerating scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, at a time when scholars’ conceptions of science and nature were drastically shifting
and previous conceptions were being critically scrutinized. Studying at Cambridge, Willughby was invigorated by this revolution, and after graduation he devoted his time to his particular fascination with birds, carefully differentiating them through identification of their distinguishing features.

Soon he set off on the Grand Tour in Europe with his Cambridge tutor John Ray, making stops to examine native species
and view prominent specimen collections. It was on this trip that the two men were inspired to embark on an overhaul of the whole of natural history, in an attempt to impose order on its messiness and complexity. But before their first book, Ornithology, could be completed, Willughby died. In the centuries since, Ray’s reputation has grown, obscuring that of his collaborator.

In his too-short life, Willughby helped found the Royal Society of London, and made discoveries and asked questions that were, in some cases, centuries ahead of their time. His findings and his approach to his work continue to be relevant—and revelatory—today.  Birkhead describes and celebrates how Willughby’s endeavors set a standard for the way birds—and indeed the whole of natural history—should be studied.

A “Cunt” that’s as good as it was 20 years ago. No, not that cunt!

Twenty years after the publication of this feminist classic, Inga Muscio returns with a modern update to the original female empowerment manifesto.

The fully revised Cunt, 20th Anniversary Edition (Seal Press, $17.99) explores feminist issues old and new—with a fresh perspective for a new generation of women. Topics include:

  • Defining and reclaiming cunt in 2018
  • The importance of an intersectional feminist approach that examines issues of race and class alongside gender
  • Trans-inclusionary feminism and why genitals don’t define womanhood
  • The danger of competition and negativity between women
  • Tactics for seizing reproductive control
  • The history of whoredom and why sex workers deserve respect

With three sections, “The Word,” “The Anatomical Jewel” and “Reconciliation” as well as reading and listening lists to continue the conversation, this new edition of Cunt invites a new generation of feminists to explore and embrace their inherent power.

Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some