Out of print for more than 30 years, now available for the first time as an eBook, this is the controversial story of John Wooden's first 25 years and first 8 NCAA Championships as UCLA Head Basketball Coach. This is the only book that gives a true picture of the character of John Wooden and the influence of his assistant, Jerry Norman, whose contributions Wooden  ignored and tried to bury.

Compiled with more than 40 hours of interviews with Coach Wooden, learn about the man behind the coach. The players tell their their stories in their own words.

Click the book to read the first chapter and for ordering information. Also available on Kindle.

Marvel's The Avengers (5/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 142 minutes

OK for children

It's understandable how this film could have cost almost a quarter of a billion dollars to make. The special effects are incredible and it's got a huge, A-list cast. But, except for the fact that it will probably mint the money, this is little more than 2 hours and 20 minutes of special effects and idiotic fights. The special effects are spectacular; the fights less than ridiculous. It was excruciating to sit through.

Since there's virtually no story except aliens attacking the earth, there's little requirement for acting. Take Gwyneth Paltrow, for instance. She's listed as one of the stars, but she's in so few scenes she probably shot them all on her lunch break from another film. That's a nice way to earn a cool $10 million (I'm guessing).

This is a movie for people with short attention spans who like video games, so 3D makes it better, although the 3D is not really noticeable until the end when there are lots of flying aliens trying to kill New York. They fly at you and away from you and you do get the 3D feel and that's kind of fun.

While there is speculation about whether or not there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, Hollywood has clearly taken the position that most aliens are either monsters or Neanderthals. It's hard to believe that these are the people who have conquered space travel when we haven't. The things fighting in this movie are some sort of mechanical-looking beings, but they can apparently die because the superheroes kill them.

The plot is that a god, Thor's brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), comes to earth and absconds with The Tesseract, some sort of state of the art electronic gadget that has superpowers itself. Loki wreaks havoc when he first appears so the Avengers team, Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), is assembled under the direction of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to save the earth, although Hawkeye is purloined by Loki to work on his side.

Loki starts out to be totally indestructible. But thematically that clearly won't work, since he eventually has to be conquered or this is going to be a very unsatisfying movie, so he is soon captured and imprisoned, a segue from invulnerability to vulnerability so rapid it strains credulity to the breaking point, although credulity is the least of this movie's concerns. Then he gets out and imprisons his brother. I couldn't have cared less.

What ensues is some tongue-in-cheek dialogue, but mostly what we get are special effects and ludicrous fights. Let's face it, there are six superheroes fighting what appear to be thousands of machine-like creatures. What chance do they have? Most of the superheroes can fly and appear to be resistant to injury. They can fall from great heights (thousands of feet) and can still jump up to continue the fight. Only in Hollywood and comic books.

Unlike good action films, director Josh Whedon makes it too light-hearted and comedic for there to be any tension at all. War of the Worlds (1953 and 2005), for instance, had the same basic plot, but were not comedies. Aliens wanted to kill everyone and if the good guys didn't prevail everyone would be dead. There was tension in both films. Here, it's like all the superheroes are trying out at the Improv to see who can give the best one-liner, which kills any possibility of a tense drama.

Since it's not particularly funny and it's not tense, what's the point? Oh, yeah, money; well, so much for art. This is pretty much a waste of time unless you love special effects and comic books.

April 25, 2012