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Tim Boxer


SHARON: THE LIFE OF A LEADERHistory Proves Him Right

HARON: THE LIFE OF A LEADER Gilad Sharon’s voluminous tome is not just an intimate biography of an illustrious father he loves dearly, but a spectacular inside look at the military and diplomatic history of Israel in recent years. With access to personal papers and cabinet minutes, Gilad exposes the failures (and triumphs) of such leaders as Shimon Peres who played politics with the nation’s security (page 233) and Benyamin Netanyahu who proved to be "subversive" and "a coward" (page 574).

For 13 months in 1980 Prime Minister Menachem Begin and his cabinet pondered in secret what to do about Iraq’s nuclear reactor, built by the French the previous decade. With help from France and Italy, it was capable of producing two small atomic bombs a year. Gilad’s father, Ariel, Minister of Agriculture at the time, pressed for immediate destruction of the reactor. Shimon Peres, of the opposition Labor Party, cautioned against taking any such action.

After Begin directed the air force to take out Saddam Hussein’s nuclear capability in 1981, predictably the whole world condemned him for it. The New York Times called "Israel’s sneak attack…an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression." After the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq aggression, former Secretary of State James Baker admitted in 2005, "We were wrong and Israel was right."

Gilad points out that when Jordan controlled the West Bank, and Egypt the Gaza Strip, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) never called for the establishment of a Palestinian state. They engaged in terror attacks, massacres of civilians in their home and on the buses, and hijackings of airliners, all in the aim of destroying the State of Israel and placing thre entire area under Arab rule. It wasn’t till after the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel acquired these territories, that Arafat and subsequent PLO leaders maintained that the "occupation of the West Bank was the reason for the conflict." (Harper, 626 pages, $29.99, Amazon.com Price: $18.98)


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THE ARAB AWAKENINGWhither The Middle East?

What’s in store for America and how the transformation of the Middle East will play out is the concern of 18 scholars of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution think tank.

Long subject to the whims of despotic dictators and monarchs, the people of the Middle East "are no longer willing to accept their misery" but have at last found that "when they take action, they can change their own circumstances."

Of course, danger lurks in every enterprise. Iran, which has its own narrative, will try to exploit the fall of pro-American rulers and fill the gaps to its own advantage. Tehran’s restraint so far suggests it is hedging its bets. How America responds to the vast changes taking place is a formidable task for policy makers.

Among the distinguished contributors to this study and analysis are Kenneth M. Pollack, a former Persian Gulf military analyst at the CIA and currently director of the Saban Center; Daniel L. Byman of Georgetown University; Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center; Bruce O. Riedel, professor at Johns Hopkins and author of Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of the Global Jihad). (Brookings Institution Press, softcover, 381 pages, $26.95, Amazon.com Price: $17.79)


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The Actor Within: Intimate Conversations with Great ActorsConversations With Actors

ETTING into the psyche of an actor is not an easy task. Rose Eichenbaum succeeds admirably with an open mind and probing questions and the results, The Actor Within: Intimate Conversations with Great Actors, is a delightful book consisting of interviews with 35 talented personalities that will keep your interest from cover to cover.

How did you become an actor? For Joe Mantegna (currently starring on TV in Criminal Minds), it was a jolt of electricity that coursed through his body. At an audition for West Side Story in high school in Chicago, after he sang Maria, he was struck by thundering applause.

"No one had ever applauded anything I’d ever done in my entire life. It was like an electric bolt going through my body. My God, it was a revelation…this is where I’m supposed to be!"

Early on, Debra Winger (star of TV’s In Treatment) had a premonition that she’d make it. Her inner voice told her: "You can do it if you want it badly enough." In the ‘80s she starred in three successive movies, Urban Cowboy (1980), An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and Terms of Endearment (1983), and was catapulted to celebrity status. Let her mantra be a lesson to us all.

(Note to Eichenbaum: Urban Cowboy is listed on p. 236 as a 1970 film instead of 1980.)

Some of the other subjects Eichenbaum interviewed include Elijah Wood, Larry Miller, Marlie Matlin, Julia Stiles, George Segal, Bill Irwin and Lainie Kazan. Eichenbaum makes them all interesting to listen to. Eichenbaum’s unique photographs of each subject are outstanding. (Wesleyan University Press, 262 pages, $30.00, Amazon.com Price: $21.19)


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Photoshop Elements 8 for DummiesTweaking Your Pictures

ILEY PUBLISHING offers a choice of three guidebooks to help navigate through Adobe Photoshop Elements 8. (Okay, they’re touting version 9 now, but 8 still suits me fine, thank you.) I still find the ever popular Dummies series the easiest way to learn. Photoshop Elements 8 for Dummies, on slick paper and with an abundance of colorful illustrations, covers all you need to know to fine-tune your images, make collages and slide shows, create albums and compose better photos. (Wiley, softcover, 400 pages, $29.99,  Amazon.com Price: $19.79)

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8: Digital Classroom is written by a team from American Graphics Institute (AGI), creators of many Adobe official training guides, so you’re in good hands with this volume. It’s like being back in school, with a no-nonsense approach to learning everything about Elements 8. The material flows seamlessly; the lessons are easy to absorb; and in no time you’ll find yourself organizing photos, correcting images, and becoming a better photographer. As a bonus, a DVD full of tutorials is included with the book. Wiley, softcover, 408 pages, $39.99, Amazon.com Price: $26.39)

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8: After the ShootAdobe Photoshop Elements 8: After the Shoot Written by Adobe Certified Photoshop expert Mark Fitzgerald, this is one of the better books that teaches you everything you want to know about processing your digital images. Mark is a wonderful teacher. You may want to take further lessons from him through his consulting business, the Digital Darkroom. Visit him at his website: www.ddroom.com. (Wiley, softcover, 258 pages, $24.99, Amazon.com Price: $16.49)


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EORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD Olivia Harrison has produced a revealing and endearing album packed with letters, memorabilia, diaries and photographs spanning the entire career of her late husband. This hefty (9.5"x10.75") doorstopper is nirvana for every Beatles fan, which probably means every one of us, is virtual nirvana and a tribute to a musician and spiritual seeker who touched the lives of millions all over the world. (Abrams, hardcover, 400 pages, 260 illustrations, $40.00, Amazon.com Price: $25.97)

JUDY: A LEGENDARY FILM CAREERJUDY: A LEGENDARY FILM CAREER The author, John Fricke, is a Judy Garland historian who earned two Emmy Awards and a Grammy nomination. He ought to get an award for this mighty impressive, lavishly produced outsized volume on one of the world’s greatest showbiz icons, who’s star quality consisted of that "little something extra" that set her apart from mere mortals. That’s what James Mason told her in A Star Is Born. Elaine Stritch says she watches a Judy Garland movie before going out on stage, even for an Edward Albee play. What that does for her is not to tell a lie the rest of the evening. Toi see Garland "reach over to an audience with the absolute 100 percent truth is something else.Never have I caught her in a lie. And never have I caught her ‘acting.’" (Running Press, 9x12 inches, 352 pages, $30.00, Amazon.com Price: $19.80)

THE DEAD CELEBRITY COOKBOOKTHE DEAD CELEBRITY COOKBOOK Don’t worry, you won’t find ghosts lurking behind the pot, but you can emulate any of 145 stars by following their gastronomic interests. One page carries a brief historic note of a long-gone personality, and the facing page presents their favorite recipe. In these pagesd you’ll find John Denver’s Flemish apple cake, Bette Davis’s red flannel hash, Lucille Ball’s persimmon cake, Dirk Bogarde’s Spanish paella, Yvonne De Carlo’s exotic chicken ecstasy and Eartha Kitt’s chicken wings among other delectable dishes. My favorite: Dean Martin’s burgers and bourbon. Ingredients: 1 pound ground beef, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 8 ounces bourbon, chilled. Preheat a heavy skillet and sprinkle with salt. Shape beef into four patties, Cook for four minutes. Pour two ounces of bourbon in each of four shot glasses. Drink with burgers. That’s Dino for you! (HCI Books, soft cover, 370 pages, $19.95, Amazon.com Price: $13.57)

METAMAUSMETAMAUS Art Spiegelman won the Pulitzer Prize 25 years ago for his groundbreaking comics-novel Maus. That comics-novel altered the way we regard literature. He’s back with an inside look at this modern classic, probing: Why comics? Why the Holocaust? Why mice? That’s easy. In order to eliminate a menace (the Jew), first you dehumanize him, compare him to rats, hen it’s quite easy to arouse the populace to exterminate this subhuman, this demon. That’s why the Nazis used Zyklon B—a pesticide manufactured to kill vermin—as the killing agent in Auschwitz and elsewhere. Metamaus includes a DVD that contains reference to The Complete Maus and an archive of private notebooks, sketches and audio interviews with Spiegelman’s survivor father. Pantheon, 301 pages, $35.00, Amazon.com Price: $23.10)

THE PERFECT PHOTOTHE PERFECT PHOTO This is one of three books of a new series, Edition Espresso, published by Rocky Nook of Santa Barbara, Calif., printed in Estonia, and distributed by O’Reilly Media of Sebastopol, Calif. Like an espresso, these short books give you a shot in the arm with inspiration and practical advice for every photographer. They fit in your pocket so you can refer to them on the go. I take them out in the subway. The Perfect Photo (128 pages, $19.95, Amazon.com Price: $13.49) contains 71 tips such as avoiding blurry images, adjusting ISO speeds for brightness, the special quality of twilight and so on. The other two titles are Nature and Landscape Photography (128 pages, $19.95, Amazon.com Price: $13.35) and Ten Photo Assignments (112 pages, $19.95, Amazon.com Price: $13.35)

THE BETTER PHOTO GUIDE TO CREATIVE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHYTHE BETTER PHOTO GUIDE TO CREATIVE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY Another addition to the BetterPhoto Guide series, this gentle, undemanding and masterly instructive handbook is essential for any photographer to enhance their skills in composition, color and design. It is one of the better books I’ve seen anywhere for learning how to create images with impact. The awesome authors are Jim Miotke, founder of www.betterphoto.com, and Kerry Drager, content manager of that valuable website. (Amphoto, soft cover, 224 pages, $24.99, Amazon.com Price: $16.49)


THE MEN’S SECTION There’s a subtle anti-traditionalist wave sweeping the Jewish Orthodox synagogue scene. It seems some fervently observant men are seeking ways to absorb feminist inclinations into synagogue practice in the United States, Israel and Australia. These are called Partnership Minyanim where women share in conducting services, reading publicly from the Torah and assuming egalitarian roles in the administration of the congregation. Last time such a phenomenon occurred, in the 19th century in Germany, monolithic halachic Judaism split into Reform and Orthodox branches (with middle of the road Conservative strain arising later). The jury is out whether modern Orthodox Judaism can embrace these egalitarian inroads and thrive into the future without controversy. Meantime, the author says, "perhaps an all-women’s space is really the best place for a woman. It is, without question, the safest." I forgot to mention that the author is a woman, Elana Maryles Sztokman who writes on gender issue for The Forward. Brandeis University Press, soft cover, 288 pages, Amazon.com Price: $29.95)

THE SCATTERED TRIBETHE SCATTERED TRIBE Veteran travel writer Ben G. Frank has a winner here, a fascinating road map of his amazing adventures in Cuba, Vietnam, Tahiti (there are Jews there?), Algeria, Siberia, India and, of course, Israel. He shows how Jews are not Western but global. He learned that India is one of the happiest places on earth and the most hospitable country for the dispersed Jews. Globe Pequot Press, softcover, 320 pages, $17.95, Amazon.com Price: $12.32)

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