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Tim Boxer


Living Sufism: Sufi Rituals in the Middle East and the Balkans
Radiating Love Of God

HERE is another face to the Muslims we have come to know and fear from the daily headlines. The ones making all the noise today are the fundamentalists – the Wahhabi, Salafi, Jihadi and Taliban.

On the other extreme – which we hardly ever hear from – are the Sufis. They comprise the mystical side of Islam. In Turkey they are the whirling dervishes. They maintain an ecstatic connection with Allah through rhythmic movement and music. As the fundamentalist Wahhabi and Taliban prohibit outward expressions of music and dance, you will not readily find the mystical strain of Sufism in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan.

Nicolaas Biegman spent years among the Sufi of Egypt and the Balkans (Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania) studying their mystical rites with his camera. The result is Living Sufism: Sufi Rituals in the Middle East and the Balkans, a superb photographic record of Sufi worship.

The core of this ritual is the zikr, or remembrance, which consists of repeating with concentration God’s 99 names. Biegman’s photos shine with the sincere concentration on the faces of the Sufi as they engage in zikr. American University in Cairo Press, soft cover, 190 pages, $49.95 Amazon.com Price: $30.36)

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Celebrating Peanuts: 60 YearsThat Irresistible Face

OW much have you changed over the last six decades? We all have. Even Snoopy. Now you can see how this loveable pet evolved, along with good ol’ Charlie Brown, since 1950 when Peanuts first premiered as a comic strip in seven newspapers.

Today the strip appears in more than 2,200 newspapers in 75 countries in 25 languages. And we know why. Everybody all over the world loves Snoopy.

Celebrating Peanuts: 60 Years by Charles M. Schulz chronicles the adventures and daily life of this icon of a generation. I can see this coffee-table book become a family heirloom, to be enjoyed for many decades to come. The legendary cartoonist died in 2000, but his creation lives on in our hearts.

This would make a wonderful gift on any occasion for child and adult alike. Who can resist such a face – Snoopy’s or Charlie’s? Andrews McMeel couldn’t for it published this massive collector’s volume in a slipcase, 544 pages, $75.00 Amazon.com Price: $40.50)

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Coming of Age: A History of the Jewish People in ManitobaWinnipeg In Our Hearts

ROWING up in the North End of Winnipeg in the ‘40s meant membership in the Orthodox Hashomer Hadati for me and leadership in the Marxist Hashomer Hatzair for my cousin Gerald Kushner. I graduated from camper to counselor at Bnai Brith Summer Camp at Sandy Hook, on the shores of Lake Winnipeg (I never did learn to swim) under the direction of Rabbi Arthur Chiel. For my uncle Jack Boxer in the ‘50s it meant becoming founding president of Herzlia-Adas Yeshurun Synagogue.

I was among a handful of Talmud Torah students, pursuing a Hebrew curriculum every evening after regular public high school, who formed the initial class at Maimonides College, the creation of Chief Rabbi Abraham Kravetz that proved short-lived.

In the early ‘50s I was part of a group of Maimonides students who left Winnipeg to study at the Hebrew Theological College in Chicago and other institutions in New York to become rabbis and scholars. As rabbis, Chaim Rozwaski settled in Berlin, Koppel Helman in Boston. Sam Goldman didn’t leave with us but went on to become chancellor of the University of Southern Illinois. Malcolm Thomson became a Conservative rabbi in Connecticut, then a hugely successful financial wizard at the Sanford Bernstein investment firm in New York.

After a few years at HTC I became a police reporter at City News Bureau, wrote an entertainment column for a weekly paper, discovered Dick Gregory in a coffee house on the Near North Side and made him a star overnight, after which Hugh Hefner sent me to New York to publicize the newly opened Playboy Club, eventually ending up as assistant and ghostwriter for 20 years of America’s top celebrity columnist, Earl Wilson of the New York Post, columnist for the New York Jewish Week for the past 30 years, and simultaneously editor of 15 MinutesMagazine.com for the last 10 years.

Some of us did okay; others did better. Monty Hall (Halperin) triumphed on American television with Let’s Make a Deal, and David Steinberg found success as a major film and television director in Hollywood.

I always had a warm spot in my heart for my native town, even though I froze my nose when I last visited in January when the thermometer dropped to minus 40 degrees F. So you can imagine the joy I experienced in reading Allan Levine’s superb Coming of Age: A History of the Jewish People in Manitoba, 511 pages, $75.95). It was published by the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada and Heartland Associates, with Abe Anhang serving as chair of the editorial board. Available at www.jhcwc.org.

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Bang the Keys: Four Steps to a Lifelong Writing PracticePage Turners

}BANG those keys on your computer or AlphaSmart keyboard (or typewriter). Don’t let a blank screen or blank sheet of paper intimidate you. That’s the key to successful writing according to Jill Dearman’s Bang the Keys: Four Steps to a Lifelong Writing Practice. The four steps are Begin with your strongest idea, Arrange your work into a concrete shape, Nurture your project with love, and Go with it. Keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas as they float into her head. Actually the best time to write in your notebook, Dearman maintains, is right before bed or at the start of the say. I sometimes get up in the middle of the night to make my way to the bathroom only to find that I’m groping for a pen to write some ideas that just popped into my sleepy brain. I keep a notebook always at hand no matter where I am – in the car, on the subway, at the airport or in bed. Alpha Books, soft cover, 238 pages, $16.95 Amazon.com Price: $11.53).

Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style}MASTER photographer Alain Briot — if you follow his advice and techniques — will get you up to speed in creativity and inspiration when taking pictures. The French-born landscape expert, who lives in Arizona, has much to teach on the topic of Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style. In this most excellent book Briot covers composing with light, composing with color and with black and white, as well as teaching you to see like a camera and develop your vision. You will not only end up becoming a better photographer, but a better artist with your camera. Rocky Nook, soft cover, 352 pages, $44.95 Amazon.com Price: $29.67).

A World of Trouble: The White House and the Middle East — From the Cold War to the War on Terror}PATRICK TYLER, who has covered the Middle East for the New York Times and The Washington Post, has catalogued U.S. policy in that region into an extensive book, A World of Trouble: The White House and the Middle East — From the Cold War to the War on Terror. He takes front-page headlines and fleshes them out into chapters of stirring narrative of global impact. It may come as a shock to some followers of front page news, but Washington wasn’t always so cuddly with Jerusalem. In defiance of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s opposition to PLO recognition, in his last days in office President Ronald Reagan opened a dialogue with Yasser Arafat that enabled the newly elected President George H.W. Bush to recognize the PLO as a partner for peace. Reagan acted in response to a plea from Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd "perhaps because the Saudi monarch had helped him over eight years to fight the Communists in Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua, or because the king had lavished Reagan with friendship and gifts." Farrar Straus Giroux, 628 pages, $30 Amazon.com Price: $19.80).

Rashi}BOSTON University humanities professor Elie Wiesel’s charming little book, Rashi, introduces the preeminent medieval Jewish interpreter of biblical text, Talmudic law and Midrashic compilation, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki (RASHI), born 1040 in Troyes, France. The Nobel Peace laureate first sets the scene as he describes the precarious world of Rashi. It was a time when crusaders ravaged the countryside and massacred Jews, countrymen blamed their Jewish neighbors for rampaging plagues, priests led the charge to forcibly convert the Jews on pain of death, and people accused Jews of engaging in ritual murder. Yet Rashi endured to create the most illustrious commentary on the Bible that remains the basis of learning in yeshivas everywhere. Nextbook/Schocken, 110 pages, $21 Amazon.com Price: $14.96).

Café Society: The wrong place for the Right people}IT was a unique concept in its day: open a nightclub with a mix of black and white jazz musicians on stage and a similar mix of customers in the house. It was unheard of on the ‘30s. But Barney Josephson, a shoe salesman from Trenton, N.J., made showbiz history when he integrated players and customers with the opening of Café Society in Greenwich Village in 1938. How he achieved that is fascinatingly told in his autobiography, Café Society: The wrong place for the Right people, with the help of his widow Terry Trilling-Josephson (he died in 1988). University of Illinois Press, 456 pages, 75 photographs, $32.95 Amazon.com Price: $24.05).

Freedom’s Unsteady March: America’s Role in Building Arab Democracy}TAMARA Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, is astoundingly confident. In Freedom’s Unsteady March: America’s Role in Building Arab Democracy she recounts the failures of the Bushies and the neocons in exporting democracy in the Middle East. Imposing American governance resulted in the threat of a takeover by Moslem Brotherhood extremists in Egypt, the takeover of Gaza by Hamas which precipitated a civil war with the Palestinian Authority, creeping command of much of Lebanon by Hizballah. Isn’t that enough to put the brakes on this fool’s errand of democracy advocacy? Not at all, Wittes maintains. "America has no viable choice but to wield its power and influence firmly on behalf of democratic reform in the Middle East." Brookings Institution Press, 177 pages, $26.95 Amazon.com Price: $20.08).

A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America}RAMPARTS started out as the country’s paramount muckraking journal of 1962-75 and ended up spawning two outstanding publications that continued its irreverent tradition: Rolling Stone and Mother Jones. Founded as a sleepy Catholic literary quarterly, Ramparts quickly transformed itself as a courageous investigative monthly dedicated to left-wing political radicalism, with its feet planted in the San Francisco counterculture and its head immersed in controversial topics such as the truth behind JFK assassination, the Chicago riots during the 1964 Democratic Convention, the civil rights and antiVietnam war movements with such writers as Noam Chomsky, Cesar Chavez, Seymour Hersh and Angela Davis. Even David Horowitz toiled there before becoming a right-wing neocon icon. Peter Richardson, chair of the California Studies Association and lecturer at San Francisco State University has written a breezy account of the short-lived magazine in A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America, The New Press, 256 pages, $25.95 Amazon.com Price: $17.13).

THE MISSING MANUAL: Photoshop Elements 8 for Windows}THE MISSING MANUAL: Photoshop Elements 8 for Windows is another offering from O’Reilly’s franchise of The Missing Manual series. Like all the others, this one is big, a doorstopper. That means it’s fully packed and ready to put you on the fast track to learn how to organize, backup, repair and fine tune your images. Barbara Brundage is Adobe Community Expert who wrote the book. I don’t see how you can use the program’s tools without Brundage’s extensive instruction. The Missing Manual series was created by David Pogue, the esteemed technology columnist of The New York Times, so you know you’re in good hands Amazon.com Price: $29.69).


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