* In a world of Kindles, audiobooks and old-school hard-bounds, where does that leave paperbacksthese days? Time capsule fodder? They are increasingly hard to, literally,read. I was reminded when I re-read a paperback version of Jack Kerouac’s 1950s Beat Generation classic, “On The Road,” last year and am now slogging through the paperback version of Barbara Tuchman’s World War I classic, “The Guns of August.” “On The Road” doesn’t hold up well these non-Beat days, but the incredibly detailed “The Guns of August”provides a fascinating chronicle of how World War I happened beyond the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Ferdinand. But the words are so small.
* If you get a chance, try to get to the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg early in the new year. It’s worth it to see the award-winning, short (17-minute, one-person-at-a-time) virtual reality film, “The Last Goodbye” that will be there until mid-January. It chronicles the experience of Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter’s return to the Nazi death camp of Majdanek in Poland, where he lost his parents and sister. It’s a viscerally immersive experience.
Spoiler alert: Gutter’s gut-wrenching return to familial hell is not without a measure of hope. “I’m always hopeful about the future,” he says at the end. “Maybe not in my lifetime. Maybe in yours.”
* As a political junkie, I watch, alas, more than my share of cable talk shows. I will watch some Fox because, not unlike a lawyer preparing for trial, you need to know the other side’s best spin. I’ll periodically catch CNN’s Chris Cuomo, who gives as good as he gets, but I do watch MSNBC the most. I prefer “The Beat” with Ari Melber and “The 11th Hour” with Brian Williams. The former is an attorney–and it shows with his questions and follow-ups. The latter is a consummate pro who knows how to ferret opinions and hold an audience. I respect Rachel Maddow for being smart and informed, but her camera-optics shtick can be off-putting. Chris Matthews has made interrupting his modus operandi.
* A tell-tale experience back in 2001 helped hype the pro-Republican, TV reputation of Heather Nauert, Donald Trump’s nominee as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. She had already caught the attention of network types for her energetic, on-camera presence after a stint at ABC News. Such that Fox News enlisted her to share her lecture notes when she was taking journalism grad courses at Columbia University in 2001. The lecturer happened to be Al Gore. She then provided regular dispatches for Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, who routinely ridiculed the former vice president. That led to full-time work for Fox that culminated in “Fox & Friends.” Then on to Trump’s State Department as a spokesperson and now to the United Nations. That’s how that works.
* In a prominent Tampa Bay Times “Year in Review” of “Top TV shows” piece, the Associated Press listed its top 10. No.1 was Amazon Prime’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” It’s not for everybody. That said, it is a colorful, 1950s New York period piece that has all the optic upsides of costuming and music: the back-in-the-day allure of “Mad Men.” That’s the fun part. But the characters are not “quirky.” Too many are asinine and annoying. Not enough period pieces to compensate.