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Screenshot of Amazon.com review of Ted Koppel's bookBeen enjoying Off Camera: Private Thoughts Made Public by former Nightline host Ted Koppel. I used to watch Nightline years ago when it was a news, not a "lifestyle". show. Koppel's intelligent, thoughtful interviews made it worth my time. He was, maybe still is, the best interviewer I've ever seen.

In his admiring description of Barbara Walters Koppel may have tipped his hand as to where he got the idea for the "look" used so effectively in his interviews:

...simultaneously encouraging, sympathetic, slightly incredulous, and modestly disapproving but not judgmental—all in one expression, mind you.

Since Off Camera is an edited version of a journal with daily entries throughout 1999, it's a bit disjointed and random—much like this website, you might say. Maybe that's one of the things I like about it. You get a sense of the man behind the made-for-TV personality.

I'm about one-quarter of the way through the book and already two observations show how clearly Koppel saw the political situation in America ten years ago. It's easy to look back now and see the connections, but remember he was saying this while most of us were blissfully ignorant.

U.S. foreign policy may have achieved the impossible, in that we are now hated equally by the Iraqis and the Kurds. Add Osama bin Laden to the equation, and a major terrorist action against an American target must be inevitable.

Unfortunately this was soon proven true, as was Koppel's prediction about our domestic social climate:

There are many things that we will tolerate as a society when times are good. We are at peace now. Unemployment and inflation are at historic lows. The economy continues to prosper. But let the wind go out of all of those sails and the pendulum will swing wildly back from general permissiveness and an exaggerated sense of tolerance to an inflexible fundamentalism.

As I read about America and the world in 1999 it seems a hundred years ago, not just ten. Fortunately Koppel balances his foreign policy views with occasional snarky rants about airline overbooking policies and sale prices in the grocery store. He also talks his childhood as a German Jew in an English boarding school just enough to make him a three-dimensional person.

So, I'm enjoying the book, but started with a generally good feeling about Koppel. May not be all that interesting unless you share this attitude (Amazon.com reviews are mediocre).

Vacation update

Added today: In-flight entertainment brings together Jimi Hendrix and John Coltrane; those damn earbuds! — July 24, 2010

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