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In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish

End-of-the-year Q&A

December 27, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

Dear Friends: Best wishes for a wonderful, happy holiday season! For the typical end of the year wrap-up, here's my Q&A column:

WHAT'S YOUR HISTORY IN WRITING? It's been part of my life - a raconteur (blabber mouth) since I learned to talk and made up stories for my little peers, then to continue into school days as I released an overload of curiosity and imagination into writing essays, short stories, producing plays - you name it. In college, an extracurricular life in newspaper writing pushed me into a new direction, during which I wound up winning a few awards in a non-fiction sideline (while pursuing what I always wanted to do: Teach). An Irish writer once told me that everyone could write a great book - the story of one's life - the trick being to make it as interesting to everyone else as it was to the writer, while providing a carefully constructed plot. Style! And rhetoric! And composition! Another writer taught me that writing is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. How true!

ARE YOU LIBERAL OR CONSERVATIVE IN YOUR WRITING? Actually, I detest extremes; they rarely lead to anything good. Instead I try to see life on an extended line - liberal at one end and conservative at the other - and find myself near the middle - a "conservative liberal" - which, I hope, is reflected in this column. When I'm called too liberal by some people and reactionary by others, I believe I'm on the right track.

DO YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF GETTING PREACHY? Much too often. It's the teacher in me, but never really intentional. After living a life of dedication to the value of knowledge and enlightenment over the years, some "truisms" eventually become fixed and I become pedantic. Sorry - it's an occupational hazard.

ARE YOU EVER WRONG? Also, sadly, much too often. But admitting it is a form of growth, too.

WHEN DID YOU BEGIN WRITING YOUR WEEKLY COLUMN? About half a century ago, when we in the MTU Humanities Department were encouraged to be of value to our non-academic community, each in one's own way. With the approbation of The Daily Mining Gazette - and thanks to the original editor and his wife, the Rices - I chose to write what I felt was lacking in the paper, something that I as a "culture vulture" was knowledgeable in: critiquing art, films, plays - finding a way to a focus on subjects I enjoyed and wanted others to enjoy. Even after I retired, the Gazette permitted me to continue with this column - time consuming, but a pleasure to write.

HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR TITLE? I've been a fan of the great humorists of the '30s, from Thurber to Benchley, with their facetious, off-kilter points of view, flavored as they were with a tinge of cynicism. Thurber's short story "In the Catbird Seat," is about a domineering woman who would look disdainfully down from her metaphoric perch and enjoy commandeering everyone beneath her. I always thought the story reflected Thurber's amused attitude toward people in general, though in his writings and cartoons there was much truth. So if I presumed myself in the catbird's seat, then perhaps I could follow my mentors - but humbly, with tongue in cheek, hoping that a little illuminating truth might result.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS FOR THE COLUMN? My mind is like flypaper: Everything sticks to it. Knowledge is power. To the contrary, ignorance is disempowering. The professor in me hopes in my miniscule way I might pass some power along. So I continue to read, look, listen, discuss, and experience anything that would allow us to grow together. Mostly, the column's topic is on entertainment, but occasionally it slips into tangential areas. With a trusting editor backing me up, I feel most any topic is worth tackling - without straying too far off course.

WHY DO SO MANY OF YOUR ARTICLES FOCUS ON THE ELDERLY? Why not? I know something about the elderly firsthand. Elderly people can be most interesting. I've been a baby, kid, youth and adult as well, and on occasion I do write about those years, too, but writing for a growing audience of snow-heads is fascinating, filled with experiences that were come by empirically, something to express for those who have yet to experience the golden years. And remember, while you wait impatiently, folks, that the alternative to aging is no fun, either.

Rotten Tomatoes averages: Mall movies are not yet listed publicly. As a hunch, go for "Monsters, Inc."



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