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The Junk File:

Reminiscences and a Final Goodbye

Week of October 17, 2005


            All good things come to an end; so do bad and mediocre things but I’ll let you form your own conclusions.  After eight years I have decided to hang up my keyboard, at least as far as this column goes.  As this is my last piece it seems fitting to share a few thoughts about banging out these 600 or so words for the last 400 or so weeks.


            A “Junk File” seems natural for my finale.  I wrote the first just months into my columnist career (I called it “The Junk Drawer” but my editor did what editors do and changed it for the better).   It was one of many experiments, which included prediction pieces, writing as if from fifty years in the future, parables, and so on.  Most fell by the wayside but “Junk” worked, probably because randomness suits my thought processes.  Besides, I need a cookie and it’s almost daylight-saving time.  Paisley is cool. 


            I am often asked if it is difficult to come up with a topic every week; the real challenge is paring them down to one.  This week, for instance, I could have written about the fuss over Supreme Court nominee Harriett Miers’ religion, a study finding Americans are getting ruder, the London accountant whose life was saved when her Wonder Bra stopped a bullet, or the German architect who filed for a patent on an “odorless heating and building material” made from dog droppings.  So many subjects, so little time.


            Promoting this column has been almost as interesting as writing it.  Some years ago I got a trial run in a paper that would have then been the first outside my home state.  When I checked with the editor after six weeks she asked for two more.  No problem.  I called in two weeks … and learned that she had died.  And just when I thought I had heard every possible rejection line. 


            I almost always enjoy feedback from readers.  Even those who disagree are usually civil enough, but two topics seem to bring out the worst in people:  Harry Potter and pedophiles.  I expected a defense of Harry (though not so vicious), but not child molesters.  Nearly all the email calling me a {insert expletive here} right-wing Puritan evangelical hack and declaring pedophilia a normal part of the human sex drive seems to have come from people who found me on the Internet, not their local paper.  Hate to think what they were Googling.


            Speaking of Google, if you search the words “Berkeley” and “spanking,” item number two on the results page is a 2001 column I wrote on research at the University of California, Berkeley, about spanking children for punishment.  My guess is that most people who search those two words aren’t looking for my thoughts on child discipline, but whatever they’re seeking likely explains why that column is almost always among the top ten most visited on my website.  I suspect I’ve disappointed a few people with that one, too.


            From researching the major news media on the topics I’ve covered over the years I have learned that all the world’s problems – war, famine, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, avian flu – have one of only two causes:  global warming or President Bush.  I wish I’d figured it out a long time ago; could have saved a lot of fact-checking time.


            I can’t go without expressing my appreciation to my readers, my editors, and especially my family, who have endured living their lives in the paper for eight years.  (My daughter once threatened to get her own column so she could embarrass me for a change, and I hope she does.)  It has been fun and I’ll miss it whenever a current event catches my interest – which is to say every day.  Thank you for reading and being a part of it.






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© 2005 Brent Morrison