Catherine Seipp was born in Winnipeg, Canada, grew up in the Southern California suburbs and now lives in the Silver Lake neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Since January 2004, she has been a National Review Online contributor, writing the weekly 'From the Left Coast' column. She is also a columnist for Pages, a books magazine, the L.A. alt-weekly City Beat, and has written columns for UPI, Mediaweek, New York Press, Salon and Buzz magazine. Cathy's freelance work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Canada's National Post, Penthouse, Reason, American Journalism Review, the Weekly Standard and Forbes. She blogs at Cathy's World.
Why do you blog? > Because my daughter, who began her blog, Sky Watching, in February 2003 when she was 13, insisted on setting one up for me the following month. I was highly resistant to the notion of writing without getting paid for it.
What has been your best blogging experience? > It's eliminated the fearful procrastination that used to precede beginning any article, because after all, it's not really writing (even though it is); it's just fooling around, jotting down thoughts in an online notebook. So I don't waste time worrying I won't be able to do it, and soon I've got the rough draft of what often turns out to be a future piece.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > I haven't had any really bad ones. I know some people get upset by hostile commenters, but they don't bother me.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > C.S. Lewis more than anyone. Also George Orwell and Richard Feynman; I can't really understand what he has to say about physics, of course, but I like his writings for laymen. Among the living: Mark Helprin, Victor Davis Hanson, Mark Steyn, Cynthia Ozick.
What are you reading at the moment? > I just finished The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi Jr.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > I usually read nonfiction, but here are three recently read novels that I loved and recommend to anyone who has a long plane trip coming up or is sick in bed or something: Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain, The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber, and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.
What is your favourite poem? > One that often echoes in my head is 'Pied Beauty' by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
What is your favourite movie? > I suppose Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes. I couldn't believe how good it was when I first saw it at around age 17. But I think most movies are more impressive when you're young. I remember being just blown away by a short educational film called Donald Duck In Mathemagicland when I was in maybe third grade, and I spent the whole bus ride home from school trying to decide whether that or Born Free was the best movie ever made.
What is your favourite song? > I love Judy Henske singing anything, especially 'High Flying Bird' and 'The Salvation Army Song', and the Spike Jones version of 'Laura', and whenever anyone Australian visits I make them listen to my Rolf Harris CDs. I think Tim Blair is still recovering from that experience.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Two are school vouchers, which I used to be against but now am for, and gun control. I still don't believe in complete unfettered access to all guns by anyone, but neither do I believe (as many liberals do) that only ignorant, murderous rednecks want to keep guns at home.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That just because nice people believe something doesn't mean it's true.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That Jews (or Israel, to use the now preferred and slightly more polite term) are the source of the world's problems - not only because this idea remains evil in itself, but because it's a core belief of those against Western Civilization in general.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, which I first read when I was around 15 and have since reread many times. It's such a shockingly clear series of arguments, made from a devil's point of view, about how people delude themselves about their motives and fool themselves into thinking they're so much better than they really are.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > If you want peace, prepare for war.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > More funding and support for the military. Those 'Support Our Troops - Bring Them Home' protest signs from the left don't count as support. That's like demonstrating outside a burning building, screaming at the firemen running in that for God's sake they should turn around and run back out.
What would you do with the UN? > Realize that it's useful sometimes for disease tracking and that's about it.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Radical Islam.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > I've always been a big believer in the importance of kicking your own ass. That is, forcing yourself to do what you don't necessarily feel like doing at the time.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > A certain large-mindedness, or generosity of spirit - because this encompasses not only extending yourself for others, but other qualities like courage, and having friends who disagree with you politically, and not constantly worrying about what other people think.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Presumptuousness.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Emoticons. I realize that not everyone who uses them is therefore an idiot, but still.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'The road to hell is paved with good intentions.'
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Clothes shopping - which is why I have some dresses that are 20 years old. 'Is that vintage?' people ask about this one flowered shift I rediscovered a couple of years ago and now wear probably far too often. Well, in a way...
What, if anything, do you worry about? > The safety of my daughter, and the general safety of this country and other civilized countries. Kerry getting elected, although thankfully that now looks unlikely. I no longer worry about a lot of other things I used to worry about, like being attacked by muggers for instance.
What would you call your autobiography? > For many years as a journalist who spent a lot of time interviewing people, I imagined writing a book or column called What About ME and MY Feelings?!?. But now that I have a blog, that's handled.
What is your most treasured possession? > My house, which I bought when the LA real estate market bottomed out 10 years ago. I wouldn't want a different house even if I had a zillion dollars - which, come to think of it, is practically what it's worth now.
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > Now that's a sore subject, because when I was a teenager I really hated my boring name. I would doodle idiotic alternatives like Olwyn Sayre or Chelseureka Paprika in my school notebooks, and regularly pestered my mother to tell me other names she'd considered, but the only one she ever came up with was Nancy, which obviously is just as plain. How could she have been so unimaginative?! So then I'd ask about my younger sister, who got the slightly more exotic name of Michele. Didn't she at least consider another name when she was pregnant that time? 'Well, I always liked Nancy...' Hopeless. I still don't think Cathy is a particularly fine name, but by now I'm used to it.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to kill a man with my bare hands, although I suppose that's really more of a skill.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Movie star.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > I still think Get a Life starring Chris Elliott was the funniest TV sitcom ever, which is partly why I became friends with the Drudge Report's Andrew Breitbart when we met earlier this year; he's obsessed with Get a Life. But I don't really have one particular favourite comedian, although I've always been especially impressed by those who make me laugh even though we seem to have absolutely nothing in common. Like Ron 'Tater Salad' White, from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. You wouldn't think I'd appreciate this guy from a small town in Texas, whose 'Drunk In Public' schtick includes never appearing onstage without a glass of Scotch and a cigarette. But I love his line about being thrown out of a bar and tangling with a policeman: 'I had the right to remain silent, but not the ability.' For some reason, I just really relate to that.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of previous profiles, and the links to them, can be found here.]