Mailbag: Bell was inspirational teacher at UCI

January 13, 2011

My thanks to you for the many years you provided Joe Bell with a generous platform from which to express his witty, intelligent, extraordinarily open view on life — his own and the community for which he cared. It took an open mind on your part to give a voice to Joe's political liberalism in Orange County.

I met Joe 33 years ago when, at UCI, a supportive faculty member insisted I take Joe's class in journalism and gave me time off to do so. It was a patchwork-quilt of a class — students who thought it would be an easy A, clueless would-be-writers and a few students who figured they could sleep their way through it. At his first lecture, he informed us that he took writing seriously and expected us to do the same, that it was a noble profession and there would be "blood on the page," but it wasn't personal. He then gave us an assignment to list 10 things we wanted to write about.


At the following session, only three out of 22 students managed to list 10 items. It sent Joe into a rant! Were we blind? Were we stupid? Were we lazy? Or did we simply lack interest? He pointed out 12 things we could write about by simply looking out the window at the campus. Everyone sat bolt upright, and I recall thinking, "this man really cares." It jolted me into an excitement for learning I have never felt as strongly in a classroom.

He taught me to edit, for which I owe him a huge debt, and he encouraged me in my consequent 13 years as a free-lance travel writer and the publication of a book. Over the years he became a close friend to me and my family: we were the recipients of his fierce loyalty, dry wit and evenings filled with debates about a huge range of subjects — politics, Broadway songs, marriage, baseball, dogs (his piece on the death of his dog Coco was a masterpiece!) — which captured his ever-curious mind.

He has certainly earned his retirement from the Daily Pilot, but his unique capacity to respond to life's experiences will not cease. It leaves a big hole in Thursday, however The Bell Curve was a highlight of the week.

Viviane Wayne

Newport Beach

Tribute to Reagan is inappropriate

In commissioning a public statue of Ronald Reagan, I hope it is the Newport Beach City Council's intent to honor his career in film — starring in such classics as "Bedtime for Bonzo" and "Girls on Probation" — because his achievements as president are hardly even fit for pigeons to roost on. His policies created the biggest deficit in U.S. history (until it was topped by George W. Bush); his Afghan policy helped create and fund the radical Islamists who became the Taliban; his covert war in Nicaragua was an affront to the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law; he used our tax dollars to prop up brutal despots and dictators around the world; he supported South Africa's apartheid government; we're now reaping the whirlwind of his destructive environmental policies; he lied about his military service — the list goes on for pages. Why blight Newport Beach with a statue of him?

Jim Washburn

Costa Mesa

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