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By Joseph N. Bell | July 21, 2010
Many years ago, I was working at my desk in my Corona del Mar home when I got a telephone call from a gruff voice telling me that my wife had been injured in an auto accident and was on her way to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian. And that I had better get to the emergency room. Pronto. Janet had left the house in our only car on an errand 15 minutes earlier. When I rushed next door shouting "I've got to borrow your car," our neighbor — and good friend — took one look at me and silently handed over her keys.
NEWS
September 2, 1999
Joseph N. Bell It is probably time to write my annual thank you column to the Anaheim Angels. I say "probably" because as a committed card-carrying romantic, my instincts always tell me to wait until they are mathematically eliminated from the pennant race. These are the same instincts that keep me watching in the ninth inning when the Angels are 15 runs behind and clearly as bored as the people who paid hard-earned money to come and see them play -- and have long since gone home.
NEWS
Joseph N. Bell | June 4, 2010
Editor's note: Due to an editing error, The Bell Curve failed to appear in Thursday's Daily Pilot. It appears in full below. Memorial Day — we called it Decoration Day when I was growing up in Indiana — has come and gone, and seemed more full of urgent memories and intensity this year than ever before. Maybe that's because I feel closer to the Civil War as I grow older. There is an increasing awareness as I distance myself from it that I was only two generations away from the violent remnants of slavery in this country, a sobering thought whenever I allow it in. My grandfather, Robert Patterson, was a colonel in Gen. William Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland.
NEWS
By Joseph N. Bell | July 14, 2010
So the military brass has found a battle they think they can win back home. While they fight real wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, they have enlisted a corps of copy machines as their choice of weapons at home. There they have printed and are circulating 400,000 copies of a survey to current military service members allegedly designed to determine the potential effect of lifting the ban on homosexual men and women serving openly in our military. And critics are saying that recipients, who were neither hostile nor confused about the prospect of fighting alongside a gay comrade, may well likely be both now. The director of the Palm Center research organization at UC Santa Barbara, Aaron Belkin, put the criticism succinctly when he said: "There are some things you don't poll the troops about."
NEWS
Joseph N. Bell | May 27, 2010
J ohn Dean called the other day to share a memory. He's an old friend who retired nine years ago as superintendent of Orange County schools. He now holds the title of emeritus, from which he draws on his long experience to serve as a consultant. As evidenced by his phone call, it is clear he reads the Pilot. He was reacting to an exchange of views between Pilot columnist James Gray and reader David Pearse. It started with Gray's editorial page piece in which the retired judge wrote, "I am deeply proud to say that I have voted in every election since I became eligible," and Pearse countered that "I'm proud to say I've never voted in my life."
NEWS
Joseph N. Bell | June 30, 2010
I won't be making it to North Carolina this Fourth of July. I can't remember how many years that has been a part of my life. But I can best guess this by recalling a vision of my stepson, Erik, on our first Carolina Fourth. He was tall and gangly for his age, which must have put him at 11 or 12. He didn't hang out much with the old folks. Mostly he sat with a spiral notebook and pen, writing his first novel. That must have been almost 20 years ago, and he hasn't yet finished it. But he's written a dozen plays and movie scripts since.
NEWS
By Joseph N. Bell | August 4, 2010
What's the biggest problem facing Newport Beach today? I mean for the people who live here. You and me. C'mon, give me a straight answer. I'm taking a poll. Think about it for a while if you must. It's a little disheartening — even for deaf people like me — if the answer doesn't leap out at you. So let me give you some clues. This is the sort of man-made disaster that we can prevent from happening. We can't prevent tidal waves or typhoons or hurricanes or earthquakes.
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NEWS
By Joseph N. Bell | June 30, 2011
Editor's note: Retired Daily Pilot columnist Joseph N. Bell has written a special column to mark his 90th birthday, which falls on Independence Day. As a young boy watching the Fourth of July parade in the county-seat town of Decatur, Ind., the biggest attraction always was a very old man, who shuffled at the head of the parade. I was told he had been a drummer boy and flag carrier in Mr. Lincoln's army. He had a long gray beard and carried a cane, but I envisioned him as a young and vigorous lad waving his flag and beating his drum atop the carnage at Cemetery Hill in Gettysburg.
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NEWS
By Joseph N. Bell | January 5, 2011
It all came together on New Year's Eve. The fresh beginning of a new year. The addressing of personal issues that long needed resolution. The growing stress that transforms an opportunity into a chore. The growing sense of time fleeting. The sudden alignment of personal stars that signals a change. Time to put The Bell Curve to bed. I know this compilation of feelings. I've had it before, most notably 20 years ago when I gave up teaching at UC Irvine. The teaching juices were drying up. Creativity was buried in my files.
NEWS
By Joseph N. Bell | December 29, 2010
There's a time and space on Christmas when all the gifts have been unwrapped and duly fussed over, when it is too early for dinner, and an entire day faces you. That's when you look for a letdown activity. Movies serve that purpose quite well. There you can sleep or drift or daydream without feeling guilt at a need for entertainment after the morning's high. But in my house this Christmas, the entertainment was a game, one of the kind where the participants sit around a table and argue about who has the most smarts — as if this were a life and death issue.
NEWS
By Joseph N. Bell | December 15, 2010
Many Christmases ago, I was privileged to meet and write about a man who represented the spirit of Christmas better than anyone I had ever known. I was a rookie freelance writer on my first assignment for the Saturday Evening Post. He was a 47-year-old tool crib attendant for the International Harvester Company named Joe Swedie. He had come to the attention of Post editors because he brought so much joy and light into the dark world of sick and disabled children. Perfect, we all agreed, for a Christmas issue.
NEWS
By Joseph N. Bell | December 8, 2010
Two things coincided on Tuesday: Americans remembered the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 69 years ago to the day, and the newly-configured Costa Mesa City Council picked a new mayor and mayor pro-tem. I leave it to you to decide which of these happenings is historically more important. Those of us who were around on Dec. 7, 1941, like to play a little game that goes where-were-you-when-they-hit-Pearl-Harbor? There are probably millions of accounts that have been jazzed up over the years, but I've stuck steadfastly to the facts.
NEWS
By Joseph N. Bell | November 10, 2010
I was surfing through cable TV stations Wednesday, looking for a path to write about Veterans Day. I stumbled on "Hoosiers," a film based on the true story of five boys from the tiny Indiana farming community of Milan, who worked, played and bonded together through 12 tiers of school to reach their ultimate goal, the state high school basketball championship tournament. The Hoosier State in those days didn't classify teams by their school's size. Every contestant was thrown into the same pot. Winner take all. Farm kids or city kids, rich or poor, black or white, Christian or Muslim.
NEWS
By Joseph N. Bell | November 3, 2010
In the new order of things, Pilot columnists take a hike every fourth week as our contribution to the paper's freelance budget demands. Unfortunately, the news that provides grist for the columnists doesn't always happen on that schedule. Like today. When I would have been able to fill a column last Thursday with election stuff, I was benched. So I decided to do that column anyway and turn it in on Wednesday, as I knew the editors would be immersed in election news and wouldn't notice.
NEWS
By Joseph N. Bell | October 20, 2010
Every good comedy team has a straight man and a comic. The straight man is the logical and patient half of the duo; the comic is the jokester who pulls the plug after the straight man sets him up. Abbott was the straight man to Costello, as George Burns was to Gracie Allen, and as Hardy was to Laurel. And now that Costa Mesa politics has become the local branch of Comedy Central, the city's supply of comics is emerging loud and clear. I'm pleased to be playing straight man to the most recent of the comics to make a Daily Pilot headline.
NEWS
By Joseph N. Bell | October 13, 2010
Coming to you straight from the American College Dictionary: "Arrogant: making unwarrantable claims or pretensions; overbearingly assuming; insolently proud; haughty, imperious, presumptuous... " And this: "Ego: having or regarding self as the center of all things; conceit. " Sound familiar? Play these definitions back against each other and you have, in this corner, Costa Mesa Planning Commission Chairman Jim Righeimer and, facing him from the opposite corner, the Costa Mesa Police Assn.
NEWS
By Joseph N. Bell | October 6, 2010
Clifford Hicks died in his North Carolina home Sept. 29, a month after his 90th birthday. He left behind many thousands of young readers who followed the adventures of Alvin Fernald and Peter Potts in his books. Hicks also left behind a cavernous hole where his heart had been quietly busy all those years. He was a role model that those of us who were privileged to be touched by that heart will find irreplaceable. I met Clifford 60 years ago as a fellow freelance magazine writer in Chicago, and we never allowed that friendship to lapse.
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