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Thirty Years Ago

As Tom Warren, the owner of Tugs in Mission Beach, said, "Everybody who lives around here who's a native probably learned how to swim at the [Mission Beach] Plunge." Warren, who has been featured in Sports Illustrated, is earnest in his praise. "I won the national championships a couple of times," he says, "but without the Plunge, I couldn't have done it." -- "THE PLUNGE," Colleen O'Connor, February 10, 1977

Twenty-Five Years Ago I hope that Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn (or Hank and Kate as they are known to some of us) can continue to find acting jobs as long as they want them. But as a Fonda admirer and as a seldom -- God forgive me -- Hepburn admirer, I am not convinced that the first screen teaming of these two legends [ On Golden Pond ] is sufficient cause for critics to be lapsing into the personalities of amateur matchmakers. -- "SHALLOW WATER," Duncan Shepherd, February 4, 1982

Twenty Years Ago I was on this plane, see, en route to Florida. Holiday with "the folks." "Smoking or nonsmoking?" I'd chosen smoking. It was a really crummy flight. Why am I using italics? This really happened. To me. A real me, not a fake, fictional, or composite me. One of the worst goddam flights of my life. Incredibly late departure and arrival. A joke-telling pilot. Major turbulence. Talky assholes to the left and right. Lost luggage. But the worst thing about it was the smoke. Heinous, horrible cig smoke -- not cigar or pipe. -- "AMONG THE CLOUDS," Richard Meltzer, February 5, 1987

Fifteen Years Ago When Dostoyevsky wrote The Gambler at the end of the 19th Century, the gambler was already a type. Highly strung, wild-eyed, given to unaccountable superstitions, he was the most engaging antihero of them all. But gambling today is no longer the pastime of lurid literary types; it has become a gay and democratic activity, somewhat akin to mini-golf and cookery classes.

In the gray London suburb of my childhood, a proclivity for bingo was tantamount to confessing one had a colorful tropical disease or the onset of senile dementia. Who could imagine a Dostoyevsky bingo novel, a tale of obsession and despair woven around the Texas Blackout or the Crazy Bow Tie? But the European traveler in Southern California is taken utterly by surprise by the bingo he finds being played in the suburban townlets and the Indian reservations. -- "AN ALIEN'S ADVENTURES IN BINGOLAND,"Lawrence Osborne, February 6, 1992

Ten Years Ago Sometimes Margaret Langdon gets calls at her office at UCSD, where she's professor emeritus of linguistics, from strangers who tell her their offbeat stories about Indian languages. Other times new acquaintances will blurt out that Indians don't speak real languages at all. "They'll tell me, 'They only grunt and groan.'"

For the past 30 years, Langdon has devoted her life to one of the four Indian tribes native to San Diego County, the Kumeyaay, and she has demonstrated that they speak three tongues -- not dialects, but separate, sophisticated languages. -- "WHEN AN INDIAN LANGUAGE IS GONE..."Jeannette De Wyze, January 30, 1997

Five Years Ago I just read Duncan Shepherd's comments on the Tolkien movie in the January 24 issue of the Reader. Given Tolkien's cult following, I expect that Shepherd's review will garner a lot of hate mail. And I'm afraid that some of it may even come from people in the church.

In that regard, let me say that I'm a Christian conservative. So don't take the hate mail as representative.

For many people in the church -- as well as outside of it -- Tolkien is a guilty pleasure, and so they go overboard in finding all manner of subtextual symbolism in the work. -- LETTERS: "INCLINED TO AGREE," Steve Hays, January 31, 2002

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