Back when scientists wouldn't admit that whales can talk

Thirty Years Ago The surfer is always changing his mind. Suppose he's at the South Mission jetty, watching a wave with the mass of a tall house approach at 30 mph along the rocks. He may wish his board had a little more flotation, to increase paddling speed. Suppose he's in two-foot mush at La Jolla Shores and his nine-foot gun pearls in the sand the moment the wave gets under his tail. He'd probably rather have a fat little summer fish at that moment. -- "THE SURFBOARD SHAPERS," Mark Woelber, December 18, 1975

Twenty-Five Years Ago Sheriff's deputy A.D. Martin, pilot of a sheriff's helicopter, landed safely at North Island after a least tern (a sea bird on the endangered species list) crashed through the copter's Plexiglas canopy. The bird, which was unhurt, was so angered at the unexpected accident that it began pecking furiously at the feet of Martin's partner, deputy Frank Bird (really). -- SHORT TAKES: "WRONG TERN," December 18, 1980

Twenty Years Ago It cracks me up that scientists won't admit whales can talk. But what do you expect from a bunch of people who manufactured the atom bomb, right? I mean, these are people who tell you not to worry about the environment while they're busy spraying poisons on your cereal grain. The idea that whales can talk scares them, man. They can't handle the thought that something out there knows something that they don't. Besides, their macho buddies in the military-industrial-agricultural complex wouldn't give them any more bucks for research if they wrote anything revolutionary, and God forbid that they should come up with something new. -- "IN A GRAY AREA," Rainbow Freedom, December 19, 1985

Fifteen Years Ago Once upon a time, I was a non-hippie proto-post-punk semi-amniotic undergraduate at UCSD, floundering in the concrete-arid-topsoil wastes of an almost brand-new Muir College -- searching for a major, a mentor, or something magic (not to mention another bag of pot or an exotic flavor of LSD). A professor called me into his office one day to discuss a paper I had composed for his literature class, something breezy about a book I found baffling, The Tales of Hoffmann. This professor asked me what my favorite books were, and I replied, mumbling that Jack Kerouac was my hero, that I loved his hastily built beatnik anthem, On the Road. This professor coughed into his fist and recommended a list of novels (not books, but novels!) that he thought I might find more substantial, more fulfilling, that weren't composed on butcher paper and stained with zinfandel and amphetamine crumbs. He invoked the litany and fired the canon: Melville, Mann, Joyce, Faulkner, Mailer. Yikes. The following year I fled UCSD, after my advisor remarked, "Dave, I don't think we have what you're looking for." -- "DIMITRI'S PASSION," Dave Zielinski, December 20, 1990

Ten Years Ago "We've been giving away picks and stickers," Abdelnour said. "When you give a kid something, they're all going to want something. I've been giving away guitar strings. I thought that wasn't a very good idea because they could poke each other, so I stopped doing that. Plus it was costing way too much money to give away all my guitar strings. But they'll take anything. They'll take a wrapper of a guitar string. Anything. I let them go through my guitar case and they take everything." -- CALENDAR: "WE'RE JUST A WHITE BAND FROM SANTEE," Larry Harmon, December 14, 1995

Five Years Ago Vice President Al Gore's recount committee has taken in $3.5 million to pay for all those legal bills associated with his struggle over the presidency with George W. Bush. Big Gore donors include Jane Fonda, with $100,000. Only one San Diego name appears on the list: billionaire Qualcomm founder Irwin M. Jacobs, with $2000. -- CITY LIGHTS: "GORE FUNDS," Matt Potter, December 14, 2000

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