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Confucius Might Say There’s Sure Profit in Wise Proverbs

Remember when the sayings and proverbs of Confucius and other sages were popular?

“There was a time when people used those sayings all the time,” said Nina S. Ragle of Laguna Beach. “But it’s considered old-fashioned today by young people. Only older people seem to be using them.”

That, however, belies the modest success of “Even Monkeys Fall Out of Trees,” Ragle’s book of 287 proverbs, taken mainly from her bonsai teacher, John Naka of Los Angeles. “He used proverbs all the time, and I thought somebody should write them down.”

She calls his sayings “Nakaisms” that are spoken in “Nakanese.”

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Ragle’s book contains the proverbs, their explanations, history of their origins and how Naka applied them in class.

One favorite, for instance, is: “Of the 36 plans, flight is the best.”

Ragle said it is related to the time-tested proverb, “Discretion is the better part of valor,” but adds her own interpretation--"Isn’t it sometimes better to just walk (away) than get involved?”

The saying, “Crows are black the world over,” Ragle said, means everyone is the same and has the same needs.

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Another one--"You ate the poison, you might as well eat the dish"--means that if you are going to do a job, you might as well do it thoroughly.

A former teacher of first and second grades in a ghetto school in New York City and a self-taught weaver of chair seats in her spare time, Ragle said such sayings “are perfect teaching tools, even though proverbs are not chic anymore.”

Before she published the book, “I thought of myself as like any other person,” said Ragle, who also edits a bimonthly bonsai magazine. “But because of the book, I became the center of attention. I’m thrilled and overwhelmed by it because it opened up new avenues to me.”

For example, she said, “It never would have occurred to me that I could edit a magazine.”

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As a matter of fact, Ragle said she never thought she would be an author until she took a bonsai class with her husband, Larry Ragle, director of forensics science for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

It took the author two years to research the book. Other proverbs were available, but Nina Ragle said: “I decided to stay with the ones Naka recited. I wanted him to be the star of the show since he used proverbs extensively when he taught his class.”

At first, Naka “would confuse me with the sayings--they didn’t make any sense to me,” she said. “But after his explanation, I found them to be profound.”

“I hope it wasn’t just the food that brought them all in,” said Helen Valsamakis, while picking up personal items from the Renaissance Bakery & Coffee House in Laguna Beach. “I hope it was me and my mom (Marina Valsamakis),” the shop owners.

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The bakery and coffeehouse, a local hangout, closed after 12 years. When word got out of its Sunday closing, “we had a nonstop rush of people and sold everything we had,” Helen Valsamakis said. “This was a people place, and everyone loved our pastries.”

She was sorry about the closing but would not explain the reasons on advice of her attorney. “This has been an institution in town,” she added.

Will they open another shop? She would only say: “It’s possible.”

What’s in a name? Church Mice, a square dance club in Costa Mesa, got its name 18 years ago because it started in the basement of a Baptist Church in Santa Ana.

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It’s not affiliated with a church, however, spokesman Fred Drewette said.

Mary Chacon of Garden Grove spent 28 years teaching elementary school before retiring. Recently, she returned to Tustin’s Loma Vista School to teach pottery classes to students and teachers.

She called the class her “20-day retirement project.”

“Ye Olde Clay Shoppes” was the quaint name she gave the class, in which she taught the theory and practice of molding, shaping, kiln firing, glazing and painting works of clay.

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“I think the whole school went through my hands,” Chacon said.

Acknowledgments--UC Irvine Electrical engineering professor James H. Mulligan of Santa Ana was named the 1987 recipient of the Linton E. Grinter Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to engineering. It is the only award given by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.


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