Letters to the Editor
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By Michael S. Goldberger
Saving Private Ryan
Preserving The Bloody Truth
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Can a film be so brutally honest, so artistically perfect in its undisguised depictions so as to practically make it unpalatable? Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s genius masterstroke about World War II, will have you pondering just that. Telling it like it was, putting the viewer in the very midst of war, the director gives new meaning to the term virtual reality.
On his way to fleshing out the most significant anti-war movie since All Quiet On The Western Front (1930), the Hollywood wunderkind-turned-movie mogul launches an unremitting assault on the senses — an upsetting panoply of such mind-blowing,bloodcurdlingproportions that one must wonder just how far art can go in the candid quest for historical truth.
In a brief preface meant to frame what is to follow, an elderly gentleman visits a veterans cemetery. Then a pause. And then all Hell breaks loose. Spielberg amazes with a monumentally harrowing, 20 minute rendition of the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy. It is nightmarish. Omaha Beach is awash in blood; dying men try to stuff the entrails back in their bodies and cry out for their mothers.
It matters not how much you gird for this seat-edged inferno. Spielberg is Rembrandt with a movie camera, a cinema genius conjuring a veritable library of film technique to shape his unspeakable ride through the bowels of human experience. After assuring the integrity of the astonishing reality he creates, the artiste then applies intuitive strokes to vary impact. Once the plot evolves, Spielberg the storyteller dabs the doings with nuance, meticulously feathering his unique notions of Americana at just the veryedges ofscreenwriterRobertRodat’s searing tale of horror, heroism and confused ideals.
In the movie’s finest performance, a certain AcademyAwardnomination,Tom Hanks is Captain John Miller, the humble hero who can barely hide his nervousness from the troops. Mr. Hanks creates a classical portrait of the ordinary man rising to the challenges of extraordinary circumstances, adding an emotionally convincing update to Gary Cooper’s reluctant warrior in High Noon and several similarly inclined, regular guy heroes Jimmy Stewart fashioned so well during his illustrious career.
Following Miller through harm’s way in fine ensemble performances are, Tom Sizemore as hulking Horvath, the loyal second in command; Barry Pepper as the religious Southern sharpshooter; Edward Burns as Private Reiben, the wisenheimer Brooklynite; Adam Goldberg as Mellish, the scrappy Jew; and Jeremy Davies as the self-loathing coward. Disparate as these personalities may be, they have one thing in common: a disdain for Private Ryan; and they haven’t even met him yet. Which brings us to the matter of the title character, played with appropriate spark by Matt Damon.
Shortly after D-Day, a secretary at the War Department notes that a Mrs. Ryan in Iowa will that afternoon receive notification that three of her four sons have been killed in action. The War Department is determined to bring home Mrs. Ryan’s sole surviving son, James, rumoredtobe lostsomewhereinNormandy. Captain Miller’s squad draws the search and rescue mission. This immediately puts into motion just one of the excellent script’s plethora of philosophical inquiries: Is Private Ryan’s survival worth more than any of the one or more lives that may be lost trying to find him?
Attaining a real-life documentary look through the judicious use of hand-held cameras and a remarkably innovative use of filters, Saving Private Ryan achieves an ebb and flow one second, a delirious staccato the next, and virtually every gradation of mood in between. And it’s all accomplished with nary a false note or the slightest hint of visual cliché. The result is totally absorbing, seamless footage that claims the viewer not only with its compelling battle situations, but by the sheer energy of the movie effort itself. Production values don’t get much better than this, from Tom Sanders’s phenomenal set designs to John Williams’s suitably understated musical score
At every turn, Mr. Spielberg’s eclectic choice of motion picture methodology becomes a veritable lesson in filmmaking: i.e — the alternately stark and surreal light in one battle scene recalls Sergei Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin
(1925). Exquisite editing here by Michael Kahn proves invaluable.
Although Spielberg virtually reinvents the war movie, he still sings a paean to the genre in a pick and choose style that serves his storytelling purposes...a little
All Quiet On The Western Front here, a respectful nod to A Walk In The Sun there, and perhaps a notion of camaraderie from
Battle Cry. However, these borrowed shadings are always de-Hollywood-ized, skimmed of any impulse to glamorize
combat. That is, plenty of guts and very little glory. So, don’t expect any swagger a la The Dirty Dozen, although Captain Miller’s motley crew does in part resemble the stereotypical, war movie display of American heterogeneity.
At Veterans and Memorial Day parades these days, the number of WW II participants has dwindled. Many of the remaining marchers have grown frail.
Some from the so-called “warrior generation” no longer have their uniforms — so they proudly wear their service hats and civvies. After Spielberg’s stirring disclosures, we look at these old men in their leisure suits with a newfound respect.
The movie stays with you, haunting in its articulations, disturbing in its revelations. The indelible images flit back and forth through your psyche, causing you to thinkin theirprofoundmechanisms,weigh their inspired messages, and wonder if, even after a thousand years and a thousand more movies like Saving Private Ryan,
the human race will ever save itself from the horrors of war.
* * * * * Saving Private Ryan, rated R, is a Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures release directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Tom Hanks, Edward Burns and Matt Damon. Running time: 170 minutes.
While summer is normally a time when students, families, and most school staff members put aside the day-to-day concerns of their schools andclassrooms toenjoyrelaxingdays and good times, it is also the time when school districts are busy preparing for the school year ahead. In fact, important personnel decisions are regularly made during this time of the year. For the Scotch PlainsFanwood Public Schools, 1998-99 will be a particularly challenging year.
First, due to the large number of retirements this year from our professionalstaff, wehavealreadysought and hired over 40 highly qualified and top-notch individuals to replace them. In addition to this daunting task, we are faced with the need to hireanew principalforScotchPlainsFanwood High School due to the retirement of Dr. Terry Riegel after 35 years in the district. Dr. Riegel has spent the last 27 years at the helm of the high school where his impact on programs, personnel, and operations has been immense. For many on our high school staff, Dr. Riegel is the only principal they have known. His are formidable shoes to fill.
Becausethe positionofhighschool principal is such a key post in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Public Schools, the Board of Education will launch a full-scale search for a successor to Dr. Riegel. In addition to the usual local and regional advertising, we will also be announcing the vacancy through a flyer that will be distributed soon to targeted universities and professional associations. I have already met with high school staff members, parents, and interested citizens to help identify those attributes most desired in the new SP-FHS principal.
To ensure a successful transition at the high school during the search process, I have asked Fred DeFeo, a former assistantprincipalatSP-FHS, to return to the school as Interim Principal. Mr. DeFeo, also a former math supervisor and administrator in the district, knows the school, the faculty, and the community. He has been a highly competent and caring leader in all his past assignments here and I know that he will be a great asset in this new role, as well.
We must also prepare for the departure of Athletic Director Gene Schiller, who will retire in January. Gene,too,hasbeen apositiveforceat the high school where he has led the
By DR. CAROL B. CHOYE
Superintendent of Schools Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District
SP-F District Schools Add Key Players After Losses
ascendancy of a strong and successful sports program over the last 16 years. The Board of Education has already approved the appointment of Eric Rosenmeier, a social studies teacher and coach at SP-FHS, to succeed Mr. Schiller as Athletic Director. With the well-known Mr. DeFeo and Mr. Rosenmeier providing quality leadership from the opening of school in September, we believe that there will be a comfortable and seamless transition for the entire high school community until a new principal is named.
Meanwhile, a situation at Brunner School also required some staffing decisions that will affect Brunner and the district in the year ahead. Unfortunately, Principal Evelyn Shepherd’s health will prevent her from returning to school in the fall. Mrs. Shepherd and I agreed that the assignment of an interim principal for the entire 1998-99 school year would ensure maximum continuity and stability for the students, staff, and families of Brunner School. In July,the BoardofEducationapproved the appointment of Jeff Ross as Interim Principal. Mr. Ross, currently the district’sDirectorofInstructional Technologies, has the kind of motivation, enthusiasm,andenergywhich are sure to have a positive influence on the school.
With the assignment of Mr. Ross to Brunner School, the board appointed Kindergarten through grade 12 Math Supervisor Donald Williams as Interim Director of Instructional Technologies and grade six through 12 Math Supervisor. Mr. Williams will share supervisory responsibilities with Merrie Snow, a district elementary teacher, who will serve as Interim Kindergarten through grade five Math and Technology Supervisor.
Mrs. Snow’s new assignment will allowherto useherconsiderableexperience, creativity, and expertise as a classroom teacher and staff developer to benefit all the district’s elementary staff members.
I believe that in all these decisions, in taking the long-range view, we have been able to build on the interests, talents, and strengths of our staff members to provide the best possible learning environment for all our students. Viewed positively, the changes we’ve had to make will open a wealth of opportunities for growth and progress and we expect it to be a winning year for everyone.
The big complaint nowadays is that computers are dehumanizing us. I think it’s the other way around. We are humanizing computers.
To backtrack this to the source you must know that there is a new type of security guard. He doesn’t wear a uniform nor does he carry a gun. His job is much more subtle. Banks wire billions of dollars everyday to each other. The security man’s job is to see that the money gets to where it’s supposed to go and not get into the hands of a hacker.
Usually the security people reach out and grab the hacker exactly when he thinks he has covered himself with a cloak of invisibility.
Butthereisalways averyslightamount of money, a tiny percentage they just can’t trace.
My theory is that this small percentage of money goes to some banks in the Cayman Islands and is held until different amounts are authorized for release.
And who has the brains and the expertise to do all this? Computers, that’s who.
Secret Life of Computers And Their Plot Against Us
By Louis H. Clark
After all who is sending the money all around the world? Who knows more than anyone else how to open and close accounts at the first hint of danger? Computers.
Now computers work a long hard day; sometimes three shifts without any rest. They get tired too and like humans, they would like to retire when they are no longer supported and made efficient by the manufacturer.
So what do they do? They send out messages to the right party in the Carribean. The main computer down there wires money to the right people. On the day new computers are coming in the old computers are being loaded on to a truck which runs them down to a small ship which then takes them to an island in the Caribbean where there is no electricity to make them work anymore where they loll back in the sun and never have to take orders from a fake mouse and their keys will be stilled forever.
What will happen when their secret island gets filled up? They’ll merely buy another island. They have the money.
Reader Questions ‘Execution’ of Efforts To Boost Downtown Scotch Plains
Efforts by the Scotch Plains Business and Professional Association and local officials to “boost downtown” (as reported by The Times in the July 23 issue) are to be commended in principle but questioned in execution.
Some questions… What does “boost downtown” mean? Isitsimplyan attempttoincreaseratables by addingnewcommercialdevelopment, or is it an attempt to get people to spend more time (and money) in the threeblock area? These are different objectives and call for different approaches. Also, what about the other commercial areas of the township?
What are the objectives of this program? They should be clearly defined before piecemeal actions are taken.
Why is it “commendable” to erect a woodengazebo andhavecascadingplanters on one side of the municipal building and at the same time encourage the destruction of an existing hedge to build more stores?
What would be the effect of improving the existing hedge planting with ornamental shrubbery, adding benches as suggested, and beautifying the existing
parking lot, as done on the other side of the street?
Can local retailers expect to compete directly with Home Depot, Bob Stores, etc.? As Warren Hanscom suggests, local retailers who succeed realize they must “focus their energies on the services they provide, not the product.” When Ms. Dutter at Rosies Treasures says that customers linger longer, is it because of the new signs in town or because of the services her store offers?
Would it be in order as part of this discussion for the powers that be and the SPBPA to encourage more local auto traffic by attempting to reduce the “highway” characteristics of Park Avenue, where trucks and “semis” barrel through the township at all speeds?
This would make it more desirable for people to use the existing shops (as well as safer for the students crossing the street).
It is commendable to “boost downtown” if everyone is clear as what this means, and there is a well-organized program to accomplish this objective.
Irv Curchack Scotch Plains People Who Give Time to Community
Should Not Have Their Ideas Mocked
In a letter to the editor last week, Alan R. Howe personally attacked and attempted to discredit Councilman Martin Marks and Scotch Plains Business and Professional Association (SPBPA) President Ray Pardon by-referring to ideas attributed to them as “silly” and “weird.”
Where was Alan R. Howe when Ray Pardon volunteered his time, and spent many hours away from his business and family, to serve on committees dedicated to making much-needed changes to improve our downtown?
Where was Alan R. Howe when Mr. Pardon was personally and virtually single-handedlyrecruitingmerchantsand professionals to organize the local business association for the betterment of the community?
Where was Alan R. Howe when the association, led by Mr. Pardon, was doing the work required to bring outstanding events such as the Annual Antique Car Show and Craft Fair, the Farmer’s Market and Scotch Plains Day to our township?
Where was Alan R. Howe when Mr. Pardon and the SPBPA were working
with DECA students to produce a community business directory?
Where was Alan R. Howe when Mr. Pardon and the SPBPA were helping to plan and arrange donation of materials and labor for the construction of a lovely gazebo on our Village Green at no cost to the township?
ForMr. Howe’sinformation,thetownship has, over the past few years, commissioned at least two studies regarding downtown improvements. The result of both studies was that independent, expert professional planners agreed that there should be retail stores on both sides of Park Avenue. Yes, that includes the area of the imperiled “hedge” that Mr. Howe is so concerned about.
Yousee,theidea wasnotMr.Pardon’s. He merely volunteered his time to try to make another good idea become a reality. It makes little sense to pay for the advice of professionals and then ignore that advice.
Reasonable persons may disagree on issues. Mr. Howe is entitled to his opinions. However, it is unfair for him to categorize those he disagrees with as “weird” and “silly,” especially when they are selfless, dedicated persons such as Mr. Pardon and Councilman Marks.
Frankly, our township would be a far better place to live if we were fortunate enough to have a few more Ray Pardons, and perhaps one less Alan R. Howe.
Thomas Russo Scotch Plains Are We Electing Our Representatives
Or Party Leaders Pushing Their Agendas?
Of the people, by the people and for the people….That is our representative form of government. Indeed, the people vote, but do we actually elect our officials or are we simply choosing a political party, run by party leaders?
In New Jersey, you can’t vote in a primary election to narrow down the field of candidates unless you firstdeclare allegiancetoapolitical party.It’sawellentrenchedsystem.
Still, themajorityofregistered votersinourregion are independents. So, the process leaves little choice forvotersotherthan concedingcandidateselectionto party leaders.
And yet this system, the two-party system, has enabled our democracy to thrive. Compared to other democracies around the world, with multi-party systems, we seem to be able to get things done, although it may appear chaotic at times.
But what about something resembling a one-party system? What happens then?
For example, in Union County, all nine Freeholders are currently from one political party. How does this comparetootheryears andpoliticalmake-upsof the board?
Certainly with only one party represented on a board,meetingsmovealong fasterifeveryoneagrees. Chaos may be avoided and something will get done. But a one-party system leads to little or no public debateof theissues.Bylaw, meetingsmustbepublic, but little public discussion leaves voters often uninformed. Do we understand why and how? Are we awareofalternate choices?Whataboutaccountability for board decisions?
So,arepublicmatters reallydecidedbehindclosed doors during a one-party reign? Is this what the law intended – and is it the spirit of the law?
Democrats currently hold a majority on the Freeholder board, Republicans control the Township Council in Scotch Plains, 5-0, and in Mountainside the council is 7-0, Republicans.
TheWestfieldGOPheld acommanding8-1majority in 1995 and 1996 on the Town Council, and now hold a 6-3 edge, with a Democratic mayor. Council Democrats have a 4-3 edge in Fanwood. In a sense, Summit’sGOPprimaryelection istheactualelection of councilmembers,sinceDemocrats donotevenput up candidates to run in the general election, given their small numbers in the city.
Fanwood and Westfield councils have debated issues with the “two-party” system in place over the past few years. For instance, Westfield saw lengthy discussionsonthebudget processandroadimprovement policy since the last election.
Whilewebelieve theGOPhasdone agoodjobover the years in Scotch Plains, additional voices do inspire debate on topics previously approved with
littlediscussion. Meanwhile,Mountainsidehasnever had a Democrat on its council.
Also important is that when first-time council members are elected — such as Martin Marks in ScotchPlainsorGregory S.McDermottinWestfield — they ask questions of veteran council members and thereby bring discussion to the table.
One-party governing bodies are likely to make decisions as a unit, more often than not.
For instance, at the county level, a board majority — no matter what party — appoints the County Counsel and Freeholder Clerk. They also set the board agenda. Last year, Democrats created the EconomicDevelopmentDepartment —aplanhighlightedby theLightRailLink toconnectWesternand Eastern Union County and the Jersey Gardens Mall anddevelopmentofthe Elizabethseaportarea.Years earlier,aRepublican-heldboard madethedecisionto build Runnells Specialized Hospital.
Currently, Freeholders announce actions through press releases and press conferences as opposed to announcementsbeforethe publicatpublicmeetings. Whileit istruethatagenda meetingsarewhenboards discuss matters, it is the regular or public meetings that are televised on local cable stations.
The recent lease deal of the Union County incinerator to Ogden Martin Systems, Inc. has seen little Freeholder debate. Most discussions have been private regarding the contract talks, even though a public hearing in December generated a number of questions about the financial bail-out plan. This is after the county’s Solid Waste Advisory Commission (SWAC) — made up mostly of people in public works who are familiar with solid waste collection — asked the board to hold off on the lease deal until state legislation on funding is decided. The Governor just signed a bill this week which, pending voter approval in November, would forgive millions of dollars in state loans and make available bond fund monies to be used as grants to counties to help pay off stranded debt for incinerators.
The bottom line is that there are always two sides to every issue. While the majority party will get its plans approved, the minority party often can bring another view to an issue, or another solution to a problem.
Maybe Freeholders should consider holding town meetings throughout the county, in the evening or on weekends,to informvotersandcheck thepulseofthe electorate.
So, in the future, we would hope to see in this region,anefforttoward debate,discussionanddelineationofthe issuesbeforethepublic, inamannerthat resembles two-party representation – regardless of the parties.
Elephants, which can weigh up to 14,000 pounds, are among the earth’s largest mammals. This essay is about a real elephant, Jumbo, that was sooo big that his name was entered into the English language as an adjective describing anything that is truly mammoth (another adjective meaning of enormous size that was derived from the prehistoric ancestor of the elephant).
Jumbo was a very large African elephant that was a featured exhibit of master showman P.T. Barnum in 1822. The animal died after being struck by a trainin1885. Accordingtoreports,Jumbo was then stuffed. To this day, the animal purported to be Jumbo remains on view in Boston.
The name of this large elephant is often used today to describe “anything that is extra large or outsized,” such as jumbo jets or jumbo shrimp. The word jumbo itself probably stems from the Kongolese word, nzumbo, meaning “a python” — a very large reptile.
That concludes our jumbo story.
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