Page 4 Thursday, July 23, 1998 The Westfield Leader and THE TIMES of Scotch Plains Fanwood A WATCHUNG COMMUNICATIONS, INC. PUBLICATION
Letters to the Editor
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By Michael S. Goldberger
Lethal Weapon 4:
Deadly Assault on the Senses
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If Rip Van Winkle were to wake up today, probably the very first thing he'd want to know is, "What number
Lethal Weapon are we on?" Hey, first things first. And if the cutting edge carnage in earlier issues of this most successful salt-and-pepper buddy flick pleased old Rip, then surely he'd be delighted by this fourth foray into the shamelessly glib world of exploitative violence.
With series stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in place, Director Rich- ard Donner again proves he has the formula for deadly high jinks down pat.
While at least some semblance of restraint was shown in previous in- stallments, it's strictly no holds barred this go-round. Donner and company turn the nihilism all the way up and the credibility way down, resulting in a non-stop barrage of maniacal pyrotech- nics and gratuitous gunplay. And the estimable fx quotient adds yet another new dimension to the traditional chase scene.
Even the Keystone Cops would be impressed with Sergeant Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) making like a water- skier as he pilots an overturned table down the California Freeway, pulled along by a tractor-trailer at breakneck speed. Most folks don't even like driv- ing a good-sized car on that treacher- ous road.
In a running commentary, Sergeants Riggs and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) reprise their tongue-in-cheek comedy act. Like two old vaudevillians tap dancing through a familiar routine, they make with the incessant, jokey chitchat, their camaraderie and petty problems obviously much more im- portant than the smoldering world around them.
At times, the movie's unceasing tor- rent of fury can be likened to a lousy restaurant where they try to give you your money's worth by serving doubly large portions of bad fare. Imagine then, just to add insult to injury, the waiters mirthfully carrying on about the possibilities of botulism.
In case it matters to someone, there is a plot. Supplied by screenwriter Channing Gibson, it concerns a Chi- nese triad, the smuggling of illegal aliens as slave labor, a counterfeiting scheme, and a strife-torn family's quest for reunification.
This setting allows for the rousing introduction of Jet Li as a one-man war machine, the demonic Wah Sing Ku. A whirling dervish of martial arts excitement, dramatically high- lighted in typical Hong Kong stop- action/slow-mo, Mr. Li appears to be the logical successor to the legendary Bruce Lee. That's the Oriental side of the story.
On the Occidental end, Riggs's live-in gal, Lorna (Renee Russo), is in a family way, but expectant Dad isn't too keen on hitching-up; Murtaugh's eldest daughter is also waiting on the stork, and though best pal Riggs knows she has secretly wed young detective Lee Butters (Chris Rock), he lets his partner think that the neophyte's solicitous actions to- ward him are a love struck function of his homosexuality. When East meets West and the shooting starts,
Russo and Rock are quick to join in the fray.
Writing Chris Rock into the script adds a fifth Musketeer to this heroic crew of ragtag cavaliers. But though Mr. Rock was recently funnier as the annoying guinea pig in Dr. Dolittle, his particular brand of comic bravura serves as a good balance against Joe Pesci's obstreperous Leo Getz, that embarrass- ingly unabashed hanger-on, wannabe cop, and foul-mouthed sad sack.
If you take even an iota of these plot considerations seriously, then you bet- ter make sure you paid the children's admission price. Granted, there is curi- ous entertainment in the guilty thrills that comprise Lethal Weapon 4.
The production standards are impec- cable, the direction is calculated for hair-raising enrapture, and the five prin- cipals have mastered an endearing swagger that belies the absurd back- drop to which they play. But following all the trumped-up ballyhoo, after you've caught your breath and regained your senses, only feelings of betrayal and manipulation remain.
Escapist entertainment? From what unspeakable horror would one be es- caping to prefer this high gloss drivel? And to think we woke up old Rip for this.
* * * * * Lethal Weapon 4, rated R, is a Warner Brothers release directed by Richard Donner and stars Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and Renee Russo. Running time: 125 minutes.
TO BE MASTER OF ONE'S TRADE
Craft guilds flourished throughout western Europe from the 11th to the 16th centuries. Originally modeled on reli- gious guilds, craft guilds eventually de- veloped into occupational associations comprising all of the artisans in a spe- cific profession.
The guild structure was remarkably similar throughout Europe. The policies of the guilds were established by four Elected Wardens. There were three cat- egories of craftsman: apprentice, jour- neyman and master.
The masters of a guild formed a silent inner circle. Each master achieved his lofty status by first providing proof of a skill by passing certain tests and by creating a masterpiece. Master builders of old were not only the general supervi- sors of the structural they produced, but their architects an well. Today's con- struction unions were patterned after these medieval guilds.
Art historians refer to the works of the great artists of that period (11th to 16th centuries) as masterpieces and old mas- ters, while the artists of that period are referred to as masters and old masters. A past master, one who is thoroughly expe- rienced or exceptionally skilled, was originally one who held the office of master in a guild or lodge.
Jacobson & Company has the finest team of master ceiling craftsman in the industry, and have many masterpieces installed over its 104-year history to prove it. Thank goodness Michelangelo and Jacobson never refused to do ceilings.
How Men Become Boys Once Again Through Magic of Summer Softball
A lawyer loses his suit, an accountant forgets his pencil and an engineer sets aside his calculator. Busi- nessmen forget the bottom line for an evening.
The phenomenon occurs at this time every year. It's fun, sometimes hilarious. It's men's summer softball games wheremiddle-agedmen circlethebaseswith a stride that can often be smaller than their waistlines.
It happens all over the region every evening and on weekends.One crucialelementisa catchynameforthe team and the name does not necessarily describe the prowess of the team on the playing field.
There are angels and saints battling when St. Jude's mauls St. Paul's. In a Family Feud, the Jolly Trolley derails Charlie Brown's. You might find Sour Grapes beingsqueezedbythe OldStars.Andif thereisanylaying downtobedone, itwon'tbeby theMattressFactory,and you can be sure that there will be Chaos, controlling.
What other matter of such importance would cause an area executive to e-mail our Sports Editor from Japan to get game results for team playoffs. The dedicated teammate cut his trip short to return home whenhe discoveredhisteamwas upforthechampion- ship game.
One serious player was jubilant to discover our photographerhadsnappedhis pictureduringasterling
play. "You're going to put it in the paper, aren't you?," he happily exclaimed. On second thought, he remembered he had called in sick from work to make the game."Well...goaheadand publishitanyway,"he said. The fame was worth the shame.
The teams are really a social happening as well. All over the county, presidents and postmen ply for pilsner. On any evening, you'll have Mountainside men infiltrating the Scotch Plains League. On Thurs- day evenings, the Mountainside league is plundered byWestfielders.The WestfieldLeaguedrawsplayers from all over, including Cranford, Union, Fanwood and Rahway.
The men love to be boys and they're good at it. If you believe things are quiet here over the summer, stop in at a local watering hole at sundown. You may find apackofmen-II-boyz tellingsoftballwarstories while enjoyingthecompany.These areboyswhohave temporarily traded in the three-piece suit and Gucci shoes for cutoff shorts and a pair of Nikes.
No matter who strikes out who during play (even if it's a chairman of the board,) by the end of the night you can spot plenty of friendly slaps on the back and a "Way to go, buddy."
Good game guys! Enjoy the season.
NEWS FROM TRENTON 22nd Legislative District
Preserving New Jersey's Heritage Is an Investment in State's Future
By Assemblyman Richard H. Bagger
If we were playing a game of historical word association and I said to you "mov- ies," your first response would be "Holly- wood." If I said "Revolutionary War," you'dprobably say"Boston,"or"Philadel- phia." If I said "baseball," you'd almost certainly say "Cooperstown, New York."
The correct answer in each case should have been New Jersey, but not many people are aware that the first movies were filmed on New Jersey sound stages; that George Washington campaigned longer in New Jersey than in any other state, or that the first game of baseball was played at Hoboken's Elysian Fields.
The fact is, very few people know very much about New Jersey history. Outsid- ers know very little, and my recent expe- rience serving on the Task Force on New Jersey History showed that New Jerseyans don't know nearly enough.
As a state, we suffer collective amne- sia about our past, insecurity about the present, and myopia about our potential for the future.
It is, sadly, also a fact that New Jersey has not done a very good job of remem- bering what it has done, and has done a worse job of telling its children and the rest of the world about its glorious past. The state in which the American Revolution was fought, the Industrial Revolution was forged and the Informa- tion Age conceived should not have to worry about being the punch line in yet another tedious joke.
This ignorance could explain why Benjamin Franklin once called New Jer- sey a valley of humility between two mountains of conceit and why we often still don't quite grasp the pivotal role New Jersey has played during the past 300 years of American history.
New Jersey has a history to be proud of and to be proclaimed if New Jersey would only take the time to do it. Self- respect, alone, is reason enough to pay more attention to our state's past.
There's another good reason, too. We tend to live exclusively in the present, but the present is informed by the past and the future is inescapably determined by it. Our efforts to plan for tomorrow are bound by yesterday's decisions. We are now debating how to preserve the most natural portion of New Jersey's past: its primordial open spaces.
This is a debate that cannot take place unless we understand that before shopping malls took root in Bergen County's fields, the crops that give the Garden State its nickname grew there as surely as they now do in Burlington County. Or that the explo- sive growth of the shore could never have happened without knowing of the history- changing construction of the Garden State Parkway. Our efforts to preserve open space across New Jersey now can only succeed if we understand what has hap- pened during the past 50 years.
Lost pride is only one of the prices we pay for ignoring our past. The price we pay for losing our heritage can be measured in lost business and foregone tax revenues.
Considerthis: oneofthefastest-growing sectors of the United States economy is travel, generating $400 billion a year, and one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel industry is what the experts call heritage tourism the trips we take to places such as Independence Hall in Phila- delphia or the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. New Jersey does well with general tourism. New Jersey hasn't had any concerted plan for heritage tourism.
Several years ago, Governor Christine Todd Whitman and several other very concerned New Jerseyans set out to try to change this. The Governor signed a bill I sponsored with former Assemblywoman Maureen Ogden to create a Task Force on New Jersey History, on which I had the honor to serve.
Last year, we released a four-volume studyoftheissues. TheTaskForcereached several conclusions that were at the same time disturbing and hope-filled. The Task Force found that if we do not act fast, we will lose vast portions of our past to moths and moisture, apathy and indifference.
But the Task Force also found that past investments in preservation, sporadic as they have been, still generate $432 mil- lion annually in expenditures by heritage travelers, resulting in $77 million in tax revenues to the state and local govern- ments, and the creation of more than 7,000 jobs. If New Jersey were to take a more consistent and concerted approach to heritage tourism, each of these catego- ries would grow significantly.
We have already begun to make these changes. Governor Whitman accepted the Task Force recommendation to take the many various state agencies with an interest in history and historic preserva- tion and get them on the same page and operating under the same administrative roof. The Governor signed an executive order to concentrate these state agencies under the aegis, appropriately, of the Secretary of State.
Recognizing the need to keep our museums out of mothballs, Senator Rob- ert Littell and I are sponsoring a bill to establish a grant program for the history museums around the state.
The time has come to do more. The Littell-Bagger bill is only a start. New Jersey still is not doing enough to physi- cally preserve sites and documents. We are not doing enough to teach our children about our past or to encourage scholarly efforts to uncover more of it. We have not invested enough to achieve these goals.
Therewillbe thosewhowonderwhether we should do this. When Tom Kean in- vested in the arts and in tourism advertis- ing as tools of economic development, people scoffed. The scoffers are now si- lencedbythe thunderousapplauseofstand- ing-room-only audiences at the New Jer- sey Performing Arts Center in Newark, and the jingling of cash registers on the Jersey Shore. The time has come to make a similar investment in our heritage and our history. The time has come to reclaim our past so that we can seize the future.
By Louis H. Clark
A Little Television Never Hurt Kids So Long as They Don't Cross the Line
When I was a kid, my two sisters and my younger brother would sit on the floor in front of the television and watch car- toons. My mother didn't think we were being brutalized by Wily Coyote chasing the Roadrunner. She was worried by the incessant talk at night, scaring parents by warning them that if they allowed their children to sit too close to the television set, their eyesight was going to be ruined.
So for one week she drew an imaginary line in front of the television which we could not go over. The first one, I distinctly remember, was six and one half feet. None of us were to go over this line. My mother appointed my eldest sister as her deputy in making sure the line was kept.
Then the next week, my mother would hear that eight feet was the right spacing between us and the television. My oldest sister was again put in charge. She loved the job, too. Every now and then she'd yell "Mom! He is going over the line." My mother would come racing in and wonder what she was going to do with me "when I went blind."
The line over the years went back and forth. My sister developed a commanding
tone with us that she uses to this day when we get together on family matters. She doesn't use the tone with her own kids. I once asked her about that. "I don't know," she shrugged. "Mom used me as her deputy in so many things that it just became a habit."
None of us went blind. Though when we got something in our eye and ran to her to take it out, she invariably said, "You children watch too much television."
Nowadays,the complaintisaboutcom- puters. Ignoring the fact that green is the most soothing color a human eye can look at, there are always reports about women having eye trouble because of staring at computer screens. Men who are having trouble with their eyes say it's because they have to read so much garbage.
I must admit that every now and then, when I'm watching television, I think I am getting cataracts. It's a beauty commercial with men and women dipping in and out of fogs and dreamy mists. Then I remember it's a Calvin Klein commercial. After all, anyone who makes and sells a perfume to be used by men and women alike must live in a dreamy, foggy world.
SCOUTS WESTFIELD GIRL SCOUTS WESTFIELD GIRL SCOUTS WESTFIELD WESTFIELDGIRL GIRLSCOUTS WESTFIELD GIRL SCOUTS
Adult Volunteers Play Vital Roles In Westfield Girl Scout Programs
Written by Girl Scouts for Girl Scouts
This is the 80th anniversary year of Girl Scouts in Westfield. Having be- gun with a single troop, Westfield Girl Scouts have grown to 88 troops, 996 Girl Scouts ages 5 through 18, and 305 adult Girl Scouts.
Adults are active prime forces and volunteers in Westfield's Girl Scout movement, and fill many capacities such as: leaders, assistant leaders, cookie mothers, troop first aid coordi- nators, trainers, Service Team mem- bers, delegates to Washington Rock Girl Scout Council, and council com- mittee and board members.
Though not often well known, adults in Girl Scouts are often honored with special awards. The two highest adult awards given by the Girl Scouts, the Thanks Badge and the Thanks Badge II, were granted recently to two West- field adult Girl Scouts, Bernedine Liebrich and Betty Riker.
Mrs. Liebrich, an adult Girl Scout for many years, was awarded the Thanks
Badge, the second highest award in Girl Scouting.
Among the many positions she has held are: Community Association Chair- woman, Chairwoman of the Adult Rec- ognition Committee, Co-Director of En- campment, a Washington Rock Girl Scout Council delegate, Chairwoman of Annual Giving, Chairwoman of Pub- licity, Organizer of Older Girls, Histo- rian, and Gold Award Chairwoman, as well as being a troop leader.
Both her daughters, Christine and Corinne, have earned the Gold Award, the highest award available to girls in Girl Scouting.
Mrs. Riker was awarded the Thanks Badge in 1989 and the Thanks Badge II, the highest award available to adults in Girl Scouting, in April of this year.
Throughout the years, she has been the recipient of awards such as the Emerald Award in 1992 and the Out- standing Volunteer Award in 1995. She has held the positions of troop leader, Gold Award Chairwoman, Council Event Chairwoman, Service Project Chairwoman, Cookie Chair- woman, Organizer Chairwoman, Day Camp Director, Council Trainer, Leader Recognition Chairwoman, Correspond- ing Secretary, Program Committee, Community Equipment Coordinator, delegate to Washington Rock Girl Scout Council, delegate to PANDA, Special Events Coordinator and Consultant. Mrs. Riker has been an adult Girl Scout for 20 years.
Besides being a devoted Girl Scout, Mrs. Riker is actively involved with PANDA, is a substitute teacher, and is the block captain within her neigh- borhood watch. Her daughter, Carrie, who is studying for her graduate de- gree in Environmental Education at Antioch College in New Hampshire, also received the Gold Award, the highest award available to girls in Girl Scouting.
Adult Girl Scouting can be very ful- filling and a very rewarding volunteer activity. We invite all adults interested in developing the potential of younger girls to become involved. Please call Liz Fallon at (908) 233-3484 or the Wash- ington Rock Girl Scout Council at (908) 232-3236 for further information.
This column is prepared monthly by Westfield Girl Scouts for the Westfield Scout community and for the public.
National Chains Have Other Options Besides Replacing Local Businesses
As a person who grew up here, I came back to live in Westfield after I was married because of all the qualities that make Westfield unique. After living in different parts of the country, I came to appreciate the thriving downtown, the sense of community, and the familiar Westfield-like Elm Delicatessen and Backroom Antiques.
It was with great sadness that I read that these establishments were being forced out of business. I want to ex- press my thanks to Mr. DeReubis, the owner of Elm Delicatessen, and Ms. Gentempo and Mrs. Priscoe-Spurr, the owners of Backroom Antiques, for be- ing valued members of the Westfield community.
I remember being a teenager and go- ing to Elm Deli after school for a soda and being treated like their best cus- tomer; not all stores were that tolerant of kids. These stores which give back to the community are what make Westfield special and unique.
I must say that I was pleased that national chain stores would be moving into Westfield to take over empty store-
fronts; the downtown is booming and will bring in shoppers from other towns. I support having a mix of larger corporate and smaller independent stores, but why should we allow current businesses to be pushed out, while the former Woolworth and Auster's stores remain vacant and an eyesore?
We need to protect the other indepen- dent shops in Westfield to ensure their future by patronizing them as much as possible; otherwise, the greedy landlords will dictate what stores we have access to downtown.
It is too late to change the fate of Backroom Antiques and Elm Deli, but I would urge all Westfield residents to patronize these businesses as much as possible in the last months that they are open as a way of thanking them for making Westfield what it is today.
It is my sincere hope that both busi- nesses will be able to reopen at other locations, but whether they do or not, they have a permanent place in the his- tory of Westfield.
Robin Sitcer Quick Westfield
Failure to Renew Elm Deli's Lease Is Wrong End to American Dream
During this past week, the First Lady has been touring various historical sites in our area, bringing attention to the need to preserve reminders of our past. These places and objects are important to show us who we are, where we come from, and where we're going.
I think there is a similar situation developing in Westfield. There are two local businesses that are loosing their leases so that others can make more money.
The Elm Delicatessen is owned by Tim DeRubeis. Tim came to Westfield from Italy at the age of 14 to make his way in life. His is the ultimate American story. Through his own hard work, he became a success, and he continues to work long and hard hours to maintain that success.
The Elm Deli is a fixture, and Tim is an important member of our community.
Tim may never have held public office, but he is a good neighbor in the very best possible sense of that phrase. On the human, person-to-person level, Tim has performed many unsung and unnoticed deeds to help others in need in our town.
Tim's dream was to be able to sell his business and thus achieve security for his retirement. Presently, that dream is in tatters.
Is there anything we can do to prevent thiswrongending totheAmericandream? We managed to save the Rialto; can't we do something for Elm Deli?
Tim himself is resigned to the situa- tion, saying, "It's just business." But I can't let him go without at least some recognition of his place in our lives and a protestofthesystem inwhichhe'scaught. Where are we going?
Doris V. Jackson Westfield
New Fanwood Resident Sees Few Symbols of Patriotism Over the 4th
On July 8, I celebrated my first anni- versary as a Fanwood resident. It was not a happy occasion. Throughout the long Independence Day weekend there was a paucity of American flags on display. I toured the town and much to my dismay our Star Spangled Banner was waving at no more than five percent of our homes.
Whereas some blocks were well rep- resented, Old Glory was hard to spot on too many others.
I wondered whether Fanwood resi- dents, as they picnicked, partied, va- cationed, played, etc. paused, even for a moment, to consider why we were celebrating a holiday. Two cen- turies ago many brave Americans died or were wounded fighting to free this country from tyranny and sacrificed again in subsequent conflicts to per- mit people to enjoy the freedoms that are still denied much of the world's population.
The red, white and blue of the Stars and Stripes represents pride, respect and remembrance.
I wondered whether these uncaring citizens are the ones who complain about things but never bother, prior to elec- tions, to learn the issues or who the candidates are or what their positions are or even bother to vote. When the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag is taught it might be necessary to explain what the words mean.
When I see our flag waving it reminds me to appreciate how fortunate I am to live in America, a country which, al- though still not perfect, is a far better place than any alternative. I am not as mean as those who say, "America, love it or leave it." But I believe we should refer to Webster's and reread the definition of patriotism. We seem to have forgotten.
Maurice Fenichel Fanwood
Resident Seeks Answers To Issues Surrounding DowntownBusinesses
I applaud you for your editorial "From Camelot to Westworld" that appeared in the July 16 issue of The Westfield Leader.
But, keep it rolling. Tell us Who owns downtown Westfield? Who are the "greedy" landlords? Name them.
Why does the Director of the West- field Area Chamber of Commerce de- light in telling us that some of the na- tional chain stores have joined the Cham- ber of Commerce?
What role has the Downtown West- field Corporation had in destroying the stability of our downtown? I thought its mission was to fill empty storefronts, not to drive out long-term tenants.
William B. Shafer Westfield
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