Page 4 Thursday, March 26, 1998 The Westfield The Westfield L The Westfield L The Westfield L The Westfield Leader eader eader Leader eader and THE TIMES of Scotch Plains Fanwood A WATCHUNG COMMUNICATIONS, INC. PUBLICATION
By Louis H. Clark Letters to the Editor
POPCORN POPCORN POPCORN POPCORN POPCORN
By Michael S. Goldberger
The Big Lebowski:
Bowling Over Convention
One Popcorn, Poor Two Popcorns, Fair Three Popcorns, Good Four Popcorns, Excellent
The Westfield The Westfield L The Westfield L The Westfield L The Westfield Leader Leader eader eader eader
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Desperate Senior Citizens Make Perfect Targets for Home Labor Scam Artists
With smilingfacesandpromises ofamoreworry free future, they invade our homes via aggressive television and radio advertising, urging us to take out a home improvement loan in order to pay off credit card debts, make home improvements, or simply to have "extra cash on hand."
But toquoteafabulous songfrom1971,"smiling faces show no traces of the evil that lurks within." Indeed, some scam artists involved with home labor,includingchimney anddrivewayrepair,have much to hide, and in a lot of cases, they are able to do so successfully.
In fairness, this is not to say that everyone asso ciatedwithhomeimprovements, eitherinlendingor labor categories, is necessarily evil at all. But the old axiom that "nobody gives you something for nothing" ought to be remembered before any cash offer you deem enticing is pursued any further.
In short, a lot of this advertising is aimed at those either desperate for cash, or those who are tricked and even frightened into having work done on their homes, or in taking out a home improvement loan. Obviously, the two are related, and while the immediatebenefitscanindeed behelpful,thelong term repercussions are not.
In particular, senior citizens represent the most vulnerablegrouponmany afinancingfirm'scheck list. That's because senior citizens, who have al paid off their mortgages years ago, are it increasingly difficult to pay their property
taxes, monthly bills and yes, even grocery bills, on time and sadly, in some instances, not at all.
So they find themselves forced, they think, into taking out a home equity loan, almost always having to use their home as a collateral. The alter native sometimes appears to be doing nothing, and then being forced out via a sheriff's tax sale.
That's what life has become like for many of our seniors who live in the tri- state area in the 1990s. Imagine that:theverysame peoplewhohelpedthis country make the world safe for democracy are suddenly those who are the most vulnerable of all. Even a child is accorded more respect.
Of course, younger people can encounter finan cial woes, with credit card debt being perhaps the leading reason why. But unless they own their own homes that have plenty of cash equity, they needn't at all worry about these inducements, some of which appear to be just short of fraud.
And in instances where senior citizens are ap proached by scammers offering to fix parts of their homes or properties at very high prices, it is very definitelyfraud.
Towns like Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood andMountainside, withadmirable,refreshingquali ties including homes with high property/ equity values are especially vulnerable to scam artists, who target senior citizens rather than younger families.
So before anyone contemplates entering into ei ther a home- equity arrangement or a scam induce ment, the advice that Westfield Construction Code Official Louis H. Raupp offers is simple:
Always ask for references, people who can tell you first- hand what it's like to deal with this par ticular firm. Or if you already know some, check out your own references.
Checkwithlocal banksinthearea toseeifthese firms have any sort of traceable records that will prove or disprove their integrity.
In terms of hiring Johnny- come- lately home laborers,at leastinsistonthem havingandshowing their own proof of insurance, saving you from unforeseen lawsuits in the event they have none.
In terms of home laborers, insist on finding out who their suppliers are i. e., suppliers of concrete, piping, etc. You could be liable in some cases if the laborer does the work at a high price, cashes your checkandthen leavestown,neverto beseenbyyou again.
If anyone balks at or resists such requests, then it is likely best for you to balk at hiring them.
Because nobody, save for charity and some non profit organizations, is prepared to offer their help to you without expecting something in return.
That is the way of the world.
Is bowling really a rolling metaphor for life? Or is life actually an elaborate metaphor for bowling?
The Big Lebowski, the latest tantrum of delirious creativity unleashed by the brothers Coen, is so screwy that it could be proffering either, both or neither of those two possibilities. And doing it with a straight face no less.
While not approaching the filmic ge nius that distinguished their last effort,
Fargo, this new set of dryly delivered absurdities from the filmmakers (Joel writes and directs; Ethan writes and pro duces) is raucously disarming on its own ridiculous terms.
Rolling with the punches (as well as the body blows) and making it all look so easy, Jeff Bridges propels the organized insanity with his ingeniously languid performance. Starring in the title role, sort of the story involves two Mr. Lebowski's and a resultant case of misOFFICE taken identity he is actually the lesser Lebowski, financially speaking, that is.
But the thugs that beat him up and then vilely soil his rug in the opening scene don't immediately realize that. Not until one of the assailants muses:
"Hey, this Lebowski guy is supposed to be rich." They depart the dishabille that is his Venice, California, apartment.
Known to his fellow keglers as Dude, or more formally, The Dude, the fiscally little Lebowski bemoans his ruined rug. Later recounting the outrage to his best buddies at the bowling alley, he asserts that the damaged rug "really tied the room together." He is indignant. Atten tion must be paid.
Sympathetic out of loyalty if not un derstanding are John Goodman as Walter Sobchak and Steve Buscemi as Donny, the sort of quirky, Steinbeckian charac ters who traditionally populate Coen brothers films. Silly- sad souls, they have elevated to an art form the making of mountainsoutof molehillsandviceversa.
Seeking reparations for his rug, The Dude trucks up to the Big Lebowski's mansion where, for the umpteenth time in the last cinematic year, the film nor scenario is set. Trophy wife Bunny (Tara Reid) has been kidnapped. But this is thekindoffilm whereTheBigLebowski (David Huddleston)eventuallyhiresThe Dude to find the abducted Mrs. Lebowski.
The plot thickens, but the insane details, played out to the backdrop of an all- important bowling tournament, are really of no consequence. Suffice it to note that Dude and company become embroiled in matters usually left to professional cops and criminals. These guys are just morons, like Abbott and Costello but with a much more ex pounded sociology. Or Cheech and Chong with a heightened ethos and a sense of history.
A relic of the 1960s, Jeff Bridges's splendidly drawn Dude is the fallen everymanof hisgeneration,ajoint- toking freak whose opportunity for redemption, if he solves this kidnapping gambit beready
findfore evil forces do him in, has arrived.
Playing Sancho Panza to this posting hippie Don Quixote is John Goodman in a hilarious turn as war vet Walter Sobchak, who sees everything either in terms of Vietnam or his adoption of the Jewish faith.
Admonishing a foul line scofflaw at the bowling alley, blustering Walter dignantly lectures: "This isn't Vietnam.
It's bowling. There are rules." In another instance, Walter wrestles with his conscience: Should he pany Dude on a ransom drop during
Shabbos, the Jewish Sabbath? Steve Buscemi as ex- surfer Donny is much more subdued here than in his performance as the petty thief in Fargo.
If dull- bulb Donny is supposed to be as dumb as a post, then Mr. Buscemi has earned his fee.
Anchoring the zany swirls of tal insanity that populate The Big Lebowski in a kaleidoscope of fully heady nonsense, Jeff Bridges drously manufactures an unlikely hero in
a role that, by its very definition, defies characterization. But like he did in
Starman, Mr. Bridges once again proves he can conjure a viable persona ingly out of thin air.
Partly self- effacing, part- parody, neath the drop- out bravado that is the Dude there's a wistful fantasy at work. Augmented by nifty camerawork and neatly- spliced dream sequences, Dude as the ordinary pothead tossed into traordinarycircumstancesachievesnear
mythical status. Romanced for devious reasons by the other Lebowski's control- freak ter, Maude (Julianne Moore), Dude is
asked from whence he came. He informs the domineering artiste that he was one
oftheSeattleSeven, butonlyafterstarchy Maude relates that she doesn't remem ber who they were. Further securing his place in the annals, Dude adds that he was one of the original framers of the Port Huron Statement, and not the sec ond, watered- down version either.
So preposterous it's mirthful, the Coen brothers' offbeat send- up of the detec tive genre is a lovingly acerbic, left handed present to Baby Boomers, a nov elty gift as tacky as an exploding cigar. Scoring several spares and a few strikes thanks to its screwball portraitures, only lack of a truly challenging plot keeps The BigLebowski from rollingaperfectgame.
* * * * * The Big Lebowski, rated R, is a Gramercy Pictures release directed by Joel Coen and stars Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and Julianne Moore. Running time: 117 minutes.
Fly In The Ointment
The fly in the ointment is true survi vor. In fact, it first appeared in the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastic (10: 1); "dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth stinking savoir, so doth a little folly him that is in repuPeriodicals tation for wisdom and honour."
This pungent biblical passage conPOSTMASTER: firms the widely known fact that a tiny defect (such as a dead fly) can spoil something of great value. The ointment idiom presently conveys the sense that "there is something wrong somewhere or that there is a defect that might come to light in connection with something that looks too good."
No one knows for certain when this discriminating colloquialism was first uttered. Perhaps it was born the first time a buyer realized that a dead fly had ruined his bargain- priced purchase of a jar of ointment (oil). It was have created quite a stink!
Actions by Woman's Club Conflict With Public Expressions of Remorse
I am writing to agree with Barton Stabler's Letter to the Editor of March 12 and the position that the actions of the Woman's Club of Westfield are not always consistent with their public ex pressions of sadness and remorse. But I have reason to doubt his observation that "the members of the Westfield Woman's Club would like to see the property preserved."
One of the first published reports of the pending subdivision application stated that the Woman's Club would be interested in keeping the property if they could find "another group" (to) team up with... to stave off the bid ders."
On February 1, a letter was sent by hand and mail to the Woman's Club attorney, Robert H. Kraus, by a third party, suggesting that an officer of a similar Westfield- based, tax- exempt or ganization wanted to meet and begin discussions that could lead to a joint venture or "a buy, lease or rental agree ment that would include a provision for the uninterrupted use of the house and property by the Woman's Club and the community which would preserve the tradition of the Burr- Towl house."
Copies of this letter were also mailed to the Woman's Club at their post office
and clubhouse addresses, even though they instructed that all correspondence was to be directed to Mr. Kraus.
Neither Mr. Kraus nor the Woman's Club has replied to this letter. Have they ever publicly acknowledged the receipt of such an offer? Repeated telephone messages left for Mr. Kraus went unreturned.
The Woman's Club has explained that this sale is being driven by unaffordable maintenance costs. If so, why was there no reply to an offer that potentially could have solved their problem?
There are other related questions: Be fore or after the subdivision announce ment, what good faith efforts or appeals to the community did the Woman's Club make to help them avoid a sale?
Were there other offers of assistance made by community groups or private citizens? Was this particular proposal made known to all of the members? Or was the lure of an overheated real estate market predestined to crowd out all other options?
In forming judgments based on ac tions, it must be said that the Woman's Club of Westfield has an outstanding record of 40 years of community service and the sale is for charitable, and not personal, gain.
Is it possible the members indi vidually or collectively rationalized that the important charitable end would justify the means? (The means being the potential destruction of a historic home, and the creation of an unwanted subdivi sion.)
The Woman's Club of Westfield has apparently gone down the last road first. It is not too late to turn back, or to designate the site as historic for the sake of its preservation.
At the very minimum, the club should explain why no effort was made to ex plore at least one known viable proposal. The continued professed sadness of the Woman's Club has become tired and sad itself.
Sal Caruana Westfield PTA Council Urges
All Citizens to Vote In April 21 Elections
The Scotch Plains- Fanwood Parent Teacher Association(PTA)Councilurges allcitizenstovote intheupcomingschool election to be held on Tuesday, April 21. At this time, members will be elected to the Board of Education and the school budget will be voted on.
It is crucial that community members educate themselves about the issues and. exercise one of the most precious of our rights in this democracy the right to vote.
Mary O' Connor, Corresponding Secretary
Scotch Plains- Fanwood PTA Council
I believe that many of the divorces in thiscountryare causedbymarriagecoun selors and therapists who keep telling their clients, "always tell the whole truth to each other, and the truth will make you free." Politically correct; maritally a di saster.
Civilization is built upon little white lies. You and your wife meet a pair you really don't like; the women kiss each other; and you shake his hand and say, "Looking good." Suppose you had told them, "Beat it. Can't stand you." In the 800s a 40- year war broke out because one queen told another that she looked like an ugly horse.
When Henry Ford told one of his ex ecutives, "I don't like you," and fired him, the executive went over to Chrysler cars and started beating Ford to death.
When you tell your fantasies to your wife or husband, it's okay if your object is a singer or an actress. They are so far away, it's really a joke. But if you tell the truth and the object of your fantasy is someone near at hand, the whole thing will blow up in your face.
It's not only fantasies. A man who keeps praising his mother's cooking will have more fights on his hands than those team wrestlers on TV do.
Money of all things seems to be the prime cause of contention. "He's just cheap," she says. And in turn, he might say, "She seems to think money grows on trees." The therapist will say, "Now we are getting to the root of the matter.
How to Survive Life's Obstacles As Depicted on the Silver Screen
By Louis H. Clark
You're not only telling me the truth, you're really pouring oil on the fire."
Whereas, if you sat down together and say, "You're the smartest person I ever met when it comes to money," the oil won't get on fire.
Don't forget, the fees paid to a thera pist or a family counselor will cost you both a trip to Bermuda or the Caribbean, where things will fall into their true perspective and you won't be tearing up your emotions because you told the truth too often.
The fly- in- the- ointment idiom is a true survivor. In fact, it first appeared in the Old Testament's Book of Ecclesias tic (10: 1); "dead flies cause the oint ment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savoir, so cloth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour."
This pungent biblical passage con firms the widely known fact that a tiny defect (such as a dead fly) can spoil something of great value. The ointment idiom presently conveys the sense that "there is something wrong somewhere or that there is a defect that might come to light in connection with something that looks too good."
No one knows for certain when this discriminating colloquialism was first uttered. Perhaps it was born the first time a buyer realized that a dead fly had ruined his bargain- priced purchase of a jar of ointment (oil). It must have created quite a stink!
Proficiency Rates Ought to Reflect Money Parents Spend for Education
It is time for parents of our school system children to stand up and let the Board of Education know you are not satisfied with a less than 80 percent proficiency rate of state testing at the eighth grade level.
The parents and all taxpayers pay out high tax rates because we want superior education for the young people of Westfield. The parents should re quest a refund from the high teachers' salaries to pay for the increased budget that the Board of Education is request ing in the current budget before the voters.
If teachers had no tenure or had to work on productive performance of their products, there would be no tax in crease for Westfield property owners. Why should taxpayers pay for poor performance of teachers of our chil dren?
Westfield shares one of the highest socio- economic demograpic conditions in a community of this state and our children should be an important part of the privilege we share as adults.
It's Pollyanna to believe all the teach ers and administration staff will give back 15 percent of the administrative payroll to help us maintain a no tax property increase, so parents and town taxpayers, vote no on the Tuesday, April 21 Board of Education budget.
Businessmen, if you'll be out of town or suspect you will be away that day, request your absentee ballot now at the Board of Education office. We all want high proficiency of our school children. Middle of the road is unacceptable.
Stan Niedzwiecki Westfield Junior Woman's Club
Announces Success Of 19th Grand Auction
The 19th Grand Auction held by the Junior Woman's Club of Westfield was a wonderful success. The night raised over $7,000fortheMake- A- WishFoundationof New Jersey.
We are happy to know that the money is already slated to go towards the wish of a boyinFanwood. Inaddition,the50/ 50raffle helped add to our scholarship fund, which will be given away in the weeks to come.
The Junior Woman's Club of Westfield will be giving the donation to the Make- A Wish Foundation representative at its monthly meeting in April. Special thanks to all who donated their goods and services.
Marijke Shugrue Junior Woman's Club of Westfield
WESTFIELD GIRL SCOUTS WESTFIELD GIRL SCOUTS WESTFIELD GIRL SCOUTS WESTFIELD GIRL SCOUTS WESTFIELD GIRL SCOUTS
April Looks Like Busy Month For Girl Scouts of Westfield
Written by Girl Scouts for Girl Scouts
As the year continues, so do Girl Scout activities. April is filled with many im portant and exciting events. Please take note of the times and descriptions of the activities to follow.
TheWestfield GirlScoutServiceTeam inwill meet on Friday, April 3, from 9: 15 to
11: 30 a. m., at the home of Liz Fallon, 910 Irving Avenue.
On Friday, April 4, a Kayak 101 work accomshop will be given at the Fanwood
YMCA, 1340 Martine Avenue, Scotch Plains, from 7: 30 to 9: 30 p. m. This work shop will provide valuable skills for kayaking. Workshop participants will be able to perform the basic maneuvers and strokes upon completion.
No prior experience is necessary. The cost is $12 per girl to cover costs of pool
incidenrental. Deep- water certification is re
quired for acceptance to the workshop. A delightbathing suit and towel are needed. The
wonworkshop is the Silver Award Project of
Cadette Girl Scouts Sarah Burke and Molly Orbach. Registration is required and space is limited to 12 Westfield Girl Scouts.Pleasecall MollyOrbachat(908)
seem233- 2878 as soon as possible to reserve
your place. beA follow- up trip to Zoar Outdoor in
Claremont, Massachusetts, for May 15 and 16, is in the planning stages. Addi tional information will be provided in April.
exAll Senior Westfield Girl Scout troops
willmeetonTuesday, April7,from7: 30to 8: 30 p. m. in Westminster Hall of The Presbyterian Church in Westfield. This
daughmonthly meeting affords mutual interac
tion and planning among the senior troops. All senior troops are encouraged to attend.
The second and final mandatory En campment preparation meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 8, from 7: 30 to 9 p. m. and will be repeated on Thursday, April 9, from 9: 15 to 10: 45 a. m. The morning and evening meetings are being offered to accommodate the various schedules of troop representatives.
A representative from each troop reg istered to attend the Saturday and Sun day, May 2 and 3 Encampment at Camp Hoover is required to attend this final preparatory meeting.
Cookie Booth sales will continue throughout WestfielduntilSunday,April
PANDA Thanks Local Community For Success of Drug Awareness Week
The Board of the Westfield Municipal Alliance/ PANDA (Preventing Alcohol, Narcotics and Drug Abuse) would like to thank everyone in the community who helped to make Westfield's 1998 Drug Awareness Week a success, especially our students, parents, school PANDA repre sentatives, substance abuse counselors (SAC), nurses, and other school staff; and our police officers who participated in and organized all the school activities; Scouts, family members and friends of Boy Scout Troop No.73andGirl ScoutTroopNo.968 and their Scout leaders for tying ribbons around our community's trees; the mem bersoftheJunior OptimistClubfordistrib uting posters to businesses and organiza tions throughout our town; Westfield flo rists- McEwen, Vance, Meeker's, Scarlet Begonias, the Flower Basket and Williams Nursery for donating ribbons for the trees,
the Westfield Memorial Library for setting asidebooksforparents andyouthonfamily relationships and substance awareness, Falcon Printing for getting our Alliance Community Newsletter quickly printed for distribution duringDrugAwarenessWeek; and the members of the Dream Makers program who made substance abuse pre vention posters during the week that are on display at library this week.
We also would like to take this opportu nity to thank all those wonderful commu nityresidents, membersofcommunityagen cies, organizations,churchesandmerchants who volunteer their time and talents and contribute merchandise and money to en able us to continue many other projects in the community throughout the year.
Board Members Westfield Municipal Alliance/
19. The public is asked to support the Girl Scouts in this effort.
On Tuesday, April 28, the annual Awards and Recognition Dinner will be held at the Westwood in Garwood from 6 to 9 p. m. This event commemorates out standingserviceof adultGirlScoutmem bers of Washington Rock Girl Scout Council (WRGSC). Reservations are being accepted by WRGSC until Friday, April 17. Individual troops may contrib ute $2 as a booster for the Awards pro gram. Proceeds will benefit the Girl/ Adult Financial Aid (GAFA) program.
For a $15 contribution, donors can be listed as supporters of GAFA. The dead line for booster program submission to WRGSC is April 7.
Early Girl Scout registration for 1998- 1999 will be held in May or June. Further information will be provided. Early troop registration eases the October troop start up activities and has been highly recom mended by those troops taking advantage of it during the 1997- 1998 scouting year.
Maire Abraham, a Senior Girl Scout working toward her Gold Award, is re questing donations of new and/ or gently used men's clothing. Anyone who can contribute to this project may call her at (908) 233- 1481 to arrange for pickup of donations.
This project will feed into the B. R. I. D. G. E. S. project associated with Christ Church in Summit. People in volved with B. R. I. D. G. E. S. gather food, clothing, and toiletries, and truck these items to designated homeless areas in New York City and Newark. All men's clothing donated will be gratefully ac cepted by Ms. Abraham.
A sincere thank you to all in our West fieldCommunity forreadingourmonthly Girl Scout article. We urge those of you thinking about getting involved in Girl Scouting to go for it! Stay tuned for upcoming events in May.
This column may be viewed at The Westfield Leader web site and may be accessed as www. goleader/ girlscouts. com. Looking forward to see ing you there! *****
This column is prepared monthly by Westfield Girl Scouts for the Westfield Girl Scout community and for the public.
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