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It has been said that the true nature of one’scharactercanbe judgedbywhatone does when they believe no one is watching. True or not, it is in this very private world where director Todd Solondz unleashes his latest foray of shock value, profundity and outrageous humor.
The young filmmaker from New Jersey who brought us Welcome to The Dollhouse, Mr. Solondz carries “telling it like it is” to a new and deliriously unsettling level in Happiness. He dares illuminatethe darkareas,gleefullygleaning material usually relegated to the recesses of our consciousness. What most folk would be hesitant to explore, this director turns into table conversation. Making casual a telling of the verboten, he is an artist delving in the underground rainbow of taboo and the impermissible.
Yet, despite all the startle effect which has become his stock in trade, Solondz is remarkably responsible, almost studious in the obsessive way he probes under the rocks of the human psyche. Detailing the gruesome tale of a pederast among the six or seven tarnished lives he dissects in
Happiness, the filmmaker manages a chillingly objective insight one wouldn’t expect in a work of fiction.
Addressing pedophilia so boldly, Solondz is to film what Lenny Bruce was to stand-upcomedy,dealingnonchalantly with masturbation, phone sex, and a whole kaleidoscope of depravities and fetishes which probably haven’t even been named yet.
Whereas director David Lynch (Blue
Velvet, Lost Highway) has long been fond of investigating the fringe desperadoes who operate up and down the dark alleyways of normal civilization, it is Mr. Solondz’s contention that there is another community festering right under our noses, within the sub-text of our very own society...that all people, in varying degrees, have two lives...the outward, public persona, and the very private, passion-concealing self.
Most of the movie’s bizarre characters would agree that the road to happiness is paved with misery and depression. Take Allen, for example, played with discomforting intensity by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. A heavy breather with an uncontrollable penchantfornaughtyanonymous phone calls to the ladies, the pathetic nowhere man admittedly bores his psychiatrist to death.
But Dr. Maplewood, the aforementioned pedophile played with frightening brilliance by Dylan Baker, doesn’t much care. His sordid mind is elsewhere...scheming his next conquest.
And then there is Trish (Cynthia Stevenson) and her two sisters. Married to the film’s Dr. Jekyl, Trish hasn’t a clue that hubby is really Mr. Hyde. She has catapulted self-delusion to a new art form. Bragging to her sister, Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle), about “having it all,” the psychiatrist’s wife is surely her suburban wasteland’s poster girl.
Helen Jordan, on the other hand, is an attractive artiste, somehow a poet of note despite her profound vacuity — an alluringportraitof iceandself-loathing.When the heavy breather calls and tells her that she is nothing, and then proceeds to describe his litany of sexual intentions, she scares him off, for a time, by turning the tables and pursuing him.
Add an obese rape victim/hatchet murderer, Kristina (Camryn Manheim), to this cauldron of lovelorn bliss seekers, and that only leaves the third Jordan sister, Joy (Jane Adams), the just-turned30 plain Jane who has had little luck in love and even less success with her music career. Feigning interest in Joy’s plight while actually high-hatting their unsettled sis, catty Trish and Helen advance sibling rivalry to a terminal illness. So bland she almost doesn’t deserve happiness, Joy is the film’s innocent, an Alice in DysfunctionalLand, a Candide left to swim in a bath of snakes.
Unable to help themselves, the deviants recall all those old Wolfman movies. The moon is about to be full, and the
Wolfman begs to be locked up...so that he won’t be able to give way to his inner demon. One wonders, were all those fantastical films mere metaphors for what Mr. Solondz now brings into full daylight?
It is near amazing how, in telling his several tales out of school, Solondz mimics the manic-depressive realities of life itself, alternating between outright hilarity to deeply somber doings without compromising either emotion.
Sitting on the couch at a watershed moment, contemplating his ghastly duality, Dylan Baker’s Dr. Bill Maplewood carefully explains his sickness to son Billy (Rufus Read). It is dark in the room, medium light and shadow on the child molester’s face. Billy, approaching puberty, has concerns of his own, and in the role of parent, the doctor is aware of the child’s need to know. Eyes as hollow as Orphan Annie’s, the monster carefully details his heinous pathology.
There is haunting, dead silence in the theater. Only minutes ago the audience was crowded with laughter, howling at the heavy breather’s mind-boggling ineptitude. But there is no sympathy for the telephone pervert, and even less for Dr. Maplewood. Only a question. What to do with all this disturbing information?
* * * * * Happiness, not rated, is a Good Machine release directed by Todd Solondz and stars Jane Adams, Dylan Baker and Lara Flynn Boyle. Running time: 135 minutes.
Mountainside Taxpayers Encouraged To Show More Interest in Government
Town Personnel Earn Kudos for Aid To Family With Tree Emergency
We were reminded last night, once again, why Westfield is a great place to live. Friday night, October 9, at 9:30 p.m., while eating dinner with our visiting parents, we were interrupted by a huge crash.
A good portion of one of our 70 foot oak trees in our front yard had broken off and was leaning on the roof of our house across our electrical line. We called 911, and within a minute, there was a police car in front of my house.
Upon asking the officer if I should call Public Service Electric and Gas, he told me that he had already done so, as well as the Westfield Department of Public Works. While we were speaking, the Fire Department pulled up.
Within five minutes, three men from the Westfield Department of Public Works pulled up in a truck with a wood chipper attached, and a cherry-picker. They worked in the rain with the fire department standing by providing light As a homeowner in Mountainside
since 1997, I’m puzzled by the public’s lack of interest in its municipal government.
The Mayor made numerous promises in the writing of a big deduction in 1998 municipal taxes due to the end of the regional high school system. Never happened. In fact, my tax bill shows an increase. No accountable explanation from the governing body and, most disturbing, no outcry from the taxpayers. Don’t they care?
Recently, a large portion of Mountainside was without power for three days and police officers maintained traffic control on Route No. 22. Not a word to the public on how to cope with this emergency and what was being done to alleviate the problem.
There doesn’t seem to be any real media coverage of the borough, and maybe that’s why one party has had 100 percent political control since year
from their truck. Even Dan Kelly, the head of Public Works, came out and worked side by side with his men in the rain.
Within an hour the whole tree limb was removed and chipped up. They even swept up the walk.
They had all come directly from home, interrupting their own family activities to help us out on that rainy Friday night. They were all gentlemen, and hard-working individuals.
They are the unsung heroes who keep our town safe and looking good. We wish to personally thank Dan, Buzzy, Kenny and Scott from the Department of Public Works,andKennyand Tonyfromthefire department for their assistance that night and their continuous dedication to Westfield.
Greg Redington, Michele Modestino
one. Localpapers reportedthattheLeague of Women Voters was willing to sponsor a public forum for the opposing Borough Council candidates, and the Republicans refused. And the public doesn’t care.
The lack of interest by Mountainside taxpayers is alarming. Let’s hope it changes soon, as lively discussions of theissuesisalways healthyandleadsto accountable government.
John Shackelford Mountainside Compromise on ‘Pocket Park’ Funds
Proves Two-Party System Can Work
Last week’sdecisiononhow tospendUnionCounty matching grant funds in Westfield proves that when two opposing sides put their heads together, a compromise can come forward under the two-party system.Over thepastfewmonths therehasbeencontinuous dialogue on where to spend $200,000 in funds from the county and the town as part of the county’s Project Pocket Park Program.
While Democrats believed the focus should be on new projects, as opposed to those already in the socalled “pipeline,” Republicans said the funds should be directed toward several projects approved by the Town Council under previous capital budgets to ensure they are completed.
Intheend,four projectsreceivedfunding:Gumbert Park, $70,000; Sycamore Field, $60,000, and Tamaques Field, $40,000. An additional $30,000 wasspread outunderageneral categoryof“parksand recreation.” Originally, under a proposal by Third Ward Councilman Neil F. Sullivan, Jr., Memorial Park would have received funding.
The other Third Ward council representative, John J. Walsh, proposed that funding be provided for bathroomsat Gumbert;thatapark becreatedtohonor human rights advocate and one-time resident Paul Robeson and for a “pocket park” on Central Avenue, as well as for improvements at Tamaques Park, Sycamore Field and Mindowaskin Park.
We believe a number of good projects were put before the Ad Hoc Committee formed by Mayor Thomas C. Jardim which should be strongly considered by the Town Council when it begins the capital budgetprocessinDecember. Topamongthemshould be bathrooms at Gumbert — and for that matter, in other recreational areas — and the concrete overpass at Mindowaskin.
A number of other interesting projects were put before the committee, such as a Touch and Scent Garden at Rahway Avenue and Shadowlawn Drive, and the Robeson Park idea. These two projects,
though, should take a lower priority, since the condition of existing parks is well below par – and we are not just talking golf here.
Activities at Westfield’s parks have increased dramaticallyovertheyears, witheverythingfromPolice AthleticLeaguefootball games,elementaryandintermediate schools’ soccer games and Little League, as well ashighschoolsports playedonparksthroughout the town.
The issue of parks and fields has been a continuing theme of this year’s Mayoral and council races. The townneedsto dotherepairsand thencreateacontinuing maintenance program which should be funded at least partially by the many organizations that use the fields on a continuous basis.
We believe Westfield’s baseball and softball fields should be upgraded by the spring to eliminate the possibility of a serious injury. The main concern amongthemen’ssoftball leagueshasbeenTamaques Park.
With half the cost of improvements at Sycamore funded through the program, hopefully, most of the remaining moneys can be raised by the soccer association in town. Or perhaps more funds can be included in the 1998 town budget.
The Downtown Westfield Corporation has proposed that small open spaces in the downtown be refurbished with seating to improve the appearance and ambiance of the business district.
As this year’s budget process approaches, we will be listening closely as discussion ensues on projects concerning the future upgrade of Westfield’s infrastructure — namely our parks, fields and roads. Now thatWestfield’sdowntown vacancieshavebeenfilled, for the most part, all efforts should be headed in this direction.
So,while theprocessincludeda bumpyroad,inthe end a compromise was achieved, as was the case earlier this year with the passage of an exterior maintenancecode.
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Hustingsisa termthatisfrequently heard during political campaigns. It has some interesting relations which have appeared in this column — for example: husband and hussy. The first element of all of these words is hus-, which has the basic sense of “to hide, cover or shelter” and which eventually became the English word house.
Hustings was originally used only initssingular formandliterallymeant “house thing.” It described an early Anglo-Saxon tribal assembly or government. Hustings eventually gave way to the Norman French word parliament which, in turn, came from the French word parler, “to talk.” Thereafter, the English limited hustings to its plural form and defined it as “a platform on which people running for parliament stand and make speeches to their constituents.”
Hustings is currently used colloquially in the United States and Britain in phrases such as, “take to the hustings.” If this colloquialism stumps you, just think of a politician going on the stump; an idiom that describes the earlier campaign practice of giving speeches while standing on a tree stump. Perhaps these campaignersfelt thatthestumpraised the level of their rhetoric.
By DONALD T. DiFRANCESCO
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
‘Yes’ Vote on Second Question Will Keep New Jersey Green Into 21st Century and Beyond
In January of this year, in my annual State of the Senate address, I announced that open space preservation would be the state Legislature’s top priority in 1998. At the same time, Governor Christine Todd Whitman outlined her own open space protection program with the goal of preserving one million acres over the next ten years.
Together, we shared a common objective of securing a stable source of funding to protect New Jersey’s remaining farmland and open spaces before they are lost forever.
Over the course of the next several months, the legislative process saw various initiatives aimed at preserving open spaces, though each was different in terms of the scope of the program and how it was funded. The final versionto emergefromtheLegislature in June was one on which everyone could agree was the best plan to preserve the beauty of the Garden State for our children and for our grandchildren.
Evenestablished,denselypopulated counties, such as Union County, can benefit from a statewide Open Space Preservation Program. The dollars raised through the legislation can be used to maintain and beautify existing park land and reserves, and can even create open spaces and recreational areas where there once were abandoned buildings or empty lots.
Time is growing short to protect the Garden State’sremainingopenspaces, and New Jersey needs a statewide plan of attack now if we are to preserve the New Jersey we know and love for future generations.
It is our responsibility to protect New Jersey’s disappearing open space and farmland for our children and
grandchildren. Thebeautifullandsand cleanwaterswhich weenjoyedaschildren should be the birthright of every New Jersey citizen. Passing ballot question No. 1 will allow us to protect NewJersey’s openspaceswithoutraising taxes.
In fact, it does not contain any additional cost to the taxpayer at all. The proposal relies on $98 million a year for the next 10 years from existing sales tax revenue to purchase open space, farmland and historic sites, as well as to provide a total of $1 billion dedicated to protecting these natural resources.
Our nation has spent the bulk of the 20th century investing in technology, in our industrial capacity, and in our transportation infrastructure, raising the standard of living for successive generations of Americans.
Now, as this century draws to a close, we recognize more than ever that our quality of life depends on the sanctity of our environment and the existence of open spaces. As the next century begins, we now understand the need for balance between development that threatens our natural resources and the availability of recreation and conservation land.
There is no question that the people of New Jersey support open space, farmland and historic preservation, in some cases, at any cost. Beginning with the first Green Acres Bond Act in 1961, the voters of New Jersey have supported every bond issue dedicated for natural resource preservation and open space acquisition.
As a result, we have already saved close to 900,000 acres of land. It is also significant to point out that in 1992, voters gave overwhelming support to preserving another New Jersey natural resource, the Jersey shore, by voting to create a stable source of funding to ensure our beaches were adequately protected.
I believe that SCR-66 will give the voters one more opportunity to expresstheir supportfornaturalresource protection. This amendment is a longrange plan of action that will preserve more than half of the remaining open space in our state. Forty percent of New Jersey’s land mass could be protected through a combination of this program and past legislative initiatives.
We can’t afford to waste any more time. The time to preserve our open spaces is now, before there is nothing left to protect.
I am confident voters will agree with me and will embrace this initiative in November just as they have embraced every previous ballot question pertaining to Green Acres or open space preservation. Let us support this initiative to ensure a greener New Jersey and a better quality of life for us all.
* * * * *
Donald T. DiFrancesco of Scotch Plains serves as State Senate President.
Country Has Strange Sense of Morality Regarding President’s ‘High Crimes’
The President of the United States is being accused of having committed high crimes and misdemeanors sufficient for his impeachment by the United States House of Representatives and conviction by the United States Senate for sexual indiscretion and a subsequent cover-up.
There is, however, a strange sense of morality in our country. Is it not a high crimeand misdemeanorforUnitedStates Senatorsand Congressmentovoteagainst gun control legislation, to vote against restricting cigarette advertising to teenagers, to refuse to pay the more than billion dollars in back dues to the United Nations for its many humanitarian programs and peace-keeping operations, to oppose efforts to stop the ethnic cleansing in The Balkans, to fragment further the social safety net, to gut environmental law, and to fund military programs the Pentagon does not want? Which is the greater immorality?
No one, including the President himself, denies that the President acted
Neighbor Is Opposed To Parking Spaces At Tamaques Park
I am opposed to adding any parking spaces in Tamaques Park. I live near the parkandam therefrequently.Thepresent parking lots are never full. Weekends can be crowded, that is true, but that is only occasionally.
Let’s not trade one single inch of our beautiful green park for cement.
Anne Glasser Westfield
Letters to the Editor
wrongly and perhaps should be censured but the true censure should be of those national legislators and their colleagues in state legislatures who back this lobby or that lobby and think neither of the nation’s interest nor of the state’s interest which by constitutional oath they are sworn to uphold.
At least the President tried to apologize for his conduct in a country with a media and a Congress with legislators who will accept no apology and whose focus upon the President’s conduct deflects needed public attention away from the issues so vital to the future of our beloved country and of a war-torn and hunger-ravished world.
It is almost as if there is some subconscious belief or instinct that through the punishment of the President for his own moral misbehavior all moral misbehavior can be cleansed, forgiven, and forgotten.
Dr. Stephen Schoeman Scotch Plains
Park User Appeals to Town Council To Preserve Tamaques Green Space
I have been a resident of Westfield for over 15 years and I have never written a letter to the newspaper until now. My concern centers on the plan that seems to be underway to cut trees and clear land in Tamaques Park to make additional parking lots.
Many people in the community go to the park to relax, enjoy nature and escape from urbanization. My family uses the park often and we have never found parking to be a problem.
I hope the Town Council members keep in mind how quickly a tree can be felled in relation to how long it takes one to grow to maturity. Please ask yourself why suburban communities are crying
out for “Pocket Park” projects. Perhaps a lack of vision in planning in the past has caused this to happen. Please don’t be shortsighted now. Our precious and limited green space that remains should be protected.
I find it ironic that the same governing body that has applied for “Pocket Park” funds to create “green spaces” in town seems so willing to destroy existing “green spaces” in Tamaques Park.
I urge you to look for alternative solutions. Please act before it is too late.
Kim M. Sokol Westfield Headline on SID Story
Called ‘Inflammatory’ Editor’s Note: The following letter was submitted by Lee M. Hale who chaired a special Task Force created by former Mayor Bud Boothe to look into the feasibility of a downtown special improvement district (SID) in Westfield. The SID was eventually created in June of 1996 by the Town Council.
* * * * * The Morristown special improvement district court case challenges the fairness of taxing commercial properties within the SID, but not taxing residential properties within the SID.
TheMorristown casehasnoapplication to Westfield, where the SID includes only commercial properties.
That being the case, I think that The Westfield Leader headline on the SID article is inflammatory, that your positioning of the article as the main news story is out of proportion, and that the insinuated connection to Westfield is inappropriate.
I believe the Westfield SID has been and will be a very positive force in improving downtown Westfield to the benefit of us as customers, and the favorable impact on our home values. And Ihatetosee itmalignedandtreated unfairly.
Lee M. Hale Westfield
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