Letters to the Editor
POPCORN POPCORN POPCORN POPCORN POPCORN ™
By Michael S. Goldberger
Deals a Losing Hand
OnePopcorn,Poor •TwoPopcorns,Fair •ThreePopcorns,Good •FourPopcorns,Excellent
David B. Corbin
The Westfield Leader
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Richard P. Murray
Fear not! This is not our final word ontheetymologyof words.Itismerely an essay on some of the words we use when we take our leave of someone. Each one of these departure idioms originated from a different language, but are used and understood by most people the world over.
Ciaocannotquite makeupitsmind whether it is coming or going, because it is used both for greetings and departures. Ciao, pronounced chow, originated from the Italian dialect word shiavo, meaning I am your slave.
Adieu is of French origin and literally means, I commend you to God. It combines the prefix a-, to and dieu, God.
So long, surprisingly, comes from the east. Most language experts give the Arab word salaam, and the Hebrew word shalom, both meaning “peace,” as the origin of this departing word. So long was anglicized during England’s imperial period.
Farewell comes from the Anglo Saxon word, wegfarende meaning have a good journey.
Goodbye is our final word on this subject. It became popular in 16th century England and was spelled goodbwye, a condensed folk rendering of God be with you. May that always be the case.
In this betting-crazed era of Powerball lotteries and polyester grandmas busboogying their way to the casinos, you might think it curious that they don’t make more movies about gambling. See
Rounders and you’ll be reminded why. In essence, even the best of this genre are one-note affairs unrealistically glamorizing the life and times of a compulsive gambler. Like Eddie Felson (The Hustler, 1961) or Axel Freed (The Gambler,
1974), these tarnished heroes, despite their betting affliction, have a suggested nobilitythat overshadowstheseedycommoners their addiction forces them to mingle with. In short, they think they’re “something else,” and you know how low-life bullies feel about that.
What else is there to say on the subject? Winning feels great. Losing feels yecch. And if you don’t stop gambling despite perennial losses, you’re a masochist who’s bound to be jacked-up by gangsters. Movies focusing on such folk inevitably emulate the very syndrome they dissect, shaping the plot into one big bet: Will this particular gambler be the one to beat the daunting odds? Rounders
follows suit with few surprises. The latest handsome stereotype to outshine his roguish milieu is Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) as Mike McDermott, a young card sharp with poker skills to match his looks and likability. With his gaming Jones in remission following an opening scene setback that was supposed to catapult him to the Las Vegas Poker World Series, Mike shares his New York digs with attractive fellow law student/love interest, Jo (Gretchen Mol). It’s her contention that Mike can better put his native skills to use in a court of law.
But then Mike’s childhood friend, the cruising-for-a-bruising Worm (Edward Norton), is released from prison. Of course you don’t need poker smarts to read this hand. It’s apparent that all of girlfriend’s reformist work is a mere house of cards. In less than 24-hours, the bad influence from Hell sees to it that, not only does Mike lose all his money, but that he is now in debt for $25 thousand to a life-threatening loan shark.
WhatfollowsasMike andWormtryto meet their do-or-die deadline is an entertaining but ultimately hollow buddybuddy odyssey through the underbelly of high-stakes card playing, from gangsterrun back rooms with speakeasy entranceways to the legitimate glitz of Atlantic City. Along the way, they meet a colorful cadre of Runyonesque characters.
Earning top supporting honors is John Malkovich as Teddy KGB, an eccentric gambling den boss with strong ties to the Russian Mafia. Mr. Malkovich’s comically suspect but nevertheless amusing accent proves the icing on an over-thetopperformancetobe prizedforitschutzpah. Also good despite a script that supplies too few inspired lines, Edward Norton in the Devil’s advocate role reminds of those recklessly sociopathic bad boys Sean Penn and Eric Roberts used to portray.
Other players of thespic note include, John Turturro as uncharacteristically thoughtful Joey, the steady-as-she-goes gambler who hasn’t had to do real work in 15years; Martin Landau as Petrovsky, Mike’s schmaltzy but terribly sincere law professor; and Michael Rispoli as Grama, the most repugnant heavy you will encounter at the movies this year.
Perhapsdirector JohnDahlhopedthese rather entertaining caricatures would compensate for poor plot exposition and a screenplay that is as unambitious as it is weak. But it’s no dice. Despite all the
scruffycharacters andlocations,thework is antiseptic. It’s as if Disney had designed a Living On The Edge ride that mimics the travail of a compulsive gambler— simulatingtheup-and-downmood that comes from being on a self-destructive jag, but sparing us the nitty gritty.
While director Dahl correctly appreciates that the life of an addictive personality can seamlessly run day into night, the film’s ebb and flow fails to convey the brutally red-eyed exhaustion that accompanies a gambler’s lifestyle. One perfunctory attempt at realism has Mike and Worm mercilessly beaten by some poker-playing state troopers they try to scam. But pain in Rounders, both mental and physical, is never permanent. The vivid thrashing is followed by that magical recuperation that can only occur in Hollywood.
Had the director played his cards right, he might have upped the ante by paying more than just lip service to Mike’s scanty law school career or by imbuing the barely existent romantic angle with a little more significance. But by offering no vision past the next card game, Mr. Dahl stacks the deck against himself. Hence, the smart money will sit this hand out until the diverting but emotionally flat Rounders is available on video.
* * * * * Rounders, rated R, is a Miramax Films release directed by John Dahl and stars Matt Damon, Edward Norton and Gretchen Mol. Running time: 120 minutes.
Acrossthe nation,childrenandfamilies are settling into the familiar rhythms of school life – class schedules, homework, lunches, sports and after-school activities. But as this school year begins, there is an added tension among parents, teachers and children – the fear of crime, drugs and violence in our schools.
Violence and crime in our schools is a legitimate concern for parents, children and educators. According to the National School Safety Center, 42 individuals were killed in schools across thenation duringthe1997-1998school year, up from 25 deaths the year before. Of particular concern, according to the organization’s report, were the 19 multiple killings which took place in the last school year, when there had only been four.
According to the center’s report this year, violence in schools occurred in all sorts of settings – in urban, suburban and rural schools, among wealth anddisadvantaged districts,atallgrade levels. It warns parents not to assume “it can’t happen here.”
“Such violence is less a function of the location of the school and perhaps more a function of the way in which television and computers — and to some extent, movies — bring communities news of the latest crimes and the technology available for making and using weapons of destruction,” the report says.
As a parent and as the former President of Union County’s largest school system, I share these concerns. Two of my children graduated from public schools and a third still attends. My concernabout theireducationandsafety led me to serve on Elizabeth Board of Education from 1993 to 1997, and to chair the district’s security committee, where I worked closely with former Union CountyProsecutorDrewRuotolo to developanti-crimeandanti-violence initiatives.
Our experience in Elizabeth showed that parents, students, police, teachers and members of the community must work together to prevent crime and violence. The involvement of parents, in particular, was critical. When discipline at school is reinforced at home, students are more likely to respond. Teachers spend many hours with our children five days a week, and can often give parents insight on their behavior or activities, so communications between the home and the classroom are critical.
We also found police participation, lectures and demonstrations in the classroomfrom theearliestgradesbuild bridges of respect and trust between children and law enforcement. One of former ProsecutorRuotolo’smanyideas for building these bridges was a basketball league, begun in one of the county’smostdisadvantagedneighborhoods, officiated and coached by law
enforcement personnel. Students and officials got to know and build mutual respect for one another because their encounters were on friendly ground.
Weneed moreopportunitieslikethis – opportunities for young people, parents, teachers, police and the community to work together to identify potential problems and build stronger relationships.
That is why, as Chairman of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, I will work with the board and theCountyManager totakethefollowing steps over to address school violence:
First, Union County has a responsibility to help schools educate children in an environment free of violence and inappropriate behavior.We plan to initiate a toll-free number which will provide a vehicle for students to report crimes, ask for help with bullying, violence, gangs, weapons or drug activity.
Sometimes students are worried about reporting a problem to an official while in school, so this will given them an opportunity to pick up a phone outside the school and ask for assistance.
Next, the county will help schools establish violence teams comprised of police, parents,students,educatorsand community andbusinessleaders.These teams will meet regularly to compare their ideas and perspectives.
The teams will be encouraged to develop a school violence master plan whichaddresses schoolsafety,thepresence of drugs and weapons in schools and student discipline. This should include strategies from districts where disciplinary proceduresanddrugeradication efforts have worked well.
Finally, we need to engage schools and communities to work together. Communities should create well-supervised “safe corridors” to and from schools.Along theway,familieswould keep an eye out for disturbances and misbehavior.
In return, schools should allow communities to utilize their facilities after hours, so that community groups and families have a place where they can engage in supervised, productive activities.
Communities are often rated by the quality of their schools. It has an impact on the value of property, on decisions about the locating of businesses in the area and, of course, on the overall quality of life for children as they become adults.
All of us, regardless of whether we have kids in school, have a stake in making schools places where children are nurtured and protected while they receive a world-class education. As elected officials and as members of our communities, building safer, better schools must be among our top priorities.
COUNTY" "COMMENTING ON UNION COUNTY" "COMMENTING ON UNION COUNTY" "COMMENTING "COMMENTINGON ONUNION UNIONCOUNTY" "COMMENTING ON UNION COUNTY"
Ensuring that School Days are Safe Days
By DANIAL P. SULLIVAN
Chairman – Union County Board of Freeholders
Proposed Parking Deck Considered a Poor Idea
Mr. Greco is asking the people of Westfield to build a parking deck in the lot at the corner of Central and North Avenues. I find two problems with this location.
First, exiting onto North Avenue will be extremely difficult and increase an already bad situation. During rush hour and on Saturdays, North Avenue is badly congested. A parking deck will make it worse.
Second, no matter how you try to hide it, a parking deck is ugly. Is this the first thing we want people to see as they enter Westfield’s business district?
I suggest the lot on Elm Street and the lot on Prospect Street. They are adjoining lots and would make a good-sized parking deck. Cars would be able to exit on either street. And, if the exits were right turn only, the parking deck should have a minor impact on traffic on either street. This is also closer to the center of the business district and a shorter walk for shoppers.
Frank C. Froelich Westfield
Resident Fears Presidential Crisis To Effect Our Future Government Jitney Considered Valuable Idea;
Further Solutions Still Required Fanwood Resident Calls
For Left Turn Signals
When policemen substituted for dead traffic lights after last week’s storm, they instinctively did something the lights should do but don’t — direct traffic for left turns.
Fanwood could stand the addition of left-turn signals to the lights at Martine and North Avenues (at least for northbound traffic during commuting hours), Martine and South Avenues, and Terrill Road and South Avenue.
Ivan Berger Fanwood Local Resident Lauds
Ball Field Initiative
I am very pleased to learn that the Scotch Plains Township Council is taking the initiative to create five new ball fields over the next five years.
This is welcome news as the proportion of young people has seen a rapid increase over recent years. The number of children participating in baseball and soccer programs has put a real strain on ourexistingfields. Also,theadultleagues are very popular and puts field time at a real premium.
I would like to extend my appreciation to our Recreation Commission for working with our township government in order to set this ambitious plan into action. The volunteers on the commission have been at the forefront of this initiative, and will certainly continue their efforts to see it to its completion.
There are times that budgeting for recreational activities can take a back seat to other vital interests of the township. However, it is comforting to know that our present local government has recognized the importance of this item as it relates to the quality of life here in Scotch Plains.
With these new recreational facilities, Scotch Plains will continue to be one of the most desirable places to live, work and play.
Robert A. Guy Scotch Plains
Mountainside Democrats Critical Of Republican Decision on Forum
Not too many years ago the pastor of my church here in Westfield delivered from the pulpit a sermon in which he expressed alarm not so much, he said, at the numbers of unmarried people who confessed they are sleeping together, but at the numbers of married people who tell him they are not.
This sexual malaise, if extrapolated to the national level, goes a long way to explain the country’s current obsession with escapades in the Oval Office. For people content with their own sex lives feel no need to poke their noses into the private sexual conduct of others, least of all the President of the United States.
But I fear goings-on in Washington these past four years are setting a dangerous course for the country. And I do not refer to the President’s indiscretions.
Future presidents can expect to be stymied at every turn, as a matter of course and compliments of the political opposition, now that fanatical independent prosecutorialinvestigationhasbeen de facto institutionalized. There will be nothing to daunt the inquisition: even the president’s private parts will be fair game.
The Americanpresidency,theworld’s laughingstock, has become a modern
day equivalent of ancient Rome’s bread and circuses for the vulgar.
The effectiveness of the executive branch thus compromised, and with everything to lose, who in his right mind will aspire to our nation’s highest office? Even our icons of morality, say, Senators Alphonse D’Amato and Orin Hatch, would shy away from the job, lest skeletons in their closets be brought to light or some untruth manufactured and circulated.
It is high time now that Kenneth Starr and his hatchetmen be swept out of Washington with a good stiff broom so the President and Congress can redirect their energies, for a change, to things that matter.
Dr. Ferdinand Gajewski Westfield
I’m glad that Westfield Mayor Thomas C. Jardim is calling for the creation of a jitney, or shuttle service, to help get Westfield’s parking-deprived commuters to and from the train station and our non-driving senior citizens around town.
Commuters andseniorsdefinitelyneed helpgetting aroundWestfield.AndWestfielddesperately needslocalpublictransportation. I know that Mayor Jardim recognizes this need.
A jitney service is an essential start, but it won’t entirely meet the myriad of transportation needs within our town. What Westfield also needs is a dispatch taxi service.
When I moved here three years ago, I was amazed to learn that unless I hired an airport limousine (for a minimum cost of
at least $10 for a one mile ride), that it is impossible to hire a taxi for transportation in Westfield, to get door-to-door service to and from the train station when you don’t have a parking spot or your spouse can’t pick you up; to get to a doctor when you’re disabled or too sick to be behind the wheel yourself; to transport a non-driving babysitter and her charge; to simply get around town when you’re either too young or too old to drive, or when you just don’t have access to a car. (Or when you just don’t want to deal with the hassle of finding a place to park downtown.)
Several veteran Westfielders I’ve spoken with have told me that there used to be a successful, independently operated dispatch taxi service in town, but that it closed a few years ago.
They offered two possible reasons for the shut down: Some say certain influential residents felt that a taxi service was “seedy” and could enable “unwanted” people from other communities to travel throughout our town. Others say that the town (or the county?) suddenly raised the taxi company’s insurance requirements so high that the owner couldn’t afford to stay in business.
During the 1996 election, a town councilman/candidate actually told me it wouldn’t be safe to have a taxi service in town since taxi drivers often aren’t safe drivers. Frankly, I think being in a licensed taxi is a lot safer than having to cross some of Westfield’s treacherous streets, and it’s certainly as safe as, or safer than, walking long distances in the dark or in the rain or cold.
Other Westfield-like communities throughout the tri-state area are able to have safe, useful, affordable dispatch taxi services. Why can’t we?
I wish Mayor Jardim luck in achieving federal, state and NJ Transit funding for a local jitney or shuttle service for Westfield. And I praise him for his initiative and efforts toward that goal. But I also ask him, and our other town leaders of both political parties, to work to encourage the creation of an independently operated, properly licensed dispatch taxi service for transportation in and around Westfield.
Melissa Stanton Westfield
Once again, Mountainside Republicans have refused to participate in a candidates’ forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
This refusal prevents voters from having direct access to all their candidates seeking election to the Borough Council on Tuesday, November 3.
The Westfield Area League of Women Voters invited all Mountainside candidates to participate in a forum just like those it sponsors in Westfield and Scotch Plains to give citizens an opportunity to question candidates. We, the Democratic council candidates, accepted immediately.
But Mountainside Republicans again killed any chance for a public debate on issues by answering “no” without explanation, to the invitation. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters conducts its
forums only if all opposing parties are present.
The lack of bipartisan representation on the Borough Council is the overwhelming issue in Mountainside. Why are the ruling Republicans so obstinately against allowing taxpayers to gather together and discuss the community’s problems with Republican candidates?
Can’t they defend their record? Are they afraid of losing even a minority position on the council to an independent point of views? Is that why the publicdiscussion period at council meetings is always cut short?
Michael Krasner Steve Brociner Democratic Candidates for Mountainside Borough Council
More Letters On Page 18
United Way Fundraising Efforts Aim To Reach Programs at Local Level
The beginningoffallrepresents anumberofthings: thestart ofthenewschool year,thepoliticalcampaign season, and yes — the United Way fundraising campaign. Locally, residents will be solicited through the United FundofWestfield;the UnitedWayofPlainfield, North Plainfield, Fanwood and Scotch Plains; the United Way of Mountainside, or the United Way of Union County. The county version includes all 21 municipalities in the county, in addition to South and North Plainfield.
Thoseofus luckyenoughtohave agoodpayingjob and a comfortable home sometimes forget that many people are not so fortunate, including some residents of Union County. Unlike some fundraising groups, individuals donating to the United Way can select which agency they would like their donation earmarked for. The county United Way, for instance, has 84 member agencies. The United Fund of Westfield has 20 member agencies.
Last week, volunteers, some of whom likely donated to the United Way’s cause over the years, got to seetheirdollars atworkduringthe DayofCaring.For example,Merck& CompanyemployeesplayedJeopardy and participated in other stimulating activities with senior citizens at a facility operated by Catholic Community Services in Cranford. In Westfield, volunteers helpedpreparemealsfor theMobileMealsof Westfield program. In Scotch Plains, volunteers participated in an after school cooking project at the Jewish Community Center of Central New Jersey.
Other projects involved Merck employees doing repairs at the Washington Rock Girl Scout Council headquarters in Westfield, while some of their colleagues donated time to the Boy Scouts of America WatchungAreaCouncil inMountainside,wherethey helped paint and clean up the exterior grounds.
The United Way works to link services together to assist individuals in need. For instance, a battered woman might not only need shelter but counseling, help in locating a job, daycare for her children, and transportation.
While theUnitedWayof UnionCountychapterhas a financial campaign goal of $6.35 million this year, the United Fund of Westfield has set its goal at $615,000. The Fund services agencies which are involved in helping the handicapped — both physically and mentally — as well as those which offer family counseling or provide health care services for seniorcitizens.
We commendallthevolunteers whogivetheirtime to this fine organization, for the countless hours they putinto helpindividualsandfamilies rightinourown backyards. Despite the lofty campaign goals, the UnitedWaychaptershave alwaysreachedtheirobjectives.
Soifyou receiveacallor writtenrequestforsupport from this organization, why not take the time to read alittleabout itandpossiblysend adonation.Afterall, these dollars come right back to the local towns and the county.
Newspaper Receives Letters Claiming Partisan Phone Survey
This newspaper has received several letters from area residents who said they were contacted by telephone for an apparent political survey.
According to the letter writers, the calls were made by someone who claimed to be working with a Washington firm. The questioning moved from national issues to the Westfield Mayoral race, letter writers said.
Each letter this newspaper received — some of which were more specific than others — stated that the call quickly took on a negative tone toward Republican Councilwoman and Mayoral candidate Gail S. Vernick.
The Westfield Leader is interested in obtaining any information regarding individuals involved in this alleged survey.
Persons with pertinent information may call us at (908) 2324407, Fax (908) 232-0473, or EMail us at email@example.com