CYAN YELLOW MAGENTA BLACK
Letters to the Editor
POPCORN POPCORN POPCORN POPCORN POPCORN ™
By Michael S. Goldberger
Unimpeachable Oscar Picks; Surprising Predictions
OnePopcorn,Poor •TwoPopcorns,Fair •ThreePopcorns,Good •FourPopcorns,Excellent
David B. Corbin
The Westfield Leader
Member of: New Jersey Press Association National Newspaper Association Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce
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and the Township of Scotch Plains
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Michelle H. LePoidevin
The kernel of this subject is the cocoa bean, which comes from the pods of the cocoa tree. We are prepared to “spill the beans” on the development of the delicious chocolate products that are produced from them.
TheAztecword forthechocolatedrink that they made from the cocoa bean was “xocalatl,” which combined “xococ,” meaning “bitter,” and “atl,” “water.” “Xococ” is also the origin of the word “cocoa,” and accurately described this bitter, but popular, Aztec drink.
“Xocalatl,” according to chronicles of that period, was made by grinding seeds, whipping them in hot water, and flavoring the concoction with vanilla.
Columbus brought the beans back to Europe, where the Spaniards contributed to the development of modern day chocolate by adding sugar.
Later, in the 18th century, the English added milk and opened specialty houses where this sweetened xocalatl, which they anglicized to chocolate, was served.
So highly prized were the cocoa beans that they were used as a medium of exchange. To this day, “beans” is a nicknameformoney.The originofthepresent use of the word “bean” in its monetary sense,however, ispresumablytheFrench word “bien,” meaning good, which was used as a nickname for a guinea coin of the 1840s.
Andyouthought wedidn’tknowbeans about cocoa beans.
I wasn’t going to make my Oscar predictions this year. Instead, I thought I’d take advantage of Moviedom’s All-Star break to do something that was more fun, like maybe have a few teeth pulled. Or perhaps I’d do a lot of snow shoveling. I’dflytosome dismalclimewherethere’s still a goodly amount of snow and just start shovelingstrangers’driveways.The headlines in my adopted land might read:
“Good Samaritan Film Critic Snubs Oscars; Says He’d Rather Shovel Than Pick.”
And then on the night of the Academy Awards, probably comfy in the living room of some thankful family with an especially long driveway, we’d watch the show. In honor of the occasion, Sven and Sonja (my hosts) would remove the plastic from the couch. There, sitting with their children, Max and Gretl, they would dub me Swede (just like Burt Lancaster when he’s on the lam in The Killers).
With no picks in print, the pressure would be off. And with each Oscar winner announced, Sven, might speculate thusly:
“Best Original Screenplay,
Shakespeare In Love, just like what you would have guessed Swede.” Copying Dad, cute Max might add, “Best Cinematography, The Thin Red Line; that’s what you would have said, Swede.”
Perhaps little Gretl, might excitedly offer, “Best Achievement in Costume Design, Shakespeare In Love; that’s exactly what you would have said, Mr. Swede.” We would all laugh, and Sonja would freshen my hot toddy.
Of course, modesty would dictate that Ioccasionally declinesuchpositiveevaluation of my abilities, such as offering that my pick for Best Achievement in Sound would have probably been Saving Private Ryan, rather than Armageddon.
Whereupon Sonja would seize the opportunity to teach her offspring a lesson in humility: “See children. Even the Swede is humble. Yah, sure, right as rain we know he would have chosen Life Is
Beautifulas BestForeignLanguageFilm, just like the lady wearing the pink tux
edo just announced. But no, he don’t brag to us.”
To which Sven might add, “That’s right Momma. And we never judge a film critic by how good he picks the Oscar winners no how. Much more important is how good he shovels your driveway.”
Alas, this sweet fantasy was not to be. A phone call with the promise of a sure thing played to my vanity and changed my resolve. That annual holiday, the humbling of the film critic they call the Academy Awards, would not be denied.
I felt like an aging gunfighter called out for yet one more face-off to prove my manhood. Hearing of my decision, my landlady, Mrs. Shaughnessy, stopped by my room to voice her disappointment and foreboding.
Wearing a house dress, her deep blue eyes mirroring a motherly sadness, Kate Shaughnessy mustered all her strength, and in her distinctive brogue issued a mini-tirade: “You and your ilk......it’s like a sickness, the Academy Awards is. I thought for sure you’d given it up. Oh, I tell yuh, it’s a bad business, Mike. Aye, but you’re going to do it....going to pick. I see it haunting you. I’ve seen it in the eyes of all the young film critics that have stayed in this rooming house over the years. I’ve seen ‘em grow to be bitter old men. Oh, the trouble. ‘This time will be different,’ they say. But it was you I thought might be different, lad. I prayed you’d be different.” Wringing her hands, she left.
It mattered not that I always shoveled the driveway for Mrs. Shaughnessy.
And I couldn’t tell her about the phone call that changed my fate. It was from Linda Tripp, and it went like this:
Linda: Mike? That you? Look, let’s get this straight, I don’t give a rat’s gall bladder what you think of me. But this is right up your alley and I figure it might be good business to have a film critic in my corner,incasemy bookbecomesamovie. So listen. You want a sure thing on the Oscars?
Mike: Who is this? Linda: It’s Linda Tripp. Now don’t be coy. Do we have a deal?
Mike: What do you have? Linda: I have a tape, a phone conversation of the President and his friend. You know, Mike, the President is a film buff.
Mike: How do I know you’re not taping this?
Linda: Gosh Mike......don’t you think I have any loyalty?
The tape arrived the next day. It was a phone conversation that went like this:
Monica: Hi, this is Monica. Sorry I’m not in. I’m either at the mall buying a pair of patent leather pants or I’m hanging out with some lawyer guys or some groovy book publisher dudes. And we probably have this limousine like you go to the prom in. And if it’s you, Billy, get a life. I’m like moving on. Leave a message at the beep and if you’re someone who can further my career, I’ll call you back.
The President: Pick-up Monica, it’s me...Bill.TheFBI. alreadytoldmeyou’re home. I need to talk to you. It won’t wait. I just need your opinion, shuguh. I’ve got a moral dilemma, honey.
Monica: Oh, Billy Jefferson Clinton, you are so controlling. What is it? I don’t know if I should help you. But see now, Billiam,howif thingswouldhaveworked out how I could have advised you on all sorts of things....all the time. But you and all that leader of the Free World stuff. You are such a Boy Scout wuss. So what’s up? What did you do now, young man? C’mon...tell Monica.
The President: Someone got me the Oscar picks. I couldn’t wait. Am I bad? You think I’m bad?
Monica: Oh, sweetie. You’re so silly. That’s not so bad. It doesn’t change the winners. What’s the harm?
The President: Well, I owe a favor as a result. I’ll have to repay it with a cabinet post, shuguh, just like last time I did it. Am I bad?
Monica: Nah, one cabinet post doesn’t ruin a country. What do those cabinet membersdo anyway?But,curiously,who was it got a post last time?
The President: Janet Reno. Monica: Oh...no wonder. So, anyway, tell me who won best actress. Tell me, tell me.
The President: Gwyneth Paltrow, for
Shakespeare In Love.
Monica: Oh.......her. Think she’s prettier than me? Don’t answer that. Hey, I wanna win an Academy Award. Can’t you do something about that? How about my interview with Barbara Walters? Doesn’t that count for something?
The President: ‘fraid not honey. You have to be in a movie. The Academy is very strict about that.
Monica: Oh, that is so not fair. Bet if my name was Hillary you’d work it out somehow. And you call yourself a President for all the people. How about me? Billy....someone’s on call waiting...lemme put you on hold. Hello, who is it?
Kenneth Starr: Hi, Monica. It’s me. You know anything about Clinton stealing the Oscar picks? You have to tell me. You’re still under oath, you know.
Monica: Well, let’s see Kenny. It depends. Think you could help me win an Academy Award?
I’ll spare you the rest of the babble that followed. But herewith, on the highest authority, are the remaining winners, from that conversation:
Best Picture — Saving Private Ryan;
Best Actor — Roberto Benigni, Life Is
Beautiful;Best SupportingActor—Robert Duvall, A Civil Action; Best Supporting Actress — Judi Dench, Shakespeare
Saving Private Ryan.
Best Song – “When You Believe,” from The Prince of Egypt; Best Comedy Score, Mulan; Best Dramatic Score, Life Is Beautiful; Best Visual Effects — Armageddon; Best Adapted Screenplay –
Gods And Monsters; Best Editing —
Saving Private Ryan; Best Art Direction — Shakespeare In Love. Best Makeup — Shakespeare In Love; Best Sound Effects Editing — Saving Private Ryan.
BestDocumentary Feature–TheFarm: Angola, U.S.A.; Best Documentary Short Subject — Sunrise Over Tiananmen Square; Best Animated Short Film —
When Life Departs; and Best Live Action Short Film — Election Night.
Helping Our Elderly; Tell Them About SAGE
In observance of National Nutrition Month throughout March, the MealsOn-Wheelsprogram ofSAGEhelpsolder adults in the community by providing nutritionally balanced meals each day.
I wish to draw your readership’s attention to the fact that many seniors in our area do not have three balanced meals everyday because they are unable to shop or cook for themselves.
Please take a moment to think of older adults in your community. If you know of someone who might benefit by having the Meals-On-Wheels service, please tell them about SAGE.
If you would be interested in helping fight hunger in your community, please call (908) 273-5554 to find out about bringing meals to homebound older adults.
Only two hours a month can help feed a senior. This is a great activity to share with your children, a co-worker or a friend. Together we can help feed our community’s vulnerable citizens and nourish our humanity at the same time.
Donalee Snyder Director, Meals-On-Wheels
SAGE Towns May Have to Consider Consolidation
Of Services to Reduce Local Property Taxes
The tax man comes and the tax man takes it away. WithApril15rolling around,mostAmericanspretty muchknowby nowwhethertheywill havetodishout any more of their hard earned money to Uncle Sam. Inaddition tothat,localresidents willsoonlearnhow much they will have to pay in quarterly property taxes for fiscal year 1999.
A commission established by Governor Christine Todd Whitman in 1997 has found that one of the biggest problems New Jersey faces is too many taxing districts. These include 21 counties, 566 municipalities and 611 school districts, not to mention the many improvement districts such as Westfield’s, which assess downtown property owners on top of their regular tax bills.
The Commissionfoundthatthe onlywaytoreduce taxes is more efficient means of providing services. These include regionalization and consolidation as well as shared services and or mergers. These could include police and firefighters as well as teachers. Also, a joint municipal court has been proposed by the Commission as a means to reduce the municipal portion of property taxes.
To save money in county budgets, the state would assume the cost of prosecutors’ offices. Also, school elections would be moved to November to coincide with the General Election. The Commission also has urged that state law be amended to allow towns and school districts to provide a joint health insurance package.
One very interesting recommendation is the Commission’s desire to further study the prospect of enabling voters to cast tallies on all budgets that impact local property taxes. Currently, voters only decide public school district budgets. Although residents can come to public hearings to voice their opinions on municipal and county taxes, let’s face it, voting does send a stronger message to elected officials.
Our concern is that the only real room for budget cutsis incapitalimprovements,given thefactthatthe operationalsideofthe budgetcontainsmostlypolice and fire department salaries, which are all under contract.
As for this year’s property taxes, although the county portion of the property taxes will not be
known until at least next month, all three school budgets have been unveiled. While Fanwood introduced its municipal budget on March 3, Westfield’s spending plan is more or less complete.
In Westfield, the school and town portions of tax bills alone are going up 11 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Theschooltaxeswill jump$122perhome (the average assessment in town is $174,000), with thetown budgetcominginaround $51overlastyear.
Last year, the town increase of three cents was offset by a three cent decline in the county portion of tax bill. Thus the increase was six cents per $100 assessed valuation – the increase from school taxes. TheWestfieldBoardof Educationintroduceda$53.4 million budget earlier this month, a spending plan that is actually $204,000 under the 3 percent cap placed on increases in school spending by the state over 1998.
The 1999 town budget, which was still being finalized earlier this week, will be somewhere in the rangeofthe$23.6 millionpreliminaryspendingplan unveiled in January. Town Council members last week agreed to a 3 cent increase while approving another aggressive road improvement plan, parks improvementsandSunday openingsfortheWestfield Memorial Library.
Inaddition, atotalof$1.22 millionworthofPublic Works trucks and a new fire pumper are being purchased through the Union County Improvement Authority Lease Program. The first payment for that equipment will be made next year.
While Westfield struggles to keep the tax increase to a minimum, Fanwood will again deliver a flat tax levy to property owners. On the school tax side of things, a person owning a home assessed at $83,000 in the borough (the average assessment in Fanwood) will see an increase of $50, with Scotch Plains residents facing an increase of $115. The tentative $44.55 million budget has been approved by the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Board of Education.
The Mountainside school board unveiled an $8.8 million budgetlastmonthwhich keepstheamountto be raised through taxes flat at $1.64 per $100 of assessed valuation.
Silent Majority Has Been Awakened In Proposed Magnolia Gardens Plan
For 31 years I have watched in silent dismay as greedy developers gobbled up more and more of Scotch Plains. Gone are the farms, the orchards, the horses, the fruit and vegetable stands. Almost every last vestige of our connection to our rural past has been wiped away. The very things that gave this town its unique charm and character are on the endangered species list.
Evidently, however, that isn’t enough to satisfy the developers. In the past few months, we have seen plans floated for strip malls and drug stores in residential zones. And now the unbelievable abomination of “Magnolia Gardens,” a 100bed assisted living/nursing home complex that someone wants very much to plop right in the middle of an R-1 residential zone on Martine Avenue.
How could this horror even be contemplated?
Last week I attended my first ever BoardofAdjustment meeting.Iwasheartened to see that I was not alone in my opposition to the destruction of the residential character of this community. Now
that the silent majority has been awakened, we should be silent no more.
Politicians take note.
Dr. Joseph M. Felser Scotch Plains
John Sclama Celebrates Residency in Westfield
Imagine stepping onto the Giulio Cesare ship on December 28, 1958 in Italy and not knowing what awaits you at the end of the journey to America.
Forty yearsago,Idid justthat.Iwalked onto the ship with hopes, dreams and fear about what lay ahead. The boat left Italy on December 28, for what was to be an eight-day trip, but actually turned into an 11-day trip due to very rough waters.
Not knowing a word of English, I met up with family that was already settled in the Westfield area and began English classes to learn the language of my new found home. I became employed by the Westfield Public School system and have continuedtoworkthere forover30years.
I met and married Karen (Soney) and have two children, Jay and Teri, and two granddaughters, Josephine and Johna. I am the Head Custodian at the McKinley Elementary School.
John Sclama Westfield DeCamp-Moorhead
Family Members Sought by Relative
Iamthegreat, great,great,greatgranddaughter of John and Deborah De Camp, who are buried in a family “burying ground” at the intersection of Lamberts MillRoadand buttonwoodLaneinScotch Plains.
I am from Texas but was in your area last week and revisited the graves. I was thrilled to see that they are being maintained but now I am anxious to know more, especially to know if I have any living relatives in your area.
I would love to know more about the history of my family.
If anyone reading this can help me, please let me know by writing me at 5370 Prue Road, San Antonio, Texas 78240.
Linda Zuflacht (DeCamp-Moorhead)
Nebraska Students Seek Information
On New Jersey
We are fifth grade students from St. Isidore School in Columbus, Nebraska. We are doing a report on the State of New Jersey and would like help from your readers.
We would like them to send us letters, post cards, pictures and other materials about the state of New Jersey.
Please send them to: Jessica Daley and Hailee Sahs, St. Isidore School, 3821 20th Street, Columbus, NE 68601.
Thank you for your help.
Hailee Sahs Jessica Daley Columbus, Nebraska
Resident Sings Praises Of Godspell Production
What a wonderful performance of the musical Godspell on Saturday night, and I understood there were 1,100 attending on Friday night.
Stunning from beginning to end, I counted 36 performers on stage, and I’m sure there were another 36 plus in crew and support.
Director Laura Russo, Musical Director Jim Beil, Choreographer Lorinda Haver and the student cast from A to Z must be so proud with the complete production.
And the chills and enthusiasm I felt attending and watching, felt too by all, for the players found themselves having to continue through the applause.
How fortunate Westfield is to have such talented pupils, teachers, and our abundance of programs in the school system. Thank you community, parents and school students for their support, and I feel like it’s “Off to Broadway.”
The Rogers family children were positively impacted by the music programs through grade school, middle and high school over 12 years ago, and we shall never forget Jim Beil and those many musical moments.
George Rogers Westfield
Student Reacts to Budget’s Funding Of New Marching Band Uniforms
Dr. Choye’s request for $30,000 dollars to be spent out of our school’s budget for marching band uniforms is an outrage. There is no reason marching band should have $30,000 dollars handed over to them for something that is not even needed.
Not only do they want the $30,000 dollars, they also want the school budget to pay another $12,000 dollars because the original $30,000 requested doesn’t cover the full cost of their uniforms! That totals to the exorbitant sum of $42,000 of the school budget gone, spending up to $400 dollars for each uniform.
Marching band members don’t need a $400 outfit to play well. That’s a ludicrous amount of money. The current uniforms are not falling apart or worn through, these uniforms function just fine.Thepurchase ofnewuniformswould be a needless expenditure. Besides, uniforms don’t win competitions, good performances do.
Marching band will not suffer by having to wear less-than-attractive uniforms. The band members are there to play, not look good. If the current uniforms are too thin to wear during cold weather football games, as some claim, there is an option calledthermal underwear.Atleastmarching band has long pants — the cheerleaders are in skirts and they don’t complain.
The marching band needs to realize that being a tad chilly is something most people go through who attend football games, and it comes with the territory of being outside during late autumn.
If it really is essential that the marching band receives new uniforms, they can do what many clubs and sports teams do when they need money, and that is fund raise. For sports teams, as often as not, if it is felt new uniforms are necessary, the money comes from hours of fundraising and, if money is still needed, from the player’s own pockets.
The Marching band should do the same thing. If the marching band members forfeited their spring competition trip for a year or two, the money saved by that could help offset a large part of the price of new uniforms.
Inaddition totheobviousunimportance of the purchase suggested, the possibility that the money could be much better spent on other things — things that are actually needed more than stylish new band uniforms — makes the prospect of spending $42,000 of the school budget on uniforms even more ridiculous.
The money that would be spent on band uniforms, if Dr. Choye had her way, could be put towards resurfacing the track, which is worn through to pavement in many spots. The elasticity is gone and because of this, many runners
are ending up with leg injuries, such as shin splints and stress fractures, from running on the surface.
This would benefit cross country runners in the fall, the winter track team, and the spring track team, as well as many members of the community who run on the track as well. Unlike marching band uniforms, which only a small group of people will profit from, during a few months of the year, with an investment such as a new track, a larger quantity and variety of people will benefit.
Another more intelligent use of the money includes installing a water fountain by the football field, which students, coaches, and fans have been requesting for years but were told it would be too expensive to install. When compared to the cost of marching band uniforms, a water fountain hardly seems too costly.
Many members of the student body would also like to see lights put up on the football, soccer, or even baseball field, a perk many schools in New Jersey have, but Scotch Plains is somehow lacking. Speaking for the students, we like night games more than the standard day games. For some reason they are just more fun and exciting.
SinceScotch Plainsdoesn’thavelights, if students wish to see a night game, they mustdriveorarrange ridestoawaygames in other towns like Union or Elizabeth, which is a hassle. In addition to the option of Scotch Plains hosting night games, this would allow players to practice and play during the evening in the summer instead of during the stifling hot daytime, spreading the benefits off this option even more widely over the student body.
As it is plain to see, the proposed amount of money could be spent in many other ways. These other options are much more legitimately needed and beneath to a much greater number of people than the purchase of marching band uniforms.
Dr. Choye seems to have concluded that the school budget has enough money to contemplate buying new band uniforms, but can not even consider providing funding for the more general and wide spread wants and needs of the high school population. This attitude is neglectful and inconsiderate to all Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School students who are not in marching band.
For this reason, using such a large amount of money from the school budget is thoughtless and irresponsible decision, and I strongly believe the funding should be spent on more justified investments than marching band uniforms.
Alyssa Sams Sophomore Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Deadlines
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