December 21, 2014

PHOTOS: ‘Thriller’

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Observer photos by Luke Baynes

Michael Jackson impersonator Mark Fisher worked a large crowd—which left very little green visible on the Green at Maple Tree Place—at the penultimate event of the Maple Tree Place summer concert series. A quick rainstorm just prior to the show left the audience damp but undeterred.

PHOTOS: Primary election

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Observer photos by Luke Baynes

Approximately 12.5 percent of Williston’s registered voters visited the polls on primary day.

PHOTOS: Back to school

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Observer photos by Stephanie Choate 

Students headed into Allen Brook School on Wednesday, the first day of school.

“The Odd Life of Timothy Green”

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Curiously Cute

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer

 

Peter Hedges’s “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” brings to mind the oft paraphrased axiom attributed to Winston Churchill. He said, if you’re not a liberal when you’re young you have no heart, and if you’re not more conservative as you age, you have no brain. Had he lived, he might have added, if you see this film and don’t cry, you have no soul.

Yeah, that was me, 12th row left, aisle seat, rubbing my eyes, making like they were tired. But we all know the real score, occasional sap that I am for the treacly stuff. And this isn’t even a very good movie. In defense, credit Mr. Hedges and company with astutely tugging at the heartstrings, drawing us in, urging one to drop the jaded blasé act.

Told in simple flashback, Cindy and Jim Green, played by Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton, relate their strange tale to the adoption agency lady (Shohreh Aghdashloo), hoping it’ll convince her to let them have a kid. Alas, they had one, a very special one… the title character. We muse the mystery of potentially great parents, skipped by the stork.

In any case, they win the sympathetic ear of the child dispensing official in pretty much the same way that Irene Dunne and Cary Grant ingratiated Beulah Bondi in “Penny Serenade” (1941), the granddaddy of this tear-jerking genre. Except that this tale is more extraordinary than hard luck sad. The aforementioned tears are the ebullient, happy kind.

We’re delighted when, after Cindy and Jim bury a wish box full of parental dreams and sentiments in their backyard, Timothy Green pops up out of the ground like a commercial for some miracle fertilizer….an already-made boy, about 9. Now, if they can only grow the $60,000 a year to send him to college; about 35K if he goes public. Not that they care.

After the usual scene of disbelief, the reality of the dream come true lights up everything around the Green home. While Miss Garner and Mr. Edgerton hardly contribute special performances, there’s no doubting their complete and utter joy. Two people were never happier. Excuse me, sniff …. really happy. And why not? Timothy is a perfect child.

Well, nearly. Those are leaves growing out of his legs. Whatever it’s meant to symbolize, whether ecological, biblical or esoterically biological, the fantastical husbandry that yields the resultant offspring is never really elucidated. Oh, Timothy gets it alright, but, you know, it’s in that secret way only kids understand, and can’t explain.

There’s a parable or two here, or at least some attempted ones, as Cindy and Jim set out to be the perfect parents…to avoid the negative things their parents did, and emulate any and all positive examples they’ve ever held dear. Of course, the first lesson they feel compelled to impart is about being different. Natch, Timothy is a step ahead of them.

He is, after all, a natural born flower child, or rather, plant child, if you dig… as Cindy and Jim eventually do. Thus the underlying message here, propounded with the subtlety of a sledge hammer, is an amalgam of out of the mouths of babes and the child is father to the man. But there’s no magic in the delivery of the magic. It’s far too straightforward.

Adapted by director Hedges from Ahmet Zappa’s (that’s Frank’s son) story, the tone and sensibilities are familiar, yet never quite smack of their own creativity. I imagine the script stealthily retrieved from a bin near Roald Dahl’s desk, where the famed kiddy author tossed unfinished, troubled works, to be revisited if inspiration ever came calling.

Therefore, expect way too much time devoted to the same old, predictable mechanisms. For all the dreaming and fantasizing about how they wouldn’t be “those kind of parents,” the previously childless couple are soon not only keeping up with the Joneses, but trying to pass them. Jim beseeching the soccer coach to play the disinterested Timothy is pitiful.

Yep, in trying to right the wrongs his big, macho dad (David Morse) dumped on him, he was destined to repeat the injury. But our Nature Boy would much rather deliver water to the tired troops. Played with distinction by C.J. Adams, he’s about helping, connecting, and putting things in harmonious balance…a latter day poster child for neo-Hippyism.

Thus it follows that, among the pabulum-fed moralisms to be gleaned here, the idea of tolerance, at once the most divine yet the toughest to put in practice, is most notably extolled. If but an iota of that wisdom rubs of on the little sprout who drags you to the Tivoli, then surely you can forgive “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” its faults.

“The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” rated PG, is a Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release directed by Peter Hedges and stars Jennifer Garner, C.J. Adams and Joel Edgerton. Running time: 105 minutes 

Recipe Corner: Cooking with peppers

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You can sneak such veggies as tomatoes, carrots and zucchini into cakes. You can also add them to meatloaf.

 

Garden Mini Meatloaves

(from Gooseberry Patch Cookbook “Fresh from the Farmstand”)

1 cup dry breadcrumbs, divided

1 and 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (try ground pork or turkey)

1 egg

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 cup grated green, red or yellow peppers (or a combination)

1/2 a medium zucchini, grated

1/2 a sweet onion, chopped (use any onion)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

3 leaves of fresh basil, finely chopped

salt and pepper

1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese

 

Combine half the breadcrumbs and remaining ingredients, except cheese. Mix well and divide into six ungreased ramekins or bowls. Sprinkle evenly with remaining breadcrumbs. Place on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Tip and drain off any fat by holding each ramekin with spatula. Sprinkle cheese evenly over tops of meatloaves and bake another 5 minutes to melt cheese.

 

Sweet Pepper Relish

(from “Taste of the Low Country” southern cookbook)

1 each, yellow bell pepper and red bell pepper, diced

1 red onion, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh, grated ginger

Combine all ingredients in kettle and bring to a simmer. Cook about 40 minutes until thickened and reduced by 1/3 amount.

Stir frequently. Put in airtight containers and place in frig. Will keep several months. Serve with fish, chicken or pork.

 

Another use: saute chopped red and/or green peppers and onions in hot water and add to scrambled eggs, along with leftover corn from the cob. Sprinkle with cheese and serve with homemade salsa.

 

Ginger Isham lives with her husband on a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road.

Sports Roundup

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Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

Relays, football openers at CVU Saturday

The interscholastic fall sports season at Champlain Valley Union High gets underway Saturday with Coach Scott Bliss’ cross-country team playing host to the CVU Relays and Coach Jim Provost’s football team entertaining the Burlington High Seahorses.

A 10 a.m. start time is set for the relays, with the football game kicking off at 1 p.m.

The other sports teams get their campaigns underway next week. The defending Division 1 champion girls soccer team travels to Rice Memorial High on Wednesday, then has its home opener next Saturday morning against Rutland High.

The boys soccer team takes on Rice Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Essex Tournament.

The field hockey team hits the road on Wednesday for a 4 p.m. game against Colchester High. The Redhawks also have their home opener next Saturday morning against South Burlington High.

 

Principals’ Association announces new football rule

At its annual media day in Montpelier on Thursday, the Vermont Principals’ Association, which oversees the state’s interscholastic sports programs, cited a one-year experimental football rule adoption as the major new initiative heading into the fall season.

Bob Johnson, the VPA’s associate executive director, said a football point differential rule is getting a one-year trial this season.

According to the new rule, anytime a football team opens a lead of 35 points or more, running time can be mandated upon agreement of the opposing coaches. If after running time is implemented in the first three quarters and the trailing team gets closer than 35 points, the running time is halted. But once running time is established in the final quarter, the clock will continue to run.

Johnson also announced that the VPA is establishing bowling as a two-year exhibition sport this winter. Schools getting involved are for now in the central and southeast part of the state.

“This has been on the fringe for a long time,” Johnson said. “Bowling attracts students who are not in other sports.”

Johnson also discussed the VPA’s ongoing priority of student safety and called attention to the National Federation of State High School Associations website and its courses on concussions.

The VPA’s current school year calendar calls for winter sports to open tryouts and practice sessions on Nov.26. Opening games will be Dec. 8 in all sports.


NEIGHBORS NETWORK: Williston couple raises cash for cancer research

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Williston residents Kelly and Ryan Curtis will host a charity concert at Nectar's Restaurant in Burlington and a golf tournament at the Williston Golf Club the week before the Oct. 6-7 Catamount Classic lacrosse tournament in Braintree, Mass.

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

From small things, big things one day come.

Williston residents Ryan and Kelly Curtis’ original idea for the Catamount Classic lacrosse tournament was simply to have a fall event where college teams in the Northeast could scrimmage.

That all changed when Collin Shore, a junior on the Ryan Curtis-coached University of Vermont men’s lacrosse team, was diagnosed with cancer in 2007.

“We had talked about putting something small together, and then Collin was diagnosed with cancer, and we kind of watched the whole team come to grips with the reality that cancer can touch anybody at any age,” Kelly Curtis said.

Shore, whose cancer is in full remission today, began a treatment plan at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute during the winter of 2007. The following spring, he played in every UVM lacrosse game and won the 2008 Russell O. Sunderland Memorial Trophy, which is awarded annually to the UVM student-athlete who “throughout their college careers, has demonstrated a high level of athletic achievement and exemplified the qualities of character, leadership and persistence in overcoming obstacles,” according to the award description on the UVM website.

Shore also became the inspiration for the first annual Catamount Classic, subtitled “Lacrosse for a Cure,” which took place in October 2008 at Thayer Academy in Braintree, Mass.

“We had no idea what we were doing, and we had no idea what would happen from there, but we wanted to raise awareness for cancer screening and prevention for young adults,” Kelly Curtis said. “So basically, we ran the tournament and we donated $20,000 to cancer research that year, which we were just blown away by, and we just started getting bigger.”

The inaugural Catamount Classic had eight men’s teams. This year’s tournament, which is set for Oct. 6-7 at Thayer Academy, will feature nine women’s and 21 men’s squads.

Ryan Curtis noted that the charity event, which has raised nearly $130,000 over the past four years, is also a way for college lacrosse teams to get in some much-needed competitive play during the offseason.

“You’re only allowed a certain number of contests per year, per NCAA rules, but one day counts as a contest, so teams can play numerous scrimmages in one day,” he said. “So you can go out at our event and play two or three scrimmages and really get a chance to see all of your guys.”

The Curtises will also host two local events leading up to this year’s lacrosse tourney.

The Vermont Benefit Concert, scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 25 at Nectar’s Restaurant in Burlington, will feature music and karaoke from SuperSounds DJ on the ground floor and live bands upstairs. Tickets for the event, which begins at 7 p.m., are $5 for college students and $8 for adults.

The following Saturday, Sept. 29, Ryan and Kelly Curtis will be at Williston Golf Club for the “Lacrosse on the Links Golf Tournament.” At $360 per foursome, the tournament includes lunch and the chance to win prizes through closest-to-the-pin and longest drive contests.

Proceeds from the lacrosse tournament will be donated to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, while the two Vermont events will benefit the Curtises’ Inspirational Families Program, which offers VIP passes to the 2012 Catamount Classic and monetary gifts to families dealing with the effects of cancer.

“We’ve wanted to do something local for a while now,” Ryan Curtis said. “So we want to branch out a little bit and give the concert and the golf tournament a shot.”

For more information, visit www.catamountclassic.com.

Police warn of mail theft

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Williston police are investigating several reports from residents of mail stolen from mailboxes.

Anyone who suspects their mail may have been stolen—especially credit cards, checks or packages—should contact the Williston Police Department at 878-6611 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-427-8477 or 864-6666.

Police also request that residents report suspicious people or vehicles and provide a good description of the person and license plate number, if possible.

Little Details: The search is on

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By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

Change is in the air. Evenings are cooler. Days grow shorter. Geese fly overhead, singing their song of destination.

Back to school shoppers fret over what shirts, pants, jackets, shoes and pencils are likely to be in fashion this season. Teachers prep classrooms. Newly purchased sneakers navigate CVU’s manicured athletic fields as aspirant athletes compete for positions on varsity teams. Roles have been cast for the theater department’s fall production. The stage is set for a new academic year.

As the parent of a junior, the college search process has begun in slow, measured steps. We presented our daughter with a college guide soon after her return from a year abroad. Studying overseas and finding she really could survive physics “en francais” provide a broadened perspective at this significant juncture. She got a taste of independence and experienced an alternative world of learning.

College view books and websites offer a thin, highly glossed veneer of what a school is like. Course catalogues reveal tangible, nuts and bolts content. Talking with current students and alumni renders more personal perspectives.

Venturing onto a handful of campuses, we listened attentively to official “presentations” and signed up for tours. Schools tout student-teacher ratios, study abroad programs and undergraduate research opportunities. They highlight internship and graduate placement statistics, significant considerations in a wobbly economy.

Admissions staff advise prospects to take rigorous course loads, but not so rigorous that grades suffer. GPA/SAT/ACT information is tossed out. Deep involvement in select activities of genuine interest is recommended. A passionless mishmash of clubs, sports and music activities carries little water.

I was impressed by the selective university that mentioned placing as much value on holding down an after school job as playing on the tennis team. Students who work should not be penalized in the college admissions process. Both activities demonstrate initiative.

I was unimpressed by the tony school that compared itself—in an elitist sort of way—to a slightly less-tony institution in the same town. It turns out our daughter came to the exact same conclusion, on her own.

Campus tours round out the experience. We were guided in both dazed and inquisitive clusters by plucky students—adept at walking backwards—who gushed about the merits of their institutions. We visited classrooms, dining halls, dorm rooms, labs and athletic facilities.

We lingered on campus to catch the library vibe or grab lunch or a cup of coffee. We must have “the look” of a prospective family. Students approached us on more than one occasion, happy to extol the virtues of their school.

Professional experience in college admissions at a large, mid-Atlantic university reinforces my belief that students must be mindful and engaged in the college search process if they are to realize meaningful results. Taking an honest look at academic choices and what their transcript says about them is vitally important. One soon realizes the direct correlation between academic achievement and choices post high school.

Standardized tests continue to matter, although an increasing number of schools are now “test optional.” This is an important consideration for students who don’t perform well on such tests, but are nonetheless capable. Students who score exceedingly high on standardized tests but whose classroom grades pale in comparison would likely cause an admission officer to pause.

Student essays can matter immensely and deserve time, attention and discernment. They also demand a second pair of eyes—preferably not a parent—to offer an honest critique. Essays should be highly personalized, showing who the applicant is beyond dry numbers and course listings.

Letters of recommendation can make—or break—an application. While reading hundreds of letters from teachers and guidance counselors, I easily teased out the “boiler plate” (i.e., insert name here) versus impassioned epistles asking that the campus gate be opened for a particular student.

There are exceptions for students with a special talent—in athletics or music, for example—or whose families demonstrate significant development potential. There are also the legacy admits, a small but admissions-significant constituency.

Working at a Division I school, athlete admissions applications were solidly “off limits” to general admissions staff. They were segregated from the vast pool of applicants we considered in conference. Athlete applications were spirited away to the associate director of admissions, who also happened to be an ardent college sports fan. He consulted with coaches when making admissions decisions. Different rules applied. I suspect they still do.

The process can seem a little overwhelming. Parents can guide, offer support and remind their daughters and sons that there is a place for them. Lest I forget, we are also expected to help pay for this adventure in learning!

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston.  Reader comments are welcome at [email protected] or [email protected]

Library Notes

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Youth News

Congratulations, summer readers! The results are in… 236 children and teens read for a grand total of 196,500 minutes. If you missed the end of summer celebration, you may stop by the library to pick up your reading record and free book.

Back to School Movie 

“The Lorax.” Friday, Aug. 31, 3 p.m. Rated PG. 86 minutes. Based on a Dr. Seuss classic, this animated film tells the story of a grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world. Grade 1 and up. Free popcorn. Children ages 8 and younger must be accompanied by an adult while at the library.

Coming in September

Saturday music with Raphael: Sept. 15, 11 a.m.

Reading with Frosty & Friends Therapy Dogs: Tuesdays, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. (starts Sept. 18)

Pajama story time with Abby Klein: Monday, Sept. 24, 6:30 p.m.

Spanish stories and music: Friday, Sept. 28, 10:30 a.m.

Adult Programs 

Shape and Share Life Stories

Monday, Sept. 10 and 24 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Prompts trigger real life experience stories, which are crafted into engaging narratives and shared with the group. Led by Recille Hamrell.

Brown Bag Book Club 

Friday, Sept. 21 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Looking to meet others who love to discuss books? This month we will discuss “The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes. Coffee, tea, juice and dessert provided.

Think Outside the Box 

The Fascinating World of Modern Proverbs: Saturday, Sept. 22 at 1:00 p.m. Dr. Wolfgang Mieder, co-author of the new “Dictionary of Modern Proverbs,” will discuss the language, structure, length and metaphors of the proverbs of the 20th and 21st centuries.

 

New Fiction

Two brothers find themselves at the center of a murder mystery that echoes the long ago disappearance and murder of their sister in Michael Koryta’s thriller, “The Prophet.”

Lady Frances Sidney revels in her double life as Elizabeth I’s lady-in-waiting and spy, unbeknownst to her father, Sir Francis Walsingham, the queen’s spymaster, in the historical fiction “The Spymaster’s Daughter,” by Jean Westin.

 

New Nonfiction

Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard University professor, points to a particular incident within the Renaissance period—the discovery of an ancient manuscript—that he believes shaped the world as it is today in his highly acclaimed work “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern.”

“Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger,” by author and artist Ken Perenyi is the written confession of the spectacular art crimes that baffled the FBI and in which the statute of limitations has expired.

The Dorothy Alling Memorial Library is located at 21 Library Lane in Williston, and can be reached at 878-4918. www.williston.lib.vt.us