March 19, 2019

PHOTOS: Freshman football

The Champlain Valley Union High’s freshman football team won 12-6 on Oct. 17. (Courtesy photos by Bill Knight)

THIS WEEK’S POPCORN: ‘Frankenweenie’

“Frankenweenie:” Total Tail Wagger

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer


“Frankenweenie,” Tim Burton’s animated, stop action reimagining of the classic Mary Shelley horror tale Hollywood brought to life in 1931 is wonderfully nutty. Part parody, part paean, and delivered in era-emulative black and white, it heartily basks us in the eerie legend while taking the occasion to make a contemporary social comment or two.

As he lovingly dips back into his cartoon/artistic roots at Disney, it occurs that director Burton is the Fellini of animation, his grotesque, circus-like characters readily evincing philosophic notes on the perennially wacky state of things. Still, trust that it is ultimately optimistic, even if its only half-kidding delivery sears with ominous incantations.

Here, taking advantage of a broadening, more enlightened view of what kids should or should not see, he makes the Frankenstein metaphor even more approachable whilst also upping the ante on the traditional boy and his dog story. And you don’t need the scientific acumen of a Dr. Frankenstein to plumb the witty criticisms on bullying and peer pressure.

So sit back and meet little Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) and his, uh, typically American family, denizens of New Holland, Somewhere or Other, living in the late ‘50’s or early 1960s. The sneering, poetic vagueness of the nonetheless familiar time and place heightens the acerbic observations with passionately seriocomic whimsy.

Making it a point to inform that Victor has no friends increases the dramatic importance of the grade school loner’s relationship with his pup, Sparky, a pointy-nosed bull terrier of sorts who stars in his master’s home movies, not unlike the filmmaker’s actual history.  Well, we know it’s coming…a kid’s worst nightmare. Sparky chases a ball into the street.

Even if you were lucky enough as a child to avoid the despondency that then rains down and engulfs Victor, you can’t help but emote. But then, this is a movie, and a PG-rated one at that, the Burton signature notwithstanding. Backtrack a bit and Victor is being inspired by his science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski. A light bulb goes on above his head.

Until now, Victor hadn’t quite decided what his project would be for the much heralded Science Competition announced by the controversial Eastern European educator, mistrusted by the bulk of New Holland’s Babbitts. Now, it’s a no-brainer. Turning his attic into the proverbial mad scientist’s lab, he begins his work…to resurrect Sparky.

The sociology is spot on, Martin Landau urgently, intelligently voicing the ostracized Rzykruski, heretofore the only human who speaks to Victor’s sensibilities. Press your cheek to truth and purity, the besieged iconoclast exhorts as he packs the trunk of his tiny, character-correct foreign car. Now more than ever, Victor is alone. He must succeed.

What particularly delights, aside from the screwball fancifulness of the filmmaker’s comic homage, is the apparent fun he’s having whilst unloading ideas he’s doubtless wanted to frame in one piece de resistance. Harking back to themes he nurtured in his formative years, he puts them all together in a loving, biographically sensitive giambotta.

It makes no difference, for example, that Tod Browning’s “Dracula” (1931) is but a genre cousin to this variation on director James Whale’s 1931 adaptation of Mrs. Shelley’s irreverent reverie. He gleefully tosses in several cues just the same: i.e. —Victor’s cute neighbor is Elsa Van Helsing, as in Dr. Van Helsing, the vampire expert.


The cross-pollination is then further synergized as Burton turns the intolerant burghers of his source material into stereotypical suburban types, and with frighteningly little effort at that. Rather ingeniously, as aficionados of the lore will attest, he realizes his lampoon in terms that would still make it recognizable to Mary Shelley, just in case, y’know.

But beware, parents who feel it’s high time Tyler and Brittany saw their first horror flick. Cartoon or not, there are some scary scenes, borne out by the mortified toddlers the two daddies to my left dragged to the theater. Unhappy that they merely lacked judgment, by not removing the hysterical waifs the Neanderthals also proved they were inconsiderate.

That dutifully noted, tots north of 8 should be heartened to learn that Victor must deal with the same jerky classmates and status issues that they do while seeking a safe, ego-pleasing niche in a world fraught with ambiguity and fears, Franken monster or not. They might also relate to albeit loving parents who don’t always know what’s good for Victor.

But most profound is how Burton again embraces the ghoulish and bizarre as a vehicle to understanding. Combine that with superb verbalizations by Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara, plus black and white imagery often suitable for framing, and “Frankenweenie” introduces yet another generation to the sheer joy of intoning, “It’s alive, it’s alive!”

“Frankenweenie,” rated PG, is a Walt Disney Pictures release directed by Tim Burton and stars the voices of Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara and Charlie Tahan. Running time: 87 minutes


The Vermont International Film Festival announces 2012 winners

Deb Ellis, President of the Vermont International Film Festival (VTIFF) Board of Directors , has announced the winners of the festival’s 2012 Vermont Filmmakers’ Showcase. The Showcase is the largest juried selection of Vermont-made films and has been an audience favorite of the 27-year-old festival.

This year’s winners include:

Winner of the Ben & Jerry’s Award—Mira Niagolova, “Welcome to Vermont”

Winner of the James Goldstone Award—Matt Day, “Shape of Things to Come”

Winner of the Footage Farm Award—Alison Segar, “We Have to Talk About Hunger”

Winner, Best Cinematography—Michael Fisher, “Stations”

Winner, Best Screenlay—John Milton Oliver, “Steel Rendezvous”

Winner, Best Acting—Dan Butler, “Steel Rendezvous”

All of the winning films will be screened on Sunday, Oct. 28, the final day of the festival. The award for the Audience Favorite will also be announced at the end of the festival after the results of the ballots are tallied.

“We are so thrilled to present these awards to these talented Vermont filmmakers,” said Deb Ellis. “The festival has been committed to supporting filmmaking in Vermont and we are proud to acknowledge their efforts.”

VTIFF is Vermont’s longest-running film festival and this year marks its 27th year. The 2012 Vermont International Film Festival will run through Sunday, Oct. 28, in Essex and at multiple venues in downtown Burlington.

—Observer staff report

RECIPE CORNER: Breakfast foods

By Ginger Isham

I make more than one kind of granola and always use a dark maple syrup for the sweetener. Some time ago I came across this recipe in a small, religious book called “Angels on Earth.”

It makes a smaller batch and takes less time to bake. You can adjust ingredients.


Hearty, Healthy Breakfast Granola

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup honey (of course I use maple syrup)

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups rolled oats

3/4 cup wheat germ

1 cup coconut (I use unsweetened, flaked)

1 cup chopped walnuts (can use any nut)

1/2 cup bran

2 tablespoons cinnamon (I use less)

Mix oil, vanilla and honey in a 9 x 13 baking pan (I warm these ingredients on stovetop). Mix dry ingredients and fold into honey mixture. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, then stir and continue baking for 15 more minutes.


New Favorite—Baked Donut Holes

In a mixing bowl, combine the following:

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2/3 cup brown sugar (I use a scant 1/2 cup)

In another bowl combine :

1 egg

1/2 cup applesauce  (I make my own unsweetened)

1/3 cup apple cider

1/3 cup dark maple syrup (may substitute honey?)

1/3 cup plain yogurt

3 tablespoons oil (canola or light olive oil)

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until well blended. Using a teaspoon, drop batter into greased mini-muffin pans. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees. Makes 3 and 1/2 dozen. When cooled, dip in a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Delicious!


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

Keeping kids safe for Halloween

Observer staff report 


As kids perfect their costumes and get ready to go trick-or-treating, the American Red Cross has tips to make Oct. 31 a fun and safe Halloween.

“Halloween is a fun time, especially for the little ones,” said Doug Bishop, Director of Communications with the Vermont & New Hampshire Upper Valley American Red Cross.  “The Red Cross has steps everyone can take to make sure their Halloween is also a safe one.”



There are steps parents can take to keep their little ghosts and goblins safe in their disguises:

Add reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags.

Use flame-resistant costumes.

Use face makeup instead of masks, which can cover their eyes and make it hard to see.



To maximize safety for the trick-or-treaters, plan a route ahead of time. Make sure adults know where children are going. If the children are young, a parent or responsible adult should accompany them as they walk through the neighborhood.

Here are more safety tips to follow as children go from house to house:

Make sure trick-or-treaters have a flashlight.

Visit only the homes that have a porch light on. Accept treats at the door—never go inside.

Walk only on the sidewalks, not in the street. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic.

Look both ways before crossing the street, and cross only at the corner.

Don’t cut across yards or use alleys. Don’t cross between parked cars.

Be cautious around strange animals, especially dogs.



For those who expect to welcome trick-or-treaters at their door, they can make sure it’s fun for everyone by following a few tips:

Make sure the outdoor lights are on.

Sweep leaves from sidewalks and steps.

Clear the porch or front yard of any obstacles that a child could trip over.

Restrain pets.

Use a glow stick instead of a candle in jack-o-lanterns to avoid a fire hazard.

CVU soccer teams strong playoff contenders

The Champlain Valley Union High School soccer teams each nabbed the number two seed in playoff rankings after strong performances all season.

Playoff games began on Tuesday, and each team is slated to play again this weekend.

On the boys side, a 12-1-1 record brought them just under Middlebury Union High School’s 12-1-0 season. The Redhawks’ only loss was a surprise defeat by Harwood Union High School on Sept. 21, and the lone tie came early in the season against Burlington. The Redhawks have beaten both teams in other matches.

In its last regular season game, the CVU boys team beat South Burlington 7-0—its ninth shutout of the season.

On Tuesday, the Redhawks played 15th-seeded North Country on the home CVU field, and earned another shutout with a 6-0 victory.  On Friday at 3 p.m. the team is set to play seventh-seeded Mount Mansfield Union High School. If the Redhawks win that game, the will play in the semi-final round on Tuesday (3 p.m.) against the winner of the Colchester High (third seed) and Essex High (11th seed) game.

The CVU girls also earned the second seed with their 12-1-1 record. The Redhawks were edged out by Essex High School for the top slot, which holds a 13-0-1 record. CVU’s loss and tie both came against Essex, the first in overtime on Sept. 19 and the second on Oct. 5.

On Oct. 17, the Redhawks defeated South Burlington 1-0. In their last regular season game, they beat Burlington High School 3-1.

The CVU girls team played its first playoff game against 15th-seeded Brattleboro Union High School on Wednesday, after the Observer’s press deadline. Barring a major upset, the girls team will play again on Saturday at 1 p.m. against the winner of Wednesday’s Burr & Burton Academy (seventh seed) vs. South Burlington High School (10th seed) game. The semi-final match is set for Oct. 31 at 3 p.m.

For more sports pairings, visit

—Stephanie Choate,
Observer staff

Sports Roundup: field hockey; football

Field hockey in quarterfinals Friday

The Champlain Valley Union High School field hockey team will face off against second-seeded Essex High School on Friday at 3:30 p.m.

On Tuesday, the Redhawks—seeded at number seven with a 6-6-2 record—won their first playoff game against 10th-seeded Colchester High School.

If the Redhakws win Friday’s gam—set for 3:30 p.m. at Essex—they will head to the semifinal match on Tuesday.

On Oct. 18, CVU narrowly lost its last regular season game against Burlington 0-1.

—Observer staff report


Football heads to BFA-St. Albans

The Champlain Valley Union High School football team will head to Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans on Friday night for its first round of playoff games.

The last time the two teams met, BFA defeated the Redhawks 14-28, though many of CVU’s key players sat that game out due to injuries.

On Oct. 19, the Middlebury High School defeated the CVU 7-35 in the last game of the regular season. The Redhawks finished with a record of 5-3.

—Observer staff report

Changes sought in CVU’s animal dissection policy

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Champlain Valley Union High School’s dissection policy came into the limelight during the board’s Oct. 10 meeting.

Shelburne resident Sharon MacNair, president of Green Mountain Animal Defenders, a nonprofit dedicated to animal welfare, said her volunteer efforts with students working on animal treatment issues for their CVU graduation challenges—including the school’s dissection policy—spurred her involvement.

“They really do open up to me about a lot of these issues,” she said.

While teachers have always allowed students to opt out of dissections, many still feel pressure to participate, MacNair added.

Vermont Law School student Michelle Sinnott said Green Mountain Animal Defender’s goal is to see CVU establish a policy of using digital alternatives, including free programs that allow students to virtually dissect animals.

“I think we can all agree that using alternatives is more humane, and we can all agree that the cost benefits are there,” she said, adding that the only question is whether the alternatives compare to traditional method of dissection.

“These models can accomplish (the school’s) goals just as effectively and a lot of the time more effectively than a traditional dissection lab,” Sinnott said.

Principal Sean McMannon said CVU follows the model policy provided by the state, which allows educators to decide whether to include dissections in the curriculum, and gives students the ability to opt out and use virtual tools. In the past, students at CVU have dissected frogs, cats and earthworms.

McMannon noted that there is no consensus among the science department or students on the value of dissections. Some students are opposed, while others have said it was the best learning experience they’ve had.

“At this point, I guess the position from the administrative side and from the science department would be that we are satisfied with the policy we have in front of us,” McMannon said. “Administratively, I feel comfortable with the science teachers making that decision within the policy.”

Although the board did not make a decision and will discuss the policy again when it hears a report from the school’s science department in February, board member Jeanne Jensen weighed in on the issue.

“With the level of computer graphics nowadays, I’m finding it hard to believe you actually need to dissect a cat,” Jensen said.

“If not specifically (required), I’m having trouble thinking why I would put kids through that … I can’t see how it’s really adding to their body of knowledge, it’s just how we’ve always done it.”


Casey Lee and Jennifer Russ

Mr. and Mrs. William Russ of Williston are pleased to announce the engagement of their daughter, Jennifer to Casey Lee, son of Shanon and Karen Lee of Hinesburg. Jennifer and Casey are both 2007 graduates of CVU and 2011 graduates of SUNY Plattsburgh. Jennifer is working at Revision Military in Essex and Casey is working at Parisi Speed School in Williston. An early 2014 wedding is planned.



Danial and Anna (Luksza) Ardesh welcomed twin sons Bejamin Danial and Samuel Danial on Sept. 22, 2012.

LITTLE DETAILS: What’s a young, ambitious person to do?

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

“You’re studying history?” someone would say with just a bit of disdain. “What are you going to do with that?”

I grew accustomed to defending my chosen college major amid a sea of skeptics. Family members and coworkers questioned the relevance of my studies. They saw little value in delving deeply into the past. I viewed history as a window to the future—my future.

Research, writing and reading voluminous tomes—teasing out the most important ideas—stretched my brain in new and intriguing ways. Class discussions fostered critical thinking, forcing considerations of how human nature impacts struggles for power.

Ancient Greece, the Crusades, the Hundred Years’ War, the American and French Revolutions and the World Wars all provided crucial perspective. I discovered a lens through which I viewed contemporary issues. Esoteric majors demand strategic thinking whether one pursues “door openers” in the form of career-related internships or heads to graduate school for an advanced degree. I chose the latter, earning a Master’s in public administration.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment stands at 7.8 percent.  Many newly-minted college graduates, even those with seemingly “marketable” degrees, find themselves saddled with significant debt and less-than-idyllic job prospects. We’ve all read about highly educated baristas churning out lattes at Starbucks and living at home (again) while scraping together funds to meet student loan payments.

What’s a young, ambitious person to do? Do the old adages apply? What about the Puritan ethic—hard work, thrift and sobriety—I learned about in college history class? Does that formula work today? Where do luck, connections and plain old serendipity fall into the equation of a profitable—or at least self-sustaining—vocation?

National media seems to have seized on this particular issue. It’s a particularly hot-button topic in an election year. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce ( released a 2011 study entitled “College Majors with the Lowest Unemployment Rates. Interested in knowing what made the list? They are, in no particular order: pharmacology, engineering, science, actuarial science, educational administration, school student counseling, astronomy and astrophysics, agricultural economics, medical technology, atmospheric sciences and meteorology, environmental engineering, nursing/nurse practitioners and nuclear industrial radiology.

It is incumbent on a young, ambitious person to be thoughtful and strategic in his or her choice of studies.

I recently asked my daughter’s friend, a high school junior, what he was most interested in learning about. His reply surprised me and left me pondering.

“If you were asking me what I was most passionate about, I’d say it was music and philosophy.” (He’s an accomplished musician and a deep thinker.) “But, I happen to be really good at math and science so I’ll probably study something related.” For him, the choice is eased by the fact that he is capable across areas.

I concluded in high school that a pharmacy degree was not likely in my future—despite faithful attendance at Mr. Nagle’s Tuesday afternoon chemistry help sessions.

I then think of a friend who studied engineering because that was what her father—who paid her college tuition—“allowed” her to study. Her heart was never in it. She worked at a firm briefly, got married and never returned to the field.

Applying strategy to one’s career and educational choices is crucial in a global marketplace. What point is there investing blood, sweat and tears into a degree destined for offshoring to India? That said, I feel equally strongly that if a young person is truly, TRULY passionate about a chosen field—however esoteric or far-fetched—they should give it a shot. If their dream to become an astronaut or a Broadway star doesn’t pan out, there’s always an opportunity to re-invent.

I sense that my daughter’s friend will become a scientist, a musical and deeply philosophical scientist.

Howard Thurman (1899-1981), an educator, theologian and civil rights activist, offered these pearls of wisdom:

“To ask what the world needs is the wrong question. Ask what makes you come alive. Then go and do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”

So, what did I do with that history degree? I’ve worked in higher education, the correctional system and civil rights. I’ve drafted legislation and served as a consumer advocate. Today, I raise funds for a nonprofit for at-risk youth. I even do a little writing. Thanks for reading.


Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston.  Reader comments are welcome at or