April 18, 2014

McGillicuddy’s Irish Ale House opens its doors

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McGillicuddy’s Irish Ale House owner Dave Nelson. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

“Patience is a virtue that causes no shame,” an Irish proverb states.

McGillicuddy’s Irish Ale House is finally open for business, nearly seven months after owner Dave Nelson announced plans to establish a Williston-based counterpart to his existing Irish pubs in Montpelier and Barre.

As far as Richmond resident Jim Remsen is concerned, it was well worth the wait.

“It’s cool to see it open,” Remsen said at McGillicuddy’s Oct. 10 grand opening. “There’s nothing really like it in the area.”

Located on Walnut Street in Maple Tree Place, McGillicuddy’s is a purveyor of such traditional Irish pub grub as beef stew and fish and chips, as well as the Irish and American hybrid of bangers and mashed sweet potatoes and its signature Guinness-marinated burger. Its 22 televisions are outnumbered only by its 28 beers on tap, including such draft rarities as the Oregon-brewed Henry Weinhard’s IPA and Smithwick’s—Ireland’s oldest ale.

Nelson, who used the words “comfortable” and “casual” to describe his new establishment, thinks it will attract a diverse crowd of locals and tourists. He also suggested that it will give Majestic 10 moviegoers a place to congregate after an evening show.

“I think in general, there’s a market for what we’re doing,” Nelson said. “Our place is a hang-out kind of place.”

Judging from the turnout on opening day, when every booth and table was filled by 6 p.m. and patrons milled around the fully occupied horseshoe bar, Nelson might be onto something.

“I’m amazed at how many people are here for the first night,” remarked patron Brenda Collins, between sips of Stella Artois. “It’s a very nice atmosphere in here.”

Principal thwarts school fire

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Brownell Mountain School teacher Temple Bragg with her students. (Courtesy photo)

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

National Fire Prevention Week was Oct. 7-13—except at Brownell Mountain School, where it came a week early.

On Oct. 4, the Williston Fire Department received a call that a fire had broken out in a storage closet at BMS, a one-room schoolhouse located in the basement of Williston Seventh-day Adventist Church on Vermont 2A. By the time firefighters arrived on the scene, the fire had been almost completely extinguished.

Fire Chief Ken Morton gave credit to Temple Bragg, who serves as both principal and teacher at BMS.

“She did a great job. She did what you would hope one would do,” Morton said. “She ushered the children outdoors, dialed 911, knocked the fire down with a fire extinguisher and then closed the door to the room and exited the building.”

Bragg, in turn, gave credit to her nine students.

“They were perfect. They walked right outside quietly, they all stood in line and they waited there until I told them it was clear to go in,” Bragg said. “They did an excellent job. I’m proud of them.”

Morton observed that the BMS incident is a perfect example of why fire safety and prevention training is important.

“You do the drills, you practice, so when there really is an incident or a fire, everyone doesn’t stop and wonder. They just take action, and that was proven by what happened last week,” Morton said.

Fourteen candidates vying for Vermont Senate

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Fourteen candidates are running for Chittenden County’s six seats in the Vermont Senate. The Observer provided each candidate with a brief questionnaire; responses appear below. Election Day is Nov. 6. Independent candidate Sean Selby did not return his questionnaire on time.

 

Tim Ashe

City/Town of Residence: Burlington

Profession: Project manager at Cathedral Square, an affordable senior housing organization. I’ve managed construction projects creating or renovating nearly 400 affordable apartments with combined budgets totaling more than $30 million.

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 18

Running as: Democrat

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County today? If elected, how will you address that issue?

Providing long-term, affordable health insurance and energy to residents and businesses. This year, Vermont hospital budgets have increased by a combined $101 million, while private insurance continues to soar. The health care industry is out of touch with Vermont’s economic reality. I’ll pursue reforms that provide heath insurance to every Vermonter and lower small businesses’ costs by taking a firm stance against these increases.

Federal stimulus funds spurred the deployment of solar and wind technology the past few years. Those dollars are now gone. Moving forward, we need to strike the right balance between investing in renewables and still more cost effective weatherization and electrical efficiency.

 

Philip Baruth

City/Town of Residence: Burlington

Profession: Teacher

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 20

Running as: Democrat

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County today? If elected, how will you address that issue?

We’re in the fourth year of the great Recession, and the number one issue is still jobs. On the Senate Agriculture Committee, I worked to strengthen the Sustainable Jobs Fund and to implement Farm-to-Plate—450 jobs added to the state’s food sector so far. I also helped draft the Working Lands Bill, to capitalize businesses in sectors that keep open lands open, like forestry and value-added agriculture. If reelected, I’ll continue to push for growth that leaves Vermont looking like Vermont.

 

Patrick Brown

City/Town of Residence: Burlington

Profession: Small business owner; educator

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 31

Running as: Independent

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County today? If elected, how will you address that issue? 

There are several issues facing Chittenden County today, which are of significance, e.g. affordable housing, job creation and high tuition for in-state students.

The most important issue, however, is health care. If elected to the Vermont Senate, I will be advocating for single-payer health care, but with a slide. Those who can pay more based on income should do so and those who cannot must be covered. It is similar to the coverage offered by the veteran’s administration.

 

Larkin Forney

City/Town of Residence: Milton

Profession: Self-published author

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 33

Running as: Green

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County today? If elected, how will you address that issue? 

There is a serious problem in the world, not just the country or the state. We need to make Vermont more business-friendly by reducing the business and corporate tax as well as the regulations. Eliminate the property tax. Stop being part of wars on terror, drugs, the poor. I plan to address these issues by seceding and keeping our money in Vermont. Put more money into education. There is no reason one school is less or more from one town to the next. Put philosophy, sociology, psychology and real history back in schools, not just colleges. Legalize marijuana and decriminalize all drugs to stop the cartels a little bit.

 

Sally Fox

City/Town of Residence: South Burlington

Profession: Attorney (not currently practicing)

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 36

Running as: Democrat

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County today? If elected, how will you address that issue?

The most important problem we face is the condition of the economy. Although we are better off than the rest of the country, we still have an unacceptable rate of unemployment and underemployment. People are struggling with the high costs of everything from energy to health insurance. The number of hungry children eligible for subsidized meals has increased by 30 percent.

The legislature and the administration must work with the business, education and non-profit sectors to strengthen our infrastructure, provide access to capital, institute a predictable and progressive tax policy and make a more responsive government in order to create and retain jobs in Vermont.

 

Debbie Ingram

City/Town of Residence:  Williston

Profession: Williston Selectboard member, Executive Director of a non-profit (Vermont Interfaith Action) that addresses community issues, business owner in film production

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 10

Running as: Democrat

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County today? If elected, how will you address that issue?

The most important issue is health care reform. Evidence shows a single-payer system is the most efficient, cost-effective and humane system possible. One important component is that insurance is decoupled from employment, freeing our businesses from exponential increases in premiums. Vermont is off to a good start, and I’ve been involved in mobilizing concerned citizens for reform. The next phase will require many tough decisions, including how we finance the new system. In the state senate, I will use my knowledge, experience and common sense to work with others to develop the best health care system in the nation.

 

Richard “Terry” Jeroloman

City/Town of Residence: Burlington

Profession: Retired New York lawyer

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 6

Running as: Progressive

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County today? If elected, how will you address that issue?

Single-payer health care is the most important issue. I will work to make it more inclusive, including dental work and hopefully dental implants, too. Health care should be financed with a progressive graduated income tax and I will work to make the Vermont income tax much more progressive so that the rich can begin to pay their fair share and normal people making less than $250,000 can pay less tax than they do now. To finance other state programs, I will work to decrease the property tax for homes valued at less than $500,000 and to greatly increase property tax on more valuable properties. I believe in using the tax system to redistribute the wealth.

 

Bob Kiss

City/town of residence: Burlington

Profession: Twenty-year career in non-profit administration, human services and advocacy with additional six years as a State Representative and six years as mayor of Burlington.

Years in Chittenden County: 39

Running as: Independent

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County today? If elected, how will you address that issue?

We must create sustainable economic development that builds good jobs with good pay. But, economic development can’t come at any cost—it must be balanced with values that respect and protect our environment. Successful schools, comprehensive mass transit, educational and training opportunities, affordable housing, decentralized energy solutions and accessible healthcare are the building blocks of sustainable economic development and good jobs.

As your state senator, I’ll work to create and support this infrastructure so that we can achieve sustainable development that brings and keeps good jobs in Chittenden County. This will ensure a bright future for all of us.

 

Robert Letovsky

City/town of residence: Jericho

Profession: Professor/Chairperson, Deptartment of Business Administration & Accounting at Saint Michael’s College

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 26

Running as:  Independent

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County today? If elected, how will you address that issue? 

Vermont is an amazing place to live. However, I fear that everything we value here is at risk unless we confront a major challenge facing us in the next 20 years: Vermont is the second-oldest state in the country. We are losing young Vermonters at a faster pace than ever. We must preserve Vermont’s future tax base. That means tackling the challenges facing young Vermonters, particularly the relative lack of good jobs and the high cost of living. If we don’t, how will this state pay its bills and honor its future obligations? If elected, I will work to alter the conversation in Montpelier to address this critical question.

 

Virginia “Ginny” Lyons

City/Town of Residence: Williston

Profession: College Professor

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 41

Running as: Democrat

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County today? If elected, how will you address that issue?

Cost of living is a core concern for Chittenden County residents. This stems from increased cost of fuel for homes and businesses, transportation and food. Legislation can link education and workforce development for 21st century jobs—thermal efficiency, fuel development, transportation options and farm-to-plate initiatives. Local food production saves money, enhances tourism and improves nutrition and health outcomes. Legislation can soften the blow of fuel cost increases and help people through expansion of thermal efficiency, coordination with heating assistance programs and fuel diversification. Cost savings for homes and businesses, improved comfort, economic security and job creation result. My leadership improves cost of living for Chittenden County residents.

 

Shelley Palmer

City/town of residence: Williston

Profession: Construction worker

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 17

Running as: Tea Party Independent

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County today? If elected, how will you address that issue? 

The State wants to run the health care system. This is a very bad idea. They can’t manage a 45-bed mental health facility in Waterbury. Taxing services will kill businesses and jobs. We need smaller government and less regulation so my children can afford to remain here. The largest tax increase in our state’s history is coming. If you like that, you can vote against me. We are destroying our freedoms and liberty. More taxation will not fix our problems.

 

Diane Snelling

City/Town of Residence: Hinesburg

Profession: Artist, caregiver

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 59

Running as: Republican

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County today? If elected, how will you address that issue?

Preserving and creating a healthy economy is the most important issue facing Chittenden County. We need jobs and opportunities to maintain the community we value. I will continue to work to balance the State budget and to create a regulatory environment that protects Vermont and also welcomes new business. I appreciate your past support and ask for your help in realizing a positive future for Vermont and Chittenden County

 

David Zuckerman

City/Town of Residence: Hinesburg

Profession: Vegetable and meat farmer

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 23

Running as: Progressive/Democrat

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County today? If elected, how will you address that issue?

As a small business owner for 14 years, I am aware of many challenges. The most important issue is the economy. This includes healthcare, transportation, start-up businesses and housing. Each is related to the next. We must get healthcare costs contained, access expanded and quality maintained. This will save money and allow for increased entrepreneurship and thereby increase jobs.

Through better transportation options, we will also reduce individual costs, while creating opportunities for business creation and expansion. With better economics, we can focus on building more housing, including affordable housing, which will also keep our construction sector better employed.

Board tackles ‘disappointing’ NECAP scores

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By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

The Williston School Board met Oct. 10 for the first time since the Vermont Department of Education released the results of the 2012 New England Common Assessment Program science assessments.

None of the five board members were pleased with what they saw.

Nor was Williston District Principal Walter Nardelli, who didn’t hide his displeasure in his opening remarks to the board.

“It’s simply disappointing,” Nardelli said.

While Williston Central School fourth- and eighth-graders fared better than the state averages on the science NECAPs, part of Nardelli’s disappointment stemmed from the fact that Williston students failed to repeat the year-over-year gains they demonstrated in 2011—particularly at the eighth-grade level.

In 2011, 44 percent of WCS eighth-graders scored proficient or higher on the standardized science test, compared to just 26 percent in 2010. In 2012, by contrast, they actually lost ground from the prior year, with 43 percent scoring proficient or higher.

Adding to Nardelli and the board’s discontent is the fact that the other Chittenden South Supervisory Union towns outperformed Williston. At the eighth-grade level, 73 percent of Charlotte students scored proficient or higher, compared to 57 percent for Shelburne, 54 percent for Hinesburg and 43 percent for Williston.

“Charlotte hit it out of the park,” said board member Kevin Mara. “So what are they doing that we’re not?”

Molly McClaskey, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for CSSU, responded that Charlotte Central School does “mega test prep,” and that as a smaller school it is easier for its administrators to reallocate teaching resources.

“They’re a smaller school, and they’ve done a really great job of saying (to teachers), ‘You will teach science this many times a week for this long,’” McClaskey said. “So there’s continuity across the school, and that is hard to achieve in a bigger school, where you have a lot of competing interests for student time and student instruction.”

Board member Giovanna Boggero seized upon McClaskey’s test prep comment, calling it an “incredible area of opportunity” for WCS to introduce students to the types of questions that will be asked on the NECAP assessments.

“When the rubber hits the road and they sit in front of the exam, they have never been asked questions like that,” Boggero said. “We’re literally sending the kids to the front unarmed, and that is not OK.”

She added that despite her misgivings about the standardized test process, students and teachers have no choice but to play the hand they’re dealt.

“It’s an exam that is designed to confuse a child,” Boggero said. “It’s so sad to say that, but sadly enough, we’re not going to change that in this room, so we need to do something about it and we need to prep the kids. We need to give them the tools.”

Nardelli agreed with Boggero that there needs to be increased test preparation for students.

“They should never be surprised by a type of question they’ve never seen before,” Nardelli said.

He also suggested that the school needs to do a better job of working with parents to ensure that students are properly motivated and understand the ramifications of the test results.

“We really have to make sure that parents and students know that this is very important, that these scores are going to be recorded in public and they’re a reflection on (students’) learning and the school,” Nardelli said.

Zoning change considered at South Brownell

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By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

A small sliver of land raised big questions Tuesday, as more than 20 residents filled the Town Hall meeting room for a discussion with the Williston Planning Commission about potential zoning changes in the vicinity of Williston Road (U.S. 2) and South Brownell Road.

The area in question, which is identified in the Williston Comprehensive Plan as an area “where changes to land use rules should be considered,” is designated as such because it comprises a thin peninsula of residentially zoned land in the midst of the Industrial Zoning District West.

While the town’s Comprehensive Plan doesn’t prescribe any specific course of action, the two basic alternatives are either an outright zoning change or a special overlay zoning district. The latter course of action would involve a basic adherence to the fundamental regulations of the underlying Residential Zoning District, with certain specified exceptions or prohibitions.

Although Williston Senior Planner Matt Boulanger didn’t offer a formal opinion on the matter, he ventured that if the town chooses to take action, an overlay district might be the more viable option.

“If I had to take a guess, I would guess that some sort of overlay would be a better solution than an outright zoning change,” Boulanger said. “But I’m not here to tell you that tonight. I’m here to listen and to help the Planning Commission hear what you’re saying and to answer questions about how those things happen.”

Public opinion varied among audience members on a preferred course of action, but there was a general consensus that residents in the area of South Brownell Road and Kirby Lane were the unintended victims of “transitional zoning” practices, which predated current town bylaws and which allowed commercial and industrial uses to encroach upon the residential neighborhoods. As the current Comprehensive Plan notes, “a plume of underground pollution centered along Commerce Street nearby has affected the use potential of many properties in the area.”

“It is probably, I think, the worse mistake Williston’s ever made,” said South Brownell Road resident Nancy Bates.

Opinion was split, however, on changing the area’s zoning. Some residents argued that allowing certain commercial uses in the Residential Zoning District would increase the value and resale potential of certain parcels of land. The counterargument raised by other residents is that by allowing commercial uses it would further decrease quality of life and could potentially raise property taxes in the area.

Sue Greer, whose residence adjoins a vacant parcel of land on the corner of Williston and South Brownell roads, said her property is no longer suitable for residential use and would have greater value if it were rezoned.

“I’m 66, and it’s too busy for me to live there anymore. I don’t enjoy living there,” Greer said.

Dave Messier of Kirby Lane cautioned that a zoning change could eventually spell the end of one of Williston’s oldest neighborhoods.

“Maybe the land at the Williston Road corners, with the open lots, it would be worth more as commercial, and I get that,” he said. “But once that goes, then the neighborhood next to them, their value is going to be negatively impacted directly for their retirement. So their best interest is to sell it, make some profit, and you start a domino effect.”

Boulanger closed the meeting by stressing that it represented the first step in what will be a lengthy and transparent consideration process. He also thanked residents for their input and encouraged them to spread the word about future public meetings.

“If there’s someone you know in the area who’s impacted by what we’re talking about who didn’t come tonight or couldn’t come tonight, please let them know it’s not over and it’s not a done deal,” Boulanger said. “You can be ambassadors back out to your neighborhood.”

Residents rally to save Brennan Barn

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Boy Scout Ben Cotton, left, is working on the Brennan Barn project for his eighth grade challenge at Williston Central School. (Courtesy photo)

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

A symbol of Williston’s agrarian past stands vacant by the side of Mountain View Road, its faded façade and derelict haylofts telling the tales of two centuries of evolution, like so many tree rings on a rotted oak.

Known at various junctures as Truman Barn and Kennedy Barn, the decaying structure of early 19th century vintage which guards the entrance to the Williston Community Gardens is today known as Brennan Barn. It shares its namesake with the adjacent Brennan Woods neighborhood, although the reminder of its traditional farmstead use stands in sharp contrast to the suburban modernity of Williston’s largest subdivision.

“There’s not that many old barns left,” said Williston resident Tom Hark. “And with all the development that’s going on in Williston—which is all great from an economic development standpoint—we just have a few of these treasures left in town.”

Hark, the founding president of the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and committee chairman of Williston Boy Scout Troop 692, first got wind of the dire state of Brennan Barn while chatting on the sidelines of a youth lacrosse game with Brennan Woods resident Kristen Littlefield.

Littlefield, who is leading the restoration effort, said in an interview that her decision to get involved was a case of life imitating art.

“This whole thing rolled out because I’m writing a middle grade novel, and in the story my main character saves his neighbor’s barn with a friend of his,” Littlefield said. “So because I was writing that story, I kept looking at our barn and I said, ‘If the character in my story can save a barn, I can save a barn.’”

Littlefield echoed Hark’s sentiments regarding the importance of Brennan Barn as both an artifact of Williston’s past and a counterpoint to its rapidly developing future.

“I just think the barn is a testament to Williston’s history, but it’s also a tribute to people who are trying to make it in farming right now and who are trying to make small farms work,” she said. “Saving this barn would be a nice contrast to the development that’s going on in Williston.”

Saving the barn won’t be cheap. According to a technical assistance report by consultant Jan Lewandoski, the estimated cost of the restorative measures will be upward of $100,000.

Eric Gilbertson, a field service representative with the Preservation Trust of Vermont, said he doubts that the town of Williston, which owns the barn and the surrounding land, would be willing to make a significant contribution to the restoration project. However, he noted that there are state grant monies available which could be matched through a grassroots fundraising effort.

“I think this would be pretty easy to fundraise for on a local basis. There’s lots of people who drive by that barn every day,” Gilbertson said. “I think between grants and fundraising, I don’t think the town would have to put much (money) in it, and I think that they would then have the space to use. It would be a great storage space.”

The grassroots movement is already underway. On Saturday, a group of local volunteers—including 15 Boy Scouts—spent the morning clearing brush and felling trees around the barn, so that it will dry faster (and decay more slowly) after rain showers.

The Scouts were led by Ben Cotton, who is incorporating the Brennan Barn project into his eighth grade challenge at Williston Central School.

Cotton, who noted that 25 trees were removed Saturday, said he hopes the increased visibility of the barn will encourage residents to get involved.

“You can actually see it (now), so people will actually notice it,” he said.

For more information about the Brennan Barn restoration project, contact Kristen Littlefield at 872-9987.

THIS WEEK’S POPCORN: “Looper”

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“Looper” Throws You for One

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer

 

“Looper,” writer-director Rian Johnson’s entrée into the sci-fi, fry-your-brain, time travel cinema sweepstakes, is just the dish for those who like an enigma wrapped up in an anomaly, frizzled with action and tossed with lots of perplexity. And if there’s anybody out there who can make sense of it, well, then I’ve got a country you might want to run.

 

Nonetheless, it’s fascinating stuff, built on an imaginative hypothesis that has intrigued humankind even before we could keep time. It’s about flitting back and forth in history, changing one’s destiny at the pull of a lever or by issuing an incantation. Never mind that, of all the inventions we can dream of, this is the least likely to ever be realized.

 

It’s a good thing, too. Otherwise, I might have gone back to grammar school, done better in math, passed organic chemistry in college, become a dermatologist rather than a film critic, and instead of reading this review you’d be having me clear up Junior’s acne. So this works out better, at least for you, as I most likely wouldn’t accept your insurance.

 

But if you think that’s convoluted, wait until you get a load of this premise. It is 2042 in that post apocalyptic-looking world so popularly imagined of late…junk strewn on the streets, a land of haves and have-nots (hmm). But Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Joe is making a good living, paid in silver as a hit man for the mob of the future…in 2072, to be specific.

 

You see, while time travel hasn’t been invented yet, up in 2072 it has…though the government has outlawed it save for very secret use. Of course that hasn’t deterred the wise guys of the day from utilizing it for their own skullduggery. Suffice it to note, they aren’t interested in visiting yesteryear and acing organic. Theirs is a more sinister pursuit.

 

They’ve dispatched a point man, Abe (Jeff Daniels), back to 2042, where he’s in charge of doing their laundering. He hires, manages and fires executioners who, on regular cue, extinguish folks the bad guys ship to the past. No corpus delicti, no crime. A street urchin taken in and nurtured to kill by this futuristic Fagin, Joe closes the loop…i.e. – a looper.

 

The action scenario filmmaker Johnson dusts off and plops down to power his rendition of the Brave New World is a timeworn cliché. But happily, having matured into a full-fledged actor right before our eyes, former kid star Joseph Gordon-Levitt manages to invigorate the old standard. He’s the sinner at a watershed, now turned hunted renegade.

 

The epiphany that spurs his breakaway into the treacherous unknown is a doozie, and arguably the most impossible aspect of time travel: that you and your former self could meet…maybe even share a Big Mac and fries. Yeah, I know, nothing’s impossible. But

my head aches just thinking of some pundit explaining why this might be totally possible.

 

So here’s where you come in, deciding whether or not, based on how the director proffers his theory, to lend your suspension of belief and be a participant in the fantasy. However, beware! Even if duly game, you won’t be exonerated from anguishing thoughts like, “Huh, I thought physical law says you can’t be in two places at the same time.”

 

Then again, being too reasonable might impinge on the fun factor, like the guy in my dorm who, when discussing the finer points of “The Howdy Doody Show,” opined that Clarabell the Clown was an idiot. Well, duh. Me? If this genre gets too obscure, I like to just give up and look at the pictures. But I do have a rule. There has to be consistency.

 

That is, no tacking on explanations every time the director’s imagination exceeds his logic and he paints himself into a corner. Even if the puzzle’s pieces don’t quite fit, it’s the filmic magician’s responsibility to apply just enough prestidigitation to make it seem, albeit farfetched, not out of the realm of possibility. “Looper” supplies good illusion.

 

Thus, for the film’s intents and purposes, it’s an ugly, hyper-realistic world where Joe despondently does his looping, all the time saving his ill-gained silver and studying French, hoping to somehow rise up out of his fate and one day escape to Paris. Then it occurs…the proverbial monkey wrench tossed into the gears. He must kill his future self

 

To assuage the trauma caused us by cogitating the ins and outs of the plot, Mr. Johnson conciliates with a compelling subtext: a contest of survival between old (Bruce Willis) and young Joe, replete with a meditation on life’s what ifs and second chances. I know if I had it to do again, I wouldn’t close this review with “Looper” is almost super duper.

“Looper,” rated R, is a TriStar Pictures release directed by Rian Johnson and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Bruce Willis. Running time: 118 minutes

 

PHOTOS: Chowder Challenge

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On Tap Bar and Grill in Essex Junction took top honors among both the judges and the public in the traditional chowder category at the second annual Williston Chowder Challenge on Oct. 7. The event benefitted the Williston Food Shelf. (Observer photos by Luke Baynes)


PHOTOS: Giant pumpkin weigh-off

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Massive pumpkins were weighed during the Annual Whitcomb’s Land of Pumpkins Giant Pumpkin Display/Weighoff on Oct. 7. The LeProvost family claimed the top spot with a 399.5-pound pumpkin, followed by the Erskine family. Terry Keim also brought in a 596-pound pumpkin for display. The event helped raise money for the Williston School District and continues this weekend, with 20 percent of all Williston pumpkin and  corn maze sales going to the schools. (Observer photos by Steve Mease)


PHOTOS: Freshmen football

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Champlain Valley Union steamrolled St. Johnsbury Academy 42-0 on Oct. 1. (Courtesy photos)