November 26, 2015

PHOTOS: Engineering Challenge

Williston Central School students participated in the school’s annual Engineering Challenge last week, building catapults for marshmallows and vessels for an egg drop, among other things.

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Heroines of Democracy

3 popcorns

3 popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer


When historical films like director Sarah Gavron’s “Suffragette” so movingly inform how brutally primitive we were not so long ago, it is decidedly chilling. Hardly more than a hundred years ago, so-called enlightened civilizations were beating up women because they wanted to vote…to represent themselves within the society where they nurtured, toiled and died. It gives me pause to wonder just how aghast future cultures may be when they study how “barbaric” we 21st Century folk were. I.e. – ‘Imagine. They made people pay for health care, food, and energy.’


In that light, it’s crazy to think that once upon a time half the Earth’s population thought it quite o.k. to disenfranchise the other half…didn’t feel guilty about it at all. Loonier yet, though they mightn’t admit it except in the company of like minds, lots of people today would be glad to see a reversion to less progressive times. It’s nutty when you consider that our species’ very survival was predicated on us becoming gregarious beings and working in consort to make the world safe for humans. Now, having arrived, many of the haves aren’t sure they want to help the have-nots.


Thus, the searing tale that “Suffragette” tells is not only instructive, but a striking reminder that such evils and ignorance, unchecked, can quickly drag us back to the primeval muck. This is pretty tough stuff, the movie’s fine performances hammering home its social importance and high-minded values.


As such, the panoply of relentless inhumane treatment unleashed on the heroines of the suffragette movement in England, circa early 20th Century, can get a bit beleaguering. I mean, these are normal folk, like your Mom, aunt Bertha or cousin Vera, treated like vermin. Equally flummoxing, as disgraceful as the depictions are, the film is only PG-13. Hmm. Check me if I’m wrong, but perhaps it’s telling that, even now, the suffering shown isn’t considered as egregious as those dirty words that earn a film its R rating.


Embodying the movement to free women from their existence as little more than serfs, Carey Mulligan exudes award-worthy skill as Maud Watts, a laundress, wife and mother who, not too unlike Sally Fields’s “Norma Rae” (1979), awakens to the realities of her ostensible servitude. The transition is slow. She’s not a firebrand. But she thinks maybe there’s a better way. Those powers that be have the gal locked into a vicious circle of poverty. Complain and the sweatshop boss, who has doubtlessly had his way with Maud since her childhood labor days, will fire her.


Added to this societal disease that afflicts and demeans our protagonist, there is a more shameful treachery afoot, an adversary within her own home. Sonny (Ben Whisaw), her husband who also works in the laundry, is hog-tied to accept this dreadfulness, not only for economic reasons, but because he’s been raised to believe that this is the way it is. In short, he knows his place. To attempt change would be improper and to invite ostracization. Never mind that they live in a hovel, barely above subsistence level. When their little son Georgie coughs, we fear the worst.


Dank and dim London landscapes serve as the backdrop for Maud’s gradual epiphany. A band of women, no more remarkable than she, march down the street proclaiming their equality. The police attack them. In another incident, attempting to bring attention to their cause, the ladies launch rocks at store windows. But if there’s a turning point in Maud’s outlook, it comes when a co-worker, scheduled to tell the plight of women before Parliament, is deemed too beat-up to appear. Unprepared and reluctant, but bravely substituting, Maud is suddenly a suffragette.


Without going into the ghastly details, suffice it to note that all the potential trepidations that could keep someone from fighting for their basic human rights evolve into terrible realities for the title character. The near medieval horror of it is unremittingly heartwrenching. We can’t help but scratch our heads and mull, ‘Only a hundred years ago…only a hundred years ago.’ Heck, witnessing this, viewers who’ve long abandoned their right to the ballot box may suddenly rejoin society and vote, even if only out of respect for these martyrs of democracy.


Bearing the social equivalent of the scarlet letter, Maud gives good old Job a run for his money. She’s all in now, and it isn’t much fun witnessing her and her comrades’ travails. So beware: The film is much more informing and educative than entertaining in the usually accepted sense of the term. It is civics class-worthy. As such, if seen it should be for all the good and noble reasons that one reads history. Solid and responsible production standards tell it like it was, with no embellishment needed to earn “Suffragette” our vote of approval.

“Suffragette,” rated PG-13, is a Focus Features release directed by Sarah Gavron and stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne-Marie Duff. Running time: 106 minutes


Red Cross shares Thanksgiving safety tips

Millions of people will travel to spend their Thanksgiving holiday with loved ones, and the American Red Cross has steps they can follow to help make sure they have a safe trip. [Read more…]

Police will be on the road this holiday weekend

Vermont State Police will be participating in the national “Click It or Ticket” campaign; as well as Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) from Nov. 25 to 29.
So far this year, Vermont has seen 48 traffic fatalities.
By using high visibility enforcement coupled with education, police will promote responsible driving on Vermont highways during the upcoming weekend and throughout the holiday season. [Read more…]

Day of disc fun

Ellen Arapakos, Brett Tofel and Ever Tofel, 12, play disc golf Saturday, taking advantage of the recently completed course at the Williston Community Park.

Frisbee Golf_012 21Nov15 [Read more…]

Neighbors helping neighbors

Williston residents and locals from nearby towns came together to make sure local food shelves had enough food for the Thanksgiving holiday.

 Judy Whitman of Williston drops off a turkey at the Williston Fire Department. The department collected turkeys Saturday for the Williston Community Food Shelf. (Observer photo by Al Frey)

Judy Whitman of Williston drops off a turkey at the Williston Fire Department. The department collected turkeys Saturday for the Williston Community Food Shelf. (Observer photo by Al Frey)

[Read more…]

REGION & STATE: Vermonters’ views on Syrian refugees get political

Elizabeth Nikazmerad chants at a Statehouse rally in support of accepting refugees from Syria. (Photo by Jasper Craven/VTDigger)

Elizabeth Nikazmerad chants at a Statehouse rally in support of accepting refugees from Syria. (Photo by Jasper Craven/VTDigger)

By Jasper Craven
For Vermont Digger
Protesters on the Statehouse lawn clashed Friday over whether Syrian refugees should continue to be allowed in the state amid concerns following the Paris attacks that terrorists could take advantage of refugee policies to carry out an assault on American soil.
More than 30 organizers gathered on one side of the lawn in support of refugee resettlement programs, carrying signs and chanting slogans. On the other side of the lawn was a smaller group of protesters—around seven—who were against Syrian refugee policies.
“Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” Elizabeth Nikazmerad, 25, of Burlington, shouted into a megaphone, leading the chant.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

Farmers subject to new clean water rules

By Mike Polhamus
For Vermont Digger
Harold Deering and his father raise just under 200 dairy cows on one of about 2,500 small farms that must comply with new rules the state is drafting to protect Vermont’s water bodies from excess phosphorus.
Joining nearly 100 other farmers gathered in Middlebury on Thursday to review the new rules, Deering said he and his father had been preparing for them for years.
Like several others at the meeting, Deering said he hopes Vermonters understand that farmers want clean water as much as anyone else.
“The public needs to know that we’re out—the farmers—are out not to add it to the lake, they’re already trying to keep it contained and monitored in levels that benefit them the most, because it is beneficial to everybody to keep it in the soil, in the crops, to help grow your dairy cows, to make milk, to make vegetables,” he said. “We’re not just out there dumping it into the lake.”

To read the rest of the story, click here.

Academic Honors

F. Gregory Gause

F. Gregory Gause

Williston native receives white coat
Williston native F. Gregory Gause was among members of the University of Vermont College of Medicine’s Class of 2019 who received their first white doctors’ coats at the school’s annual White Coat Ceremony on Oct. 23. [Read more…]

Library Notes

All programs are free. Call 878-4918 for information or to register. Children ages 8 and younger must be accompanied by an adult while at the library. You can find more information at


For Kids and Adults
Winter Holidays Party
Saturday, Dec. 5 at 10:30 a.m. Kids can make a gingerbread house or other holiday crafts. Adults can help us decorate the library for the winter holidays while listening to strolling musicians. Sponsored by the Friends of the Library. Pre-register children for gingerbread houses. [Read more…]