July 3, 2015

“Inside Out” Out and Out Insightful

 

4 popcorns

4 popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer

 

Directors Peter Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen’s “Inside Out,” an animated delight about the human psyche, sublimely bridges the parent-child gap and manages to be fully entertaining on several wonderfully perceptive levels. It is that rare breed of cinema that, without kowtowing compromise, plays to all groups along the age spectrum. Tapping into heartwarming wisdom and proffering universal truths, it’s charmingly indiscernible as to whether it’s a kiddy flick for grownups or vice versa. It is sure to be Meghan and Max’s entrée to seriously good filmmaking.

 

This is high concept stuff with the requisite moral lessons there for the imbibing, but happily bereft of that indoctrinating, designer label mantra too often spewed by studios looking to make lifetime customers of our offspring. None of which is to say there isn’t room here for potential spinoffs. It’s just not intimated with a sledge hammer. While it’s rather Pollyanna to truly believe it, we are nonetheless given the impression that the filmmaker’s first and foremost goal is to teach us, in its eye-popping, candy-colored way, a few vital things about the human pageant.

 

It’s all taught first-hand via the trials and tribulations of eleven-year-old Riley, voiced by Kaitlyn Dias, who must adjust to entirely new circumstances when her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. The upheaval unleashes all sorts of feelings. However, instead of just taking it on good faith that a conflux of moods and emotions are crossing swords, we are introduced to them.

 

Enchantingly realized with anthropomorphic affability, the notion of Joy, essentiality our tour guide through Riley’s subconscious, is verbalized by Amy Poehler. Naturally, the perennial optimist is inevitably at odds with Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and forever attempting to maintain some semblance of balance among Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Affectionately drawn to match their callings (i.e. – Sadness is nebbish blue), they are a funny bunch of friendly adversaries, all dedicated to what they think is best for their dear girl.

 

Hence, in whimsically detailing just how it is we come to our conclusions, choose a demeanor or decide what and what not to like, the screenwriters creatively up the ante and expand on the old mode of decision making. You know the timeworn device: the Devil perched on one shoulder, an Angel on the other, clamoring for the soul in question’s adherence. But in this sensitive primer on the conflicts and hoped for resolutions that shape our personalities, growing up is a prism of choices. It’s hard being a kid…even harder if your parents don’t realize it.

 

Now, my dog Taffy, a wirehaired mutt with a perfect black eye who jumped on the bed to console the sobbing me whenever I suffered a perceived disappointment, was fully aware of that fact. However, too many parents subscribe to the idealistic folly that childhood is a grace period, that stresses and rigors are postponed until you’re old enough to handle them: e.g.-“What do you know of trouble?” This is a convenient amnesia, for it seems easier to spoil and enable kids than to rehash the heartaches parents themselves may have suffered. I trust you concur, Dr. Spock.

 

“Inside Out” is enlightenment delivered with humor, poignant insight and just enough sadness to guarantee its honesty. It supplies that special understanding, like the first novel that spoke to you…the one that assured you that you were not alone in your feelings and alerted you to the wisdom available in literature and its first cousin, film. Riley’s five emotions, each of them sure that they alone are key to her well-being, supply a lively, witty and wonderfully inventive repartee, a delicious bantering that delivers soul-searching introspection with amusing mirth.

 

Rooting for the pre-teen to successfully navigate her life-changing challenge, they, too, are in for an awakening and a redefinition of their synergy within the group. While the allegories, metaphors and dimensional switches from one part of Riley’s ego to another are smartly abstract, the animated symbolism, doubtless taking a cue from icon/computer speak, proves amazingly accessible. I mean, if I can get it, surely youngsters eight and older will have no problem grokking its enchanting essence. If not, your five-year-old genius will gladly explain it.

 

Six and seven-year-olds, aside from being happy to be included in the outing with an older sibling, should enjoy the sheer excitement, conviviality and surrealism. Channeling Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind) — a pink, elephantine spirit reminiscent of the loveable Ed Wynn — to help solve the gal’s plight is just one of the film’s inspired connections to the inner reaches of childhood. Great ideas and cutting edge ingenuity complemented by a touching dedication to the qualms of youth make “Inside Out” a winner from top to bottom.

……

“Inside Out,” rated PG, is a Walt Disney Studios release directed by Peter Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen and stars the voices of Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith and Lewis Black. Running time: 94 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHOTOS: Robin Hood

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Observer courtesy photos The Very Merry Theatre performed ‘Robin Hood’ at the library on Tuesday. ABOVE: The audience meets the Sheriff of Nottingham

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PHOTOS: Ham radio field days

‘Ham’ radio operators Brian Machesney (left) and Paul Gayet with the Radio Amateurs of Northern Vermont club speak with another station using Morse code during the annual ARRL Field Day, a three-day event held last weekend in Williston. The group made 3,675 contacts with other hams around the country over the weekend, despite ‘remarkably poor radio conditions,’ according to club leader Mitch Stern. This year, the group asked for donations to COTS based upon the number of contacts it made. Field Day is a national event where clubs from all over the U.S. and Canada set up radio communication centers, literally in the field. The center is totally self-contained and the club brings in all the radio equipment, antennae, shelter in the form of tents and food while producing its own power from generators and batteries. The idea is that if there was a severe disaster in which all power and communications were knocked out, such as Hurricane Katrina, such stations would still allow communications in and out of stricken areas. Field Day is also a friendly competition in which stations vie for the highest number of contacts and points from these temporary stations.

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Observer photos by Al Frey

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Obituaries

DAVID C. MORENCY

David “Dave” Charles Morency, educator and beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend, died at his home in Williston on Saturday, June 27, 2015, after a brief illness. He was surrounded by his family and buoyed by the support of his much-loved sister and brother, as well as many other relatives, friends and colleagues. Dave was born in Salem, Mass., on Sept. 11, 1938, to the late Joseph and Irene Morency. He grew up in a loving extended family that included his two siblings and two cousins. He attended St. Mary’s Elementary School and St. John’s Prep High School, where he graduated in 1956. Dave was appointed to the US Naval Academy in 1957, and went on to become an officer in the United States Navy. He served with distinction on the surface ship USS Keppler (DD-765) until 1962, at which time he was interviewed and selected by Admiral Rickover to be an officer in the Nuclear Submarine program. Dave served on the USS Lafayette (SSBN-616), and then on the USS Lapon (SSN-661), a nuclear submarine on which he was a member of the commissioning crew. In later years, he enjoyed sharing stories about his naval career, including his ship’s involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis and our country’s relationship with the Russians during the Cold War. In 1969, Dave left the Navy to pursue a career in teaching. He received a Master’s degree in Mathematics at the University of Cincinnati, and began his teaching career at the University of Vermont in 1973, where he initiated an Operations Research course and taught Calculus and other undergraduate classes for many years. Dave had a genuine love of teaching, and was excited by the questioning minds of his students; he found great satisfaction in mentoring and guiding them. In addition to teaching, Dave oversaw the College of Technology Co-op Program, was involved in VMI (Vermont Math Institute) and helped to conduct the annual Math Prize Exam held by the Math Department. Dave retired from UVM in 2001, maintaining close friendships with many colleagues and students. Throughout his life, Dave was drawn to the ocean, lakes and streams. As a boy, he fished from his rowboat in Salem Harbor. Afternoons were spent swimming or playing baseball, an idyllic life for a young boy. His lifelong love of fishing and of the Red Sox developed at that time. The fishing excursions continued with his children, and then with his friends. They explored the rivers and streams of Vermont and Nova Scotia over the years, packing up fishing gear and taking well-folded maps on many quests for new fishing holes. Another passion in Dave’s life was music. His meticulously curated CD collection included everything from Brubeck to Prokofiev, and bluegrass to pop/rock. His final days were spent listening to his favorite jazz and classical pieces; even in his sleep, his fingers were moving to the music. Dave was married to his best friend and loving wife, Elinor “Ellie” (nee Bowes) for nearly 53 years. Their friendship began in elementary school, where they both sang in the boys’ and girls’ choirs. Together they raised four children in a busy, laughter-filled house. Dave was extremely proud of his children and of the caring and compassionate adults they have become. His love and pride extended to his children’s spouses and to his four grandchildren. He enjoyed being with his family, just relaxing or celebrating the important events in all their lives. Dave is survived by his wife, Ellie of Williston; son, David and wife, Tracy Drake, and their son, Eamon, of Burlington; son, Steve of Williston; daughter, Elise Minadeo and husband, John, and their children, Nick, Marisa and Dominic, of Essex; daughter, Anne and husband, Dave Mulleady, of Co. Longford, Ireland; sister, Sylvia Wahl and husband, Ted, and his children, Michelle and Wes, and their families; brother, Joseph and wife, Pauline, and their children, Liz and Joe; and cousins, Irene Sullivan and Betty Rectanus, and their families. He is also survived by many other relatives and friends. He will be greatly missed. A remembrance of Dave’s life will be held at All Souls Interfaith Gathering, 291 Bostwick Farm Rd., Shelburne, at 11 a.m. on Monday, July 6, 2015, with a reception to follow. The family wishes to thank Dr. Steven Ades and his staff at the UVM Medical Center, Dr. Zail Berry, and the nurses and staff at the VNA for their compassion and care.

ROSCOE C. STEVENSON

Roscoe C. Stevenson, 80, of Williston, died on Friday, June 26, 2015, in UVM Medical Center. He was born in Des Moines, Iowa, on Oct. 1, 1934, the son of the late Roscoe and Virginia (Higgins) Stevenson. He served two years with the U.S. Navy. Roscoe received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont and his master’s degree from St. Michael’s College, both in education. He worked for 31 years as a sixth grade math teacher for Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School in South Burlington. Roscoe is survived by his wife, Alfreda Stevenson of Williston; two sons, Kyle Stevenson of Bethesda, Md., and Derek Stevenson of Albany, N.Y.; step-daughter, Alfreda Barber of Vernon, Conn., and stepson, Tom Barber and wife, Lee, of Willimantic, Conn.; grandson, Eric Stevenson; step-grandchildren, Jeni and husband, Randy, and Joshua and wife, Alicia; step-great-grandchildren, Cadence, Evelyn, and Joslynn; sister, Mary Lou Rogers; brother, Todd Stevenson and wife, Ruth; and nephew, Tim and wife, Amanda, and their daughter, Sofia. Visiting hours were held on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at the Ready Funeral & Cremation Service Mountain View Chapel in Essex Junction. There will be no service. Burial will be at the convenience of the family in Connecticut. To send online condolences to the family please visit www.readyfuneral.com. In lieu of flowers, donations in Roscoe’s memory may be made to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, 72 E. Concord St., Suite C3, Boston, MA 02118.

What’s Cooking? Fourth of July potato salad

By Lucy McCullough

Years ago, my mother-in-law’s favorite summer event was the Fourth of July celebration.

The festivities started shortly after the parade ended. Friends and neighbors knew they were always welcome to come join the party. They usually brought something for the grill and a little something to add to the table. The kids ran free and the adults would play horseshoes while others watched and socialized. The day ended after a trip to the hilltop to watch the fireworks.

Julia always contributed her potato salad. She took most of the day (or two) preparing this special salad. I have tried over the years to take shortcuts, but find my attempts could never compare. I have, however, managed to speed up the process, but the hot potato dressing is a must do.

Potato Salad

Wash and boil white potatoes, cooking until tender. Pour off water and let cool until easily handled. Peel the potatoes and cut into bite size pieces. Dress with vinaigrette dressing (Italian dressing works well here, as well). Add chopped onions, celery. Cool and let stand covered in the refrigerator for a couple of hours (or overnight). Add mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Add chunks of hard-boiled eggs, being careful not to mash the eggs too much. Chill. Serve as is, or place on a bed of lettuce and decorate with slices of hard-boiled eggs and tomatoes.

For a red, white and blue dessert, cut up watermelon into 1-inch pieces, add blueberries and top with yogurt (French vanilla Greek yogurt is my favorite).  Sprinkle with chopped nuts.

Happy Fourth of July!

“Let’s Eat!”

Lucy McCullough and her husband, Jim, started Catamount Outdoor Family Center on the family farm in 1978 and have been operating Catamount’s B&B since 1996.

Simplified cell phones for seniors with hearing problems

By Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

Can you recommend some basic, simplified cell phones for seniors with hearing loss? My 82-year-old father needs to get a new cell phone for occasional calls or emergencies, but he needs something that’s easy to use and one that he can hear on.

Looking Around

Dear Looking,

There are several simplified cell phones on the market today that are specifically designed for seniors, or for people who just like things simple. These are basic cell phones—primarily used for talk and text—that come with big buttons, easy to navigate menus, SOS emergency buttons, enhanced sound and are hearing aid compatible, too. Here are some top options.

Senior-Friendly Phones

If your dad isn’t locked into a cell phone contract, there are three senior-friendly options to consider, all from no-contract cell phone companies.

One of best is GreatCall’s Jitterbug5 (greatcall.com, 800-918-8543). This custom designed Samsung flip phone offers a backlit keypad with big buttons, large text on a brightly colored screen, and “YES” and “NO” buttons to access the phone’s menu of options versus confusing icons.

It also offers voice dialing, a powerful speakerphone, a built-in camera and a variety of optional health and safety features like the “5Star” medical alert button that would let your dad call for help and speak to a certified agent 24/7 that could identify his location and dispatch help as needed. “Urgent Care,” which provides access to registered nurses and doctors for advice and diagnoses. Another is “GreatCall Link,” which keeps family members informed through your dad’s phone activities.

The Jitterbug5 sells for $99, with a one-time $35 activation fee, no-contract and calling plans that start at $15 per month.

If you’re looking for something a little less expensive, the Doro PhoneEasy 626, sold through Consumer Cellular (consumercellular.com, 888-345-5509), is an excellent option.

This flip phone offers a back-lit, separated keypad that can speak the numbers as you push them, which is a nice feature for seniors with vision problems. It also has a big, easy-to-read color display screen that offers large text with different color themes.

Other handy features include two speed dial buttons, shortcut buttons to text and the camera, a powerful two-way speaker phone and an ICE (in case of emergency) button on the back of the phone that will automatically dial one pre-programmed number.

The Doro 626 sells for $50 with service plans starting at $10 per month, and no long-term contract. They even offer discounts to AARP members.

Another budget-friendly cell phone you should look into is the Snapfon ezTWO for seniors (snapfon.com, 800-937-1532), which costs under $20, with a $35 activation fee, no-contract and monthly service plans that start at $10. If you don’t want the Snapfon service plan (you can go through AT&T or T-Mobile), the phone is $80.

This is a bar-style phone that provides big buttons, a color screen, enhanced volume with a speaker phone, a speaking keypad and an SOS emergency alert button on the back of the phone that can sound an alert when pushed and held down for five seconds. It then sends a text message to as many as five emergency contacts and calls those contacts in order until the call is answered. Or, for an additional $15 per month, you can subscribe to its SOS monitoring service, that will dispatch help as needed.

Shared Plan Options

If you want to get your dad a simple cell phone through your cell phone provider, most carriers still offer a few basic cell phones that are inexpensive and hearing aid compatible.

If you’re an AT&T customer, the option is the “LG A380.” For Verizon users, there’s the “Samsung Gusto 3” and “LG Revere 3.” If you’re a Sprint customer, there’s the “Kyocera Kona” and “Alcatel OneTouch Retro.” And for T-Mobile users, there’s the “LG 450.”

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Monarch butterfly population declines to dangerously low levels

Monarch butterflies are in decline nationwide, and may be approaching dangerously low levels.

 Monarchs have declined nearly 80 percent in the 21 years researchers have been monitoring their wintering populations, from a high of up to one billion butterflies in the 1990s to roughly 56 million today, according to a recent report from the Xerces Society.

But according to Mark Ferguson, a biologist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, Vermont may play an important role in the continued efforts at monarch conservation.

 “Vermont’s meadows and old fields provide habitat for milkweed, which is a critical food source for monarchs,” said Ferguson. “In contrast, increasing levels of herbicide use in large-scale agriculture in the Midwest appear to have greatly reduced the abundance of milkweed in that part of the country, which historically produced half of the monarchs in eastern North America.”

Monarchs lay eggs on milkweed and feed on milkweed as caterpillars. Most eastern monarchs overwinter at a single site in the mountains of central Mexico. According to Ferguson, monarchs need to reproduce several times during their northbound migration, and require milkweed at each of these sites.

“A monarch that leaves its wintering grounds in Mexico will never make it to Vermont,” said Ferguson. “Instead, several generations are born and die along the way, meaning that the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the monarchs leaving Mexico eventually arrive in Vermont each summer. Because monarchs need milkweed to reproduce, anything we can do in Vermont to promote this vitally important species will help monarchs thrive.”

In addition to declines in milkweed, the widespread use of a group of insecticides referred to as neonicotinoids may threaten monarch conservation. These pesticides are used on agricultural crops, and are also used in concentrated doses on home gardens, lawns and ornamental trees.

Ferguson says that there are several things that Vermonters can do to help foster healthy monarch populations.

“One of the best things people can do for monarchs is to provide milkweed for caterpillars and nectar plants for adults,” said Ferguson. “Many of the best nectar plants are actually wildflowers that grow naturally and will provide monarchs with a good source of food if left uncut during the growing season.”

Ferguson also recommends that people limit the use of insecticides and herbicides in order to allow Vermont’s residential yards, meadows, old fields and pastures to support monarchs and their habitat.

According to a recent White House report, pollinators such as monarchs contribute more than 24 billion dollars to the U.S. economy, by promoting fruits and vegetables, as well as agricultural crops like alfalfa.  Pollinators also keep forests healthy by pollinating many species of trees.

Vermont Adds Nine Species to Threatened and Endangered List

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources recently added nine species to the list of state threatened and endangered species.  The listing included four plants, three bumble bees, one amphibian and one bird.

Three pollinators were listed —the rusty-patched bumble bee, yellow-banded bumble bee and Ashton cuckoo bumble bee. Pollinators such as bees, moths, and butterflies are critically important to Vermont’s agriculture, but many are in decline nationwide.  According to a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, beekeepers reported losing 42 percent of their honeybee colonies between April 2014 and April 2015.

Vermont’s bumble bee species appear to be in decline due to a parasite infestation. Another concern for pollinator conservation is the widespread use of a group of systemic insecticides referred to as “neonicotinoids.”  These pesticides are used on agricultural crops, and are also used in concentrated doses on home gardens, lawns and ornamental trees. Several types of neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees, in addition to making them more susceptible to parasites and pathogens. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering legislation that would limit the use of these chemicals.

“Pollinators are essential to our farms and also to our meadows and wild orchards,” said Deb Markowitz, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. “Adding them to the endangered species list is only one of many steps we can take to help protect them. Additional techniques, such as integrated pest management and planting more native flowering plants are others.”

The bumble bee listings do not come with restrictions against currently legal activities such as applying pesticides in accordance with state and federal regulations, although the Secretary may notify a landowner that a permit is required in cases where one of these bumble bee species is likely present. More information on pollinators, including a list of pesticides for homeowners to avoid, is available on The Xerces Society’s website at www.xerces.org.

In addition to pollinators, the Fowler’s toad and rusty blackbird were listed as endangered in Vermont.

The Fowler’s toad is dependent on scoured sand banks along the Connecticut River, a limited habitat type in Vermont, and has always been extremely rare in Vermont.  However, the toad had been detected in the state with infrequent regularity until 2007 when the toad was last heard.

Rusty blackbird populations have declined regionally by more than 90 percent during the past five decades, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Vermont is at the southern edge of the bird’s boreal forest breeding habitat.

Four plant species were also listed as endangered in Vermont. These include the dwarf birch, tulip tree, whorled milkweed and green mountain quillwort.  These plants were previously not thought to exist in the wild in Vermont, but single specimens or single populations of all four species were found recently in the state.

“While we are delighted to have located these rare species, their endangered status reminds us that many of these plants can only survive where there is habitat to support them,” said Markowitz.  “We are fortunate in our state that Vermonters value the bees, birds and plants that enrich our experience of nature and have worked to conserve lands so that future generations might enjoy them as well. It is critical that we continue to protect not only endangered species but the places where they thrive.”

Vermont currently has 51 state -threatened and endangered animals, and 163 state-threatened and endangered plants. Three well-known birds were removed from the list in 2005 –the peregrine falcon, osprey, and common loon –following the birds’ recovery as a result of conservation efforts.

Four Redhawks earn softball kudos

Postseason honors are in for softball and four from Champlaijn Valley Union High were honored in the Metro Division coaches’ all- star selections.

Honorable mentions went to CVU’s Elizabeth Boutin, Natalie Gagnon, Browen Hopwood and Claire Potter.

—Mal Boright, Observer correspondent

Four lax champs are All-Division

Boys high school Division 1 lacrosse coaches named four members of the champion Champlain Valley Union High squad to its first and second all-star teams.

The Redhawks’ lone first team selection was veteran senior midfielder Elliott Mitchell.

Senior defenders Pat McCue and Sam Wilkins were named to the second team, along with junior attacker Matt Palmer, who scored the winning goal in the championship victory over Middlebury Union as part of a solid season.

The coaches did not name a third team or list honorable mentions.

—Mal Boright, Observer correspondent

CVU stars in Vt.-N.H. field hockey OT game

The annual Vermont-New Hampshire Twin State field hockey contest went into overtime Friday night before the Granite State girls scored the winning goal in a 4-3 win.

The game, featuring recently graduated seniors, was played at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.

On the Vermont team from Division 1 state championship finalist Champlain Valley Union High were Kathryn Asch, Sami Harvey and Lily Schmoker.

—Mal Boright, Observer correspondent