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For several months, our 16-year-old neighbor Dan O’Shaughnessy has been crafting a magnificent 500 tap sugaring operation in the woods on and adjacent to our little 3 acree homestead property – historically, a rich area full of maples ripe for tapping. Two weeks ago, the sugaring began in earnest, and Dan has already collected more than 2,000 gallons of sap, boiling off the excess for more than fifty gallons of the sweet stuff.
It is a wonderful success story – Dan is a focused and hard-working young dude with a vision, he’s had plenty of support from a whole extended family and community here in Mad River, and even the Harwood Union High School up the road a few miles is giving him some academic credit for his work after school out in the land.
In a praiseworthy article, the New York Post just celebrated our local sugarmakers, in a recent article about "Sugaring," profiling both Dave and Paul Hartshorn and Dan’s operations. It’s sugaring time! Here’s a quick 6 minute look at Dan’s whole operation…
What can a Vermonter possibly do, when confronted with the AIG bonus scandal, global economic meltdown, and the uniquely dirty pleasure that is mud season?
Escape to the movies, of course.
And, in the “art mirrors life” department, there is no finer new movie than director Tony Gilroy’s “Duplicity.” This fun if flawed film marks a revival of the old “couples caper” genre (think Hepburn and Grant) and features two of Hollywood’s most bankable stars – Julia Roberts and Clive Owen – surrounded by a scene-stealing supporting cast.
In a nutshell – Ray Koval (Owen) and Claire Stenwick (Roberts) are two retired intelligence agents who’ve transferred their skills to the world of corporate espionage. The game – competing (or are they cooperating?) to steal secret data for a new and stunningly profitable product (a substance that cures male pattern baldness – no joke) while playing off two rival corporations against one another. Veteran actors Paul Giamatti (of “John Adams” fame) and Tom Wilkinson (“Michael Collins”) fill out the film as the antagonistic CEOs of the two rival corporations, and the movie’s opening, featuring a “slow mo” airport tarmac scene in which the two execs try to beat the snot out of each other – is (almost) worth the price of admission.
Back to the game. The film is told in a series of flashbacks shot in exotic locations – Dubai, London, Rome, New York, and, um, Cleveland – moments in which corporate spies Ray and Claire rendezvous for logistical strategizing and sexual refueling. The fun comes when we quickly learn that neither one of them entirely trusts the other to hold to their agreed-upon evolving plan. Each rendezvous scene is a variation on the same theme, in which the two characters repeat lines of similar banter, verbally joust with one another, and then hop in the sack…or don’t. Are they working together? Will one double-cross the other? How will the story end?
There are two problems with the film, one small, the other not so much. The first comes in the film’s climax – after close to two hours of “cat and mouse” fun, the script throws the audience a giant curve ball – which sucks the wind out of the story faster than you can say “AIG bailout scam.” I won’t ruin it for you here, other than to say, in art as well as life, one corporation emerges as the ultimate victor uber alles.
The second and much bigger problem is the almost complete lack of frisson between Roberts and Owen, odd for such two physically attractive and gifted actors. Roberts, who looks a bit tired on camera, goes through the motions of playing the part of the sexy double agent, but never really lights up the screen, even when engaged in amorous acts with Mr. Owen. There is a moment at film’s midpoint when, in one very brief scene, she slips into “Mystic Pizza/Pretty Woman” mode – bright eyed, with her dazzling smile, and I was reminded of just how winsome a character she can play. And anyone who has seen “Erin Brokovich” knows how good a dramatic actress she can be. The problem here seems to be direction – she never really “inhabits” her character, and fifteen minutes into the film, I gave up on her.
Owen, meanwhile, looks good in a suit and designer sunglasses, but delivers most of his lines with the assuredness of someone who has just walked onto the set from a somewhat frustrating chess match not sure if he won or not. Maybe this is the point in a caper film, but the results, when combined with Ms. Roberts’ lack of engagement, are, well, disengaging.
As a story that illuminates the high-stakes cutthroat world of corporate espionage, “Duplicity” has tremendous potential, and there are moments of celluloid magic, scenes involving supporting actors Giamatti and Wilkinson. But as a “couples caper” film, it feels flat.
Maybe, in part, this is because in art, as well in real life, duplicitous corporations are having their way with us at the moment, and it doesn’t feel all that good.
The compelling documentary, Garbage: The Revolution Starts At Home, will be shown for free on April 16th, 7 pm at the Barre Opera House. In addition, the Greenpeace’s Rolling Sunlight solar demonstration truck will be in Barre throughout the day on the 16th.
What if you had to live with every scrap of trash, pollution, and waste you created? Would you find uses for the garbage of your life, or be overwhelmed by it? Find out how one family lived with every scrap of garbage they created for three months, at a special FREE screening of “Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home,” presented by Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District, the Agency of Natural Resources, and Community for a Greater Barre. This powerful documentary skillfully and succinctly puts all the information in one place – from melting glaciers and oil slicks to our neighborhoods and into our homes – so anyone can connect the dots between our daily actions and the reactions that affect us and our planet.
The event will also feature a visit from the Greenpeace’s Rolling Sunlight solar demonstration truck. The Sunlight carries a bank of working solar panels that will power an educational activity for area school kids following an early matinee showing of the film and will store the extra power in batteries to power coffee makers and other appliances to serve refreshments for evening showing attendees.
The Sunlight will be touring Vermont all April as part of Greenpeace’s local work to support the development of renewable energy in Vermont, and the on-time closure of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant in 2012.
Valley Walk n’ Roll Festival
(Hereby abbreviated to “VWn’RF”)
March 12, 2009 at the Big Picture
Coffee, scones, and oatmeal!
Planning and discussion about events to happen over the course of VWn’RF:
Bike swap (now confirmed) will be on 9th in support of the Health Center. Byways events will be later the same day.
Bike safety training will take place in Barre April 16. Dara asked if Dave would like to represent Valley Moves and be trained. Dave said sure.
Laura is going to check when May Day in Waitsfield is happening.
Dave Cain & Jeremy Gully are going to present a Bicycling Commuter workshop on Tuesday May 12.
Audrey Huffman is going to redo our poster for this year.
Dave will look into doing a Facebook event for the VWn’RF
Bobbi is going to be in touch with Steve Gladchuzk (Way to Go) and Lisa Loomis (Valley Reporter) regarding opportunities to cross promote with Way to Go.
Question about another MOB ride. Can it happen Thursday 14th?
Related meetings coming up:
Mad Bikes- March 19th, 8:15 Three Mtn. Café
Bike Swap-March 27th, 8:00 Three Mtn. Café
Next VWn’RF meeting:
March 26th, 8:15 Three Mtn. Cafe
Ever thought about what happens when wood chips and other plant-based “waste” products become high value resources? Will the growing demand for renewable power compete for those resources against the increasing use of composting to achieve healthier farming? And what does it all mean for climate change?
If these questions interest you, consider attending the Vermont Organics Recycling Summit on March 31st at Vermont Technical College. See additional info below.
Third Annual Vermont Organics Recycling Summit
From Waste to Resource: The Future of Organics
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Vermont Technical College, Judd Gym
Randolph Center, Vermont
Keynote: Bob Spencer, AICP
Environmental and compost site planning consultant, contributing editor to BioCycle Magazine.
Organic residuals are rapidly emerging as valuable resources to meet many community needs. At VORS 09 we will look at the existing uses of organic residuals, competing markets for these materials, and current and emerging technologies.
Visit www.compostingvermont.org for details and to register. Contact: Vicky.firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-241-3448
This event is a project of the Composting Association of Vermont (CAV) and the ANR Department of Environmental Conservation.
“Trainspotting” director Danny Boyle’s new film, “Slumdog Millionaire,” just won the 2008 Oscar for best picture, and with good reason. Set in the slums of modern India, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a frenetic tour de force –rhythmic, fast-paced, visually arresting, and ultimately hopeful. “I knew the answers,” says the film’s protagonist, Indian Muslim Jamal Malik, whom we see being tortured in the film’s opening moments. Turns out, he’s just won a big pile of rupees on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.” one of India’s hottest TV game shows. All good, right?
Nope. Those in authority (including the game show host) think he cheated his way to the answers, and punish him to determine how he knows what he knows.
In the film, Jamal’s life story is told in a series of flashbacks touching on seminal moments from his impoverished life in the Indian slums. We see a young Jamal plunge himself into a pile of outhouse waste, watch as his mother is killed in the Hindu-on-Muslim violence of a local riot, view the forced maiming and blinding of young poor Indian kids to attract much-needed rupees by opportunistic adults, and witness human conflagration and abject poverty of the most gut-wrenching sort. We also see a chance encounter between Jamal and a young girl, Lakita, blossom into a friendship, and then romance – in true Hollywood/ Bollywood fashion.
How “Slumdog” plays out is worth the watching, and I won’t give anything away here. As a director, Boyle’s genius is not to preach, but rather to rub together the most disturbing dialectical sets of images (rich versus poor, Western versus Indian, Hindu versus Muslim, kid versus adult) with the most uplifting glimpses of what could be, given a bit of chance, no small measure of luck, and the star-crossed circumstances of fate. In doing so, Boyle personalizes one individual’s chance “rags to raja” story, mixes it with a whole heap of wrinkles, twists and turns thrown in for good measure, and paints a captivating and visually arresting film.
And there are a deeper cross-cultural fissures here, too, captured in the fierce and ongoing global online debates about the movie and its significance. When “Slumdog Millionaire” won the Oscar last month for Best Picture, “residents of Mumbai’s slums celebrated,” explains one online pundit. “In contrast, Indian activists and intellectuals who have decried the movie for its portrayal of poverty and violence and its alleged exploitation of child actors and slum dwellers lamented the victory, claiming that the movie is a flawed Western interpretation of Mumbai.” “This claim, however,” the writer concludes, “overlooks both the film’s basic faithfulness to the novel by Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup on which it is based, and Bollywood’s own tradition of uplifting stories.”
Fair enough. And for American audiences, the film is sure to continue the debate about the roots and nature of global poverty and the excesses of this thing called “globalization” in its current incarnation. Ultimately, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a story that strikes multiple chords with American audiences at a time of economic meltdown and tremendous uncertainty about our future.
There is a casual rideboard set up under the covered walkway outside Sweet Pea Natural Foods. The little box contains pencils and notepaper to either leave a message or take down information.
Its great to see all the cool alternative transportation initiatives taking hold here in the Valley. Carpooling is gathering steam on the state level and I expect that this is going to become more organized and accessable in the near future. There are some informal carpooling groups already doing their thing right now. It’ll be great when the various efforts to establish carpooling in the region come together into a cohesive whole.
NOTE: “Valley Futures Network is a grassroots citizen network working to make the Mad River Valley watershed a more sustainable 21st century community. We hold public meetings every second Friday of the month from 7:45 to 9:00 am – locations vary. Find out how to get involved at www.valleyfutures.net.
Q. How long have you lived in the Valley?
A. I moved to the Valley in 1979 to take a job as teacher/dorm parent at GMVS, then known as Mad River Ski Academy and located in Moretown.I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been able to carve out a professional career in the Valley as a teacher, coach and education program administrator and equally as important, raise a family here. So, as of 2008, I’ve lived in the Valley for thirty years.
Q. What do you most love about the Valley?
A. I grew up on the “other side” of the Green Mountains, on a dairy farm in the small village of Pittsford, located between the towns of Rutland and Brandon.I didn’t know the Mad River Valley existed; how’s that for small world perspective?In my youth, my world evolved around my uncle’s farm, school, local ski areas in the winter and ball fields in the summer.So, it’s been endlessly fascinating and enjoyable to get to know the history of the people and the geography of the Mad River Valley.For example, I took a hike up Slide Brook Road the other day and discovered house cellar/barn foundation holes
and rock walls for a farmstead that existed there 100 years ago.And, as a Fayston Selectboard member, I get a history lesson almost every meeting from our Board Chair, Bob Vasseur, about some interesting aspect of Valley life past and present. Here, I experience the continuity of a rich and rugged past to the interesting challenges of the present day. ”
Q. How did you get involved in the Valley Futures Network?
A. I was a participant in the Valley Vision Community Meeting back in 2005 and experienced both the pitfalls and potential of “one time event” gatherings.Members of the Mad River Planning District Steering Committee, the Chamber of Commerce, and several community citizens in conjunction with the Center for Whole Communities decided to develop a different approach to engaging Valley citizens in community projects and collaboration – outside of the existing institutional bodies and organizations.
Q. What do you see as the Valley’s biggest challenges as a community looking ahead over the next several years?
A. Replacing the Valley floor’s woefully inadequate water and sewer infrastructure.I realize this is a tough challenge but its one that I’m sure we have the capacity and resourcefulness to resolve.
Q. You’ve been instrumental in starting up the “Valley Habitat” working group. How has your experience with this group been for you?
A. I’ve been impressed with the habitat inventory and planning work that local planning commissions, conservation/natural resource committees have done with the support of various state agencies and not-for-profit groups.Our habitat working group has been able to provide a forum for the four towns of the Mad River Watershed to coordinatehabitat research, citizen outreach and engagement.Under the auspices of the Mad River Valley Planning District we are engaged with the Vermont Agency of Forest and Parks, Vermont Natural Resources Council, Vermont Audubon, Northern Forest Alliance to provide a series of public information and discussion forums that have and will continue to move the Mad River Valley Watershed towns toward a more coordinated, informed and cohesive set of habitat values and priorities that will lead to enhanced natural resource protection and appreciation.See our updates on the VFN website.
Q. For anyone interested in the Valley Futures Network, do you have any advice?
A. First of all, this a “come one, come all” community network.It’s intent is to enhance and build upon current community efforts as well as inspire new, worthy community endeavors.So, do what you can, when you can – see the VFN website for updates on current and future initiatives!
A. I have lived in Warren Village in the same house, which itself has morphed a few times, since 1979. I first came to the snow shoe here in 1969 during reading week in college.
Q. What do you most love about the Valley?
A. I was amazed and heartened by the respect, or at least tolerance, shown to people of very diverse backgrounds. All were valued neighbors, and I always thought the hard winters made us look on each other fondly as a source of help, inspiration and fun. Of course, I will never forget the natural beauty coming here on a very snowy day with a full moon glinting off the colorful ice in the Granville Gulf. I always am thrilled with the beauty of this place: watching a mink leap along Kids’ Brook in the village to a deer splayed on a floating raft of ice heading north at the Lareau swim hole to the accessible mountains.
Q. How did you get involved in the Valley Futures Network?
A. I was invited to come for a night to the Knoll Farm with others to share ideas and dreams for our watershed, our neighborhood, our valley. Out of that discussion came opportunities to be involved with things like agriculture and transportation that I think are critical to our well-being: both these areas of interest were part of VFN.
Q. What do you see as the Valley’s biggest challenges as a community looking ahead over the next several years?
A. I think one of them will be the Valley’s carrying capacity as more people move here. The valley has grown tremendously in the last decades and it seems that could continue. How can we fold all of us into the community with kindness and inclusiveness, with housing for those who work here, with fields and forests still intact, with the river able to have its needed wiggle room, with wildlife still able to make a living here? Of course, there will also be the challenges of the changing weather, the problems with travel and energy, clean water and food production.
Q. You’ve been instrumental in the Friends of the Mad River, Yestermorrow, and the state legislature. How do you see VFN assisting in any of your Valley-related work moving forward?
A. VFN brings together anyone and everyone who is interested and helps them meet up with others who have similar interests. I hope more people pay attention to the connections we all have living here. One thing that Friends of the Mad River brings attention to is that whatever you do in the watershed can have an effect on the land, on the community and on the water. I hope all of us can be more aware and alert in stewarding our watershed. That is tops for Friends of the Mad River. Yestermorrow is such an incredible resource for all of us. We can easily, right here, learn skills and whole new outlooks, and the design/build methods for making our lives more rewarding. It fits nicely with VFN’s vision of a healthy watershed community. Getting people involved and used to bringing their valuable observations and answers to challenges only helps the Vermont Legislature do its job more effectively. I think VFN can be the Network, the conduit for all the wonderful opportunities and projects going on in the watershed.
Q. You recently hosted a three-week Thursday evening potluck dinner to promote neighborly conversation about a book called THE TRANSITION HANDBOOK. Can you describe that experience?
A. I somewhat jokingly said it was a great potluck, dining club. The food was terrific, and the conversation was inspiring. It helped me see that one of the things missing from the VFN is getting the word out that it includes everyone who lives here. As always, it is amazing to share in the expertise, the awareness and heartfelt interest that so many neighbors have and are willing to share so generously. I hope we start a film club, to view thought provoking documentaries and films, with a discussion afterwards so we are not left bereft but rather, that we feel educated and empowered to do something appropriate in response.
Free Worm Composting Workshop
Presented by Melissa Jordan, president of the Wormpost Northeast
Are you concerned about solid wastes and recycling? Join Melissa Jordan, president of the Wormpost Northeast to find out how to use worms to turn food scraps and other waste into compost.
Known as vermiculture, all it takes is a small bin, a of bit “bed” starter such as leaves shredded newspaper, died grass, hay or other organic materials and about a pound wrigglers. The yield of worm castings to volume of organic matter put in will vary from about 1:4 to 1:10. A household of two could easily process their veggies through a small worm bin, with the end result of keeping that waste out of your garbage. Another benefit is the nutrient rich, pH balanced compost produced that can then be used in your garden.
“This is an amazing interdisciplinary activity as well as a great home business,” said Jordan. “You can teach and learn so many different disciplines – math, shop, science. It can be so many different things to so many people.”
The workshop will feature a functioning worm bin as well as information and a demonstration of how you can make worm composting work for your family and the environment.
The free workshop will be held March 18, 2009 at the River Arts Building on Pleasant Street in Morrisville. We encourage Farmer’s Market visitors to stop by the workshop as well. Call Melissa Jordan at 802-888-4364 for directions and more information. For more information about the Farmers and Artisans Market, which is scheduled every Wednesday from 2:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., call Amy Walker at 802-888-3242 or visit http://riverartsvt.org/events/.
WHAT: Free worm composting (vermiculture) workshop
WHEN: March 18, 2009
WHERE: River Arts Building, Pleasant Street, Morrisville