August 28, 2010

"Mary and Max" and "Little Nightmares, Little Dreams"

I often find myself writing about how seemingly unconnected things are connected... the winding way circumstances and deliberate acts join to make the most interesting of days...when least expected. In an attempt to tag a post, I can only enter "serendipity." And hope for the best.

This Wednesday was one such day. It was a funky day. Things were not going right and an atmosphere of gloom and doom seemed to hover over our field of dreams. How to fix it? Take the day off (food is delivered on Wed. and FedX was late and everything was frozen solid, really) and visit the Ohio University Inn, just down the hill, where they have the most delicious breads, salads, steak and coffee.

Not to mention our favorite waiter, Reid. It had only been a week earlier that we'd mused on whether or not Reid, having obtained his degree at OU, was now off in the world doing all the wonderful things we imagined would be found on the path he was working so earnestly to create. This guy has the kind of intelligence, charisma, and energy that a couple in his parents' generation can only consider wistfully.

"I need to go to a movie," I said.
"Dinner out would be nice," Mark said.
"Our food is frozen solid," I said.
"We got a new Netflix movie today."
"What is it?" I sighed.
"Mary and Max. It's claymation."
Rolling of eyes on my part. "Okay, do you want a burrito?"
"Let's go to OU Inn."
Now you're talkin'!

I threw on a dress, (ever notice how dresses are so great because you can throw one on, apply lipstick, and you're suddenly ready for anything?). (Here is the dress, which guy who checked out my books at library called "awesome dress" and I am just ancient enough to really have that make my day; though I wondered if he was doing a "play it forward" kind of thing, being nice to the motherly looking woman.)

At the restaurant, who was there but Reid. (I do not have a photo of Reid, but he kinda looks like this guy.) Already the cloud was moving to Parkersburg way.

"Reid, you're still here!"
"Tonight's my last night!"
Reid shared his story of post-graduate decision making and between his remembering Mark's Pelligrino and my love of real butter and the special bread, not rolls, and his making of the chop house salad (no bleu cheese for me because I am allergic to like everything), Reid informed us he was bound for Washington DC. Had chosen DC over NYC. And the pros and cons. Anyway....

He gave me a hug and I was getting choked up. "I won't wish you good luck," I said, "because I know you don't need it. Everything wonderful is already waiting for you there, you only need to go get it." (Was I talking to Reid or to my son, Jesse? Are all mothers always talking to their own children, well, that's another blog isn't it.)

Mark, good man, left a generous fare-thee-well tip and we returned home to watch the movie, thinking how glad we were we'd visited OU Inn on Reid's last night there. We would have missed not saying goodbye to him.

Now, about Mary and Max. I can't describe it as well as the website, or YouTube trailer. Or wikipedia.

If you are interested in any of the following, this is a movie you will not want to miss! It may become your next favorite movie. (Note: right click on the links and "open in new tab" for some surprising information. You might want to bookmark this blog post for later surfing.)

* The movie, UP!
* Asperger's
* Loneliness
* Australia
* New York City
* Old Jewish men who live alone in a big city
* Young girls who don't feel pretty
* Claymation
* Wallace and Gromit
* Humor and angst
* Obsessive compulsive disorder
* Chocolate
* Mail art
* single people who live with pets
* dysfunctional, alcoholic mothers
* taxidermy
* birthmarks

Marveling at how said dark cloud had moved over our home after the ingestion of a delicious meal in a quiet restaurant... OH, I forgot to mention the piano player! At OU Inn on Wednesdays there is a guy who plays the piano and Mark, who knows these things, states he is right up there with the best guys who play piano in the best restaurants in NYC. I loved all the songs he played and I could name that tune because my parents had a big stereo in our living room and all these songs were played on the record player.

So, doggies settled in, couple with full stomach, and Mary and Max begins. We watched the whole movie... without any talking. It was mesmerizing, wonderful, sad, funny, creative, artistic, enlightening. Jeepers, you've got to see it!

Then, bedtime. On a day that started out so gloomy and progressed to several electronic things going awry, but then picked up with the promise of food, took a turn to teary with the leave-taking of Reid the Waiter... and then a wonderful, thought-provoking movie... well, what could be next! Perhaps the day should be done.

Nope, time to read before sleep. I picked up "Little Nightmares, Little Dreams" by Rachel Simon. This book is out of print (pshcurfurgl that big NYC publisher and its business model). But, I bought a copy at that godsend of writers with long careers and readers with long attention spans, AbeBooks. I started in the middle of the book, because it's a book of short stories and I like that I can do that, just start where it strikes my fancy... so I started with "Twins."


"Twins" is the story of a sheltered workshop for folks with disabilities. One day two new clients join the workshop, and they are joined to each other; they are co-joined twins and the story is how they are perceived at the start by the other folks and how everyone figures out how to think about this. It's a great story and rings so true to my experiences with this community. I thought about how a few years ago when we would go to the MRDD (now it is just called DD, which sounds like "DeeDee" to me, and I wish they'd come up with a better handle, liked SNP, Special Needs People, or DAPs, Differently Abled Persons... or something, let's have a vote). Anyway....

...there was a guy there at the dance. He looked to be in his fifties, he was a small guy, not too tall, kinda thin. He was all face, a big smiling face. The biggest smile ever. He didn't dance, he'd start out at one end of the room. Raise his hands in the air, smile going all across his face, and he'd RUN as fast as he could past the girl with Downs Syndrome and a fake plastic guitar, past the old skinny lady with red lipstick and a pink purse, past the "player" guy who was kind of good looking and wanted to shake everyone's hands, and past the table with cookies and pop.... to the other side, where he'd stop abruptly, turn, hands in the air and smile at everyone. Then do it all again.

The dialogue and thoughts Rachel Simon portrays in "Twins" read true. Enlightened. Did the interesting job of portraying someone really different from many of us in such a way that we realize how much we all have in common. What art!
When I turned off the light, I sighed and realized the day had turned out pretty well indeed. When our own creativity let's us down, there are always others to point the way forward.

---Janice Phelps Williams
Please friend me on Facebook, so I can learn what interests you.

Here's what I listened to while writing this post.

August 22, 2010

Lovely Sunday Morning in Athens, Ohio

Going outside to retrieve the Sunday newspaper can bring a scene so sweet that the news of the day fades away as I grab my camera and with a small dog following behind, try to capture the loveliness.

August 13, 2010

Refrigerator pickles!

Ah, those little seeds I planted in tiny pots in my garage in late April are paying off.... the first few cucumbers were ready to pick and pick them I did. Traipsing through the weeds, pathetic tomato plant, past the summer squash with their flamboyant flowers and the basil gone wild... About 2.5 lbs of cukes. Only one matched the photo on the seed packet. The others ranged from squat to bulbous to something resembling Madonna's 1980s bra. Still, once Mark sliced them up they all looked fine. We weren't being graded after all.

We used a recipe that was in the Columbus Dispatch a week or so ago and Mark took this photo last night.

This morning...voila!...pickles and a bran muffin for breakfast! Then, out to water for what is supposed to feel like the hottest day of the year. There, several pickling cucumbers hovered under leaves, wondering where their more stout littermates went to. Ah ha ha!

August 9, 2010

eBooks and Digital Rights Management

If you are interested in blogs on publishing and writing, please visit -- a new blog I've started that will focus on the world of a 10-year-old independent publisher, Lucky Press, and issues pertaining to authors. Here is some information that I recently posted on Lucky Press LLC's Facebook page.

As Lucky Press expands its print books into ebooks, and launches some titles in ebook only, Digital Rights Management, poses questions on which this publisher is musing. When we upload an eBook to a distributor, we are asked what level, if any, of Digital Rights Management should be implemented.

As the publisher of titles for writers, and as this publisher is also a writer herself, published by another company, I find myself in a "sticky wicket." The writer in me says "protect the content" and that is what we are trying to do when offered a choice, opting for "medium" protection in MS Reader. The publisher in me wants to protect LP's assets. Our titles are our assets and we (myself, my family, LP writers) have worked too hard to "give" anything away (without our permission, aka "theft"). Yet the marketer, optimistic voice in me says that "if you love something set it free and it will come back to you" (cue pan flute). Also I wonder if getting the books in more hands and more places (people only willing to purchase a non-DRM rights protected eBook and putting it on more devices that they have now or may have in the future) will perhaps be a step in the right direction.

(From a marketing standpoint: most of our books are being put on Google Editions where up to 20% is readable without purchase. All of our eBooks are on Kindle, which offers free samples. All of our ebooks are availlable in MS Reader format, but at this time moderate DRM settings are in place. FYI: When a publisher uploads a book to the distributor she must choose "once and for all" whether DRM is activated or not.)

What works for you as an author and/or an eBook reader?

Is it important to you that your purchased eBook can be read on more than one platform/device?

Wikipedia on DRM

Interesting article posted August 7, 2010:
Cory Doctorow places DRM-free e-books with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo; Apple and Sony hold out

O'Reilly drops ebook DRM, sees 104% increase in sales

Note from Janice: This article is a must read! A (Probably Naive) Attempt to Move the DRM Conversation Forward

Amazon gives publishers easier control over DRM in Kindle ebooks

Funny graphic on DRM

@ eBook Summit: Sony’s Haber: You Can’t Make Money Selling E-Books For $9.99; DRM Is A Good Thing

DRM or not? a debate that won’t be over anytime soon
"My hunch is that the biggest authors will continue to insist on DRM and that they are sensible to do that. And that lesser authors will often be comfortable without DRM, and they are probably sensible to do that as well. But as the establishment stage of ebook adoption continues, I’d also expect that the “viral effect” of non-DRMed titles will stop being healthy for sales. This is an argument that still has a long time to run."

Digital Rights Managment vs the Inevitability of Free Content

August 8, 2010

August already?

Summer is supposed to be lazy, right? But mine has been more of the "hang on by the seat of your pants" variety. There's been so much to do--and all of it good. Within the scurrying around doing this and that, I hold in my heart the memory of...

Being a little girl, in the summer... spreading out a blanket under a tree and carting all of my Barbie dolls and their various accessories outside. Spending hours just playing and being, in the yard under that tree with my dashhound, Joey. My grandmother made cinnamon rolls, my mother made apple pie. Andy Griffith was on TV then and I had three pet turtles...

When I was 17, just, my parents let me go to West Virginia to partake in a two-week watercolor workshop. I remember the beauty, the hills, the pleasure of feeling "grown up"... There was no doubt I would pursue art after that...

And then, in college, taking a break and with a blanket heading to the wooded hill behind Taylor Hall (at Kent State). Four years earlier National Guard had marched up it with firearms, but for me it was a place of rest, looking down as it did on the oldest dorm on campus and the School of Fine Arts. I remember being 19 and rolling down that hill, laughing, and trying to figure out love.

A few years later, I worked all summer long at a store selling paintable figurines. I drove home through awful Akron traffic. One time a dryer fell right off a truck in front of me on the freeway! What I remember about that summer is the heat heat heat...and scrounging up $17 to buy a box fan and then sitting in front of it with a book, thankful.

And then, with my own children, sitting under a big banyon tree on the grounds of the Ringling Mansion in Sarasota, FL. Taking a picnic lunch there, gazing out at the Intracoastal Waterway, listening to seagulls...

As my sons grew, we'd spend mornings at a pool, or head to the beach as the sun began to wane. I remember all the sounds of being by the water and their young-boy voices. My youngest drawing cars in the sand with a stick. My eldest wearing a white bathing cap to protect his ears, his body so skinny and white, slathered as it was with suntan lotion. He was more at peace near the water than anywhere else.

And then, still more, the summer my sons finished high school. And letting go of my youngest one as he left home and moved from Ohio to CT. The summer memory I have then is of an old Saab and a young man heading away from me down the street.... I felt then, and still feel now, that life should have offered a ceremony to mark the occassion. Something both somber and joyful, heavy with grief and celebration.

And then, it was the end of summer and my eldest and my sister and I were in NYC on 9/11/01. Only sleep, a summertime's morning slumber, kept us from hurring off to the WTC to see the Statue of Liberty from the observation deck. That was the summer of emotion, so much that I could only grab a blanket and return to that mental place under a childhood tree and regain my equilibrium.

And then, some more summers and I was getting married! The church was hot, the nervousness was palpable, but the joy was great. It had taken me awhile, but I'd learned a few things about love since rolling down the hill at Kent State.

And then, BASEBALL! As my son, Jesse, and my husband, Mark, taught me the game up in the stands at the Phillies' ball park. I learned how much fun sports can be. Especially when a day outside was followed by a wonderful meal with family in one of Philadelphia's great restaurants.

[Photo: Bryce and my mother, hiking in Athens, June 2010.]
And also, it was in the summer that we found our new home, here in Athens. How wonderful these trees, this hill, this home this place called "ours."

I no longer sit on the ground on a blanket...I bought a park bench and it sits under the trees. I have a French easel, a Kindle, a garden, a pitcher of lemonade, and an epipen. The trees provide shade, the birds provide music, my husband is nearby, my children a phone call away.

Even in the busiest of schedules, life beckons to us to enjoy summer....