The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion

NY bridge

Don Tillman’s loyalty, self-sacrifice, and problem solving genius, make him welcome as a friend. We first met Don in the “Rosie Project,” the story of a high functioning Asperger’s individual in search of a “mate.” Don exhibits marvelous STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills, a phenomenal memory, but he woefully lacks social skills. He holds to an extraordinary rigid moral-ethical code, based on logic and conventional norms rather than religion. Among his virtues or symptoms, Don could not tell a lie. Paul Levine, who also includes Asperger’s spectrum characters in his novels, subscribes to the same truth-telling characteristic. However, in “The Rosie Effect, Don, the compulsive truth-teller and honest man, learns to spare the feelings of others by shielding them from the truth. Unfortunately, he hopelessly tangles himself in the thickest web of deceit. His growing cohort of friends risk all to assist him extricate himself before the authorities and Rosie catch up with him.

In his first two and extremely successful novels, author, Graeme Simsion brings moments of genuine hilarity as well as deep pathos. His intense research allows his characters the freedom to walk, jog and subway about New York City, Columbia University, genetics, nutrition, human development, psychology and the pub scene. Ask Don to make you a cocktail sometime.

The devious Simsion snaps snares, large and small, catching his readers off guard. Just when Don seems to have escaped one threat, the trapdoor drops Don, and often his friends, into a deeper quandary. Through the Rosie Effect, Simsion takes the reader for a ride to a most unpredictable destination. Getting there is more than half the fun. Looking forward to the further exploits of Don Tillman and company.

 

Review (© 2015 Donald J. Mulcare)

Brooklyn Bridge, Nancy Ann Mulcare, Alcohol ink on yupo (© 2015 Nancy Ann Mulcare)

The Blue-Black Dragon

 

 

tar pit

 

A piercing whistle shrieked. Pounding hobnails clacked against the cobbles warning Moocher Waage of imminent arrest. In desperation, he dove beneath the fence, bled among the green briars, and rolled down slope toward the stench.

“I hate this place, but they’ll not follow.” Waage surmised, the Gritville Constabulary would triage at the curb, deciding not soil their expensive uniforms in pursuit. Moocher knew they’d avoid the sulfurous and nitrogenous fumes, so he bowed, resting hands upon his knees to catch his breath.

He gagged as he inhaled the vileness of the pit, although it brought him some measure of safety.

One last precaution, he’d climb the maple’s long dead arm above the pit. That branch could crack and drop Waage into the putrid, blue-black bile. He’d trust his luck once more, confident that the constables would never reach him. They’d soon find another vagrant to badger.

The pit seemed more active this night and his bleached perch more brittle. “Was this the best hideout?” Waage wondered as he hugged the long dead branch. The moon rose in all its fullness, reflecting sunlight across the oily surface, smooth as a black, marble slab, but then a busy gaggle of bubbles popped and hissed releasing their ghastly pungence. While their frequency and foulness prompted reconsideration, a shadow flicked in the woods and Moocher distinctly heard the snap of a dried stick. Waage shifted to scan his surroundings. The moonlit trees reached toward him like specters, but no human threat.

The branch cracked and bent a centimeter closer to the tarry abyss. Waage shimmied back toward the maple’s main trunk but the branch dipped another centimeter and then cleft almost in half dropping Waage so that his face dangled a meter above the blue-black ooze. The limb-tip split the tar, prompting a fizzle of increasingly larger packets of stench to mar the mirror’s surface.

Waage’s hands now soaked with sweat slipped along the sagging branch toward the shining tar. Larger bubbles jarred Waage out of his terror-trance with their pungent sulfur and ammonia mix.

“Ploop! Haloop! Halp! Help me!” They spoke.

Waage squelched a scream. “It must be the monster, long imprisoned below.” He breathed, “What do you want?”

“Free me.”

Waage, not one to help his fellow man seemed in no position to refuse this putrid gasp. “What’s in it for me?” he whispered.

The slime growled back at him, “I’ll give you a home. You’ll never feel hunger nor fear, nor will the constabulary find you, just help me flee.”

Waage snorted, “I can’t help myself. I don’t know what you are or how to help you. Maybe you will eat me for my troubles. Maybe you belong in the pit and should stay there.”

It spoke more clearly, “Go to Phlegm Dredger in the capitol. He’ll know your smell and you his. Tell him there is a rich deposit of hydrocarbons and gold as yet unclaimed. Ask for a substantial finder’s fee. Bring him. I’ll see he pays.”

Waage felt the branch rise and he began to slip back toward the trunk. He dismounted as a melon-sized bubble burst, releasing words. “See, I have saved you, now do as I ask and bring me help.”

Waage scampered up the slope, scanned the cobbles and made for the train yard. He climbed aboard a northbound flat-car and squeezed beneath a tarp-covered tractor to rest and wonder. “What’s this about? Will I be safe or sorry? It’s all too strange.”

Hours later, the sun rose behind the capitol. Phlegm Dredger needed little convincing and trucked Waage back to the tar-pit. Waage waited in the shadows just inside the wood. Soon enough, Dredger emerged, drove to an ATM, handing Moocher more money than he’d ever seen. Dredger dropped Waage at the bus terminal, advising that “A sea-side vacation would benefit your health.”

Dredger departed sending Moocher toward the terminal’s gift shop, where he bought a one-way ticket and a change of clothes. He washed and dressed in the bathroom, and zipped his money into his new jacket. He found a place to sleep aboard the bus. When he woke, through the window he noticed the boats, bridges and finally the sandy beaches. The bus lurched to a stop, hissed and disgorged its load.

Moocher rented a sleeping cubicle at the sea-side terminal, his new home.

Between the sea and the showers Moocher had never been so clean. He even bought a toothbrush and a bar of soap, nonetheless he felt dirty. His suspicions of evil fleshed out when he heard of riots and violence back in Gritville. Meanwhile, Phlegm Dredger had come into a fortune of hydrocarbons and gold. Dredger surmised that the pit-monster had escaped.

“What have I done?” he asked. I’ve caused more misery in Gritville and increased Dredger’s wealth. How soon will the constabulary find me and bring me back? Perhaps they’ll throw me in the pit.” Crestfallen, he walked to the ocean.

“Sharks! Sharks!” the lifeguard called. Moocher shaded his eyes to see small boy atop a surfboard unaware of the fins about him. Moocher waved, jumped and yelled to no effect. He ran into the surf to warn the child and awkwardly paddled towards him. A shark bumped into Moocher’s leg and then another nudged his ribs. He knew that the next shark would bite him and the frenzy would shred him and maybe the boy.

A shadow blocked the sun. A swooping darkness snatched Moocher and the surfer, pinching them in the clutches of an immense blue talon. It smelled familiar.

It set its load upon the beach, allowing the boy to run-off screaming, but the beast wrapped Moocher gently with a thirty kilogram chain of gold. It belched, “Thank you. This gift once bound me, sinking me in my own greed. See that you own and use this gold to help your neighbors. It shouldn’t own nor use you.” Stunned, Moocher watched the blue-black dragon vault into the sky leaving him a wealthy, wiser and better man.

 

The Blue-Black Dragon (© 2014, Donald J. Mulcare)

Tar-Pit drawing (© 2014, Nancy Ann Mulcare) Top of page.

Branch over Dark Water drawing (© 2014, Nancy Ann Mulcare) bottom of page.

branch over dark water

Groundhog mayday

winter

The groundhog stared at the radio as the reporter excitedly updated the news, “The posse has him cornered in a line shack west of Punxsutawney. They expect to call in a drone strike any minute now. We’ve had enough of this winter, that over-sized rat has gone too far this time, why couldn’t he have just stayed in his hole and let the spring come early?”

Phil sniveled, “They’re going to shoot the messenger because they can accept the fact that climate change is the result of their own stupid excesses. Sure, they burn fossil fuels and cut down the trees, what do they expect? They want a scapegoat, so they picked me to pin their sins on.”

He lifted a trap door and dropped through the floor to his tunnel without bothering to turn off the radio. He was a quarter mile behind the encircling humans, watching when the first drone strike incinerated the line shack. “Go ahead, dummies,” he chuckled, “add some more carbon dioxide to the ozone layer. It will come back to haunt you. Meanwhile, I’ll find another abandoned house to keep me warm for the rest of this interminable winter.”

I’m Dreaming of a Blue Advent

Many lose sight of Advent amid the Thanksgiving-Black Friday-anticipated Christmas-commercial season. How can Advent hold its ground against this materialistic intrusion? Some regard Advent as “Little Lent.” After all, at least where I live it wears the hand-me-down purples of the penitential weeks between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Perhaps Advent needs its own distinguishing color to express its unique role in the Liturgical Year?

What is Advent anyway? It might be considered the season of Isaiah and joyful Psalms; a time of expectation and reassurance to those who faithfully await the coming of the promised one; a tender season of resting in the arms of our loving mother. Advent emphasizes joy and anticipation, not fasting and penance.

Some Christian denominations, including Roman Catholic parishes employ blue vestments during Advent. The web page of Saint James Episcopal Church of Richmond, Virginia explains this choice:

“Following the tradition of the Sarum Rite (an old English rite), Blue is the color for Advent. During the Middle Ages, when blue was an expensive color to reproduce, purple was often used instead. This is why you still see some churches using purple in Advent. Also, purple was used by churches that followed the Roman rite as opposed to the Sarum Rite. Theologically, however, blue is the proper color for this season, because Blue is the color of the Blessed Virgin, and Advent is all about Mary as we await with her the arrival of the Incarnate God. Blue is the color of hope, expectation, confidence, and anticipation. These are all adjectives which describe the season of Advent.”

Indeed Advent has a Marian flavor. It includes the feast of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe. It presupposes the cooperation of Mary in the incarnation and the nativity. So blue, a Marian color would fit the season.

Here in the North Temperate Zone, Advent coincides with the longest and darkest (and sometimes coldest) nights of the year. As darkness replaces light some humans suffer depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder). A sure cure for SAD is light, celebration, and a promise of better days. Again, dark blue skies connect with the theme of Advent. From those heavens comes the brightest and warmest of all gifts–the greatest reason to shed SAD in favor of JOY.

May the building joy of the Advent season culminate in your most glorious Christmas, ever!

RSVP

How do you separate the spirit of Advent from the Christmas rush?

In what special ways do you observe Advent’s joyous season of expectation?

Do you believe that the color (purple, blue or __________) of vestments’ would underscore Advent’s unique place in the Liturgical Calendar?

Text-(© 2013 Donald J. Mulcare)

Winter/alcohol ink on yupo(© 2013 Nancy Ann Mulcare)

Grace in the Wilderness: Reflections on God’s Sustaining Word along Life’s Journey, by Brother Francis de Sales Wagner, O.S.B.

waves-yupo

Brother Francis de Sales offers his readers a source of joy, leading them into the desert where they feast on the reality of God.

The Liturgical New Year will soon dawn, a time for new beginnings, not only with reflections on the saints of the day, but the profound messages of the scriptural cycles found in the weekend liturgies. Grace in the Wilderness guides the reader with daily meditations organized by common theme, using the table of contents and in relationship to the three liturgical cycles, using a Liturgical Year Index.

These meditations, the “fruits of (Brother Francis’) prayer, study and reflection (were) primarily gathered from posts on (his) personal blog (first, yokeofchrist.blogspot.com, and, later, pathoflifeblog.blogspot.com) from 2009 to 2013.”

He encourages other blog writers with these words: “Each meditation was written as an individual piece at a certain point in time. It so happens (after I finally heeded blog readers who urged me to collect the posts into a book), that when they were gathered, adapted and organized thematically, together the reflections seemed to coalesce around the theme outlined” in the table of contents.

Brother Francis de Sales’ reflections remind us that the God extends grace to aid us through our journey across the wilderness of life. God nourishes through the conversation of prayer and the feast of frequent participation in the Eucharist. God guides us to conversion from a world-oriented heart to a heart exploded with love for our Creator. The author reminds us that everything about us calls us to recognize the presence, actually the hand of God. The world celebrates the “Holidays,” forgetting their significance in a blitz of commercialism. Instead, those called to ride the rhythm of the liturgical year celebrate the deeper meaning of giving thanks, waiting through Advent for the coming of the Messiah and the celebration of Epiphany. We celebrate Easter best after a sincere Lent, meeting the Messiah on the road to Emmaus, not the warrior king but the suffering servant now raised from the dead.

We are called to the wilderness to empty ourselves of the world, but are reminded (by Saint Paul”: “Do not worry about anything,” he urges, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Treat yourself to a gift for all seasons, liturgical and otherwise by including a meditation from Grace in the Wilderness: Reflections on God’s Sustaining Word along Life’s Journey in your daily spiritual exercises.

Wagner, Br. Francis de Sales. Grace in the Wilderness: Reflections on God’s Sustaining Word along Life’s Journey. St. Meinrad, IN: Abbey Press. 2013

(© 2013 Donald J. Mulcare)

Figure: Rhythm in Glass, Alcohol Ink on Yupo by Nancy Ann Mulcare, © 2013

Do you see what I see?

SN-air (2)

Hermann Rorshach’s inkblots provoked responses based on what already existed in the viewer’s mind. If you don’t like inkblots, how about interpreting the images in clouds?

I look for faces, and usually find them.

Nancy, my creative wife loaned me the images presented here. If not inkblots, these close relatives come from a growing school of artistic expression: Alcohol Ink. No, the artists  don’t drink the alcohol. They apply alcohol soluble inks to ceramic tiles or “yupo,” a plastic material that in some ways resembles paper .

The results often dwell in the realm of the abstract, allowing the mind to interpret them as it wishes. Turning the tile, 90, 180 or 270 degrees allows many more interpretations, perhaps more meaningful than the first. The titles I use reveal my interpretations or prejudices. Feel free to release your imagination as you view these images.

southwest

I see the Southwestern USA, like New Mexico. Do you see the person?

waves-yupo

Is the image above made from molten glass? Stained glass? Or something else?

sea2

Seashells?

sea

Scallop shell?

flowers

A flower?

feathers and flowers

Flowers?

mystical-forest  Trees or forest?

SN-air (2)

Sea slug (Nudibranch) (http://www.bing.com/search?q=nudibranch&form=UP97DF&pc=UP97&dt=071813) or Alcohol Ink Image?

SN-air (1)

Nerve network in your brain trying to figure this one out?

DSC05823

A tile drying on the back deck. Just ignore Nancy’s foot.