A comic about mathematics and Bertrand Russell?

Oh yes. Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H Papadimitriou is an utter gem of a graphic novel – anyone who disses comics as lacking in intellectual rigour needs this thrust into their hands at once.

I’ve learned about arcane works like Russell’s Principia Mathematica (co-written with Alfred North Whitehead), logicians, philosophers, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Georg Cantor, set theory, David Hilbert, and the Incompleteness Theoreom. These are not people or ideas I’ve encountered before, and I thought this would be all too high falutingly intellectual and frightening.

But this graphic novel cleverly draws you into this world of unbounded thought. It tells the story of Bertrand Russell’s life as a thirsty quest for knowledge and truth, and it also explores the link between logic and madness. The writers Doxiadis and Papadimitriou and the husband and wife team of artists Alecos Papadatos and Annie di Donna inhabit the world of Logicomix too as a kind of chorus (in cartoon form).

It’s a profound book and shows the life of the mind as far more dangerous and challenging than any physical adventure. Read it, weep.

A Person with a Passion

Graves of officers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps on the Gallipoli Peninsula
Graves of officers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps on the Gallipoli Peninsula

Sometimes you come across someone who has the most amazing passion for something they are doing and it can be quite an inspiring experience. I recently met one such – Dolores Ho – who is an archivist at the National Army Museum at Waiouru.

In her spare time Dolores makes small flax crosses with an ANZAC poppy attached and her aim is to have these placed on the graves of all New Zealand service personnel overseas (read more about her project). If you have ever visited a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery they are often beautiful and sad places, superbly maintained by local gardeners, but not exactly bustling with visitors.

I visited Suda Bay on Crete some years ago and it would have been nice to place a little memento and take a photograph of the headstone which is what Dolores asks volunteers to do. She sees the name “Dolores Cross” as not being about her but about the meaning of her name which is “sorrows”.

The project seems to be focusing on World War 1 graves so far. Our New Zealand at War resource provides a vast amount of information for people interested in New Zealand’s participation in overseas conflicts.

Dolores hopes to eventually establish a website where all the headstone photographs can be displayed.