Sunday, October 28, 2012


A fun “graphic novel” to read by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou called Logicomix.  The book brings to life two real life authors’ story (in comic book fashion) about the life of the philosopher Bertrand Russell and his pursuit of the “truth.”  The authors (who are also drawn in this colorful story go back to Russell and his youth and chronicle his life’s story through a speech he gives to a group of war protesters during WWII.  Russell searches widely for the source of truth using mathematics as the foundation for this journey.  Russell intertwines his personal life (family horrors, infatuations, love life, marriages, separations, mental lapses, etc.) and his meeting the brightest and best philosophers and mathematicians along his journey, such as: Alfred Whitehead (whom he co-authored Principia Mathematica), Ludwig Wittgenstein (a former student of his), Alan Turing, Kurt Godel, Georg Cantor, and Gottlob Frege.  The book also chronicles how Russell thinking developed throughout his journey, to include his “Russell’s Paradox” which illustrates an essential flaw in Cantor’s set theory!   This is an absolute FUN read, entertaining and knowledgeable, especially for non-Logic minded readers.  The graphics were great, the story fun, and you learn a heck of a lot in a very elementary type writing story-telling mode.  I would recommend it highly!  The comic book presentation is worth it alone.  This was a recommendation for the RA on the NYU “Geek Explorations floor,”  go figure :).

Saturday, October 27, 2012


And yet again, another play as a favorite book, ok I will stop complaining.  This favorite is Split by Michael Weller.  It is a two act play with the first act introducing the characters of Paul and Carol, whom have been married for seven years.  The scene begins in their home as they prepare for their friend Jean and her date to arrive for a dinner party that Paul and Carol are planning.  The problem is that Paul and Carol are in the midst of a terrible fight and Carol makes the suggestion that they cancel the dinner, though it is only ten minutes from the time Jean and her date are to arrive!  The couple have started down a bad path in which a small argument ends up in Carol sharing she had an affair with some distant person some time ago.  She is curious whether Paul has done the same, especially if it has been with Jean, to which Paul denies.  They seemingly make up prior to Jean’s arrival to the apartment and black out to end the act.  Act two begins two days later with a series of very short scenes with different characters chatting about “life after marriage between Paul and Carol.” A series of “how life offers new possibilities” and then ending with the last of the scenes where Paul and Carol are emptying out their apartment.  During the exchange there is a glimmer of hope that they could reconnect… as they say at the same moment, “Would you mind if I called?”  But with all good potential mending of fences, the phone rings and then the idea flickers away.  Overall the play is a choppy (some good moments and a bit all over the place) story with some funny moments, but pretty shallow, in my humble opinion.  Take a pass on this one and pick up a good novel!  Hey, Mandy Patinkin originated the role of Paul in the original in 1978 off-Broadway!  That may have been worth watching!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Name is Asher Lev

Consider growing up in a very religious traditional family and at the same time being pulled to an inner struggle that challenges your religion, doing art!  Enter Asher Lev, a young boy about six years old when the story begins and continues through the “critical moment” at age 22.  Asher Lev’s father and mother are Hasids in the Brooklyn, NY community during the 1950s, a time of great consternation and pain for the Jewish people following the tragedies in Europe to the Jews, and continued with Stalin’s reign in Russia.  Asher is drawn to a passion of drawing and painting, which is viewed as “childish” and taking away from his time to contemplate the beliefs and practices of his religion.  Asher’s parents, Aryeh and Rivkeh, are both devout Hasidic Jews who are tremendous community members.  His father works directly for the Rebbe, which means he travels to Russia and Europe establishing yeshivas for young Jewish youth to study, while his mother is a student pursuing further degrees so she can teach.  Asher is not capable of focusing on his studies and becomes an outcast to his peers, and an embarrassment to his parents, especially his father who can’t understand his desire to draw all of the time.  Asher is so compulsive, it does not allow him to sleep and even steals paints from his friend who runs a shop.  The story continues by illustrating the tension between artist and religion.  The Rebbe notes Asher’s brilliance as a young artist and actually connects him with a talented Jewish artist, Jacob Kahn, an older man who is respected by the Rebbe.  Asher sees Jacob daily to hone his skill but is challenged to fight his commitment to his religion as Kahn believes it is not possible to have both “true art” and be true to the religion.  The story unfolds with Asher’s passage through teens to young adult and the on-going struggle to remain faithful and developing his skills.  The struggle also creates rift between he and his father.  Asher’s rise to stardom as an artist continues and the pinnacle moment occurs after he paints a crucifixion scene set in his own apartment with his parents images in the painting…. presented at his coming out show as an artist in NYC!  This is a beautiful story of love, challenging your morals/beliefs, and growing up and away from your parents.  I would highly recommend the story as it helps to confirm what is important in life and how to live with your passions, even though they may destroy those you love.  The writing is engaging throughout.  I couldn’t put it down.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Ok, time to do a one line rant about a favorite book…. oops, it must be a Tisch student, because this is actually a play and not a book….  Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Two married couples meet at 2am in the morning when Martha, the daughter of the President of a New England college, invites a new faculty member and his wife over for late night cocktails. George, Martha’s husband, also a faculty member at the college, is surprised by the invite and the evening unravels into a series of barbs, scathing verbal attacks, and even physical abuse.  Alcohol intake goes wild as the night continues and Nick and wife Honey end up being drawn into this all-out assault on their personality weaknesses and lost work opportunities throughout the couple’s life.  There are no safe moments in this all-night event.  It is a game that Martha and George have become accustomed to playing on the weak folks who come to visit, yet who would know this? Not Nick and Honey!  Between the flirting and actual physical engagement that ensues between Martha and an unsuspecting Nick, we have the makings of a “what is real” and “what is play” throughout.  I bet that the show is better than reading of the play, but if you have a great imagination, I’m sure it can work.  For me, I would prefer to see it, and then read a really good novel, as all acting students should do.  Novels can help with character development and the telling of a great story.  Never enjoyed reading “Martha enters side right” in the middle of a story J.  You get how I feel about favorite books being plays, huh?  Enough said.  Hey, it’s now on Broadway starring Tracy Letts and Amy Morton.  Go see it! 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pendragon: The Merchant of Death

Nothing makes for a more compelling read than when you come to the last page and it says… to be continued!  So if you want to know the whole story, I guess you will need to read books two and three of the Pendragon Series by D.J. MacHale.  But the favorite book was book one, The Merchant of Death, which I feel fortunate as it would have been weird reading book two or three without reading the first book.  The story begins when fourteen-year old Bobby Pendragon gets interrupted kissing the “girl (Courtney Chetwynde) he has always liked” by his uncle, Press Tilton (love the name huh?).  Press asks for Bobby’s help in something very important, so important that Bobby will need to miss his high school’s basketball game, where he serves as the top point scorer.  Bobby agrees to help, but has no idea what he is about to face… the journey of a life in another world, second earth! – called Denduron.  The trip there is pretty tough entering through an antiquated subway station in the Bronx which is now closed.  While there, the two face the two clashing clans of people, which Press is there to assist the lower class people.  They find obstacles like the “quigs” – pig-like wild animals that thrash at them throughout the tale.  Press and Bobby meet Osa and her “daughter” Lor as part of the journey who similarly are fighting against the evil clan.  Osa manages to time travel back to Earth and give Bobby’s best friend, nerdy Mark Dimond, a ring that allows him to gain access to journals Bobby was encouraged to write by his uncle.  Mark teams up with Courtney to help their friend and even goes to the police for help but when the police realize that Bobby never existed, his house and family have vanished from the earth!, they don’t believe the two and they are on their own.  The story is a series of close calls and escapes in Denduron while Mark and Courtney feverishly look for ways to help Bobby as new journals keep appearing in Bobby’s room.  Fast-paced story with lots of turns and twists, including the ending which finds Bobby escaping the last battle and returning to Earth to learn he was never really the son of the Pendragons!!  He is actually a traveler sent to help people back on Deduron.  And yes, that’s how book one ends.  I guess I’ll need another RA to list book two or three as their favorite before finding out what happens, so stay tuned for another year or longer.  A good read for kids for sure!