Friday, July 31, 2009

Metphysicians and Engineers

I would like to take a quick break from my regular film/art/books beat to praise of some of my favorite lady scientists. A friend of mine writes the science quizzes for, and the one posted today is all about women scientists (side note: How often do you hear the phrase men scientists used in a sentence?) and it's simply every kind of awesome. I did...just okay.

I hadn't thought about Ada Lovelace in ages. She was a writer and mathematician, although she referred to herself as "an Analyst (and Metaphysician)", and was one of the first visionaries who saw the path to what we now refer to as a "computer". The only reason I had heard of her was through reading about her father, Lord Byron - who she never met, but was buried next to. Her mother, Lady Byron, must have been pretty remarkable in her own right. She was the one who made sure that Ada was educated in math and music in order to negate the dangerous poetical influence that was her paternal birthright. She died when she was younger than I am now, of cancer.

Not included in the quiz, but another minor obsession of mine is the Austrian-Hungarian film star, Hedy Lamarr. She was one of Hollywood's most beautiful glamour girls of the 1940s. Her life is completely fascinating. Born to an upper middle class Jewish family in Vienna, raised in Budapest, she worked with the legendary Max Reinhardt and became a major film star in Europe by the time she was in her late teens. She married a really creepy arms manufacturer who although half-Jewish, consorted with Hitler and was an enthusiastic fascist. He kept Lamarr a veritable prisoner and took her everywhere with him as he was a paranoid freak - including all his meetings with scientists and engineers. She learned a lot. In 1936, she fled to Paris, and from there to London and, finally Hollywood - one of the many refugees from Hitler pouring into Los Angeles. She became a major star, but was never a major actress. In the early 40s, she worked with a friend, avant-garde composer George Antheil, on what they then called a "secret communication system". It was an early form of Spread Spectrum Technology, which is used, for example, in WiFi networks and cell phones. During the war, she wanted to join the National Inventor's Counsel. They wouldn't let her. Much like another beautiful, fine-featured, dark haired movie star, she had a major shop lifting scandal which derailed her career for a while. Very late in her life she was honored for her discoveries both in Europe and in the US.

"Any girl can be glamorous. All she has to do is stand still and look stupid." Hedy Lamarr 1915-2000

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Taxidermy Frightens Me

The picture at left is just fabulous. I love the strange fetishy looking fencing masks. The petite women in their Edwardian day clothing. It looks like an Edward Gorey drawing come to life. It was a part of a NY Times article/slide show called The New Antiquarians, which brought up some really conflicting feelings in me.

1. My first thought was, ooooh, how lovely, this is right smack in the center of my aesthetic!

2. I'm sort of actively trying to avoid crazy old lady-dom. Surrounding myself with random dusty ephemera in large piles of confusion and weirdness will not help me attain this goal. In some small way, my entire theory of interior decoration can be summed up in the phrase: "Please, God, don't let me turn into one of the Collyer Brothers."

3. Taxidermy frightens me. I'm always afraid it will spontaneously sprout maggots. When I mentioned this on fb, my conservator BFF said I would be more in danger of mercury and arsenic dusting off of it. These are not good things.

4. The sisters pictured above have no windows in their apartment. I need sunlight or I get deeply depressed.

5. But so pretty!

6. The much extolled clean, modern aesthetic leaves me cold. The Fred/Ginger deco interiors are about as clean and modern as I can tolerate.

7. I am completely aware of the fact that Virgodog would run screaming into the night if I tried to install some sort of bird carcass, or lizard display in the living room (though I tolerate the Spider Man head in the office, so he really doesn't have a leg to stand on).

10. I love this stuff, but Anthopologie makes me feel so dirty about it.

11. ABC Home makes me literally sick with acquisitive longing.

12. And so, so pretty.

13. As far as furnishing goes, I'm really more of an Art Nouveau/Arts & Crafts kind of girl. I really like some of the Second Empire French stuff, too.

14. But I can't afford any of it, and really don't have any kind of head for interior decoration.

15. All of this, for some reason, makes me think of Princess Langwidere and her many heads. When I was ten or eleven, I drew imagined portraits of all thirty, approximating John R. Neill's drawing style as closely as I could. This is why it's so odd to me when people say I draw like Gorey. What they are seeing are the remains of the Neill influence.

16. I really like intricate, cluttered interiors. I am also maybe not the tidiest person on earth, or the best at cleaning things as regularly as one might prefer. This is not the best mix to have with the intricate or the cluttered.

17. Sigh. I simply don't have the focus or single minded purpose to devote myself completely to a single aesthetic. I've been weirdly jealous of people who have the ability to do so since I was a teenager. When I bother to give it any thought, I realize it's probably best.

18. I think I should really contain my aesthetic impulses to art. Worrying about it in real life too much just makes me anxious.

19. I really need to draw more.

20. And dust my apartment.


In a strangely post-apocalyptic turn of events, Caviglia found herself alone in a barren landscape and wondered at the evidence of the hasty - and possibly coerced departure of the picnickers.

"Thank God, I have a martini! that a zombie?"

"GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!", replied the zombie.

"I'm out of vermouth, have any extra?"


Caviglia, sighed. "Straight gin it is! Bottoms up!"


"You're cute."

Mad Men Yourself