Feature: Portrait – Hedy Lamarr
Many will have heard of Hedy Lamarr – she was considered the most beautiful woman of film, had one of the most controversial film roles of the 30s and she was reportedly the inspiration for Anne Hathaway’s version of Catwoman. Not as many will have heard of the other side of this remarkable woman – the inventor and mathematician. She and her colleague George Antheil laid the ground work for frequency-hopping spread spectrum, which is the basis for the spread-spectrum communications technology we use pretty much daily in the form of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Lamarr was born Hedwig Kiesler to Jewish parents in Vienna on the 9th of November 1914. In the late 1920s she was discovered as an actress by German producer Max Reinhardt. After her theater training in Berlin she returned to Vienna and started working in the film industry. It was there she met and married military arms merchant Friedrich Mandl. A very controlling husband, Mandl took Hedy along to business meetings and keeping her more or less locked up at their castle home Schloss Schwarzenau, where according to Lamarr herself both Hitler and Mussolini attended parties. These business meetings and conferences introduced Lamarr to the idea of applied science, and was the start of her scientific interest. What she overheard during those meetings would spur her scientific efforts at the start of the second world war.
Finding her situation unbearable, she eventually escaped to Paris where she met talent scout Louis B. Mayer. On his insistence she changed her name to Hedy Lamarr and on her arrival in Hollywood in 1938 Mayer promoted her as the world’s most beautiful woman. This was the start of a Hollywood career that would span two decades and 25 films.
When World War II began, Lamarr wanted to use her scientific interest and the information she overheard during Mandl’s business meetings to thwart the plans of Nazi Germany. She began investigating ways to bypass jamming and detection of radio controlled torpedos. After several years of working by herself she brought in avant-garde composer George Antheil to the project, and together they devised an invention which hopped between 88 frequencies. The U.S. Military were not interested – they thought Hedy would do more for he war effort by promoting war bonds – and the invention was forgotten for twenty years. Then, during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, it was used by U.S. ships to during the blockade.
It wasn’t until 1997, however, that Lamarr was recognized for her research when the Electronic Frontier Foundation honored her with a special ‘Pioneer Award’ and she became the first woman to receive the BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award. A year later, Wi-LAN Inc. acquired 49% of the patent for an undisclosed sum and thanks to that we now have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology, among other things.
In 2014, Lamarr and Antheil were inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame.
Sketch of the Week
Feature: Portrait – Murasaki Shikibu
First out in my series of women who should be more known is Lady Murasaki Shikibu – author of the earliest known modern novel, Genji Monogatari, or The Tale of Genji.
The Tale of Genji is not an unknown work by any stretch of the imagination – it is considered a Japanese classic and a very important work – but here in the western world few have heard of it and I think it is well worth noting that the first modern novelist in recorded history was a woman. The novel itself is divided into three parts, consisting of 54 chapters in total, and it curiously ends in mid-sentence (scholars have debated if the ending is actually the intended one or if there may be parts missing). Many different versions of the book exists, some with small differences and later editions with extra chapters written by other authors, but the original has unfortunately been lost to time.
Lady Murasaki was an author and poet born somewhere around the year 973 AD in Japan and in the early 11th century she entered the service of Empress Shōshi as a lady-in-waiting. Her true identity remains uncertain. There exists no portraits of her and no literary descriptions, and the name Murasaki comes from one of the major characters in her novel. It is believed she may have been Fujiwara Takako – a lady-in-waiting mentioned in a court diary in 1007, but no one knows for sure. She died somewhere between 1014 and 1025.
Besides The tale of Genji, she is attributed authorship of The Diary of Lady Murasaki – a diary written in three distinctly different parts – and Poetic Memoirs, a collection of 128 poems.
Sketch of the Week
“I bear the wounds of all the battles I avoided.”
Why is it that pain can trigger creativity?
The past week I have been the perfect example of the tortured artist, spending my days in splendid isolation and spitting out art and sketches at an unprecedented rate. The past month I’ve done something like two dozen drawings and paintings, plus a bunch of sketches – half of them in the last week alone. Not everything is worth showing, of course, but all in all I’m quite pleased. Plus, the process has taught me things and sparked ideas that I will keep working on.
Isolation and hurt can lead to productivity, it seems.
Perhaps it is more the quiet than anything else – the shutting out of distractions and considerations. When we turn our gaze inward and look away from the world, we can finally see things with our mind instead of our eyes. Truths that otherwise would have been lost in the buzzing of everyday life.
Also – in spite of me keeping myself largely isolated – several queries have trickled in for the visual side of my art, and a whole lot of appreciation.
Which is nice.
I just hope I can keep this energy going and keep producing. Maybe not at the rate of several drawings per day, put hopefully several per week. And maybe I can finally get going on some of my stories as well – there are several things wanting my attention, from new stories to rewrites to last edits.
With a bit of effort, maybe I can even catch up to my goals for this year…
- Read – Tormentor; William Meikle
- Watch – Birdman; Alejandro G. Iñárritu
- Listen – Kill Myself; Tim McGraw
Sketch of the Week
God Hates Us All
“A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them.”
—C. G. Jung
I’ve done no less than four drawings/sketches, partied twice, lost a tooth, started a new story and I managed to hurt a very dear friend of mine. I’ve spent a week in pain – first from a bad tooth ache, and now from having had said tooth pulled.
Things could’ve been smoother.
But, at least my creativity is back – even if I’ve only managed to produce pretty rough things so far. The story seed has potential, though – a tale of friendship, love, youth and life’s disappointments and pleasures. Or something to that effect, we’ll see when I get it all down.
My recommendations this week are all works of art that hold special meaning to me – things which highlight the complexity of life and do not hesitate to show both the beauty and the ugliness of life.
Life is never all bad or all good.
Even at our very best or our very worst, there’s still something present in our lives that tries to balance things out. Maybe not much, but there’s always something. All we can do is cling to he good while we tackle the bad, and hope that we come out on top.
- Read – God Hates Us All; Hank Moody
- Watch – The Wrestler; Darren Aronofsky
- Listen – Black Roses; Sounds Like Moving