Friday, August 26, 2016

Discovering King Tut's Tomb - A Modern Retelling

The exhibit my family and I recently visited, "The Discovery of King Tut," included painstakingly made, scientifically produced reproductions featured at The Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa.

My daughter and I outside the museum.

At first, this may sound somewhat dissatisfying.  However, the exhibit was extremely well done.  The original artifacts discovered in King Tut's tomb are no longer permitted to tour outside of Egypt either!  Plus, with the reproductions, items were able to be piled on top of one another in order to recreate the discovery of Tutankamun's tomb.  And this was the true magic of the exhibit, being able to walk into rooms recreated exactly as they were found when Howard Carter first discovered the tomb.

Dr. David P. Silverman, Professor of Egyptology at the University of Pennsylvania, the curator for the last King Tut exhibition that toured the United States containing authentic artifacts, has lent his support to the exhibition by saying, "The concept of the exhibition really breaks new ground in presenting ancient Egyptian cultural history. Egyptian antiquities from King Tut's tomb can no longer travel outside Egypt, but this exhibition will make available nearly 1,000 precise replicas of breathtaking items found among the young pharaohs treasures."

The first chamber we discover.

King Tut's burial was a rushed affair.  His unexpected death at his young age left the country scrambling.  The tomb itself was not a pharaoh's tomb style.  It was too small, and the traditional items and wall decorations had to be crammed into the space.  Many of the prayers and incantations believed to guide pharaohs during their journey through the Afterlife were missing in Tut's tomb.  

Our second discovery: the burial chamber - which was quite breathtaking!

Seeing these rooms recreated with such detail and care was a true delight.  It was apparent with the reproductions how talented and creative the ancient Egyptian craftsmen were.  My favorite room was definitely the Burial Chamber.  At first, all you can see is a screen, and images of Howard Carter and his team were displayed with a narrative about what the find meant to them personally.  As the narrative continued, my anxiousness to see the artifact recreations grew and grew.  When the lights finally illuminated the items behind the screen, well, it was definitely an awe-inspiring moment for me.  I think most of the audience members felt transported to Egypt in that moment.  The colors were so vivid, the details ornate.  

King Tut's tomb was discovered largely intact in the Valley of the Kings in 1922 by a team led by Howard Carter.  My daughter's favorite wall of the burial chamber was definitely the western wall.  It's covered with 12 baboons.  These represent the 12 hours throughout the night which a pharaoh must pass before entering the Afterlife. In the upper left corner, you can see a painted boat on which pharaoh will journey upon.  

Per the Putnum Museum's Press Release: The discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb is considered the most famous discovery in the history of archaeology, and in modern times, the context of its finding has been lost. The exhibition allows visitors to experience the background of this historic discovery, and to get to know the most important artifacts through stunning and scientifically produced reconstructions. These remarkable, individual presentations allow the world to experience the treasures of King Tutankhamun’s tomb without compromising the fragile originals, most of which are not permitted to be toured.

An international team of exhibition designers worked for over five years on the realization of this Exhibition under the scientific direction of Egyptologists Dr. Martin von Falck and Dr. Wolfgang Wettengel. 

There's been a lot of news recently about King Tut's tomb, known as KV62, regarding hidden burial chambers (perhaps of Queen Nefertiti herself!).  Unfortunately, the latest news reported that: "Radar scans conducted by a National Geographic team have found that there are no hidden chambers in Tutankhamun's tomb, disproving a claim that the secret grave of Queen Nefertiti lurks behind the walls."  

Bummer.  This was actually a possibility included in my book!!!  More information about this recent press release can be found here:

The final chamber we discovered was the Treasury, but I believe I have covered quite a bit in this one blog post!  Thus, I will wrap things up for now.  Stay tuned for further details in the coming month.  More amazing exhibit photos to come, a welcome doorway into the enchanting world of ancient Egypt.  

Be prepared to see more wonderful things!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Final Appearance of the Season!

If you're in Rochester, be sure to check out the Rochester Author's Thursday on First booth!  I'll be there from 10:00 - 12:00 P.M. signing books purchased.  I also just got a couple "Aten's Last Queen" magnets which may be freebies with purchase (I just have to remember to pack them for the day)!

Here's some information about the event itself:  There are many great local vendors with food and hand-made items to discover.

Its been great to be able to meet and greet fellow book lovers.  Self-published authors rarely get opportunities of this kind.  I've been out once in July, and I will be there for the final author booth appearance this Thursday.  If you're in the area, please stop by and say hi!

Here's a great article about our group and the talented people you can meet on Thursdays:

Mark your calendars!  Its going to be a lot of fun!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Ghostbusters Gets Girl Empowered

On a rare kid-free evening, I decided to hit the movie theater.  I have no problem going by myself to enjoy a little “me” time.  The only question of the night (besides “would you like butter on your popcorn?”) was choosing between Ghostbusters and Bad Moms.  Since I had a free movie ticket and Bad Moms did not accept passes, I chose Ghostbusters.  Admittedly, I was curious about the movie.  I heard mixed reviews about it so had no idea what to expect.
I grew up on the Ghostbusters movie and cartoon.  I remember quoting Bill Murray often (“...dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!”), and I don’t think that movie would have been as successful without Bill Murray’s oft ad-libbed lines.   Thus, this new crew had a lot of live up to.
The movie opened with a tour guide leading a group through an old mansion.  The humor is very subtle in the beginning and could easily fly by if you were not paying attention (ie, still on your phone).  The spookiness begins almost immediately with an old house, a creepy former resident, and a mysterious hidden device working together to reel the audience into the plot. 
Of the four leads, we’re first introduced to Kristin Wiig’s character as she prepares to give a college lecture.  Through her, we are introduced to two other characters.  Meanwhile, ghostly encounters are on the rise throughout New York, and we soon meet our fourth team member. 

I was thoroughly entertained by this movie.  It was funny, it was well cast, it had special effects that worked with the technology used, and it had some kick butt moments.  But one of my favorite aspects was the fact that a group of four women were the main characters in an action film. 
Growing up, I saw groupings/teams of men who saved the day with maybe a “girl” or two as a sidekick: the A-Team, the original Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Star Trek (original and somewhat TNG), Battlestar Galactica, Indiana Jones, Knight Rider, He-Man, X-Men, Smurfs, GI Joe...  *sigh*
Very few movies, TV shows, or cartoons had more than one female (or any) helping to overcome the odds.  Typically females were blonde bombshells who screamed and needed to be rescued (i.e., the super annoying Vicky Vale in Batman). 

Patty Tolan: [seeing a room filled with mannequins] Okay, room full of nightmares.

Sure, Star Wars had Princess Leia, but because of the time period it was made, Leia didn’t do nearly as much as Han and Luke.  The (now non-cannon) books helped bridge this gap for her character, but Return of the Jedi was all I had for Princess Leia truly taking an active role in defeating the enemy.  To see her expertly shoot a gun and ride a speeder bike and choke a crime lord to death - that was a culmination of bad ass-ness for girls growing up in the 80s. 
But, of course, all the marketing for Return of the Jedi included Leia in her slave costume.  She couldn’t kick butt unless skin was revealed.  Even with Avengers movies, Black Widow seems to always forget to zip her black skin-tight suit up over the chest region. 
What do we have now-a-days?  It’s only slightly better.  This includes the Harry Potter books, the Percy Jackson series, the Transformer movies (thanks for all the female butt shots in those movies Mr. Bay because, you know, girls never played with transformers, right???  Oh, no wait, they did.), Star Trek (get rid of the 1960’s-era skirts! You re-made Kirk’s jacket!), Guardians of the Galaxy, Mission Impossible, Lord of the Rings (I acknowledge that Peter Jackson did what he could with the source material), Avengers and their related solo spin offs, etc.  Again, we have disproportionate teams, and all the teams are led by men.  I love some of these franchises, but they have left me disappointed now and again.
Back to Ghostbusters.  These women are not always pretty, and they do not mind getting messy.  They dress in jumpsuits and casual clothes.  They’re intelligent.  They dive headlong into their work and are not waylaid by danger (or threats from the mayor).  And check out the movie posters!  Is anyone turned around showing off their butt or zipping down their suits?  NO!  Because women are more than just the display of their parts!  Sorry, that got a little crude there… I’m just really excited about women as scientists.  Talk about new ground being broken!

Was this movie epic?  Not quite.  There were some scenes that attempted to force the humor onto the audience (Melissa McCarthy flying around with the proton beam waiting for it to lose power or scenes with the mayor’s assistant who was not believable).  Some of the cameos were also uncomfortably forced into the movie.  Dan Akroyd and Bill Murray were actually my least favorite cameos with Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver’s being my favorites - because they worked naturally within the flow of the plot.  In fact, one of my favorite lines was from a cameo while Holtzmann’s new containment unit was being discussed.  The actress asks what she’s always told Holtzmann.
Jillian Holtzmann: Safety lights are for dudes!

I felt like I could relate to the different characters, more than just one, and I could see my friends as other characters.  I mean, those thoughts alone were like revelations.  Look at that: me and my girls could bust some ghosts instead of be a romantic interest in some other hero’s action movie (though if it’s Captain America doing the asking - call me!)
There were many excellent scenes that built up the characters and their relationships.  And the scene where the team interviews Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) is fantastic.  Everything with Wiig trying to flirt with Hemsworth cracked me up (because that would so be me - all awkward and geeky).   Yet there was no need for a romantic subplot in this movie.  Those scenes were just fun.  The story focused on the team working together to uncover who was bringing ghosts into the city and why. 
While the main villain is not terribly scary, this movie doesn’t pretend he is either.  The villain is unveiled very early on.  Is his motivation earth-shattering or full of depth and backstory?  No, but neither is the movie.  It’s a good balance of serious and funny moments. 

Plus, the women kick ass at the end.  I loved the proton whips that came out, the musical score rising in awesomeness, and ghosts being sent back to their maker.  I enjoyed how the proton packs were used a little differently not only to catch but also to throw ghosts out of the way.  I liked the team using skills with their physical weapons along with their intelligence to defeat the main villain.  There is great dynamics and humor between the four women, and the relationship building adds to the appeal of the film.  

Finally, Hollywood has flipped on its head the typical action hero film.  I got a huge GIRL POWER rush after this film was done.

Hemsworth was great as the pretty but dumb blonde.  I liked the new ghostbuster team.  I rocked out to the music.  I appreciated the look of the equipment - it felt more raw and hand-crafted than those in the original.  I even felt more danger/menace with these ghosts versus those of the 1980s films. 

Abby Yates: It's really easy sit there and be the naysayer when you don't actually do anything.

Was this a man-hating cartoonish reboot?  No.  And no one seemed to have a problem with Peter Venkmann’s creepy stalking of Dana in the original.  Let’s consider how Dana was treated in the 80s film.  She asks for help when she discovers a hell beast in her fridge.  Venkmann comes over to examine everything in her apartment except the fridge but including her bedroom.  He stands too close.  He doesn’t listen.  He makes inappropriate comments.  He just wants to get in her pants.  Eventually she shoves him out but later accepts his offer to go on a date.  Huh?  Later, a demon possesses Dana’s body, makes her proposition her body and make out with one guy and subsequently causes her to have sex with a neighbor guy she dislikes - yet this is a “joke” for the movie.  I didn’t know sexual assault by any means (in this case, by the supernatural) was a joke.  But hey, it’s a classic! 

So let’s be fair when we compare these movies, shall we?  If this is considered man-hating, the original should be considered woman-hating.  The original had an all-male team with a female villain who was wearing a bubbly outfit and high heels.  Interesting.  Kind of like this film as an all-female team and a male villain?  Not sure how that’s man-hating.  More like completely turning the tables.  Also of note, have the 50 different Spiderman reboots ruined the franchise?  No.  Batman reboots?  No.  So this should not be considered a franchise killer either. 

This movie re-invents a franchise and has a good time doing so.  I felt it was done well.  I’m waving my nerd flag high!  Rock on, Ghostbusters.  I hope to see you again.  It’s not going to be hard to surpass Ghostbusters II!  Because women can be comedy and action stars too