Thursday, November 18, 2010

King Tut in Times Square

You know when you’ve been looking forward to an event, let’s say a party, for a long while? Perhaps you’ve been anticipating the snazzy decorations, succulent food, and inspiring conversation for days, maybe even weeks? And then you get to the party and everything looks cheap, the food is delivery from Lucky Dragon, the music is a redundant bossa nova, and you’re stuck talking to a halitosis-laden barista that wants to tell you everything about his pet iguana, Frank? You know that feeling? Well, folks, that’s just how I felt when I left the King Tut exhibit on 44th street. I had been looking forward to spending some quality time with some mummies and scarabs for weeks, but after seeing the exhibit, I was only grumpy that I had been gypped out of my valuable time and money and not even marginally more educated on the life and history surrounding the Egyptian boy king (other than a few facts which I will relate a bit later). I was disappointed, to say the least. The only thing to which I can liken my King Tut experience is my visit to Ripley’s Believe it or Not (see January 19th blog), and I daresay I may have liked Ripley’s a little better.

First of all, the exhibit costs a ridiculous $33 (after taxes) and the portly ticket seller rolled her eyes when we asked if there were any actor/student/military/local discounts. A quick “no” and a wag of a few of her chins followed each of our inquiries, but as we were handing over our plastic, I overheard a couple next to us being given a discount code and, thus, a discount. Ew. One strike for King Tut. We were quickly informed soon thereafter that once you enter the exhibit, you cannot use the restroom and be readmitted afterward. So, hold off on the water on the 100 degree day, folks. Oh, but nevermind. You can’t bring water into the exhibit either. Two strikes, Mr. Tut.

All of this would have been excusable if the exhibit itself had been even remotely interesting. Okay, it was a little interesting, but for 33 bones, I’d better (forgive the pun) see some real Egyptian bones. Or at least a mummy or two. Nope. Just replicas. Now, this is my issue with many exhibits these days. If you don’t have any real artifacts, don’t put together an exhibit. I want to see stuff you dug up out of the ground. I don’t want to see plastic copies of those things. I also am not that interested in standing in a room and watching a movie about the plastic things that surround me. Trust me, it’s way cheaper and I’d wager a lot more educational to stay at home and watch the Discovery Channel. (Michelle hops off soap box). Yes, there were some beautiful wooden pectorals, ornately carved boxes called “canopic jars” (for storing organs that might be used in the afterlife), ivory board games, and a full-out golden sarcophagus. These were supposedly genuine and were highlights of my time with the Tut, though many of the real artifacts were suspiciously clean. I don’t know what to make of my mistrust of clean Egyptian relics, but there it is. If an artifact is 3300 years old, I’m going to not expect said piece to be shiny. Or brightly colored, for that matter. Just saying. Not that I’m any kind of expert archaeologist, but it was really obvious, even to the untrained eye, that a lot of this stuff had been “restored”. I guess that’s fine, but I fleetingly wondered whether Howard Carter was rolling over in his grave.

The more I think about it, I guess I’d say the exhibit was an unenthusiastic “okay”. It was, by far, not the best thirty bucks I’ve ever spent, but I was reminded of my sophomore art history lessons (eye of Horus and the ankh, anyone?) and I did learn that the embalming process included removing the brain through the nose. The fact of the matter is, though, that after I came home, I read (thanks, Wiki and amscresearch!) that the process is called “transnasal brain removal” and involves pulling the brain out though the nose using bronze hooked rods that were around 30 centimeters long AND that the brain was often left to decompose to a semi-liquid state prior to its evacuation from the cranium. Guess what, folks? The internet is free. Aha! Maybe that was the root of my issue. Dear King Tut exhibit organizers: I’m not dumb. Please give me all of the info and I’ll sort through it. Show me dirty un-restored artifacts, give me the opportunity to learn about them, and trust that I will still care even if they aren’t brightly colored and there are a lot of words beside them. Don’t paint sand dunes on the wall and put fake mummies under cases of glass. I know I’m an American and I’m bored easily, but let me get bored on my own looking at real stuff and reading detailed information. For thirty bucks, I want to be grossed out by liquid brains, okay?!?!?

I guess the best way I can sum it up is as follows: If you walk up to a fully stocked newsstand and your paper of choice is USA Today, bust a move. Check out the Tut. You’ll love him. If you reach for the Times, the Economist, or the Wall Street Journal, stay home and watch the Discovery Channel. Fee-sha-ha-tak!

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