Have I given up the ghost for good? Forgot my obligations? No, no, no, I've just crept back for business. I've been shaken lately by the opening of wounds decades closed -- annoying fatuations -- and two of the men I admire most in life have very nearly asked of Anubis, "Why not weigh me?" One still asks. Was King Tut worth his weight in gold?
Judging by the King Tutankhamun exhibit at LACMA, I'd have to say, ehhhh. Woke up at about 5am to get in line. This must be the first museum show I've ever seen that's sold and structured just like a ride at Disneyland. The wait in line is about 2 hours. While in line, you gape at the people, engage in small talk, or munch on the free Krispy Kremes supplied by the museum. Every once in awhile, as you creep forward, you pass fake Egyptian columns or statues made of plaster. When you finally reach the end of the line, you and 50 other souls gather in a tiny room, the doors close around you (locked in! Just like Disney's Haunted Mansion ride!) and a short video narrated by Omar Sharif plays on widescreen tv. When it's over, a door mysteriously opens, and an illuminated bust of Tut awaits.
The conversation you hear at large-scale museum shows is a swamp of disinformation and honest naïveté ("Tut must have payed a lot of money for the workers he hired to make these artifacts" or "Why'd they raid his tomb, anyway?"). The show itself? Perhaps it's a bit post-modern of me, but I've seen so many fake Egyptian artifacts, good reproductions apparently, that the real things carried no aura for me. The fake stuff you see while standing in line doesn't help in this regard. I turned a corner in the show and saw a huge, beautiful bust of an Egyptian god, sure that it was another prop. (I'm reminded of Dylan's song Isis, "I broke into the tomb, but the casket was empty. There was no jewels, no nothin'! I felt I'd been had"). There were, however, a few wonderful pieces that rekindled my childhood dream of being an archaeologist (I only wanted to be an archaeologist of the 20s or 30s, fighting fascists and swinging from whips). An intricately carved child's chair, giant model ships, golden statues of falcon-headed Horus, gold necklaces ("I was thinkin' about turquoise, I was thinkin' about gold, I was thinkin' about diamonds and the world's biggest necklace"). The biggest disappointment, though, was that the iconic pieces you think about when you think about Tut (the golden death-mask and coffin) were nowhere to be found. They were too expensive to insure for travel to the United States.