Who Said Weekends were for Resting?

Apparently this blog I did on Tuesday did not show up. No wonder there’s been no views. . . at least I hope that’s the reason. . .

Those of you on public transportation, do you use the MTA’s Nextrip website or app? It supposedly uses GPS to tell you when the next bus is coming. Well, I checked it and saw the bus I needed was coming in 5 minutes, leaving me with plenty of time to sashay down the stairs and onto the street to wait for it. . . not that I sashay, of course. So I wish they could explain to me why it came 17 minutes later. . .
Usually I enjoy air conditioning hitting the back of my neck, but apparently that was back when I still had some hair there, as now it’s just freezing. Can’t wait for it to grow back.
Anyhooey, Saturday was spent at UCLA–as was Sunday, but more on that later, obviously–in the company of a few Egyptologists I know and a lot that I didn’t, with the main thrust of the symposium–though they didn’t call it that–Egypt in the Days of Queen Cleopatra: A Study Day on Ptolemaic Egypt. Sounds like fun, huh? Surprisingly, for the most part, it was, as I always enjoy learning new things about topics that stir my fancy, as opposed to learning new things about subjects I couldn’t give a fig or any other fruit about. Being so far away, I missed the first two lectures. . . stopping at In-N-Out and Jamba might have something to do with my tardiness as well. Got there in the middle of Bilingualism in Hellenistic Egypt, which would have been of greater interest to me had I heard it from the beginning, but I muddled through it. Following was Ptolemaic Queens and Royal Propaganda, though I had no idea at this point that it would be about vases.
Those very few of you who have read this blog before no doubt remember my archaeological hero, Dr. Kara Cooney, who of course was in attendance and gave a little squeal when the speaker was introduced as receiving her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins; I once again submit that Dr. Cooney is a giggly teenager with a giant brain. Anyhoo again, the speaker, Dr. Elizabeth Waraksa, turned out to be my favorite lecturer of the day, and not because she was a winsome blonde. {Shut up!} She explained how the Greek rulers of Egypt made themselves over to look like Egyptians to the locals while in the stuff they sent back home to Greece and other places–vases, coins, etc.–they were totally Greeked out. . . and no, I didn’t mean geeked out, though that’s possible too. BeeTeedubya {By The Way, shortened and then lengthened}, it took me forever to learn to pronounce, let alone spell, the name for those aforementioned vases: oinochoe. . . whom I kidding, I copied that from the internet. Most interesting was when she mentioned how the queens–the wives of the Pharaohs rather than someone like Dr. Cooney’s buddy Hatshepsut–became popular for the first time in Egyptian history, deified into what she termed a ruler cult. Unfortunately, when she mentioned the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge I kinda zoned out for a minute, remembering my trips there.
I came back in time to wonder if the vases were colored, and as though on cue she talked about glazes and gold leaf, which was used to increase prestige for the owner. On a funnier note, she mentioned the priests came from the military and a lot of them were Olympic victors, with their daughters as the priestesses, which sounds weird until you remember that was pretty regular for pharaohs in earlier times. Interestingly enough, these propaganda vases all went around the Med, none of them going south.
On to audience questions, where someone mentioned the design on the vase had some Dionysus worship, which now that I think about it–and look really hard at the pictures–is pretty obvious. . . how I missed my favorite pagan god, I have no idea, but it’s a forehead slapper, alright. {Whom I kiddin’? Aphrodite is my fave. . .}
With all this information percolating in my brain, it was just the right time for a break, so I got to go over to Dr. Cooney and gently kid her as I always do. Amazingly she recognized me without hair, and as a photographer–only reason, of course–I couldn’t help but notice how much her eyes popped with the green sweater. Plus she was wearing jeans, which not many fashion-conscious professors do. Awesome. . .
Messed up on the guy in charge’s accent–I thought German, turned out he was Dutch–but luckily I didn’t say anything out loud, so if he never reads this he’ll never know.
Next up was the newly minted Dr. Barbara Richter, who told some fascinating and scary stories about her kids in the wine and cheese afterparty, but for now spoke about temples, calling her lecture Between Heaven and Earth. I’ve been to Egypt a few times, mostly as a tourist, but I can’t remember ever visiting the Temple of Isis at Philae, which looked particularly amazing from above. Amusing to me was learning what a sistrum was, a sacred rattle that might have been the ancestor of the
tambourine. One form of sistra {the plural of sistrum} was called a sesheshet, which was explained as being named after the sound it makes, but from my research I see it’s also the name of a queen, so there. Next us was the Temple of Denderah, which also looks fascinating, including secret doors leading into a basement that held crypts; not so sure I’d want to wander through them back when they were new, but looking at them through the photos they’re not so creepy, despite all the horror/erotica I’ve read on ancient Egyptian vampires. {Shut UP!} As though reading my mind, the next subject was “dream incubation,” where the goddess sends down a message through a dream; incubation is an interesting word in this context, but I’ll go with it. Hathor, being the Egyptian goddess of love in the same way as Aphrodite is to the Greeks and Venus to the Romans–I could go on forever–is of course my favorite here, so if I was flagging from the long day after a long night of insomnia, this perked me back up.
Since there’d been talk of music earlier, I now realized I hadn’t studied much on the Egyptian god on that subject, Ihy, who was the son of Hathor and Horus, as well as can be figured out anyway; mythology sure can be like a soap opera. I did get a chuckle at seeing that, while Hathor’s dress is almost floor-length, Horus is wearing what amounts to a miniskirt. Another interesting tidbit was a wall message where the cartouches were left blank; as someone mentioned in the Q&A, that meant the magic didn’t know where to go and was rendered useless. . .
Next up was Nature and Origin of the Cult of Saraphis, by Shanna Kennedy-Quigley, which I happen to think is an awesome name. She also lectured with a lot of fun and enthusiasm, and since I never got a good look at her, you can’t accuse me of saying all this because she’s pretty. . . cuz I know you guys never give me the benefit of the doubt. Anyhoo cubed, there’s a photo of what turned out to be an almost-life-size statue of the god Saraphis himself, with a Cerberus by his side. At this point it occurred to me that Alexandria under Greece sounds fascinating, but then it was mentioned the statue might have come from Sinop, a place in Turkey I know, so my mind wandered off in memory again; I gotta work on that. Another name discussed was Strabo, my favorite ancient scribe–suck it, Homer!–as well as Clement of Alexandria, who woulda been awesome had he not been so religious. At that point Shanna makes an oral booboo and goes “Oops!” which sounded so cute. Later on she said, “Pluto. . . not the dog, of course.” She even interrupted herself to bless a sneeze! “Sorry, habit.” Also enjoyed her use of the phrase “Cautious speculation,” followed by “Bam! There we go!” But probably the best was when, perhaps knowing the UCLA connection, she mentioned that the image of Saraphis on the screen “reminds me of the lead singer of the Doors.” She likes to nod eagerly too; she may officially be my second favorite Egyptian lecturer after Dr. Cooney, though Dr. Waraksa is up there too. . .
One more break, and then Dr. Jacco the Dutchman says, “Proud of all of you for sitting for five hours.” And then we get. . . CSI Alexandria! Last Days and Death of Cleopatra, by Dr. Robert Gurval, who teaches Classics here at the U-clan. He didn’t make much of it, but did mention something not many people–including some around me–know: Cleopatra VII is the famous one, and the previous ones–apparently not six–are hardly ever talked about. First he spoke about Pat Brown, a professional criminal profiler on the Discovery channel–I did not see Dr. Cooney’s reaction to the mention of her broadcast partners when she did her series–doing something similar to this, where the conclusion was, according to the profile, Cleopatra would not have committed suicide. Since I don’t think criminal profiling can cut across two millennia, when thought patterns and emotions and notions of honor were clearly different, I’m not putting much stock in that. . . and I have to say it’s
been difficult watching Criminal Minds ever since Paget Brewster left, this time of her own will. . . yes, I am the King–nay, the Pharaoh!–of tangents and digression!
Next up on my cruise along memory lane was the Hunterian Museum at the U of Glasgow, but this time I recovered quickly, and heard that Cleo had actually been in Rome when Julius Caesar was killed; don’t remember if Shakespeare mentions that. Some reference of the famous battle of Actium–which I think I had to read about in my few weeks at OCS–leads to Lucius Pinarus Scarpus, a relative of Octavius who nonetheless fought against him on Mark Anthony’s side, until after the
battle he saw which way the wind was blowing and switched. I just love that name, no doubt the inspiration for Tosca’s Scarpia; I need to read up on him.
Lest you think Cleopatra was the innocent victim of circumstance, let’s not forget she once sent the King of Armenia’s head to the King of Medea as a sign of friendship; though she had four kids, she was a queen first and a mother second. Another character I have to read up on is Selene, her daughter who became Queen of Mauretania, though I heard it as Macedonia at first. Already from what little I checked she seems to have been my kind of woman. . .
From there it was rounding up the usual suspects as to whether Cleopatra actually killed herself or died at the hands of the enemy, again making it sound vaguely soap opera-ish. I don’t know if I was expecting him to put forth his own theory, but I guess the lecture was more informational than actual crime-solving. . . at which point I like to cackle, “Maybe the forensics aren’t in yet!”
In the Q&A some old smelly guy–as in he’s-pissed-in-his-clothes smelly–who accosted me later made a denial/the Nile joke, and rightly Dr. Gurval wouldn’t let it end on that. Later on I told the guy that phrase had originated–as far as I knew–in a Dire Straits song: “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt,” but as you might expect from the intellectual hoi polloi, that didn’t go over well.
A lot of people bailed quickly, so fast they didn’t hear Dr. Jacco–later found out his last name is Dieleman–say there would be wine and cheese on the balcony. . . and here I thought it would be a small landing jutting out from Royce Hall. Uh-uh, we’re talking about the big outside right in the middle of the two towers on the front; awesome view of the library and quad as I leaned on the old stone, taking in its memories. . . until I realized how many insects were chittering around me; ugh.
On to the table, where to add to the wonderful ambiance, the cheese was actually pretty good–you know how picky I am–and the crackers I took a chance on were great, so I scarfed all of them up. No idea what the other stuff was, but along with some pineapple slices I turned this into dinner! No wine for me, of course, though the catering gal was fun to talk to. . .
Whoa! Carillon is loud up here!
Soon enough all Egyptology chat ended as people got to know each other. Wanted to talk to Dr. Waraksa–and not to tell her “You pretty!”–but she got pigeonholed early and I never got the chance. That’s okay, I got to mess around with Dr. Cooney some more. Turned out she and Dr. Barbara both had two sisters and one brother, amongst other similarities, until I finally said, “Are you sure you two aren’t the same person?” Then Kara made some crack about how those without siblings turned out. . . her oh shit! face was priceless as I informed her, in an over-the-top fake huffy voice, that I was an only child. . .
Damn, I can write for hours, or at least pages! The next day will have to wait. . .



One thought on “Who Said Weekends were for Resting?

  1. Pingback: Top 15 Outings of 2012 | LoganBruin–An Unauthorized Autobiography

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