Discovery, Egyptology, and Television

One of the things I don’t like about the History Channel is the way in which they ham up ever historical figure.  They promise hidden secrets, sordid affairs, all the juicy, gossipy details that are supposed to make history more lively.  Of course, they are treading a thin line between entertainment and fact-giving, and I understand that’s a hard line to tread, especially if you want your show to be approachable by the average person.  Discovery does a better job.  Sure, they have their own hammy miniseries, complete with heavy-handed questioning (who were these elusive peoples?  and why did they vanish?). But they also have  great shows like Mythbusters,  in which urban myths are tested in a semi-scientific way, and Cash Cab, in which people on the streets of New York get a free cab ride and the chance to win money for answering trivia questions on the way to their destination.  I mean, I would love to ride in the cash cab – it looks so much fun?  And it’s far more likely than me ever getting onto Jeopardy.

But at the same time, there is a more questionable side to the nature of their activities.   Piggybacking on the ever-mysterious, ever-wondrous image of Egypt, Discovery made a deal with the Egyptian Museum.  For exclusive rights to follow the search for Hatshepsut’s tomb, they paid for a new DNA laboratory at the museum.  On one hand, this can be seen as a fair trade – both sides got something of value.  But on the other, I have serious misgivings about funding for scientific research from the media.  We all know scientific data gets manipulated – that’s what research articles about, interpreting and reinterpreting the data.  But I worry about labs such as this one catering to television’s penchant for the dramatic.

This article gives a little more detail and exemplifies what I mean.  If Discovery is already basically showing the mummy in question as Hatshepsut, what happens when the new DNA lab they paid for discovers it’s someone else?  Is the documentary remade?  Does the Museum owe something further to Discovery?  Does it discourage or encourage future investors from television, and how does this influence archaeological research?  Most research is undramatic and small – would TV be interested?  Does it end up poeticized, just as our current image of Egypt is?  I’m not sure, but it does give me pause.

Blogging and freedom.

It’s rare that I consider the privileges of my lifestyle.  Sure, I appreciate my boss, despite my job.  And I appreciate th epeople in my life fairly regularly.  But there are always things I don’t consider, things that may come into my awareness only with special reflection, perhaps sparked by the season of Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Easter.  So perhaps it is appropriate that this news item about blogging elsewhere came to my attention in this season.

I rarely consider the internet as a place of freedom for myself.  Sure, it allows for some expression and some sharing of opinions. For the most part though, my sharing is very lighthearted and because of this, I tend to perceive the environment as lighthearted.  Sure, when I was in China I was much more aware of restrictions that could be made, but still it was more of a game.  I looked up different opinions about Tibet and amused myself with their monks-as-oppressors, Communism-as-the-liberator articles.  I didn’t get offended or hurt, perhaps because I knew my lack of access was only temporary.

What does it mean that a blogger – not even someone with the authority of print – would be arrested and held for the opinions that he posts?   What does it mean to consider your blog – this light, hopeful and happy thing that often contains subtle prods – as something of complete and ultimate seriousness?  How does it affect your writing?  How does it affect your life, to know that what you post on a simple blog – something most like a public forum for the world – could change your life forever?  Could get you killed?  Could put your family in danger?

The Banana Monkey.

Some people like bananas.  Some people like monkeys.  I personally happen to like cards and cheese, but that’s another story for another time.  Finally, Some monkeys like bananas.  It is this group that gives rise to the Holy Grail of monkeydom, the Banana Monkey. He’s a fearful creature, with cheeks poodged out in banana revelry, spending his days munch munching away and playing Scrabulous with me.

As some of you may know, I am a big fan of Scrabulous. A big, big fan. In fact, I’ve lost count of the number of times I have mentioned the game in this blog. Some enterprising young person could do a search and perhaps count them, but that will not be me.  I need to put away such youthful games in my struggle to be a crazy old lady.  I am moving every closer – not many days ago, in a stroke of rare senility, I lost a game to the Banana Monkey.

Now, some of you may say, ‘how can this be? You’re so much smarter than a monkey!’  I know, I know.  Yet while it is evidence of progress towards my only life goal, I myself was initially flabbergasted.  My intelligence, of course,  is superior to monkeys, even an imposing figure such as the Banana Monkey.  But then I remembered the monkeys, typewriters, and Shakespeare theories of randomness.  The answer was simple:  I’ve been playing too much Scrabulous.  With an infinite amount of time, eventually I must get such crap letters that the Banana Monkey must triumph.  Perhaps (gasp!) even more than once.  It’s a simple fact of the nature of chaos.

Don’t use your fingers.

All of you who are reading this have one unfortunate thing in common.  You have parents.  They may no longer be alive or just no longer part of your daily life, but you have them nonetheless.  At one time or another, they probably made your life completely unbearable – multiple times if you were highly unfortunate.  And some of the really mean ones might have told you not to use your fingers when eating.

In my family, that’s the way it was.  I loved food – I still do.  And no matter what I did, I could never get that last delicious morsel off of my plate – without using my fingers, of course.  Inevitably a parent would catch me doing it, and then I’d be made to wash my hands and then go back to my seat.  Because not only were my hands ‘dirty’ when I’d touched the food I was actually going to eat, contaminating it, but the act of actually touching food made them more dirty.

Looking back now, it makes less and less sense.  Sure, I get the basic ‘manners’  concept, that touching food is ‘rude’, but beyond that, there’s not much reason not to touch your food.  I can even understand that others might be grossed out by food touching, giving the possible reason behind that politeness.  But still, why did I have to wash my hands?  If they’re physically messy, isn’t a napkin enough?

For those of you who fear to become your parents, dictators of hand-washing and food manners, there is another option, which I discovered here.  Who knows what wonders of eating I could have accomplished with the bulldozer food ‘pusher’?