The next time I’m at the MET Museum, or any museum for that matter, I’ll check out the sculptures more carefully for ancient paint. According to this report on CBS Sunday Morning, those bright white ancient sculptures were not originally white. They were painted in bright colors! Check it out.
So New York Comic Con is back! From October 7-10, 2021, the Jacob Javits Center will be alive again. Until recently it has been used for some sad and unpleasant things – you may remember it was turned into a hospital during the very dark days of covid. And until recently it was a center for vaccination shots.
I guess it will feel weird being there and thinking of all that, but in the end, it will be back to what it was meant for – events. Comic Con was cancelled last year, so it will be a big welcome home event this year.
I’m looking forward to Comic Con. And of course, being in NYC in the fall is an added bonus. This past summer there was still a lot missing. There wasn’t much in the way of service and I don’t think NYC is ready for visitors yet. Plus the weather is either 100 degrees or raining every day, which doesn’t help in making it a great summer experience.
That being said, I did spend a lot of time with friends and family and I did a lot of things from going to the Hamptons a couple of times to visiting Little Island, Governors Island, Coney Island (a lot of islands), seeing the fireworks and of course doing the Van Gogh Experience, among so many other things.
I was in New York for a few weeks and last week I went to MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art. While there, it reminded me of this cartoon I published this past year. It’s a guy, most likely the security guard, looking out the window, rather than the masterpieces surrounding him.
Some of you thought it was an artists license, me adding a window next to the art, as if that wasn’t a thing. But it is a thing and I’ve seen it so many times at MOMA.
I took these two pictures last week. And there were so many more instances where I could have taken more pictures. People actually look out the windows at MOMA, right next to the art! I’ve done it myself every time I’m there.
I guess it’s the view – the skyline is a work of art itself, so you sort of gravitate toward the windows, which are right next to the art!
These pictures of course do not do this justice, but the other day we went to the Van Gogh Experience in NYC. It was one of the best things I have experienced. The best part and most unbelievable part was just as we entered, my favorite song, No Regrets by Edith Piaf started playing.
This was not planned. We entered randomly, it was not as if the show was starting, it’s an ongoing thing. The person at the entrance, parted black curtains, and four of us entered, the lights came on and Edith Piaf started singing and Vincent Van Gogh’s work was bigger than life surrounding us. An indescribable moment.
I’ve been in New York. Did a lot so far in a week. The worst part was the flight. From the time I left my house until I got to the door here in NY, it took 10 hours. The flight was delayed and then we didn’t have a pilot! We literally sat on the plane for an hour waiting for him to arrive!
But I’m here and all is well.
Been to The Hamptons with my family and friends, we were at an outdoor bar listening to one of my cousins perform., He’s an entertainer and he was doing his thing out at the waterfront. It was a perfect day.
Did a bunch of other things – ate at one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Brooklyn. Did Hoboken and saw Manhattanhenge.
On Wednesday, a friend and I did the Little Island. It was beautiful and a lot of fun, but the temperature was 96 degrees with a heat index of 105 degrees. Oppressive! I even passed up Mr. Softee – I was too nauseous to eat.
Thursday a friend and I did the MET Museum. It rained all day, so that was a good indoor thing to do.
Been to diners, had an egg cream. Did all my usual stuff.
I was excited to interview Dr. Chris Naunton, Egyptologist, who I see all over tv. I tend to watch a lot of shows based on ancient Egypt, I guess that’s why that subject appears in a lot of my cartoons.
TOM: Hi Chris, thank you for doing this.
I see you have a new book out, “King Tutankamun Tells All,” I noticed the great cover right away. It looks like it’s a book for children. Is this the case?
CHRIS: It is a book for children! I have an academic grounding in Egyptology and most people making a living from the subject are academics, but that kind of work is very serious and doesn’t allow much room for jokes or light-heartedness. I had, for quite a long time, been bugged by this idea that, if the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs were right, then Tutankhamun’s spirit might still be around, dying to tell his own story and to tell us how wrong we had got everything! Writing for children allowed me to give Tutankhamun a voice (that of a slightly perturbed teenager), and to imagine his life, death and afterlife from his perspective, and also to make a few jokes too (as a serious Egyptologist I’m not really supposed to make light of the fact that his underpants were found in the tomb but come on…). It’s not a very serious book in that way, but actually, I think the process has helped me to try to get inside the mind of an Egyptian pharaoh and that’s a very interesting and helpful exercise and one I’d recommend to my colleagues!
TOM: You were appointed president of Thames Valley Ancient Egypt Society recently, what is that all about?
CHRIS: We’re very lucky in the UK that there’s a rich culture of ‘local societies’ — groups around the country run by volunteers who invite people like along to give talks about heir research for local enthusiasts. It provides us with a platform and an opportunity to engage directly with audiences beyond our academic colleagues. Communicating with wider audiences is crucially important for any science, and every opportunity like this helps us to sharpen our skills, hear the very good questions that people want answered etc. I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years now and last year I was invited to become the President of one of the largest and best such groups — the Thames Valley group which serves a wide area to the west of London.
TOM: How did you begin your career as an Egyptologist?
CHRIS: Well, I went to university to study Ancient History and Archaeology — I was more interested in football and rock music than anything else at school but it was pretty obvious by then that I wasn’t going to become a professional athlete, and the bands I was in at school didn’t seem to be going anywhere. So I had no better ideas as to what to do at 18 than to get a degree and this seems like the most interesting way to do it. Once I got there I realized I loved it and my grades were good so I decided to have a go at making a career out of it — fully expecting it wouldn’t happen. After two degrees I started applying for every job and other opportunity going and to my great surprise I got a lowly admin job at the Egypt Exploration Society. I left 16 years later having been CEO for five years.
TOM: Are you just handed the keys to locked tombs and simply walk in with a cameraman?
CHRIS: Ha ha, not quite! All archaeological sites and monuments in Egypt are the responsibility of the Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism (MoTA) and they make sure all visits are closely controlled. TV work has taken me to lots of places that are not usually open to the public but months of application beforehand are required and we are then accompanied by MoTA officials and the local guardians who actually have the keys, and Egyptian facilitators who ensure we know exactly what we can and cannot do, what we can / cannot film etc, and how long we’ve got (usually not long enough!). Still, I feel incredibly lucky thatches line of work has taken me to the places it has. Be there at the moment the burial chamber of the pyramid is opened for the first time in 4,000 years? YES PLEASE.
TOM: Do you not fear the curse of Tut’s tomb when you enter?
CHRIS: I don’t know how many times I’ve been into the tomb now, behind the barriers, in the closed rooms, gurning for the cameras while standing next to the king’s mummy, and it’s all been OK… And having had a chance to imagine how the king himself feels about all this, I reckon I’ll be OK — he quite likes the publicity!
TOM: What song is the theme of your life?
Oh my goodness… It depends one my mood, what’s going on in life… Generally speaking I respond to music more than lyrics I think and a lot of my favorite songs have lyrics that don’t really fit. The lyricists that have — in the 25 years I’ve been listening to music quite intensely — given expression to what I’m thinking and feeling the best are probably Morrissey, who seemed like a disgruntled teenager as I was when I fist started listening to The Smiths, and more recently Matt Berninger of The National, who seems more like a disgruntled 40-something like I am now! (‘I wish that I believed in fate, I wish I didn’t sleep so late’ … ‘Goodbyes always take us half an hour, can’t we just go home’)
CHRIS: I’m not easily bored. I found out a few years, a little to my surprise, that I’m very much an introvert and part of that is that I don’t need a lot of external stimulation to occupy me, and internal thoughts come easily. Pointless meetings are boring and I’ve been in plenty of those!
TOM: Who is your favorite superhero?
CHRIS: This is not something I often think about. Maybe Bananaman? This was a cartoon on British TV in the 80s, which began: This is 29 Acacia Road, and this is Eric, an ordinary little boy. But when Eric eats a banana, an extraordinary transformation occurs: Eric… is, BANANAMAN! Ever alert to the call to action!”
TOM: Winter, spring, summer or fall?
CHRIS: Spring and Fall — the light is beautiful — gentle and raking — at these times of year. Winter in England is far too dar and gloomy, and summer is too hot. If I had to choose one, I’d perhaps choose Spring as it’s the time when all the time when nature reawakens and everywhere explodes with green. Autumn (Fall!) is tinged with melancholy, as we all know the gloom is coming…
TOM: Who would you like to hang out with for the day — Akhenaten, Tutankhamun or Cleopatra? And why?
CHRIS: Wow, great question! I think Akhenaten. Although we don’t know to what extent it was his project, his reign was one of the most interesting times in Egyptian history, when so much of Egyptian culture was reinvented. I’d love to know if he really was this great, driven intellectual with the imagination to envision an entirely new Egypt, or if he just had revolutionary advisors. And I’d love to know what he really looked like. I’d meet any of them though, especially if I could bunk off for an hour or so and just take a look round!
TOM: Thanks, Chris! Hoping to take one of your tours soon. Until then, I’ll look for you on tv!
I think it is probably the movie of the summer – it’s got everything – singing, dancing, a big presence and it’s fun.
I’ve been all over NYC, but never to Washington Heights, I always plan to go to see one thing – the Little Red Lighthouse at the foot of the George Washington Bridge, but I never seem to make it. You just take the A train or the #1 and you are there.
I’ve seen it from the Hudson River many times, from the Circle Line (the lighthouse and Washington Heights).
I’ve been to Spanish Harlem many times – by accident the first time. There’s a museum up that way, the Museum of the City of New York. Every time I’m in the city, I go to the museum. I take the #6 train and get off at 103rd Street and walk through the Spanish Harlem neighborhood and end up at Central Park, where the museum is, across from the park on 5th Avenue. But along the way, you are immersed in a great culture – the food, the murals, the bodegas, the schools and hospitals, there are many hospitals up that way.
The first time I went to the Museum of the City of New York, it was to see the Roz Chast exhibit. I figured out how to get to the area and I’ve gone back dozens of times since.
I’ll be in NYC soon and of course I’ll visit the Museum of the City of New York, Spanish Harlem, and Washington Heights. New York is back, as is most of the country, and I’ll be enjoying so much of it, having not been there for such a long time. The last time I was there I had to leave a little early because a nor’easter was coming!
A recent cartoon made me laugh before I even drew it. It wasn’t the cartoon or subject matter itself. It’s the fact that as I sat down to draw, I said out loud, “Let’s get this scene done!” I guess I think I’m shooting a movie or something these days. And possibly I am. I am the writer, director, cameraman and so on. So maybe it is a scene being shot.
I like the juxtaposition of this cartoon with one I did about a year ago, around the beginning of the pandemic. This one below.
They are both confusing due to the masks. In the last case above, masks are becoming a thing of the past, but the bank robber wants to keep his on. In the earlier one below, the bank robber is sort of infringed upon by everyone wearing masks, which struck me quite funny the first time I walked into a bank and saw everyone, including myself, wearing masks.
Here’s a little secret – they were both done around the same time – a year or so ago. The top one originally was the lady banker telling the man banker, to “calm down, it’s ok to wear masks in the bank today.” And the customer didn’t have a gun. He was just a customer with a mask. But it sat for a year and eventually, I changed the wording, added a gun and there you have it.