Chris Naunton, walking with Tut and Akhenaten

10 With Tom
10 questions in 10 minutes

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.

Egyptologist, Dr. Chris Naunton (photos courtesy Chris Naunton)

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’)

TOM: I could have sworn you would have said, “Walk like an Egyptian!”

TOM: What bores you (besides my questions)?

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!

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What’s in a word?

Today’s Tomversation cartoon was influenced by the word, “orbisculate.” I got the idea from CBS Sunday Morning.

Growing up, Jonathan and Hilary Krieger’s vocabulary was enriched with a word their dad, Neil, used whenever a citrus fruit squirted you in the eye – a word they couldn’t find in a dictionary. Turns out he’d made it up! But with his passing last year from COVID, the Kriegers have set out to honor Neil by getting his word officially recognized by the publishers of dictionaries.

Their idea is to get the word used enough so as to make it become part of the English language. There is a list of uses they hope for and one was a comic strip. So I decided to accommodate them.

Here is the short story about it on CBS Sunday Morning.

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Naked and Afraid

I based the title of today’s cartoon on one of my favorite shows, “Naked and Afraid.” I actually like “Naked and Afraid XL,” better, but didn’t at first.

“Naked and Afraid” is about a man and a woman who are stranded in some god forsaken place with nothing and they have to survive for 21 days. There have been variations where there are three people, or shorter periods where fans take part, etc. Each week, it’s a different couple or set of people.

Then came “Naked and Afraid XL,” which I didn’t like at first, but then grew to love. XL is a continuation- it’s the same people in each episode for the season. It’s usually 12 people in groups of three and they eventually find each other and craziness ensues. Usually it’s people who are fan favorites or those who have been on the show before. Some times as many as five other times. They are sort of regulars.

I guess this all started with “Survivor,” which I still love, but “Naked and Afraid” is more raw, although I still can’t not picture the guy behind the camera eating a burger while the naked folks suffer from not having food or a drop of water for a week. Survivor has been on hiatus due to the pandemic, but Naked and Afraid seems to have found many strange and dangerous places in the United States, where this year’s episodes have been taking place. They are usually out somewhere strange in the world, but it’s been domestic this year and the regions have been just as dangerous.

I interviewed Ryan Holt one time – one of the regulars, because I thought he was the super hero of one XL season and then the day the interview ran he disappeared on the show, supposedly eaten by a lion in Africa. At least that’s how the cliffhanger was left. But of course he ended up being ok, since he’s been on future episodes.

But you always learn something different – like that Ryan didn’t get eaten, and you learn how to skin a snake and eat it and how to avoid wild animals, but it’s all about the interaction between people. One favorite Jeff, turned out to be a schmuck in one episode – he turned out to be a selfish jerk who would catch food and eat it in front of starving people without sharing – “Let them get their own.” I never liked him since then.

I recently learned that the canvas bags they carry around are not to hide their named bits, it turns out the microphones are in there! Besides, they are naked but you really don’t see anything, it’s mostly blurred out.

It really is about human interaction and survival.

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Drawing Batman

Somebody posted an old 1966 review from Cleveland Amory in the TV Guide on Facebook, which reviews the new upcoming tv show “Batman.”

He talks about it being on two nights in a row and that if watch part 1 and miss part 2, oh well.

No VCR’s or DVR’s back in then.

I remember when I was a kid some time in the 1970s, there was a show I was watching, I can’t remember what it was, but when it was over, I said to my mother, “I wish I could just snap my fingers and be in California so I could see the show again when it comes on there during their time zone.”

I remember in 1979 or thereabouts one of my uncles got a VCR, that was the first one I saw I think, although I do remember in school they used to wheel in something similar on movie or documentary days, so maybe his was the first one I saw in a house.

One quote from the Cleveland Amory review says, “The whole show, on first impression, may not be as great.”

This of course, is my favorite Batman, and while I have drawn other versions, I stick with Adam West’s 1960s version when I draw him. I ran a Batman comic this week and have another one coming up next week. Too much?

Sometimes I wonder if I am stepping on their trademark.

There was this guy who used to do Charlie Brown-type comics daily. That was his comic – a retread of Charlie Brown. I don’t think he got away with it because I have not seen his work in a couple of years.

Maine Cabin Masters

The Maine Cabin Masters

There is a tv show I’ve been watching a lot lately – Maine Cabin Masters. I’ve been binge watching it. I really like it.

It’s a group of old friends and some family members, who renovate old cabins for clients, which they call “camps,” in Maine. The cabins are on lakes or rivers. The main three are Chase, the boss; his sister Ashley and her husband Ryan. There are also Dixie, Jedi, and Lance, who was a great character on the show, who left in later seasons.

The scenery alone is worth viewing, so much of it seems to take place in the fall and the turning leaves are amazing. The show is fun because they all have a great rapport since they know each other all their lives and also, the renovation work is great, they take old worn out cabins and turn them into spectacular places. And three words really are the main/Maine reason to love it – “Maine,” “cabin,” and “lake.” Three perfect things.

There is one thing that bothers me though, and that’s the budget. Clients give them a long list of things to do which usually consists of fixing the whole foundation, replacing the roof, replacing the outside siding, replace the flooring, sometimes redo the inside stairs, add a new outside deck, add new windows, renovate and redo the kitchen and every single thing inside, including bringing electricity and running water into the place and oh yes, add a dock down on the lake and add steps down to it, also many times, trees, huge, tall trees, have to be cleared from part of the property – and do it all for $30,000!

The crew is about eight people and the supplies have to cost way more than $30,000. The roof alone is more than that. How much would the Property Brothers charge for this? $150,000 or more? I can’t figure out how they work for months, literally a couple of months on this one job and all split the $30,000 after paying for supplies.

Now I am guessing the producers of the show pay it all, but still it’s all unrealistic. Even if they are paying for most of the salaries and supplies, etc., why not give a realistic estimate and at the end of the show have a little blurb in the credits that says the production company paid for the job. Sort of like Judge Judy, where the people who lose the cases have their loss paid for by the production company.

Other than this one little thing, I love the show. It’s comforting to watch. The hour goes by quite quickly.

Counting the days until summer

summerhouse
I see Carl and Kyle and that looks like Amanda next to Kyle and Paige next to her.

I came across this photo, which I originally posted in July 2019.

Every year when I’m in The Hamptons I look for the filming of Summer House, a tv show I watch. When I watch the show they seem to always be at bars and restaurants we go to so I’m always checking around for them. I left The Hamptons one day in the summer, in July 2019, and headed back to the city, and there they are at a restaurant some of my cousins were at the night I left.

My cousin Matt took this picture at the restaurant. He texted it and said, “Is this the thing you’re always talking about?” And it was.

I watched the recent episode last night. This year they are quarantined in the house in the Hamptons and they can’t leave. Usually they are out and about and they have big parties and hang out at the bars and beach, etc. and they go back and forth to the city each week and then hit the summer house on the weekends.


I made my plans again for this summer. I had missed last summer due to the pandemic – first time in years, and hopefully I’ll be there this summer. I’m not sure why I like the show so much, but I think it has to do with the fact that I am there when they are there and I am at places they are going to, so it sort of brings the summer back to me. They usually show the episodes six months or so later, so summer is long over by the time it’s on tv, and it is a little nostalgic for the past summer.

I used to like the Fall best, and I guess I still do, but these days I really love summers. I’m not sure why, all of a sudden, but it could be due to New York. New York has a certain vibe in the summer. While it seems like everyone is gone – up to the mountains or out to the Hamptons and Montauk it’s really not like that and the city comes alive. I like tagging my Instagram pics as #summerinthecity, it has a nice ring to it.

Everyone is out on the streets – at sidewalk tables, in the parks – everywhere. It’s alive. The farmer’s market at Union Square has a special feel to it, although I love the pumpkins and eventually Christmas trees and stuff in the fall and winter. But summer is special. We spend July 4th in the Hamptons and there is always someone at the house, so it’s easy to go back and forth at any time from the city, there is always someone driving back and forth at any given time.

I do a lot of walking in New York, on this particular day, on July 1, 2019, I walked 11.1 miles! Those “flights climbed” are probably up and down the subway steps, which isn’t part of this total walking tabulation, so add whatever miles I rode on the subway to the 11.1 miles and you can see I rally got around. I remember this one day because I was flabbergasted at at all the miles I covered in one day.

I’m really looking forward to this summer. It’s hard to believe it is only a few months away. I’m dying to get vaccinated, which will be the first step to some sort of normalcy.

Pretend it’s a city

I’ve been watching “Pretend It’s a City,” on Netflix. I’m probably done with it by the time you read this.

It’s a seven part show featuring author (although she hasn’t published a book in 30 years, but I guess it’s like being an Oscar winner. You’re always an Oscar winner) and humorist Fran Lebowitz. Each episode is about 30 minutes long.

Martin Scorsese directed the series and is shown as he interviews Fran in many scenes, which fade in and out of various locations, from a quite club called Players, which was founded in the 1800s by Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, to being on stage in front of an audience.

The title “Pretend It’s a City” refers to Fran’s frequent mantra mostly to tourists who stop in the middle of sidewalks or do other annoying things, who she says need to realize, you are in a city – act like it! Fran is the female Larry David to me.

Some of the funniest things she talks about are New York City itself. Like, why are lawn chairs needed in the middle of Times Square? One interesting thing she says is that when she got to NYC in the 1970s, it was rough and gritty. But that’s how she knew New York since it was her New York at the time. She had nothing to compare it to. People who arrive today expect to see the lawn chairs in the middle of Broadway and that’s their New York.

She hates the no smoking inside rule. She says that artists and creative people meet and mingle over drinks, music and smoking. What if Picaso had to run out to smoke a cigarette every once in awhile, “Think of all the things he would have missed,” she says.

It’s all funnier and hits home when Fran tells it. Try the first episode, I think you’ll stick around for all seven.

Fran talks about so many famous people she has known. About her dislike for Warhol, her lifelong friendship with Toni Morrison and so much more.

There are lots of old scenes of “old New York” in the shows. She is really great to listen to.

My mechanic

I had a Seinfeld moment with my mechanic. No, it wasn’t like the one with Jerry’s car and mechanic, it was like the one with the barber.

My mechanic found a different size lug nut on my wheels. I had gone for new tires. He asked why it was different than the rest. I told him that he and his brother are the only two people who work on my car. I don’t know if he believed me.

It was like when Jerry changed barbers and felt guilty about it. Only I didn’t change mechanics, in fact, I can go get tires at a tire place, but I go to this guy for everything, even tires.

We then realized it was the small lug nut that is used for the spare tire. It must have been mixed up one time when I had the spare on and then changed back to the regular tire.

I told him it was like the Seinfeld episode with the barber. He knew what I was talking about and he laughed.

My mechanics don’t like how I treat the car, I just put gas in it and go. They say I run it into the ground, but I told them that when I get a new car one day, I’ll have to use the dealership because the car will be under contract.

For years I leased cars, but didn’t like having to turn them in every three years, so I bought this last car and I just keep it and keep it, it runs great. It’s a bit old, but runs great, thanks to my mechanics.

Dead Freight

I watched my favorite Breaking Bad episode on Sunday – Dead Freight. I love the titles of the episodes, they are all a play on words and brain twisters.

This is the train episode, Face Off, is my second favorite.

Spoiler alerts – don’t read any further if you haven’t seen the episode.

Anyway, there are a couple of things I question regarding the Dead Freight episode. First off, how do they know where the train car is going to be ahead of time? Lydia tells them at 2 am, yet a day or two before they set up the spot below the tracks to bury the tanks, as if it is right below their car.

And when the train has to make an emergency stop, most trains, I’m told, need a mile to stop a fast moving train. Is the train not moving that fast? Do they see the dump truck from a mile away, having enough time for them to stop?

And lastly, I hate the last few seconds of that episode. I’m not sure why they need to do that other than to show what a schmuck Todd is.

I got towed

My car got towed yesterday. I still am not sure of the circumstances because I was parked in a space that I have been parking in for years. But then again, that’s what they say on Parking Wars the tv show, all the time, so who knows.

You ever watch Parking Wars? It’s rerun a lot on different cable stations. It takes place in different cities like Detroit and Philadelphia – there are different segments, one is booting, so the show is about people booting cars around the cities, another is ticket writing and another is at the towing lot, where you go to pick up your car after it’s towed.

It sounds boring, but it isn’t. It is mostly about people’s reactions and how they handle the situations.

Well, when I saw my car was gone, my Parking Wars knowledge kicked in. I called the towing place and got all the info I needed, you know – the cost, the location to get the car, etc., then I went to the ATM and got cash – you always need cash! You also need your license and proof of insurance according to what I see on tv.

I summoned an Uber and went to the lot. Living in a small town is strange, because as I was Ubering over, I got many texts from people telling me they heard what had happened and they wanted to know if I needed lift to the lot!

To my surprise, when I got to the lot, on a Wednesday afternoon, I was the only one there! I literally was in and out in 10 minutes! From watching the tv shows, I had expected to be there for hours, shuffling from window to window, arguing with the towing people behind the glass windows. But it wasn’t like that.

Unlike the tv show I was able to walk to my car and get my registration without an escort or pass. I also didn’t need to show proof of insurance, which explains a lot about Miami drivers. I literally did not have to show that my car was insured. I think this bothers me more than anything.

After I paid, I was set loose in the lot – alone – I got my car and drove off. All very civilized, nothing like the tv show! The whole experience took about an hour and wasn’t bad. The total cost was about $200.00, which included the towing fee, the parking ticket and the Uber! Not bad, on tv they show people paying lots more money for their infractions.

All in all it was not as bad as I had anticipated.