Friday, July 04, 2003

Happy Fourth of July! I just watched a Capital Fourth on PBS which featured my favorite hollywood composer, John Williams, and yet another medley of his famous works. Mr. Williams doesn't conduct too much anymore, so they made the excuse of giving him a big glass bowl to get him back on stage for five minutes. Dolly Parton was another crowd pleaser, not only naming her breasts (shock and awe) on Public TV, but swearing in her cute folksy drawl, bless her heart. She readily admitted to losing her voice, but soldiered on despite her rasp, and for that alone I admire her. The fireworks were great as usual.

Interfaith Nunnery Presents: Wedding Story

Like TLC, only without the cheezy music and incontinence commercials.

So my brother got married this last weekend in what might be called a star-studded affair, except we didn't have any actors there, except my cousin's husband, and I'm not sure he counts, being a New York actor, as opposed to the California kind. We had the requisite curmudgeonly rich uncle, the religious fanatic aunt, the determined wedding planner and the photographer who told people "go back and do that again," to get the 'natural' shot. There was a unity candle, a Catholic priest, and a non-practicing Protestant couple who were very much in love, even if the future husband carried a checklist accurate right down to the minute, the last thing on the list being the command, "Marry Me," and the future wife nearly murdered the hotel manager for not having her room ready on time. Weddings, even perfect weddings like this one, are not stress-free occassions.

I will cut the tale up in to digestible parts, otherwise this would be a Very Very Long Post.

Day One and Two: Meet the family

The first evening we arrived in Chicago, my family stayed in my Uncle's house, and dined with his daughter, her husband, the new baby, and my uncle's wife (3rd and final; she's a peach). This was my first chance to meet the baby, Avery, who was cute as can be with cheeks as big and cheery as if they had been stuffed with two bing cherries. It was also a chance to get to know my cousin's actor husband a little better. I had met him quite a few years before in a disastrous dinner party while I was still in high school. I suppose it wasn't totally disastrous but it was for me, because at the time I had been hostile towards any of my cousin's boyfriends. None of them had amounted to much, and Jon didn't seem any different. We were sitting there eating like civilized folk when I looked the poor guy straight in the eye and said point blank, "So what do you do." When he said he was an actor, I'm afraid I was visibly unimpressed, and after that my family did not have dinner with him again. Now that Jon was my cousin's husband, I felt quite abashed in front of him, not sure how to make up for my lack of manners as a teenager. He didn't make anything of it thankfully, and since he was a perfectly charming person who was wonderful with his new daughter, I felt happy to know that I was totally wrong about him.

The following day my other cousin from Colorado arrived with three charming children, twin boys of 7 and a girl of ten, and we all had lunch together. She is the daughter of my father's sister(who hadn't arrived yet), and had stayed with my family the year I was born. Since that time, which I not remember of course, I had met her only twice or three times, the last time being over ten years ago, following her marriage to a very nice salesman. After that I had only seen pictures of them and their rapidly growing offspring, so it was a wonderful surprise to finally meet these people I had only known through photographs. I was also pleased to find we all had something in common: love of mischief. I demonstrated my knowledge and interest in frogs, toads, snakes and salamanders, agreed to throw beany babies up to the loft against the adults' wishes, and suddenly I was the favorite cousin. I admit, I was quite happy being the favorite cousin, and I found myself in the company of at least two of the kids whenever the family got together. This had its advantages (fun people to hang with!) and disadvantages (people my age didn't want to hang out with me), but worked out well in the end. It gave me an excuse not to have conversations I was bent on avoiding (see previous comments regarding the "Are you married yet?" question).

My parents were themselves: highly educated, slightly inhibited people who can't laugh at a joke if its grammatically or politically incorrect, and tend to discuss dire situations when they should really be babbling about fluff. My father is a tall, thin man, round shouldered from having to look down at people all the time, with thinning gray hair and a salt and pepper mustache. His brother, whose house we were staying at, is a short, fat man with thinning red hair who is older than my father, despite contrary appearances. He is bombastic and full of life, free with his money and pretty much everything my father is not. Once the two get together, the rest of us become a sort of audience for their highly active and sometimes entertaining sniping sessions. It was at this point I was quite pleased to be relegated to the kiddy section, discussing Transformers versus Power Rangers, instead of having to listen to my mother explaining to my uncle for the umpteenth time why his jokes were not funny. I excused myself from the table early to get dressed for the wedding shower (the boys went to the racetrack, if you were wondering) and couldn't help but think: so far, so good.

Next time on Interfaith Nunnery Wedding Story: Shower Power, and the Cad at the Cookout.

Iraqi Antiquities Angst

Its been a while since I have had a chance to read my Archaeology magazines, but I was perusing the pages of Archaeology, Odyssey, and Biblical Archaeology Review and was reminded of something I had ranted about many monthes ago. I posted this response to a dark little post by Thomas Nephew regarding the return of the Warka vase on Newsrack:

I was very pleased to hear the Warka Vase had been returned, and also pleased to know that a good number of the pieces thought to be missing were in fact safe, but the real problem is not only the looting of archaeological sites, but also the destruction within the museum. Pieces are still there, the really 'important' stuff is mostly safe, but all the little vases, the paraphenalia of normal life thousands of years ago is shattered and scattered. It is the un-important pieces that in many cases reveal the most about a civilization.

As Jane C. Walbaum writes in the July/August issue of Archaeology, "Objects that turn up individually on the antiquities market or on Internet auction sites or that find their way to a collector's shelf have become orphans. Stripped of all their associations--the other items of material culture with which they were found, and the recordings describing these associations--they have lost much of their cultural and historical meaning. This is the real tragedy of the looting of Iraq's museums."

Those of us who were quick to decry the destruction of the museum have since been labeled as over-critical knee-jerk liberals searching for a reason to criticize the administration. We apparently couldn't hide our glee at being able to rain on the victory-parade. We somehow didn't notice the same single looter was being shown in a loop on the seven o'clock news carting some artifact out of the shard-strewn building. We are also somehow all at fault for what happened in Toronto, and we have no right to criticize what happened in Iraq because a few Canadians are idiots.

The key word here is not looter; the key phrase is SHARD_STREWN. Some of the collection was yet uncatalogued, have been recently excavated and brought to the museum from surrounding sites and museums. These objects and many others may still be in the museum in various states of damage, thrown from their boxes and scattering the floor. Figuring out what the damaged pieces are, and which site they came from is going to take quite a long time. The fact that some of the pieces may not be there at all makes the process all the more difficult.

Here is an example of how an object can be worse than looted: The statue of Apollo dating from 160 AD (Archaeology Odyssey July/August 2003) was found smashed to bits on the floor: only the head of the Apollo is intact. Yes, its not the burning of the library in Alexandria, but just because something isn't a holocaust doesn't mean its not horrible.

For an updated look at what's going on, I suggest visiting this website by Francis Deblauwe.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Finished the book.


I was right...

Thank goodness.

I won't get any more specific than that at the moment, since I am unsure if we have all finished the book by now. I will say that I now own the book, the cds, and the Chamber of Secrets DVD too. Let me just say that Jason Isaacs is the best Lucius Malfoy EH-VAR. He's terribly handsome and wicked, a most delightful combination. I feel like he's reprising his role in The Patriot, only with bleached hair. Draco is fabulous of course. I suppose the only disappointment is that I can't get the film representations of the characters out of my head while I'm trying to read the book. My mental images of all the characters are forever changed by the screen adaptation. A big plus on the DVD is the number of additional scenes (quite a few), and cute little interviews with various folks, including Rowling and the screen writer, whose name escapes me. Its terribly artificial of course, but we do get a glimpse of a discussion about the forthcoming Prisoner of Azkaban film adaptation. Now that I've read HP5, I will have to wait for the film to fill HP gap until the next book. *sigh*