Sunday, May 31, 2009

Our Egyptian Saturday

This was the next-to-last weekend for the To Live Forever exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art, so we broke our "do-nothing-on-weekends" rule and, well, did something. The exhibit of ancient Egyptian funeral artifacts included mummies, coffins, amulets, and jewelry. As Don noted, this wasn't really an art exhibit but a culture exhibit. There were lots of signs with information on Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife; they were interesting but not always clear. For example, what we know as the human soul seemed to be split in two for the Egyptians; the "ba-soul" was the part that could come back to earth; I never found a card which explained in detail the "ka-soul" (though, as always Wikipedia came to the rescue: simplistically, "ba" is personality, "ka" is the life force).

Seeing bits of parchment with symbols written by people who lived thousands of years ago gave me a odd little frisson of awe--it's one thing to see a picture of symbols, or even symbols painted, but it seems more intimate to see actual inked writing. It was interesting to hear about the spells that Egyptians would memorize to get them into the afterlife, and even more interesting when I realized that today, those spells are called "prayers." Pictured is a canopic jar, into which internal organs of the dead person were put--though we learned that sometimes, the jars went into the tombs empty, or were reused years later.

I couldn't take pictures in the exhibit, but I did take a couple of pictures in other parts of the museum. Below is a work by George Tooker called Landscape with Figures. Despite its rather depressing, almost sinister tone, a company actually wanted to buy it to use in a job recruitment ad:

Next is the Dale Chihuly glass sculpture in the museum atrium:

Finally, a big Roy Lichtenstein in the staircase entranceway:

That night, we watched the 1955 semi-camp epic Land of the Pharoahs, about the years-long building of an Egyptian king's tomb, which becomes the Great Pyramid. I reviewed the movie here, but this is an excuse for me to run a picture of Joan Collins' incredibly hot servant, Mabuna. I have never been able to find the actor's name:

We closed the evening with the original 1931 The Mummy with Boris Karloff, which had several tidbits of information that related to things we learned at the museum. I reviewed the movie here, but this is an excuse to run a picture of the very handsome David Manners, the romantic lead:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Donuts, the staff of life

I love donuts and that's all there is to it. I also have high cholesterol but I'm on medication for it, and even if I weren't, I'd probably still eat donuts because, well, why bother living? Having said that, I'm actually a fairly picky donut eater. I like cake donuts with icing and sprinkles, and occasionally a jelly-filled donut, and that's about it. If I walk into Kroger's and go back to the bakery section and they don't have iced cake donuts, I don't buy any. (That's a little white lie; I might stop by the Hostess display to look for powered Donette Gems, and perhaps, a cou0le of times a year, I'll settle for some Entenmann's crumb donuts.)

My donuts of preference, in reverse order:

5) Hostess Donette Gems (I ate a package of 6 of those every single morning of my 5-year-plus graduate school stay)

4) Kroger or Giant Eagle cake donuts.

3) Tim Horton's Strawberry Vanilla (a jelly donut)

2) Donut Kitchen's stick donuts, which look nothing like sticks of anything, but instead like crescents of sugary lusciousness.

1) Dutch crumb donuts from Honey Dip Donuts: huge cake donuts with big crumbs on the outside; any more attempt at description would just be blasphemy against what I call God's Own Donut.

I am slightly overweight for my height (155 lbs, 5'7") but given my donut consumption, I feel lucky that I'm not a lumbering "overfed, leaping gnome" (in the words of Eric Burdon's "Spill the Wine"). My mornings MUST begin with coffee, and since coffee without some kind of solid food gives me a stomach ache, I MUST have a donut or two (yes, honestly, usually 2). I've been trying to alternate donuts with high-fiber oatmeal, and have actually been doing a fairly good job of that, but some mornings, only donuts will suffice.

So it was with some small amount of joy that I started reading Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut by Paul R. Mullins. It's a study of the donut (I will not spell it "doughnut") written by an anthropologist and published by a university press, so it's rather academic in nature, therefore not the book to read if you want the author to go off on whimsical flights of dreamy prose about the donut. Instead, he uses words like "consumption" and "foodways" and writes sentences like this one: "When we talk about doughnuts, that discussion reveals our politics, class, and culture and illuminates complicated underlying sentiments toward consumer culture, global capitalism, and body discipline." When I discuss donuts, my discussion, much like that of Homer Simpson's, reveals how much I'm wanting to have another donut right now.

Speaking of Homer Simpson, I must give the author credit for devoting a fair amount of space to Homer and his legendary love of donuts. Mullins also does a nice job exploring the issues of class embedded in donut lore (the stereotypes of the chummy working-class gatherings at donut shops and the policemen who supposedly gather there in droves). I was a little disappointed in the "history" part, however; he spends a great deal of time talking about the big donut store chains, such as Krispy Kreme, but the actual history of the confection itself seems to be lost in the mists of time. He also talks quite a bit the cultural load the donut carries, symbolizing everything about bad food habits in general, but notes more than once that there are lots worse things for you than donuts in moderation. The book is OK, but frankly, I'd like one with more pictures (I'm serious) and more about the actual piece of heaven that is the donut.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Karaoke night

The other night when Don was working late, I sat up in the study, opened up iTunes, and had my own little Karaoke night, all by myself. In my considerably younger days, from junior high all the way into my 30's, I enjoyed putting on my records and singing, dancing, and air-guitaring along, kinda like Tom Cruise made famous in Risky Business (though honestly, I almost never did it in just my underwear). I haven't done that in ages; now, I pretty much stick to singing-along in the car. But it was a warmish spring night, I was alone in the house, and I felt young again! So with thousands of songs available to me in my iTunes library at the click of a mouse, I sat there, played songs, and sang along.

Most of the songs were ones I knew well, but sometimes I went to the Net to find lyrics. About 90% of the lyrics I looked for, I found (they weren't always completely accurate, but close enough for my purposes). In fact, it was a shock to have two of my lyric searches come up empty. Well, one wasn't too surprising: a 1988 song by indie folksinger Hugh Blumenfeld called "Let Me Fall in Love Before the Spring Comes." Even his own website no longer seems to have working links to lyrics. It's a beautiful aching song (with literary references) about desperately wanting to be in love. Sadly, not even a video of the song seems to exist. So I decided to post the lyrics, straight from the original lyric sheet, so the next person to fall for this song can find the lyrics via Google:

Hugh Blumenfeld

There's a warm wind blowing from the South
and though it's dead of winter
something crazy's blooming
And the smell of it reminds me
of the smell on my body
of a woman that I knew
when I was too young to know
Let me fall in love before the spring comes.

Well, they used to say that April was a sweet month
but now we know that she is cruel
In the city she gives nothing
but a memory
of promises she made us
in wilder times and wilder places
where the city streets don't go
Let me fall in love before the spring comes

It's a fool's pearl that has no sorrow at its center
and it's fool's gold that breaks and does not bend
and the jeweled snows of winter
melt in the gutter
and the long lit nights of lazy sleeping
threaten to be over
and I have not abandoned hope
Abandon's what I fear, and abandon
seems to be just what I need

Let me fall in love before the spring comes
Let me fall in love before the spring comes
Let me fall in love before the warm comes
Let me fall in love before the spring comes

In the same spirit, here are the lyrics to another song that didn't show up on the Net, "Shine On Me" by the Wondermints. Plenty of hits for other Wondermints songs, including one called "Shine," but not for this wonderful chunk of 21st century bubblegum from their wonderful album Mind If We Make Love to You. So for my next Karaoke night, I can go to Google and know these lyrics will show up!:

SHINE ON ME -- Wondermints
(D. Sahanaja)

You are the one
You shine down from the stars
Outta this world
And I've just begun
To step inside your radiating light.

I can't believe that things that once dim
Now look bright
But I believe that you're for real

Shine the light, shine on me forever
Show me the colors that I never knew
Show me that it's true
I'll leave it up to you

Luminous child
You set my mind at ease
And blow it away
One little smile
Will give us all the good news from the sun

I love the way you do what's never been done
I love the way that you're for real

Shine the light, shine on me forever
Show me the summers that I never knew
Show me that it's true
I'll leave it up to you

I can't believe that things that once dim
Now look bright
But I can feel it, yes I feel it

Shine the light, shine on me forever
Show me the colors that I never knew
I believe in you

Shine the light, shine on me forever
Take me to places that I've never seen

Child of light, shine on me forever
Show me the summers that I never knew

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Spent three hours in the middle of the night last night at a nearby emergency room. Don, who is healthy but who has a history of iffy heart conditions via the male members of his family, experienced almost an hour of on-again, off-again heart racing which kept him awake, so at 1 in the morning, I took him to the ER. It turned out to be a condition called supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT (thank you, Wikipedia) which the doctor said is a nuisance but not dangerous. His heartbeat, which was over 180 when the triage nurse saw him, went down to 105 by the time the doc came by, but they still kept him for a couple of hours for observation.

This was only my second time in an ER, and once I quit worrying about Don, I started noticing how much like and unlike this real ER was compared to TV ERs. At 1 a.m. on a weeknight in a suburban neighborhood, it was very quiet; we were the only people in the clean, spacious waiting room. It took us a little longer than I thought it should to get the triage nurse to attend to Don (who, despite his racing heart, was not having chest pains or shortness of breath), but once we got a room, things happened quickly--two efficient nurses scurried around, hooking him up to an EKG machine and installing an IV in his hand (which they never had to use), and the doc who saw him was pleasant and re-assuring (not to mention the Taye Diggs lookalike who took us to the room in the first place).

There was a TV set with Anderson Cooper talking about some woman who had a face transplant, the latest threats from the Taliban, and his own appearance on Jay Leno, talking about American Idol. I like Anderson well enough, but I realized there are reasons I don't much much TV news anymore (except for Jon Stewart) and when the show started up all over again, we switched to TCM which was showing an early talkie Western from 1929. They discharged Don about 3:30 a.m., and the drive home in the quiet night with the windows open, a fullish moon in the sky, and a little fog beginning to form, was relaxing.

So we didn't see Noah Wyle and didn't see much blood (though I did hear a woman moaning loudly and a "Code Red" announcement), and as visits to ERs go, I guess this one was a good one. Modern medical care is something I take for granted, or even don't think about at all, until it's needed, and I'm surely glad to have it nearby and civilized (Turner Classic in the hospital room? That's civilization!). Now if we can just do something about health care costs (and get more Taye Diggses in scrubs)...