A Trip to the Cleopatra Exhibit

I may not have had the opportunity to go anywhere truly spectacular this summer, but last month my friends and I did take a trip to the California Science Center (arguably one of the coolest interactive museums around here, along with the one at the La Brea Tar Pits – but still nothing beats the International Spy Museum…I so want to go back there…).

Anyway, we went to the Science Center to see the new Cleopatra exhibit (which you can find details about here), and I have to say, it was pretty cool.

First we stood in line outside the exhibit and this funny dude dressed as a Greek soldier spoke to us in what we could only presume was Latin and identified us by our clothing/jewelry.  One of my friends was wearing a cross necklace – she was deemed a torture-worshiper.  My other friend was accurately identified as German, and because she was wearing a dark gray shirt, the guy commented that she wore ashes as her ancesters had, or something of that nature.  I happened to not only be wearing my favorite dolphin necklace, but I was also wearing a t-shirt with an anchor on it, so I was identified as a worshiper of Neptune, god of the sea.  I thought it was rather appropriate.

Once we were allowed inside, we were corralled in this little theater where we watched a brief video about Cleopatra and how two archaeologists (one making his discoveries in the desert, the other beneath the ocean) came to collect all of the exhibit’s artifacts.  Once the movie was over the screen pulled up dramatically and a statue of Cleopatra was lit up behind it with lighting and sound effects that made it look as though it were under water.  It was really impressive.  So impressive that I didn’t even think to take a picture.  (This one was snagged from the Science Center’s website.) I highly recommend seeing the exhibit just for that opening!

Anyway, once we started exploring the exhibit I actually remembered I had a camera (or rather an ipod, since my brother still had my memory card) so now I shall share with you some of the pictures.

I was really impressed with these statues.  They were HUGE!  The lighting in here wasn’t good for a human-to-statue comparison of their size, but you can see part of a person outlined against the red sign in the bottom left corner – that should give you some idea.  They were roughly two stories tall!  Both of these statues were recovered from the Egyptian coast in what used to be part of Cleopatra’s kingdom (I believe these were found in what used to be Heracleion).  The statue on the right is Cleopatra, and the one on the left is, I believe, her brother.  I can’t remember if she eventually married him or not…  It got really confusing after a while.  Egyptians didn’t have any qualms about marrying siblings, or their own children, so naturally a lot of them were a little on the odd side and tracing anyone’s lineage in that time period could easily give you a headache.

I really liked both of these statues.  They weren’t particularly large like the giant sphinx that everyone is familiar with, but they were still pretty cool.

I couldn’t read the sign next to these properly because people were in my way, but I believe the heads might depict Cleopatra and her brother.  Or her/their children…or maybe they don’t depict anyone in particular.

I spent most of my time in this part of the exhibit listening to the audio recording and trying to read all the signs, which you can’t quite do at the exact same time, so it made things a little tricky.  My brain isn’t particularly hard-wired for history facts, but I can tell you some random fun facts.  For one thing, around this time there was a lot of Greek influence in Egypt (hence the Greek soldier at the beginning of our tour).  The Egyptian gods before now had often been depicted with animal heads, but with the Greek influence, they began to look more human.  The Egyptians really liked some of the Greek gods (like Dionysus – a god you can worship by drinking and partying?  Drinks all around!) so they adopted them as their own, and others became hybrids between Greek gods and Egyptian gods.  Also, the Egyptians considered their rulers to be gods so once someone (like Cleopatra) ascended the throne, there was also a ceremony in which he/she became the embodiment of a certain god.  For Cleopatra, that god was Isis.  I couldn’t get any decent quality pictures with my ipod but there were these really cool little figurines that depicted Cleopatra as Isis.

Of course, any exhibit of an Egyptian queen would be incomplete without a look at her jewelry:

Fun fact about the Egyptian beauty regimen: you know that black stuff they paint around their eyes?  It wasn’t just a fashion statement.  They actually wore that stuff to keep pesky desert flies away from their eyes.  Pretty cool, huh?

Cleopatra actually had a deep intellectual interest in women’s health.  Though she wrote books/scrolls on makeup and other beautification practices, she also was well-studied in medicine and had an in-depth knowledge of poisons.  In fact, as the story goes, when she committed suicide to save herself the shame and embarrassment and mockery of being captured after her kingdom was overthrown, she purposefully chose the bite of an adder (snake) because it would send her into a deep sleep before eventually killing her.

Oh, right, skipped a lot there – see, among unfortunate arrangements such as marrying relatives in order to maintain control/a right to the throne, Cleopatra was still human and fell in love.  The most notable of her love affairs is that with Mark Antony.  The details got a little jumbled since I seemed to have navigated the signs and recordings in somewhat of a backwards order at this point in the exhibit tour, but the gist of it is there was this huge war because two guys were in love with Cleopatra: Mark Antony and this other guy I sadly cannot remember the name of…was it Julius Ceaser?  I think it was him…yeah, it was him – he had had a child with Cleopatra (Caesarion) but then totally disowned him and didn’t want to have anything to do with him, and by disowning his own son, he prevented Cleopatra from having any control over Julius Ceaser’s empire.

Anyway, both men were in love with her, but Cleopatra favored Mark Antony, so obviously Julius didn’t like that very much.  War broke out, and Julius spread a rumor that Mark Antony was dead.  It wasn’t exactly true at the time, but, communication being ancient as it was, Cleopatra didn’t know that, and Mark Antony had thought that Cleopatra was dead for some reason, so there was this whole Romeo/Juliet suicide confusion.  Anyway, Mark Antony died in Cleopatra’s arms, and, facing imminent capture, Cleopatra went back to her chambers and allowed herself to be bit by an adder.

Part of the reason that there aren’t many records of Cleopatra’s image or any documentation of what she was really like is because after this, Julius Ceaser ceased control and made absolutely certain that Cleopatra was erased from history as much as possible.  There were a few statues in the exhibit that were headless.  It is believed they once depicted Cleopatra (who was said to be incredibly beautiful) but Julius had the heads and faces of any statues/paintings/carvings removed.  To make doubly sure that Cleopatra would have no glory to her name after her death, he had his historians rewrite everything about her, depicting her as nothing more than a sexy minx who seduced her way to power.  Though she had many lovers, this is far from the truth as she was in fact very cunning and had a great deal of knowledge when it came to military tactics.  She was actually able to maintain peace for quite a while during her reign because of her wisdom.  She had total girl power without her sexuality.  One could say it was her sexuality that led to her downfall, but in truth it was men trying to solve their problems with war.  Silly boys…

What has been discovered about Cleopatra so far (and thus displayed in the exhibit) is slowly telling us the truth about her story, and how totally bad-ass she was.  Though her real tomb hasn’t been discovered yet (just a fake tomb and remnants of her empire), archaeologists feel that they are getting closer to discovering its whereabouts.  It’s kind of like a giant book that’s got a few pages missing, and a few pages with writing all over them telling lies, and the archaeologists are trying to figure out what happened in the original story.

The Mid-Year Check In

It’s already August?!  When did this happen?!

Well, obviously I haven’t been around for a while, and seeing as “Devote more time to blogging – aim for one entry each week (at least)” was one of my goals for this year, I thought it might be a good time now to see where else I’m failing (or perhaps excelling).  So here it is!  The mid-year report!

Goal #1: Get a full-time job.  Verdict: CHECK!

I most definitely did manage to get a full time job!  (Which is a large part of why I’m failing on some of these other goals – 8 hours is a huge chunk of time to lose in your day…)  I am happy to say that the job is exactly what I had been looking for – something that pays, comes with full benefits, and doesn’t give me homework.  It’s nothing glamorous or brag-worthy, but it is a job, and the pay is better than my last job, which is a lot more than many of my fellow recent college grads can say.

Goal #2: WRITE!  Verdict: um…I’ll give myself a C on this one…

Yeah, this one…not so much.  I attempted to do Camp NaNoWriMo in June, but the problem was I was attempting to use the word count goal while editing, which is counterproductive since the editing process pretty much requires you to delete stuff.  Needless to say things became far too frustrating and so I just threw in the towel.  However I have started in on a new story for the August Camp NaNoWriMo, so YAY!  I’m clearly out of practice though.  Writing is like a muscle that needs development.  If you use it every day, you only get stronger.  If you forget about it and ignore it for 6 months, then when you try to use it again it screams at you yelling “THIS IS SO HARD!!!” and it makes the whole process rather painful.  This first week is sort of my hell week right now.  But we’re going to push through!

Goal #3: Publish a novel before I’m 30.  Verdict: I haven’t failed yet!

Thankfully this was one of those long-term goals, so while there’s still plenty room to fail, there’s also plenty room left to succeed! 🙂

Goal #4: Finishing a first draft of a novel by the end of this year.  Verdict: can’t call it just yet…

Thankfully the year is not yet over, and I’m still only at the beginning of the August Camp NaNoWriMo (and there’s still the November NaNoWriMo which I’ve been DYING to participate in ever since I heard of it – this is the first year I won’t have piles of homework to keep me from it!), so there is still hope that I might pull out a complete draft of a novel that actually makes it all the way to “The End.”  I just need to, you know, write it.

Goal #5: Submit short stories to writing contests. Verdict: hazy…

I was totally gung-ho about this at the start of the year, but then I did a bit of research.  According to an article in Poets&Writers, most writers end up spending a ton of money on contest entrance fees and then don’t actually win the contests (or when they do, they’re maybe only breaking even instead of making a profit).  So that sort of deflated my hopes.  But lately I’ve stumbled on a few different sites/contests that don’t require entrance fees and yet still offer decent prize money, so I may give the whole contest thing another try.

Goal #6: Explore video blogging.  Verdict: Fail.

Video blogging is definitely something I’d like to get into (and when I stumbled across a few blogs/vlogs about VEDA I got really excited about the idea) but the thing is that I don’t have a whole lot of time on my hands as it is with my current work schedule, and I’ve been pretty much abusing the free time I do have watching Smallville and other TV shows I never fully appreciated when I was younger.  I figure I should probably focus a bit more on the writing stuff for now instead of getting distracted by every–ooh!  shiny!

Goal #7: Devote more time to blogging.  Verdict: so far, fail.

Half the reason I hopped on here again is because one of my friends has been keeping a blog of her summer adventures in Spain.  Now I don’t lead a terribly interesting life, and I don’t get to visit cool places every day of my summer, but that does not mean I cannot keep a blog.  On the contrary, I think keeping a blog might encourage me to do more interesting things with my free time.  That still leaves the problem of me finding enough free time for the blogging and the writing and things like laundry, washing the car, and running errands, however.  This whole life-juggling thing is a little tricky.

Goal #8: Make time for friends.  Verdict: I’ve got time…

Here’s the tricky thing about getting older and entering the “real world” with a full time job: it’s a lot harder to hang out with your friends.  Either your friends’ work schedules don’t mesh well with your work schedule, or they have significant others that take precedence over their limited free time, or they don’t have a job yet (a common theme in this economy) and have a rather tight budget, or they’re out of town (or even out of the country) for school/vacation.  All of these are totally understandable and I do not blame my friends at all for any of this.  It is, however, annoying when you go through your entire list of friends only to find that you’re going to have to go see the new Spiderman movie alone if you want to see it in theaters because no one is available to see it with you.

Goal #9: Enroll in group fitness classes.  Verdict: doesn’t count due to injury

I was actually doing really well with this – the new fitness center had opened up near my house and I was going to it as often as I could to take kickboxing, Zumba, cardio fusion, and a bunch of other group fitness classes.  But somewhere in all that, I did what I always manage to do – I injured myself.  This one, apparently, wasn’t entirely my fault.  Turns out I was born with feet way too narrow for their own good with arches much higher than the average person.  This combined with old workout shoes that didn’t have enough arch support to begin with meant that my feet decided to develop neuromas (the nerves were being pinched, didn’t like it, and decided to swell – I don’t recommend it).  So I got orthodics and things are on the up and up, but that cut out like 3+ months of workouts.  Now I’m slowly reintroducing myself to running, and hopefully come fall I’ll be back in gear.  At least I hope so.  I need more excuses to wear my sexy new running shoes.Yes, I just called my running shoes sexy.  For some girls it’s heels.  For me, nothing makes my legs feel sexier than a nice pair of running shoes and a bit of runner’s muscle toning my legs.

Goal #10: Read more.  Verdict: I’ll give myself a B.

I have definitely been reading, that cannot be denied.  Thing is the books I’ve been reading lately aren’t rapid page-turners.  They like to meander and take their time telling the story.  So, naturally, I take my time reading the story.  I’ve also noticed that while I would love to spend my lunch break reading, it’s often hard to do so when everyone else wants to talk during lunch break, and I don’t really want to be that loner who never socializes and always misses out on the inside jokes, but…at the same time…I want to read.  I may have to find some other way to strike the right balance here.  For now, I am at least reading.  I just know that I could be reading a lot more.

Total scores:

definite, no questions, passing score: 3

to be determined, disqualified, or otherwise uncertain: 5

definite fail: 2

Well that’s actually better than I thought – at least my definite fails are less than my definite successes.  Yes, there’s a lot in the hazy category, but we’ll think of those as the “needs improvement” category.

What about you?  How are your new year’s resolutions/goals holding up?