Monday, May 28, 2012

Did "King Tut" enjoy fried Nutella sandwiches?





This has been a busy Memorial Day weekend. 


I will look back on it in a few months and remember the sun; the laughter; the music; a young Egyptian king with a gold fetish; and our friends. 


It all started in downtown Seattle at the brand-new King Tut exhibit. We were lucky to get tickets. This is the hottest show in town. It is supposed to focus on the great Egyptian Pharaohs, and young King Tutankhamun. For months, I have heard people mention "King Tut." -- "King Tut is coming to Seattle in the spring!"


Wait. "King... Tut????" It is "King T.u.t.a.n.k.h.a.m.u.n." to you, ladies and gentlemen!


Ah, the infamous American informality...


On Saturday, the exhibit was crowded. The first half was devoted to Egyptian artifacts and included informative placards about the great Pharaohs. We saw a lot of this...









All excellent. But what everyone really came to see was "King Tut," a young king who died mysteriously at the age of 19, was hurriedly buried and almost fell off Egyptian history books until his tomb and remains were discovered by Englishman Howard Carter in 1922.


Even though most people could name at least a couple of Egyptian pharaohs or queens, "King Tut" stands apart as a shining star in American popular culture. 


After all, actor/writer/producer/musician Steve Martin famously mentioned the young king during a SNL show in the late 1970s. Have you heard the [silly] song?


As we were plowing our way through the crowd and strollers, waiting patiently for other visitors to move on so we could get closer to the displays, anticipation grew: Where was "King Tut's" den? His mummy and sarcophagus? His treasures? The rooms were getting darker. On the wall, giant screens showed old black and white photos of the original Carter expedition, as Harrison Ford's deep voice created the perfect atmosphere, evoking mythical adventures and long lost treasures. Finally, the time had come as Indiana announced, in his most melodramatic voice: 
(gratuitous Indiana Jones shot-- just because!) 
Well, that part was a bit of a let down. The replica of "King Tut's" tomb included more artifacts (his bed; personal objects; some jewelry;) more placards detailing how well his mummy had survived the test of time. We learned that the mummy and death mask have never left Egypt, where they can be seen, in the original tomb located in the Valley of the Kings. Dommage... We also learned that like most Egyptians, young "King Tut" loved gold. Look at this fetching photo of the "finger and toe protectors" found on his remains.
No need for a pedi or mani - ever again!
King Tut's favorite flip flops
After I overheard a conversation between a father and his 5-year old, involving details about "King Tut's inner and outer coffins," "Tut's mummy," and "the thieves who raided his tomb early on," I realized the whole exhibit was a bit on the creepy side and wondered how many youngsters were going to have nightmares that night.  Around me, some people commented: "The exhibit was much better in the 1970s... Finally, after taking one last turn in the dark, a kid shouted: "Yeah! The gift shop! I bet that's the best part of the whole show!" - He was not entirely wrong. "King Tut" had obviously hired a talented buyer to furnish the shop's shelves...
King Tut key ring... sure to make an impression
When in Rome...
King Tut baseball
Perfect headgear for Seattle's wet weather...
Next to me, a lady seemed tempted by jewelry replicas. They were magnificent, and fetched several thousand dollars. Instead, being a good mom, she invested in educational material for her children...
Not your average erasers...
Seattle's Pacific Science Center is a fun and interesting place, where education [occasionally] comes free of charge... When I used the restroom after the exhibit, this sign was posted on the stall door:
???
Once outside, back in broad daylight, everyone became positively giddy with happiness !
Two fedoras in the hamster wheel!
For us people [and dog] watchers, the show was endless...
And the sun... Did I mention the sun? It was summer in Seattle this weekend. The Northwest Folklife Festival drew thousands of Seattleites out of their homes.  Music? Check.
Gourmet food? Check.
I have solved the mystery surrounding King Tut's death:
He ate too many fried Nutella sandwiches!!!
Unique shopping opportunities? Check.
And the fun kept coming during this busy weekend: There were laughs shared with friends; a failed attempt at taking out the new sailboat (will save this one for later;) walks up steep hills; rides in the back of pick trucks; fire pits; antique cars, and last but not least, a birthday celebration involving bagna calda, a delicacy best enjoyed in a garage, doors wide open... Phew. I don't know about you, but I am beat!
A bientôt.
Photos by 
American Frog photography and
French Girl in Seattle. 
Please do not use without permission.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

J'adore le cinéma. I love movies. (part 2)

2012 Cannes Film Festival (Official poster)


Bonjour les amis. Somewhere on the beautiful Côte d'Azur, in a glitzy old city named Cannes, one of the world's most prestigious Film Festivals has just begun.

What a perfect opportunity to talk about movies! As I have mentioned before, j'adore le cinéma!


I have fond memories of Sunday afternoons spent at the movies with my family as a child. First, there were the Disney classics, La Belle au Bois Dormant, Blanche-Neige, Cendrillon


My parents still love to tell the story about the day I made half the kids in the movie theater cry during Bambi. We lived in Toulouse then. Apparently, after Bambi's mom got shot by hunters, a little girl's voice rose in the dark and silent movie house: "Where is Bambi's mom?," she asked, worriedly, her voice quivering. The legend says I shouted back without missing a beat: "Elle est moooorrrttttteee!!!" ("She is dead!") as I, and all the young children around me, started bawling. Good times.


Gone too soon?
Bambi and "Maman"


As my brother and I entered our teenager years, the movies changed. There were the Louis de Funès or Jean-Paul Belmondo ("Bébel") comedies, or the new James Bond films (Roger Moore was a popular 007 back then.) My parents did not often select high brow movies. Le cinéma, in my family, was pure escapism. We laughed, we cried, we traveled to imaginary lands, and I remember how hard it was to get back to reality, when we finally exited the theater. It still is today. 


La Grande Vadrouille:
A hilarious buddy movie set during the German Occupation

While on the run, a bigoted French bourgeois
seeks refuge in the Jewish community!

 Jean-Paul Belmondo leads a stellar cast
in this hilarious French period rom-com


Overtime, I developed into a voracious cinephile. During my college years, I made the most of generous student discounts and would see about three movies a week. My tastes were eclectic, with a strong preference for French and American cinema. Like many of my countrymen, I watched movies in "V.O."  (version originale,) in English, with French subtitles. I realized early on there was a lot to be learned about the English language for those of us brave enough to skip dubbed versions. That new found knowledge came in handy when I spent a year in Atlanta, GA. as a college student, and was able to express myself in a more practical way than other international students whose English was more... academic. 


France celebrates the movies in June!
One ticket purchased = all other tickets priced at $3.50!


Going to the movies was always a special treat. Things are a bit different today. For one thing, prices have gone up drastically. And then there is the issue of modern movie theaters. You know the ones. Super-size complexes. Neon lights. Giant screens. And the food. Ah, the food. Don't get me started. 


I am easy. Take me back to the theaters of my childhood. Those of you who lived in France between 1982 and 1988 may remember Eddy Mitchell's La Dernière Séance (the Last Show,) as fondly as I do. Eddy, a veteran French singer and a great admirer of American popular culture, re-created the old movie magic on French TV screens. Thanks to him, France fell in love with Hollywood's "golden era" all over again.


"Monsieur Eddy" (a.k.a. "Claude Moine")
"La Dernière Séance" was a famous Eddy Mtichell song
before it became a TV show


Set in the 1950s, the monthly show was shot in an iconic movie theater located outside of Paris, le Trianon. The venerable building, inaugurated in the 1900s as a theater, café and dance-hall, had survived heavy bombings during World War II. Monsieur Eddy orchestrated its great comeback for six wonderful years. 


Le Trianon, Romainville

Monsieur Eddy arrives: the show is about to start!


I faithfully watched every episode of La Dernière Séance. Listening to the great, nostalgic eponymous song during the show's credits was icing on the cake. For three hours, the audience would travel back in time, as Eddy Mitchell's deep and knowledgeable voice regaled us with anecdotes about old Hollywood stars and studios. Each show started with a cartoon (usually Loony Tunes) followed by a dubbed, black and white American movie (imagine watching Turner Classic Movies.) Then came l'entracte (the intermission,) and Eddy, the epitome of cool, chatted with l'ouvreuse (the usher,) bringing back childhood memories of every French kid's favorite treats. Finally, the second movie would start, another classic, shown in English with subtitles. One thing is for sure: We did not mind staying up late with Eddy Mitchell on the first Tuesday of each month, from 1982 to 1988! 


Eddy knew his stuff... whether dealing with a classic or a B series flick.
(Check out the dude in the blue shirt!)


Is it me, or did candy taste better at the movies, back then?

"Bonbons, caramels, eskimos, chocolats!" -
("candy, caramels, ice cream, chocolate")


Long gone are the magical neighborhood theaters Eddy and I loved so much. 


Imagine my misery when I visit the local multiplex theater in my little corner of American suburbia today. These buildings are about as welcoming as the average supermarket. Then there is the question of the overpriced, oversized food. The horrible smell of that vile nutritional horror dubbed as "le popcorn." Everyone around me acknowledges two facts: 1. It tastes awful. 2. It is expensive. Then why is this an all too familiar scene as I try to watch the overpriced, often disappointing movie?







Remember Pepé le Pew? Well, let me tell you folks, when I visit a theater these days, I kind of miss the old friend...


Stay away Popcorn People!
I'll sit next to Pepé! 


What's an olfactory challenged French Girl to do? I did consider investing in one of those, but can't afford one for now. This set up would be so handy for my movie nights with the girls, though...




The good news is that I own an extended collection of scarves and turtlenecks, and found a new use for them when I visit the local theater...




I fear going like this would be a bit too obvious...








What can I tell you? When in Rome, there are things I just can't seem to do like the Romans! Besides, my old buddy Obelix the Gaul often said so... "These Romans are crazy!"




So wherever you may be this week, in a city, out in the sticks, or in Cannes, France, enjoy the show. I will try to do the same!


This is my 100th post! Thank you for sticking with me. A bientôt!




PS: There is more.


Voilà  La Dernière Séance by Eddy Mitchell, with original lyrics. Eddy mourns the closing of an old neighborhood movie theater as he remembers the good times he had there as a child.


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