Memes and The Mummy

 

mummyIt’s the third of July. I’m watching “Law&Order” reruns and checking my email when suddenly I am aware of a deep longing for a hot dog, with brown mustard and relish. Fine. It is after all the third of July. I immediately resolve to gorge myself on tube steaks the next day. But before resuming my mail duty, I look up at the screen.

There is an idiotic image of plenty of dachshunds wearing bun costumes and galloping across a pasture, ears aflop. My eyes glaze and I turn back to the computer screen on my lap, mildly dismayed by how easily the hot-dog-centered mass medium had manipulated my subconscious.

In the background, the hot dogs are replaced. I glance up. The screen now bears a commercial for the newest anti-depressant.  I am right where they want me. The next commercial, for Slomin Burglar Alarms, plays to my back. I must present a moving target from this point on for my own safety.

The reruns give way to “The Mummy Part IV”. The normal randomness of this programming restored my calm acceptance of our modern society’s discontinuous and congested environment, cluttered and filled with collisions of things and ideals stripped of their contexts as if they’d been strewn on the Moon.

This “Mummy” deals with the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, a thrilling saga of immortality and pseudo mysticism. Around 260 BCE, Qin Shi Huang, perhaps under a different name, was king of one of the six realms that comprised China. It seems to have occurred to all six kings that the kingdoms were all roughly the same size and in roughly the same shape, and he who was the king of one could just as easily be the emperor of all six if he picked his opponents carefully in the proper order.

Qin Shi Huang was a very careful man. Moreover, he was a very dedicated man, committed to being the Emperor of China. Also, he was obsessed with becoming immortal. To that end, he set his court physician to find the formula for the elixir of immortality as prescribed in the ancient texts. The court physician did exactly that. Ultimately, he created a potion that conformed in all respects to the ancient specifications, and he administered it to the Emperor as directed. The potion alas was mostly mercury and was of course fatally toxic, and the Emperor died in 210BC.

He was mummified and buried in a huge mausoleum complex in central China along with eight thousand terra-cotta warriors (no two alike) and numerous other artifacts and mummies, and forgotten and remembered for two thousand years.

The last three paragraphs previous are not only the movie plot, they are also a swift summary of history. Swear to god.

For dramatic reasons, and to fill in an otherwise vacant love-interest, the film’s writers made the “court physician” into the most knowledgeable babe-witch in the world, already immortal.

At this point, though, we abandon history and latch on to the movie plot exclusively. Imagery re-ascends its archaic pedestal, and we sway off down paths lighted only by flickering torches and the spill light from bonfires.

O, the iron horses that come to life in this post-Harryausen world. The Emperor’s mummy bursts his bonds and breathes fire, and drives his demummified four-horse chariot out, through the gates and into the streets, magically careening through 20th Century Beijing traffic. Amazingly, the Emperor, who’s been asleep precisely 2162 years and never encountered an autonomously mobile vehicle, nor ever had anywhere near this many people in his entire realm, is celebrating paved roads, benignly unfazed. I know exactly how he feels.

We are all mummified in inorganic substances overlaid unconsciously either by ourselves or others at our insistence. They are more or less precise images of ourselves. They allow our selves to lie in repose in soothing darkness within them. Most of us reanimate, sooner or later, but many of us remain, asleep or sleepless, in isolation forever.

Meanwhile, your mummycase establishes your status as something or another. By the time it’s finished you’ll be somewhere. You might wonder, what have you qualified for already?

Ah. Lotsa firewerks now. Lots and lots and lots of fireworks, ignited by the laser guns during The Chariot Chase. More fireworks than movie memes quoted in the scene.

Via the glory of CGI, anybody can be Yakima Canutt. Brendan Frasier and even some other guy do death-defying stunts on the chariot’s harness (Mesalla’s chariot, by the way) as the fireworks glare off noir-wet streets…

There are no seatbelts on the DC3 that crash-lands at the gates of Shangri-La.

At long last, I may have found that for which I’ve searched an entire eternity: the value of time. If all there is is Now, that value is, What can I do Now?

I shake off my idea of Self, the sheath I made with my portable forge in my precise form as verified by acclaim in the congress within me. I locate the minority in that chamber that expects me to be what I want and go with it. Knowing that I’m gonna face a shitfight, I plunge ahead into the already sworling gusts.

mummy

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