Egyptian hieroglyphics

Egyptian hieroglyphics (c. -3200 to +394) was one of four ways to write the Egyptian language in ancient times. It is by far the best known because it was the preferred way to write in stone, and stone lasts way longer than paper, even in a dry place like Egypt.

Four ways to write ancient Egyptian:

hieroglyphics (c. -3200 to +394) – the preferred way to write in stone. Looks like picture writing but most of the pictures stand for sounds. There are over 600 signs, but only 150 are regularly used.

hieratic (c. -3200 to +200s) – started as a handwritten form of hieroglyphics but took on a life of its own. By far the most common way to write Egyptian before Greek and Roman times, but because it was written on paper (papyrus), most of it has long since disappeared. In time it gave rise to:

Demotic (c. -650 to +533) – an easier-to-write form of hieratic, common in Greek and Roman times.

Coptic (c. +200 to present) – based on the Greek alphabet with four Demotic characters added for sounds not found in Greek. Preferred by Christians.

The Egyptian language itself had changed through all that time. By Roman times what was being written in hieroglyphics was a dead language. What was written in Coptic was the living language, as different from the dead language as French is from Latin.

The last hieroglyphs were written in 394 (pictured above). Knowledge of how to read them died out by the 600s.

A 1599 edition of Horapollo’s highly misleading “Hieroglyphica”.

In 1419 “Hieroglyphica” (400s) by Horapollo was discovered, a book about hieroglyphics written a thousand years before, back when people could still read hieroglyphics. Unfortunately, Horapollo was not one of them! For 400 years Western scholars came up with all kinds of wild ideas, but none could be tested till:

In 1799 the Rosetta Stone was found in Egypt by Napoleon’s army while building a fort at a mouth of the Nile. It had the same piece of writing in hieroglyphics, Demotic and Ancient Greek.

Enter Champollion: Even with the Rosetta Stone it still took a genius like Champollion (who also knew Coptic) to see that hieroglyphics were not picture writing. By looking at the names of kings and queens he discovered that most hieroglyphs stood for sounds. At the heart of hieroglyphics was an alphabet!

But the alphabet had no vowels. To make up for that it did use picture writing to provide hints. The word for walk, masha, for example, was written as M + SH + a picture of legs.

Hieroglyphics are messier than that, but that was the basic idea, which Champollion worked out. Scholars after him worked out most of the rest.

By the 1850s scholars could read hieroglyphics for themselves. But even today hieroglyphics are still not perfectly understood.

What became the Roman alphabet, circa -2000.

What became the Roman alphabet, what I am writing in now, started out as a poor man’s hieroglyphics back in -2000. Its inventor seems to have understood that many of the hieroglyphs stood for sounds, but did not know which pictures went with which sounds. So he picked 24 hieroglyphs and gave them sounds according to what they looked like.

– Abagond, 2017.

Sources: mainly Google Images (images); “The Hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt” (2003) by Aidan Dodson.

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Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett talks with the media Friday September 8th 2017 at the Arizona Grand Hotel. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Michael Bennett (1985- ), an American football player with the Seattle Seahawks, has stood with Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality. Now he is accusing the Las Vegas police of using excessive force against him!

On August 27th 2017, after watching the Mayweather-McGregor fight, Bennett was walking back to his hotel when he heard gunfire. He ran and hid like everyone else there. But, unlike everyone else:

“Las Vegas police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The police say he was acting suspicious.

They ordered him to the ground. Despite following their orders, an officer held a gun to his head and said:

“Don’t move or I will blow your fucking head off!”

Another officer put a knee in his back.

Bennett is Black, 6 foot 4 (1.93m) and 274 pounds (124kg). Last May, Las Vegas police killed an unarmed Black man, Tashii Brown.

Bennett’s life flashed before his eyes. He feared he would never live to see his family again.

Later they let Bennett go when they learned they had just arrested a nationally known football player. They gave no good reason for the arrest.

Bennett told writer David Zirin and Black Lives Matter about it that night. Last week he went public.

The police union in turn wrote a letter to Roger Goodell, the head of the National Football League (NFL):

“Michael Bennett’s claim that our officers are racists is false and offensive to the men and women of law enforcement.”

And besides, “both officers were minorities.”


“I request that you conduct an investigation, and take appropriate action, into Michael Bennett’s obvious false allegations against our officers. While the NFL may condone Bennett’s disrespect for our American flag and everything it symbolizes, we hope the league will not ignore Bennett’s false accusations against our officers.”

Like Colin Kaepernick, Bennett “disrespects” the flag by not standing during the “Star Spangled Banner”. Not a crime.

The police are trying to dig up dirt on him:

“It’s fair to say the LVMPD is continuing to investigate whether Mr. Bennett was involved in the altercation at the hotel casino prior to his detention on Las Vegas Boulevard.”

Meaning they have no proof.

The police do not deny they held a gun to his head and threatened his life. The officer who did it claims that his body camera was turned off. But another body camera did catch video of the moment when he held a gun to Bennett’s head.

Bennett’s lawyer, Black Lives Matter, and Color of Change all call on the Las Vegas police to name the arresting officers and make all video public.


“I sit during the national anthem – because equality doesn’t live in this country and no matter how much money you make, what job title you have, or how much you give, when you are seen as a “Nigger,” you will be treated that way.”

Heroes: Muhammad Ali, Angela Davis.

– Abagond, 2017.

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The Jones Girls: Nights Over Egypt


My favourite song by the Jones Girls. It went to #23 on the US R&B chart in 1982. Hearing it now I can tell it was made between 1979 and 1983. What most dates it is the first 30 seconds, the instrumental part before they sing, and again at 2:10 to 2:28.

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There’s a sky in the east
Over pyramids at Giza
Where there once lived a girl
She ruled the world
Then down the Nile
He came with a smile
He was the king
She was the queen
Under the moonlight
Your eyes won’t believe
What your mind can’t conceive

Nights over Egypt
Nights over Egypt
Nights over Egypt

Incense & myrrh
And girls that swirl
To the music
Nights over Egypt

Women fellahin
Wear veils to been seen
By no one
Take a caravan across
The Sudan
Saharan fagade (?)
Is just a mirage
Oasis in the sand
Where life once began
Under the moonlight
Your eyes won`t believe
What your mind can’t conceive

Nights over Egypt
Nights over Egypt
Nights over Egypt
Nights over Egypt
Nights over Egypt
Nights over Egypt
Nights over Egypt
Nights over Egypt

Source: MetroLyrics 

Hurricane Irma

Hurricanes Irma and Jose on September 7th 2017. You can barely see Haiti because of Irma.


Hurricane Irma (since August 30th 2017) is, by some measures, the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record – and it is headed right towards Florida, after leaving a trail of destruction in the Caribbean.

Irma as of Saturday afternoon, September 9th 2017.

Caribbean: It spent Saturday in Cuba, the first Category 5 hurricane, the worst kind, to hit there since 1924. It hit Barbuda on Wednesday, where it cut it off from the outside world and then damaged 95% of its buildings – the worst storm in living memory.

St Martin after Irma hit, September 6th 2017.

US: It is expected to hit the Florida Keys Sunday morning and then spend Sunday and Monday going up the west coat of Florida. The big city there is Tampa. By Tuesday it will have likely turned into a bad rainstorm in Georgia. Over 7 million people who live near the coasts of Florida and Georgia have been told to flee their homes. The waves at the shoreline are expected to be as high as 5 metres (15 ft) – taller than many houses. This comes on the heels of Hurricane Harvey hitting Houston, Texas the other week.

Disney World: will be closed for the fifth time ever, from Saturday night to Tuesday. They were already starting to get rain at Cinderella’s Castle Friday night, at what will now be their last fireworks show before the storm.

The reported death toll so far, as of Saturday (September 9th):

  • 1 Barbados
  • 1 Antigua and Barbuda
  • 2 Dutch St Martin
  • 11 French West Indies (St Martin, St Bart, etc)
  • 1 Anguilla
  • 0 British Virgin Islands
  • 4 US Virgin Islands
  • 3 Puerto Rico
  • 0 Dominican Republic
  • 0 Haiti
  • 0 Turks and Caicos
  • 0 Cuba
  • 0 Bahamas
  • 1 US mainland

That is 24 in all. But it has yet to reach Florida, which has way more people than the other places it has hit.

Hurricane Irma was born on August 30th on the other side of the Atlantic, near Cape Verde off the coast of Africa. As it moved west it grew stronger and stronger until it reached winds of 295 km/h (185 mph), something not seen in the Atlantic Ocean since 1980. It has weakened since, but is expected to be as strong as Katrina (205 km/h) when it hits Florida.

Worse than Andrew: People still remember Hurricane Andrew that hit Florida 25 years ago. It was a Category 5. Irma, like Katrina, is expected to be “only” a Category 4 when it hits Florida. But where Andrew went across the southern tip of Florida, Irma will be going along whole length of the state, from south to north. Irma is also larger, larger than even Florida itself.

Fake news: Rush Limbaugh, a right-wing blowhard on the radio, has been saying that the media has been playing up Irma to increase ratings, while the government is playing it up to persuade people of climate change. But now even he has left south Florida, for “parts unknown”.

Climate change: Those who push climate change see in Irma a sign of things to come. Global warming will not necessarily increase the number of hurricanes, but it will make them stronger (hurricanes are made stronger by warmer waters) and flooding worse (as sea levels rise).

Update (Sunday night, 10.16pm US Eastern time): Irma crossed the Florida Keys this morning and is now halfway to Tampa. It has moved inland, weakening to a Category 2, with winds of “only” 105 mph (165 km/h). Three million people have lost power, some as far north as Orlando. It is tearing off roofs as far away as the east coast. It is also giving rise to tornadoes. 

Update (Monday night, 8.03pm): Irma has moved into Georgia leaving five reported dead in Florida and some 58% without electric power. Tampa avoided a direct hit, but Orlando got hit harder than expected. Winds are down to 50 mph (85 km/h), so it is no longer officially a hurricane.

– Abagond, 2017.

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“The First White President” (2017) is an essay by Ta-Nehisi Coastes wherein he argues that Donald Trump rose to power on the back of White racism and not, as many suppose, by taking seriously the concerns of the White working class.


“We are now being told that support for Trump’s ‘Muslim ban,’ his scapegoating of immigrants, his defenses of police brutality are somehow the natural outgrowth of the cultural and economic gap between Lena Dunham’s America and Jeff Foxworthy’s.”

Exit polls showed that Trump won Whites across the board, regardless of income, education or age, and did way better among Whites than anyone else. In fact, one study found:

“The racial and ethnic isolation of whites at the zip code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.”

Nor was that just some kind of accident:

“Trump moved racism from the euphemistic and plausibly deniable to the overt and freely claimed.”

Cognitive dissonance:

“The implications […] that the salt-of-the-earth Americans whom we lionize in our culture and politics are not so different from those same Americans who grin back at us in lynching photos […] were just too dark.”

And so “the country’s thinking class” make it about class, not race, in particular they make it about the White working class. They did the same thing in 1990 when David Duke almost became senator of Louisiana, even though Duke had been the grand wizard of the Klan.

Seeing Trump through a White gaze: Coates shows how White opinion-makers are blinded by their own Whiteness, even those who are anti-Trump. For example, he says of Mark Lilla:

“That Trump ran and won on identity politics is beyond Lilla’s powers of conception. What appeals to the white working class is ennobled. What appeals to black workers, and all others outside the tribe, is dastardly identitarianism. All politics are identity politics – except the politics of white people, the politics of the bloody heirloom.”

By “bloody heirloom” Coates means:

“the passive power of whiteness – that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them.”

That heirloom was made possible by “land theft and human plunder.” Trump, more than any other president, “has made the awful inheritance explicit.”

What makes Trump the first White president: 

“Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent – an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new – the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific – America’s first white president.”

Read the whole essay at the Atlantic.

– Abagond, 2017.

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Rev. Robert Lee IV

Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV (c. 1993- ), also known as Rob Lee, is a White American pastor who wants the statues of Confederate generals to come down, even those of his great-great-great-great uncle, Robert E. Lee.

Statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, 2017.

The movement to take down Confederate statues started in the wake of the Charleston Massacre in 2015. These are statues of men who fought against the US government to keep 4 million Black people as slaves. Some consider them heroes. Last month, August 2017, protests for and against a statue of Robert E, Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia led to a riot.

At the VMAs (MTV Video Music Awards), Lee said:

“My name is Robert Lee IV, I’m a descendant of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence in Charlottesville. We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin.

“Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on. We can find inspiration in the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched in the Women’s March in January, and, especially, Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs in Charlottesville.”

Thus breaking the Third Commandment of Whiteness: Thou shalt not rock the boat.

That led to threats of violence against himself, his family and his church, Bethany United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (pictured below). It also led his church to consider whether to fire him.

He offered his resignation:

“I regret that speaking out has caused concern and pain to my church. For this is I offer my heartfelt apology. I understand that my views could be considered to be controversial. I never sought this sort of attention. But, I do believe in God’s role in calling out for positive social change for the good of all.

“We are all called by God to speak out against hate and evil in all its many forms. There are so many good things going on with this congregation and I do not want my fight to detract from the mission. If the recent media attention causes concern with my church, I reluctantly offer my resignation.”

They accepted. Lee, fresh out of Duke Divinity School, had been pastor there only since April.

White American churches often speak out against the evils of, say, abortion or same-sex marriage, but it is rare for them to speak out against racism. That is true even of those churches that believe in creationism as the literal meaning of Genesis 1 – the very same chapter of the Bible that says God created man in his own image, meaning not just White people, but Black people too.

The cause of that moral blindness you can see at work here: many church congregations in the US hire and fire pastors of their own choosing, creating an echo chamber.

– Abagond, 2017.

Sources: mainly Google images (images) , NPR, NewsOne (video), and his blog post at Auburn Seminary.

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L’Oréal (1909- ) started out selling safe hair dye in Paris and is now the world’s largest cosmetics company, selling beauty in a box. The founder’s daughter, Liliane Bettencourt, is still alive and is the richest woman in the world, if not in all of human history.

L’Oreal sells hair colouring, hair wash, hair relaxers, make-up, perfume, skin lighteners, etc. They own Maybelline, Lancôme, Garnier, Helena Rubinstein, among others. They bought the Black-owned SoftSheen (Dark and Lovely) and Carol’s Daughter. Some of what L’Oreal makes is sold under the names of Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani and Yves Saint Laurent.

Last week they made the news twice: First for hiring Munroe Bergdorf, their first transgender model, as the “face of modern diversity” – and then for firing her by week’s end for having spoken out against racism!

Bergdorf, in the wake of the Charlottesville riot, wrote a three-part Facebook post about structural racism.

Facebook took down her post as hate speech – while leaving up the racist and transphobic comments about her.

The Daily Mail got a copy and printed the worst-sounding bits with little to no context. For example:

“Honestly I don’t have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people.

“Because most of ya’ll don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour. Your entire existence is drenched in racism. From micro-aggressions to terrorism, you guys built the blueprint for this s***. […]

“Once white people begin to admit that their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth… then we can talk.”

Her mother is both White and a Daily Mail reader! (Her father is Jamaican.)

On Twitter people said things like:

dear @Loreal
you drop this racist or we #boycottloreal
PS:white people are your biggest market.Can you afford to lose us over this lunatic?

L’Oreal talked to her about it but would not listen to her. They fired her:

“L’Oréal champions diversity. Comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with our values and so we have decided to end our partnership with her.”


“I expected more from L’Oréal. But they appear to only care about brand. It speaks volumes about the legitimacy of the campaign.”

On top of that, she says there are:

“the death threats, threats of rape, threats of assault, people telling me to kill myself, the general bombardment and fear that something else will happen”

She says, “The split between support and hatred has been about 50/50.”

L’Oreal values: L’Oreal is the same company that ran an ad showing Beyonce with suspiciously light skin. And which still sells stuff like White Perfect with “advanced Melano-Block TM to control production of melanin.” And which wanted only White women to sell Garnier’s Fructis Style hair wash. And which would not give back land to a Holocaust survivor, land that the Nazis had taken from her. And whose founder supported the burning of synagogues.

– Abagond, 2017.

Sources: mainly Google Images, Daily Mail, Guardian, BuzzFeed, Channel 4, NPR, Wikipedia.

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