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Nefertiti

Nefertiti (-1300s), queen of Egypt, was the wife of Akhenaton, the Heretic King who ruled Egypt from about -1344 to -1328. He was probably her cousin or brother. King Tutankhamen was her stepson. Her name means “the beautiful one is come”.

Her power: “Queen” in Ancient Egyptian means just “king’s wife”. Very few ruled in their own right. But given how Nefertiti is shown as a near equal to Akhenaton in pictures, she probably held considerable power. Also, the person who ruled Egypt right after him and right before King Tut, from about -1330 to -1327, went by the name of Nefernefruaten, among others. That was one of Nerfertiti’s names. But not all scholars agree that it was her.

Her fame: Thomas Jefferson and Abe Lincoln probably never heard of her. But then in 1912 the Bust of Nefertiti (pictured above) was discovered, made when she was alive, now one of the world’s most famous pieces of art. It was found in its workshop still unfinished (thus the left eye). The Germans stole it – it is now in a museum in Berlin. Egypt wants it back.

Amarna Revolution: Egyptian art is famous for showing people in that stiff, eyes-on-the-side-of-the-head sort of way. The bust is nothing like that. That is because of the Amarna Revolution, a cultural revolution led by her husband. It not only overthrew the old gods, like Amun, but also that old, stiff style of art. It allowed her beauty to shine through the ages.

Was she really that beautiful? Egyptian art generally shows kings and queens in an idealized way – how they wish they looked. Photoshop is nothing new. But since her husband during the same period looks deformed, it is probably close to how she looked.

How she lived: Unlike most Egyptians of the time, she had a bathroom mirror and a four-post bed. The palace band played during meals.

  • transport: golden chariot, electrum carrying chair.
  • ears: two piercings on each.
  • colour scheme: white and cobalt blue.
  • soap: she used olive oil and natron instead.
  • moisturizer: made of sesame seeds and olive oil, perfumed with myrrh or lotus.
  • clothing: made of fine linen.
  • shoes: sandals with pictures of bound enemies on the bottom.
  • weapons: scimitar (to kill prisoners), bow and arrow, throw stick (for hunting birds).
  • How to greet her: on your belly, your nose touching the ground.

She was from Thebes, but at her height lived in Amarna, the new capital her husband had built.

The Tomb of Nefertiti: Her body has yet to be discovered. There are some unidentified bodies of royal women from her time. She might be one of them. The Becky Nefertiti reconstruction of 2018 was based on one of them. Her tomb, though, has yet to be discovered. Just like how the reaction against the Amarna Revolution led to tomb robbers forgetting where King Tut was buried, the same could be true for her. That would mean her tomb is untouched, waiting to be discovered in all its glory.

– Abagond, 2018.

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The Truman Show

“The Truman Show” (1998) is a Hollywood film starring Jim Carrey. He plays Truman Burbank, a man who has lived his whole life on a huge Hollywood stage, the star of “The Truman Show”, a television show watched by 1.7 billion worldwide – but he does not know it! Everyone he knows is an actor who acts like it is real life!

A stage becomes a life: Truman lives in a town on an island that he never leaves – he is afraid of water. He saw his father die in a boating accident when he was a boy. The town and the island are in the middle of the largest stage ever created, under a huge dome just north of Hollywood. It has its own sky, its own sun and moon, its own day and night, its own weather.

The other side of Truman’s sky.

At the start of the film a spotlight falls out of the clear blue sky and crashes right in front of his house. But he does not become suspicious until he sees his father – who is supposed to be dead!

Bit by bit he discovers his world is not real. The traffic that goes by his house, for example, repeats! The cars, bicycles, and people are going in a circle round his neighbourhood to create the illusion of traffic.

A girl he was falling in love with in high school tried to warn him that it was all fake – but then her father suddenly drove up onto the beach in his car to take her away to Fiji.

Truman wants to leave the island and find her.

Massive spoilers: In time he sails to the edge of the stage and touches the sky, the blue wall of the dome, and speaks to the creator of “The Truman Show”. The creator was the Man on the Moon. The moon, it turns out, was hiding the control room the whole time.

Christof, Man on the Moon.

Fact becomes fiction: The creator, a Hollywood producer named Christof (a kind of Christ?), does not think he was doing anything wrong: he wanted to put a real life, not an acted one, on film and in return Truman got to live a more pleasant life than most. Except that it was all a lie! His family and friends were all actors paid to be his family and friends. They all lied to him to keep him a prisoner of the stage.

Like in “The Matrix” (1999) and George Orwell’s “1984” (1949), the hero has been lied to his whole life but then the lies begin to crack and fall away and the true world shows itself. These stories are not made up out of whole cloth:

  • Orwell experienced state censorship of the press first-hand.
  • The Wachowskis, when they directed “The Matrix”, were trans women in the closet, a place where nothing is as it seems.

And, of course, Hollywood itself has probably been history’s biggest manufacturer of lies, myths and half-truths, like racial stereotypes.

– Abagond, 2018.

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Mahogany

“Mahogany” (1975) is a Diana Ross film where she becomes a rich and famous model and fashion designer named Mahogany. Billy Dee Williams plays her love interest. Berry Gordy of Motown directs. In the 1970s Motown was trying to get into film and television – a dream her next film will destroy: “The Wiz” (1978).

The theme song is called “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)”. It became a number-one hit song for Diana Ross in the US, becoming more famous than the movie. The song was written independently of the film, which is why it has the awkward title.

If you like the theme song, then it can be annoying. They keep playing bits of it in the film, but never all the through, except maybe at the beginning and the end.

If you like Diana Ross, then it is a great film. The film is shamelessly in love with her. Which is rare for a film about a Black woman. She looks so beautiful! Being a model and fashion designer in the film gives it an excuse to gush over her beauty. And three men want her! For 109 minutes you can imagine yourself as her or in love with her. Or both.

If you do not like Diana Ross, then it is like one of those old movies they show on television on a lazy Saturday afternoon. That is how I first saw it. It works at that level too. The film seems to rest mostly on her star power, not her acting. I am not sure how it would seem to someone who does not know who she is.

Race: The film takes place in Chicago and Rome. Most of the racism she experiences is in Chicago, mainly from Black people telling her what she cannot do. In Rome she is a rare bird, a beautiful creature. That allows her to be seen as an individual. Her dark brown skin makes her beautiful, not tainted.

Love: Of the three men who want her, one is Black (Billy Dee Williams) and two are White. The White men do not love her. They want to possess her, like she was a thing. One of them, a photographer who is the violently jealous type, even admitted he mainly likes inanimate objects. He says:

“I give all my creations the names of inanimate objects. There’s only one word that describes rich, dark, beautiful and rare. I’m gonna call you … Mahogany.”

Thus the name.

Billy Dee Williams is thoughtlessly sexist but deep down he loves her for her, not as a treasure to possess. He likes how she believes in impossible dreams.

Dreams: Her dreams of becoming a fashion designer really do come true – over the rainbow in Rome. On top of that she becomes a model too. And rich and famous. But it becomes a hollow, lonely experience, far from home, without a man, her man, who can love her right.

There’s no place like home.

– Abagond, 2018.

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Marsha Ambrosius: Old Times

Remarks:

This came out in June 2018, her answer to Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” (2018). The video references at least three well-known shooting deaths of unarmed Black people in the US: the white iPhone falling (Stephon Clark), the hoodie and Skittles (Trayvon Martin), and the BART-like trains passing overhead (Oscar Grant).

“Forever, hashtag RIP somebody else
Don’t wanna be somebody else”

See also:

Lyrics:

Just like old times
Just wanna love you right
Love you with all my might
Love you for life
Just like old times
Just wanna hold you tight
Love you with all my might
Love you for life

Mmh, I just want you home for dinner
But you just done hustling for a living
You gotta do what you gotta do to feed the children

And I’ll be here waiting for you to come home
Those red and blue lights flashing and I pray
Oh, please, please, please come home

Just like old times
Just wanna love you right
Just love you with all my might
Love you for your life, oh
Just like old times
‘Cause right now we’re afraid to see the news
Another name it could be you
If they say it to be true
Then we’ll stay right here

Forever, hashtag RIP somebody else
Don’t wanna be somebody else
Just like old times

Just like old times
Just wanna love you right
Love you with all my might
Love you for your life
Just wanna hold you tight
Love you with all my might
Love you for life baby
Just like the old times
Just wanna love you right

Source: AZ Lyrics.

My adventures in sports

Growing up as a boy in the US, sports were the bane of my existence. To this day I might watch the part of the Super Bowl, World Series, or Olympics on television, but that is it. I got sick of hearing about the New York Knicks a long time ago.

Everything was fine till about age 11. I liked playing basketball with my friends. I did not mind gym class (physical education). My father watched football on television, the North American kind. He adored football, but I could never get into it.

Team sports: And then at about age 11 everything changed. Both my father and my school started pushing team sports. They were supposed to teach “teamwork” and build “character”. At least that was the official story. I was not good at sports, so it became an endlessly repeated exercise in ritual humiliation. I was among the last ones picked for a team. Not the very last, but maybe second or third to last. Maybe like the 15th percentile. If I was already on a team (my father made me join little league football and basketball), then I sat on the sidelines most of the time. I grew to hate even basketball.

Refuge: It was just about this time that I was allowed to take out books on my grandmother’s library card, two books a week. So I started to stay inside more and read. Even at the height of summer I would lie in my bed and read the afternoon away. It was glorious. By age 13 I stopped playing sports altogether, except when forced to in gym class. I loathed gym class.

Social leprosy: Reading did wonders for my grades (“reading is fundamental”, as they used to say back then). But getting good grades and not liking sports led to a kind of social leprosy. The only people who thought getting good grades was a good thing were parents and teachers – and maybe some girls. Certainly no true boy thought it was a good thing. It was sissified.

Boys who I thought were my friends grew distant or started calling me names, some of them racialized.

gratuitous picture of cheerleaders (via YouTube).

At high school (ages 15 to 18), football players and cheerleaders were at the top of the social pyramid. And the football players were not even all that great. They could not even be counted on to defeat the nearest high school. The only thing they had going for them is that they were the best football players at that school. But no doubt some commenter will patiently inform me that they were the “alpha” males and I was, at best, a “beta”. It was just nature’s way.

At university I entered a world where sports no longer mattered. It was wonderful. Loads of universities in the US are ruled by football, but I went to one that was ruled by the nerds of New York. And only then did all those good grades start to make a good difference in my life.

– Abagond, 2018.

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Programming note #37

I have been kind of missing in action of late because of an illness in the family. Hopefully things will be back to normal, more or less, later in the week.

– Abagond.

Amun

Amun as he appeared in Egyptian art.

Amun (by the year -2323), also known as Ammon, Amon, Amen, Amen-Re, and Jupiter Ammon, was an Egyptian and Nubian god, the most powerful god in the world from at least -1500 to -1000, back in the time of Moses and Troy. “Powerful” is here measured by the size of the largest active temple.

Amun is the “amen” of “Tutankhamen”, the “ammon” of “ammonia” – but not the “amen” commonly found at the end of prayers in English since the +1200s.

Note: As with much of Ancient Egyptian history, most vowels are guessed at and most dates are approximate.

Karnak: Amun’s main temple was the Temple of Karnak in Thebes (Luxor, Egypt). It has been the largest known religious structure in the world for the past 3,000 some years.

Temple of Karnak.

Amun through the years:

-2323: Amun begins to appear in Egyptian records (Pyramid Text #446), as a local god of Thebes.

-1937: His name begins to appear in those of kings: Amenemhat I.

-1750: He overtakes Montu, the old war god of Thebes, and takes on some of his features, like being a god of victory.

-1539: The kings of Thebes defeat the Hyksos and bring Egypt back together under native rule. To the victors go the spoils of war – and to the god of victory too. With the rise of the Egyptian empire, Amun’s priesthood becomes more and more powerful – while outliving any one king. As Amen-Re he is seen as being the sun god Ra too. He becomes the King of the Gods in Egypt. His temple becomes the place where he thought the world into being.

-1340: Amenhotep IV, husband of Nefertiti, changes his name to Akhenaton, taking the Amun out of his name and putting in its place a different god: Aten. His father, Amenhotep III, had begun to push back against the power of Amun’s priesthood. Akhenaton took it much further and said Aten was the only god!

-1325: Tutankhamen, son of Akhenaton, officially returns Egypt to the worship of Amun and the old gods. Amun’s priesthood presumably took advantage of King Tut’s youth and inexperience: he was only about 11.

-1275: Amun is credited with saving the Egyptian army at the Battle of Kadesh, the largest chariot battle ever.

-1150: The priesthood at Karnak has grown so powerful they own at least 7% of the people of Egypt and 9% of the land. At least. They also control the king’s taxes and the king’s lands. The king, the mighty pharaoh, becomes little more than a figurehead.

-900s: Egypt falls under Libyan rule. They are the first in a long string of foreign rulers: Nubian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, etc.

-700s: Under Nubian rule, Amum makes a comeback. He was one of their gods too.

-332: Alexander the Great takes over Egypt and has himself declared the son of Amun. The Greeks see Amun as being Zeus. Romans knew him as Jupiter Ammon.

+391: Amun’s public worship is outlawed by the Roman Empire. By then most Egyptians were already worshipping Yahweh instead – as most still do today in +2018 as either Muslims or Christians.

– Abagond, +2018.

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