Tutankhamen: A mummy story for grown-ups

When Howard Carter opened the tomb of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamen in 1922 he found a series of chambers piled high with “wonderful things.” For nerds of a certain age, this is a story we’ve heard many times before. King Tut was a part of our lives from childhood. On the list of “Dead Things Small Children Get Really Excited About”, he ranks just below dinosaurs and just above Pompeii. By the time we reached junior high, we had explored the Valley of the Kings through diagrams in National Geographic, catalogued Tut’s treasures in the pages of glossy DK picture books, and watched innumerable actors recreate Carter’s day of discovery on TV documentaries.

Given all that you already know about the Tutankhamen story, why should you bother reading Joyce Tyldesley’s new book Tutankhamen: The Search for an Egyptian King? Because Tyldesley asks (and answers) questions those old familiar sources seldom bothered with. Her book takes a popular kid’s history and fleshes it out with grown-up levels of depth and context. For instance: Why exactly was King Tut buried with all those grave goods to begin with?

The answer isn’t as simple as you might suspect. The golden couches, ornate game boards, food, and flowers are all usually presented as things Tutankhamen thought he’d need in the afterlife. But that doesn’t match up with what we know about ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, Tyldesley writes. Kings were supposed to spend their afterlives away from the tomb—reborn as a star, or merged with the god Osiris. Read the rest

Trompe l'oeil graffiti vanishes Egyptian military barrier

Noordijk sez, "Egyptian graffiti artists make this military street barrier 'disappear.'"

Sheikh Rihan mural Read the rest

Egyptian port-workers refuse to sign for tons of US-made tear-gas shipped in by Ministry of the Interiorworkers

Five port workers in Cairo refused to sign for a shipment of 7.5 tons of tear-gas from the US, fearing that it would be used against demonstrators; another 14 tons of tear-gas were expected from the US at the time. Peaceful protesters in Tahrir Square were subjected to relentless gas attacks by the military government last week. The shipment was eventually released and sent to storage owned by the Ministry of Interior in Cairo.

Egypt’s al-Shorouk newspaper reported that upon the arrival of the shipment, massive disagreements broke out between employees, where five employees refused to sign for the shipment, one after the other.

The five, being dubbed by activists as the “brave five”, were to be refereed to a investigative committee as to why they refused to perform their duties, which has since called off.

The news about the shipment’s arrival stirred the Twittersphere, after it was consumed all day with the country’s first post-revolution elections, and activists mocked the reinforcement of weapons that is being used against them.

UPDATE: Egypt imports 21 tons of tear gas from the US, port staff refuses to sign for it (via JWZ)

(Image: Water & tear Gas!, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 89031137@N00's photostream) Read the rest

Battered Tahrir Square protester recounts Monday clashes

Alejandro De La Cruz from Turnstyle News tells Boing Boing,

Our reporter out of Egypt, Shadi Rahimi, has completed an online post with video on a Tahrir Square protester who was in the middle of Monday's clashes. The demonstrator, whose name is Saleh, says he was battered, arrested and later released. He says he considers his fate "fortunate" compare to those who lost their lives.

When Rahimi met up with Saleh, he was still deciding whether to boycott Egypt's historic vote.

More here, Video Link. Read the rest

Egypt police detain, beat, sexually assault US-based journalist Mona Eltahawy; other journalists also targeted

[video link] US-based Egyptian blogger, speaker, and journalist Mona Eltahawy was released today after spending 12 hours detained by Egyptian security forces in Cairo. According to her tweets, she was arrested by riot police while observing the ongoing protests in Tahrir Square, where thousands of Egyptian citizens are calling for the military junta SCAF to be disbanded, and a representative, democratically-elected leadership to take their place.

While she was held, Mona managed to tweet from a fellow detainee's Blackberry that she had been beaten and was in prison. When she was released, Mona tweeted more details: she had been sexually and physically assaulted, and sustained a broken arm and a broken hand from beatings inside the interior ministry in Cairo, in the early hours of Thursday morning.

"The whole time I was thinking about article I would write," she writes, "Just you fuckers wait."

A number of journalists and well-known voices from Twitter have been detained in the last few days, including Egyptian-American documentary maker Jehane Noujaim, and Maged Butter, shown below (WARNING: graphic image): Read the rest

Egypt: 33 dead in Tahrir protests, as "Arab Spring" mirrored in bloody Fall

[Video Link, warning: graphic content.] Reuters reports: "Cairo police fought protesters demanding an end to army rule for a third day on Monday and morgue officials said the death toll had risen to 33, with many victims shot in the worst violence since the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak."

Below: Gotta love the cotton candy vendors who are still out there, peddling their fluffy pink wares, even as tear gas and live ammo are deployed against protesters by the military police.

Read the rest

Egypt: Tarek Shalaby on "Free Alaa. Again."

"Alaa’s detainment proved to be a lot tougher than I had initially hoped for. It’s a wake up call for the expensive price of freedom, and it makes one value the struggle on the one hand, but curse the incomprehensible cost on the other. I just didn’t think that the news of Alaa in military prison would affect me so strongly. But it did. As it will, when he’s released. And as it will, when our fight reaches victory."—Tarek Shalaby. Read the rest

Free Alaa. Again.

This weekend, Egyptian blogger, Twitter activist, and human rights advocate Alaa Abd El Fattah (@alaa), who is something of a legend, went in to a military court in Egypt for interrogation. "He refused to answer the military’s questions, refused to grant them legitimacy, and was thus detained for 15 days," Jillian York writes in this blog post about her friend.

At Global Voices, Amira Al Hussaini has more here, and Rasha Abdullah has more here. At the NYT, Bob Mackey has background on the case. Egyptian activists around the world are outraged.

This isn't the first time Alaa has gone to jail for political reasons: there was a high-profile internet campaign five years ago for his freedom, when he was held under similarly trumped-up charges. The regime hasn't changed. The images in this post are all from that campaign.

Read the rest

Egyptians march from Tahrir Square to support Occupy Oakland protestors

As they vowed earlier this week to do, Egyptian pro-democracy protesters marched from Tahrir square to the U.S. Embassy today to march in support of Occupy Oakland—and against police brutality witnessed in Oakland on Tuesday night, and commonly experienced in Egypt.

Above and below, photos from Egyptian blogger Mohammed Maree, who is there at the march live-tweeting. He is a journalist with Egytimes.org, a human rights activist, and a veterinarian. All photos in this post are his.

The larger demonstration back at Tahrir was about issues closer to home: Egyptians are demanding that the military transfer power quickly to a representative civilian government, after the death by torture of a 24-year-old political prisoner named Essam Ali Atta. As the Guardian reports, critics say his death proves that the junta is failing to dismantle Mubarak's brutal security apparatus:

Essam Ali Atta, a civilian serving a two-year jail term in Cairo's high-security Tora prison following his conviction in a military tribunal earlier this year for an apparently "common crime", was reportedly attacked by prison guards after trying to smuggle a mobile phone sim card into his cell. According to statements from other prisoners who witnessed the assault, Atta had large water hoses repeatedly forced into his mouth and anus on more than one occasion, causing severe internal bleeding. An officer then transferred Atta to a central Cairo hospital, but he died within an hour.

His funeral took place today. Follow live tweets from the memorial at #esamatta. Journalist Reem Abdellatif, who is there, tweets:

His sister just passed out screaming they took my brother from me.

Read the rest

Penn & Teller's Magic and Mystery Tour: exploring magic's roots in China, India and Egypt

We just watched Penn & Teller's Magic and Mystery Tour, their 2003 documentary on traditional magic in China, India and Egypt, and really enjoyed it. Penn and Teller resolve to track down performers who are still doing the street magic that inspired western magicians in years gone by -- the Indian Rope Trick, the Egyptian Gali Gali men with their cups and balls, and Chinese classics like the mask trick and the glass bowls trick.

Each segment is very self-contained, and full of the brash Penn humor and Harpo Marx Teller mischief that they're known for. There's a bit of general history and cultural overview in each nation, but the emphasis is always on magic and its odd history in each nation -- Mao's purge of street magicians, the hieroglyphs that (may) depict an ancient cup-and-balls routine, the colonial soldier who faked evidence of the Indian rope trick.

But where the video shines is in the intimate views of the lives of the magicians and their families in the countries that P&T visit -- a village filled with traditional magicians in China, a slum known for magicians in Calcutta, the descendant of Luxor Gali-Gali, an Egyptian magician who played the Ed Sullivan show and attained fame in Vegas.

The documentary left me with a sense of the overall oddity of devoting your life to magic, and the strange ways that magicians all over the world, and all through time, are bound together by this craft of trickery and illusion. Teller has a moment where he addresses the camera at some length on the nature of the linking rings and the cultural differences in the way that it's transformed that is one of the most interesting bits of video I've ever seen. Read the rest

Shareholders take Vodafone to account for network shutdown during Egyptian revolution

AccessNow, an NGO that works for human rights values in telcoms policy, took a resolution to the Vodafone Board meeting in London last week, holding the company to account for its network shutdown during the Egyptian revolution and asking it to endorse a plan to uphold its customers' human rights in future.
"I am asking this question as a proxy and on behalf of thousands of people from over 85 countries who have endorsed this question to the Vodafone Board.

Our question is, in recognition of the challenges that you and other telcos faced during the Egyptian revolution and the lessons you’ve learned from this experience might you be better prepared for any future crises - which is undoubtedly in the wings - by committing to doing a human rights assessment of your licensing agreements in the roughly 70 countries you operate in, to ensure that, for example, you are both able to protect your staff and the integrity of the network, but not in the position of having to once again shut down the internet or send pro-regime messages to your customers as happened earlier in the year in Egypt?

I would like to present you with a five step action plan, consistent with the GNI principles, which we believe would assist you to protect Vodafone's brand and shareholder's profits and ask that you consider adhering to the practices outlined in the action plan."

In addition to prolonging the misery and bloodshed of the Egyptian revolution, Vodafone's network shutdown also resulted in the death of Egyptians who couldn't use their phones to call ambulances during medical emergencies. Read the rest

Networks are necessary, but not sufficient, for social upheaval

My latest Guardian column, "Networks are not always revolutionary," argues that networks are necessary, but not sufficient, for many disruptive commercial, cultural and social phenomena, and that this character has led many people to either overstate or dismiss the role and potential of networked technology in current events:
"For most artists," as the famous Tim O'Reilly aphorism has it "the problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity." To me, this is inarguably true and self-evident - the staying power of this nugget has more to do with its admirable brevity and clarity than its novelty.

And yet, there are many who believe that O'Reilly is mistaken: they point to artists who are well-known, but who still have problems. There are YouTube video-creators who've racked up millions of views; bloggers with millions of readers, visual artists whose work has been appropriated and spread all around the world, such as the photographer Noam Galai, whose screaming self-portrait has found its way into everything from stencil graffiti to corporate logos, all without permission or payment. These artists, say the sceptics, have overcome obscurity, and yet they have yet to find a way to convert their fame to income.

But O'Reilly doesn't say, "Attain fame and you will attain fortune" - he merely says that for most artists, fame itself is out of their grasp.

Networks are not always revolutionary Read the rest

Mubarak's custom pinstriped suit was striped with his name?

According to this unsourced photo-magnification, Hosni Mubarak's swanky pinstriped suits were made from custom fabric whose "stripes" were Mubarak's name, printed in tiny letters, over and over again. I have no idea if this is shooped -- on the one hand, it is the kind of thing a loony dictator might revel in; on the other hand, why wouldn't he get his name woven in Arabic script? (And on the third hand, maybe getting your name custom-woven into your suit's stripes in a foreign alphabet is the Egyptian dictator's equivalent to westerners who get random Japanese characters tattooed on their nethers).
Oh hey, Mubarak. Nice pinstripes. Wait, what? Oh shit, those pinstripes are actually your name spelled over and over again. You're a douche, no doubt, but that is some serious despot swag.
How To Talk To Girls At Parties (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)  Egypt: Protests inspired by Tunisia and fanned by social media ... What's Happening in Egypt, the Action Movie Explainer: "Raiders of ... Mideast protests: real-time tweet mapping - Boing Boing Egypt: iconic photo of protester kissing guard during ... Egypt: Al Jazeera video shows police running over protesters ... Read the rest

Sharing the power in Tahrir Square

How Tahrir Square's protestors shared their power: an exuberant spaghetti, wall-warts, and charging handiphones of all variety.

cairofeb6_036  Egypt turns off internet, Lieberman wants same option for US ... Egypt: TGIF - Boing Boing Read the rest

Egyptian orders a pizza for the Wisconsin demonstrators

Ian's, a pizzeria near the Wisconsin state capitol that is sympathetic to the demonstrators, has been facilitating the process of supporters around the world who want to send pizza to the protest. They've fielded an order from Egypt -- now that's solidarity.
The blackboard behind the counter lists the "countries donating" as "Korea, Finland, New Zealand, Egypt, Denmark, Australia, US, Canada, Germany, China, England, Netherlands, Turkey, Switzerland, Italy" and has the abbreviations for all 50 states listed below, with donating states circled.
From Cairo to Madison, some pizza (Thanks, Nextnik, via Submitterator!)

(Image: Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from wrestlingentropy's photostream)  Midwestern Tahir: Workers refuse to leave Wisconsin capital over ... Protests in Wisconsin continue - Boing Boing Hey 'dere, Wisconsin! What's democracy look like? - Boing Boing From Egypt to Wisconsin - Boing Boing Someone in Egypt Ordered a Pizza for the Protesters in Wisconsin ... Read the rest

Tahrir Square's spontaneous kindergarten

Mosa'ab Elshamy -- a photographer and pharmacy student who attended the Tahrir Square rallies in Egypt -- describes the volunteer-run kindergartens that spontaneously popped up in the square to care for the children who came with their families for the rallies:
It's difficult to estimate numbers, but I think not less than 10 percent of those present in Tahrir were families. They added a special spirit to what we started calling Republic of Tahrir. Some of the kids would do their own marches around the square, with people applauding and smiling at them. They were quite an integral part of the place and everyone took care of them. When Tahrir would get crowded and a kid got lost from his parents for a while, we would quickly mention their name in the large microphones set in the square and the parents would easily find them.

I wouldn't say the kindergarten idea was set up by specialists. But there were people of all professions in Tahrir which obviously included teachers. But many of those working on the kindergarten were ordinary mothers who would take care of the kids and look over them while they were painting or reading. It was usually set in the safest area of the square, just in case anything would happen, and the kids were being kept at a distance from any possible tension. But obviously it wasn't professionally set up. I mean, it didn't have working hours or a fixed schedule, because the place was quickly developing and changes were taking place from day to day.

Read the rest

Could you make a Tahrir Square game about nonviolent revolutions?

Over on the Play This Thing games review blog, JZW wants to know why no one has made a game built around nonviolent revolutions.
Modern non-violent revolutions are very dramatic, very to the point, have excellent pacing, and are a perfect example of asymmetric struggle. You can interpret them as the state versus the people, or dictatorship versus the republic. But their most important aspect is the struggle between centralised technologies of the industrial age and distributed technologies of the information age. The state uses armed forces and television. The people uses crowd psychology and communication networks. The state exerts control by giving orders and withholding information. The people exerts control by spreading information and defying orders.

It's also a fresh new challenge gameplay-wise, because you don't get to give direct orders, and the situation can spin out of your control easily. You reach your goal by nudging people in the right direction one step at a time, giving them tools they need, and keeping them connected. It's far more organic and fuzzy than the kind of direct control you can find in a first person shooter or a real-time strategy.

Tahrir: The Game (Play This Thing)

(Image: Feb4-12:49pm, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 89031137@N00's photostream)  Egypt turns off internet, Lieberman wants same option for US ... Egypt (photo): protesters face off water cannon in prayer (Updated ... Egypt: The viral vlog of Asmaa Mahfouz that helped spark an ... Egypt: Vodafone and France Télécom say Egyptian gov forced them to ... Read the rest

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