From the Feb 15 New
York Times Sunday Book Review



Unraveling the Mystery of the Alphabet From A to Z. 
By David Sacks. 

Illustrated. 395 pp. New York: 
Broadway Books. $24.95. 

….”Like the wheel or the telephone,” Sacks writes, ”the alphabet was an invention
to change the world.” While it’s true that billions of people use
writing based on phonetics every day, not everyone believes the invention
was an advance in literacy. Darnell, who discovered the earliest known
alphabetic writing, told me in an e-mail message that combining ideographic
and phonetic symbols, as in ancient Egyptian writing, ”provides much
more information than an alphabetic system, and allows for additional
levels of poetic expression” compared with phonetic letters alone. Indeed,
as most e-mailers know, when pictographs known as ”smileys” — horizontal
images that hint at facial expression — are added to text, the nuance
of a sentence can change. A wink-smiley — ; ) — added after ”you are
bad” changes its meaning entirely.

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2022: I publish a weeklyish email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca., where I practiced with Buddhist teacher Ruth Denison and was involved in various pro-ecology and social justice activist activities.