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A moment of silence

“Picky,” a British reader of this blog who generously offers me his “firm but sympathetic guidance” in the comments, has drawn my attention to a notable event.

The British monarch, you know, has little direct influence on the governance of the kingdom but has become rather a symbol of continuity. Yesterday, in Dublin, the British monarch was a symbol of discontinuity, and a welcome one.

A band played “God Save the Queen,” and Elizabeth II stepped forward to lay a wreath on a monument. She stood before it in a long moment of silence. Then, as she and the president of Ireland stepped down, the band played the Irish national anthem.

It was historic enough that the British monarch was making a state visit to the Republic of Ireland, but the wreath-laying was even more significant. The monument is to “those who gave their lives to the cause of Irish Freedom”—that is, rebels who died resisting the rule of her grandfather.

There are moments of reconciliation that resonate for a long time. Some of you may recall Willy Brandt, the chancellor of Germany, falling to his knees in a long moment of silence before the memorial to the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto.

It would be foolish to imagine that this one gesture by Queen Elizabeth would undo the centuries of bitterness and violence between England and Ireland, and indeed the account in the Irish Times mentioned the snipers and helicopters necessary for security.

But it would have been foolish to imagine for many years that the Rev. Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams could accommodate each other in a power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland. Or that Protestant and Catholic leaders of the governments of Northern Ireland and the Republic could come together to mourn an officer of the Northern Ireland security forces killed by IRA dissidents, but that happened last month at the funeral or Ronan Kerr.

Sometimes we contrive to be better than we used to be.



Posted by John McIntyre at 11:52 AM | | Comments (28)


John, I understand why the wreath-laying should have such resonance for Irish men and women. But I expected some such act during the Queen's visit, and I knew she would perform it with her usual grace and integrity.

What I found most moving was to hear the British anthem played by an Irish band in the Garden of Remembrance, because I understand something of how difficult that must have been for them in that place, and something of the generosity of spirit that permitted it.

Just so. It is not only the gesture; it is the willingness to accept the gesture that makes reconciliation possible.

Well said Picky, and Mr. Mac.

IMO, truly effective reconciliation is rooted in mutual give-and-take----not merely in 'gestures' of contrition, or the seemingly sincerest of apologies 'given', but as you put it Mr. Mac, on the condition that the receiving party must have the will to accept ('take') the ameliorating act(s) in the spirit of forgiveness, and w/ a willingness to reach a mutual acceptance of one another's basic civil and human rights, going forward.

Truly, Queen Elizabeth II's very recent placing of the memorial wreath, and standing momentarily, head-bowed in silence, at the official monument to those Irish Catholic Republican rebels (and sympathizers) who made the ultimate sacrifice for their 'cause', was a momentous, and emotionally profound symbolic action-----one that will hopefully accelerate the continuing peaceful reproachment between England, and The Republic of Ireland.

I must confess I'm actually old enough to recall German Chancellor Willy Brandt's dramatic, and quite unanticipated dropping to his knees before the monument to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising victims, on that very grey, dreary day, where a heavy aura of melancholy seemed to shroud the entire proceedings.

In my view, Brandt demonstrated in that singular amazing, unexpected gesture of total humility, the collective sadness, guilt, and sense of contrition hopefully felt by all German people, for the diabolical atrocities perpetrated by the Nazi regime, upon the entirely innocent Jewish population of the Warsaw ghetto.

Not surprisingly, at the time, many vocal German citizens, and even reactionary elements of the mainstream German media felt Chancellor Brandt's head-bent, kneeling gesture was perhaps too extreme an act of contrition, unbefitting the then-highest ranking West German state official.

Yet Brandt would staunchly defend his action as totally appropriate, and I'm sure
went to his grave confident in his firm belief that he did the most honorable, and most humane thing possible. It was time for Germany to face the reality of her shameful recent past, and begin to make amends as a contrite nation.

As a young Canadian, I can recall being both very touched, and proud of Chancellor Brandt's Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ceremony unforeseen kneeling gesture----for me, an act of true courage, and complete symbolic contrition. Enough said.


Good to see something hopeful in the news, when so much of the news is depressing. Thanks for flagging this, John.

Though, it is a significant gesture. My roommate is British and has emphasized that Ireland, England and Scottland are all prideful countries that don't agree with each other. I think it was a great gesture done by the Queen, especially since it was her own family who was responsible. These kind of things still give the gesture that there is hope out there.


The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death's twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

from "The Hollow Men" by T. S. Eliot

Laura Lee,

That 'heavy' passage of Eliot's, "The Hollow Men" you posted, wasn't expressing exactly a spiritually uplifting, or hopefully message, yet considering he wrote it after the hellish mayhem, and incalculable human loses of World War I, and at the time was apparently deeply depressed about his crumbling marriage, one can perhaps understand the air of melancholy, and abject despair and absence of hope for modern man that permeates this complex poem.

I just had to check out the entire poem, (on line of course), and perused a number of interesting literary blogs to kind of get a feel for how other folk interpreted his "The Hollow Men".

For me, one particularly astute blogger's commentary, on, posted 04/14/10, seemed to really nail Eliot's intent, and sentiments in just a few cogent lines.

This is what he, (or possibly she), wrote:

"Eliot writes this ("The Hollow Men") as a castigating whip to those who walk past the veterans who came back ragged, despairing, and crippled. Men with no future in a country trying to do without them. They are the castaways, the useless, the burdens that come with every conflict that we try to put behind us." Wow!

Laura, after reading those lines, I can kind of appreciate the appropriateness of your posting this largely despairing Eliot piece in the context of Prof. McI's article re/ the Queen's historic official visit to the Republic of ireland, and more importantly, the symbolic significance of her honoring, essentially, 'the former enemy', at the fallen IRA freedom-fighters' memorial.

Eliot's poem does offer a slim window of redemptive hope, not in this doomed material world where the hollow men wander like aimless, sightless, souless zombies, but in the "twilight kingdom"------ the hereafter beyond that "tumid river".

I couldn't help hearkening back to Canadian physician/ poet John McCrae's shortish, yet so poignant , "In Flanders Fields", which commemorates the fallen casualties of the First World War-------a cautionary reminder to the living that we fortunate survivors of (any) war should never forget the ultimate sacrifice these brave warriors made, in the name of freedom, in the face of tyranny. Sadly, McCrae (no relation) was killed in Flanders during that conflict, yet this wee piece of eloquence lives on, reminding us to never, ever forget our fallen warriors. Enough said.

Laura, thanks again for all your occasional literary offerings. You are a true inspiration.

You-and-yours have a wonder-filled weekend.



Perhaps a nitpicky point, but I boo-booed in the second line of my last post. It should have read, "or hopeful message", not "or hopefully message". Oh well.

%&$#*@ happens. HA!


McCrae's poem lives on also, of course, because it gave us the poppy as the symbol of sacrifice in war.


Good point re/ the popularizing of the scarlet red felt (or plastic) poppy as "the symbol of sacrifice in war", particularly celebrated in John McCrae's native Canada, and also the U.K.

I'm curious if perhaps the Dutch wear the simulated, pinned-on red poppy, as well, when they celebrate their Memorial Day? Of course the Netherlanders have enduring feelings of great affection, and gratitude for the Allies in both Great Wars, particularly for the Canadian and British troops who fought w/ such distinction, bravery, and ultimate sacrifice on the continental European front lines.

I've been to the impressive memorials to, and grave sites of the thousands of fallen Canadian troops who died in battle at both Ypres and Pachendale in Belgium. Many fellow Canadian comrades of my late grandad, Nicol McCrae, lie interred at Ypres, where he too fought the great fight, and was fortunate to have survived the hellishness of it all. (Not without being gassed by the Germans, numerous times.)

Those very "poppies row-on-row" (as John McCrae so elegantly put it ), were actually in full bloom when i spent part of an early summer's afternoon at both these sacred memorial sites back in the mid-'90s. Looking out over the placid pastoral landscape at Ypres----- wafting grains, sweeping brilliant yellow swaths of native black mustard, earthy freshly-plowed fields, and close-cropped pastures w/ the occasional horse, or grazing cow, I could not fathom how this now bucolic countryside almost one hundred years ago was witness to some of the most grim and senseless muck-and-mire carnage, and devastation up till that point in human history.

Sadly, I didn't hear McCrae's lark singing, but I couldn't help hearing his wise, and profound message wafting thru my brain, and selfishly feeling so very fortunate to be alive.

Strangely, death can have that effect on the living, but not without it's attendant degree of both survivor's guilt, and hopefully heartfelt gratitude, as well. Enough said.


Another thing to say about The Hollow Men, perhaps, is that it came at the lowest point, but the turning point, in Eliot's spiritual life.

After it came his conversion to Anglicanism, and on and up to Ash Wednesday and the Four Quartets, and a quite different tone of voice.


Once again, an astute observation made, old lad.

Indeed, around the period when Eliot penned The Hollow Men marked a major transition in his spiritual life, which up till that point in time had been largely a staunch atheist 'unbeliever'.

As you indicated, shortly after this period of personal spiritual malaise, and lack of optimism for the ill-fated human condition, he then fully embraced the Anglican faith, and went on to write the more hopeful, and far less dreary Ash Wednesday, and the Four Quartets, where aspects of his new-found religiosity, and growing faith often come shining through.

As I pointed out in my earlier post re/ The Hollow Men, although the overriding tone of the piece is oppressively depressing, bleak, and largely negative, there appear to be a few symbolic literary-based hints of hope and future redemption, perhaps a portent of Eliot's renewed faith in the human spirit eventually reconnecting w/ a power greater than oneself. (Don't want to get TOO metaphysical here. HA!)

Picky, sorry to disappoint. But I have yet to see,The Queen, starring the still- fetching, most witty, and talented Helen Mirren, one of your finest Brit exports, bar none. I recall she got pretty fair reviews for her portrayal of Elizabeth I.

Like yourself, old chap, I'm not a real film fanatic, although I do enjoy reading, or listening to intelligent current movie critiques, just so i'm not too much out of the pop-culture loop at all those hoity-toity Hollywood soirees I get invited to here in L.A............... NOT! HA!

Whenever I conjure up Helen Mirren in her stride, i can't help harkening back to her BBC Prime Suspect/ Chief Inspector Tenneyson portrayals. She always projects the air of a real flesh-and-blood straight shooter, a true feminist, w/ a bit of a hard edge, yet always revealing her genuine humanity-----the good, the bad, and on occasion the ugly----warts and all. Smashingly brilliant stuff.

For a woman who wouldn't be regarded by most as a classic beauty in the Liz Taylor, Grace Kelly, or Ava Gardiner sense, the 'mature' Mirren is still a turn-on for many a red-blooded male cinephile, and as a younger actress, I gather, was viewed by her many admirers as quite the 'looker'------a fine 'bird', indeed.

Well, enough of my Ms. Mirren fawning-fest. HA!

Picky, hope you are having a delightful un-Rapture-day. HA!


Alex, if you had seen "The Queen" you would no doubt recall that Dame Helen played Elizabeth II, not Elizabeth the first.

In her earlier films Helen Mirren was noted for her willingness to take it all off--but that was by no means her only talent.


Sadly, my senior brain-farts (or more politely, 'moments') seem to be much more frequent these days, as in a mere ten days my initial Medicare coverage kicks in.

(After my opting for early retirement some three years back, and the obligatory reduced monthly Social Security pension, the anti-government-social-welfare folk would likely maintain that I'm about to suckle on yet another teat of a socialist government that is metaphorically speaking, fast running out of milk.. Oh well, just following the law of the land. But I digress.)

Dahlink, indeed, Helen Mirren did portray Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen', and it was another fine British actress, namely the fetching Cate Blanchett who played the first Elizabeth, the famed red-frizzy-haired monarch, in two films----"Elizabeth" (1998) where the narrative focuses on the early years of her reign, and then a 2007 reprise of the role, but dealing w/ the latter phase of her tenure as queen.

As to Helen Mirren's "willingness to take it all off", as you put it, it would appear that British cinema, going back several decades, was slightly ahead of the curve (curves HA!) when it came to full frontal nudity, compared to perhaps the slightly more prudish American filmmakers of the day.

(Hmm.....maybe it wasn't exactly film auteur prudishness coming into play, as much as it was a case of pressure from the official U.S. censors that precluded more blatant nudity in American movies back then?)

Filmic female T&A eventually became rather common in the U.K., but full-frontal male exposure seemed more of a taboo, particularly the camera dwelling too long on the male 'groinal' area, in both Britain and the U.S..

Clearly the much younger Miss Mirren had few negative personal body-image issues, so naturally she had no qualms about appearing au naturelle on celluloid; of course if the particular scene warranted taking-it-all-off, and the call for nudity befitted the character, and supported the unfolding story line. Yeah, right. HA!

Shifting gears--------Dahlink, I'm sure you heard that a long-shot colt (12-1 odds) named Shackelford won today's Preakness, by a mere half length, over Derby champ, Animal Kingdom. So my wild prediction did come to pass, when earlier today I went out on a limb, and suggested Animal Kingdom would likely NOT win this 2nd leg of the Triple Crown.

Well at least one lame prediction came true today. HA!


Actually, Helen Mirren did play Elizabeth I, quite capably, in a 2005 television miniseries.

Prof. McI.,

So I wasn't hallucinating after all. HA!

I did seem to recall vague filmic visuals of Helen Mirren as Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth !, w/ the wild flyaway carrot-red hair, and the rounded, flouncy white-laced formal collar.

So it must have been her performance in that 2005 Brit 'tele' miniseries that threw me off, earlier. Although Mirren will likely be remembered most fondly from her queenly roles, for her more recent, almost spot-on depiction of Queen Elizabeth II, right down to those marvelous, big hats, and all her signature mannerisms.

Still haven't seen Mirren as Prospera, in the latest movie incarnation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest". Heard it received mixed reviews, yet had its stunning visual moments.


Yes, well almost everyone who can get into a frock has played Liz I - including every now and then Bette Davis, I think - although perhaps definitive is Miranda Richardson (and if you haven't seen Blackadder - Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry et al as well as Miss Richardson - you are advised to repair the omission pronto).


So am I to then surmise that your rather all-inclusive "almost everyone who can get into a frock has played Liz I '" followup, would include the likes of Her Royal Pain-in-the-Tush, yet totally endearing, Dame Edna, AND frequent cross-dressing Brit funnymen, John "Silly Walks" Cleese, and the late, great Benny Hill? HA!

(Just bouge-ing votre jambe, ici, mon ami Anglaise. HA!)

Picky, sad to confess that I've only managed to catch one, or maybe two episodes of the Blackadder series some years back, but I can say without any reservations that I just adore your Rowan Atkinson's style of humor, particularly his most endearing, now almost signature character, the off-centre, hapless Mr. Bean.

i've had the pleasure of watching him in a number of Mr. Bean TV episodes back in the '90s, and just so admire his brilliant physical/ visual approach to comedy, while keeping the dialogue element to a bare minimum. And when the need for dialogue arises, it's usually a series of barely audible mumbles under his breath. The viewer is hard-pressed to make out what Mr. Bean is even saying. (But it rarely matters, story-wise, anyway.)

As many film analysts (read critics) have observed, Atkinson's approach to getting laughs is very much akin to the great comedians of the silent cinema era, like Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd; where physical comedy, and the art of the clever sight-gag were honed to near perfection. Atkinson is clearly a throwback to that bygone, pioneering era in live-action comedy.

Picky, around about the year 2002 A&E (a popular Arts-oriented American cable TV outlet) aired a rather well-put-together, very charming series of 2-D animated Mr. Bean shorts that I felt really managed to capture both the comedic flavor, and inanity of the live-action character.

Speaking of character, the animated characters in the series, including 'Bean', were drawn in a very stylized, angular, clean mode, w/ a heavy, uniformly thick black line surrounding each and every cartoon figure........... as well as around most incidental, inanimate props. Initially, I thought this somewhat peculiar 'hard-edge' treatment might tend to flatten out the animated characters, where they might come off as mere cut-outs, w/ little formal dimension.

However, these 'hard-edge' characters coupled w/ the equally stylized, somewhat funky and very colorful backgrounds (w/ their decidedly thinner linear descriptive elements), seemed to work beautifully together, and my initial doubts were soon quashed.

These little animated ditties are a sheer delight------for all ages. I actually purchased a little 2 DVD boxed set of the Mr. Bean A&E animated series, adding it to my growing TV/ film library of British comedy greats.

I noticed that Rowan Atkinson and his wife (of many years) were invited guest/ attendees at the Royal Wedding ceremonies.

Frankly, I thought that joke floating about that Atkinson required an extra Abbey pew to accommodate his rather formidable schnoz was just totally mean-spirited, and plain wrong. HA! ( I just made that silliness up myself, mean spirit that i am.)

Hmm.......why am I suddenly conjuring up master Salvador Dali's paintings w/ those odd, monstrous crutches buttressing up saggy naked posteriors, or other even more nasty bits of the human anatomy? Guess I'm imagining a Mr. Bean Dali portrait, w/ the Catalonian maestro's signature crutch giving Bean's proboscis more than just immoral support. HA!)

Picky, trust you are enjoying a superb post-unRapture day.

As little Orphan Annie assured us, "The sun will come out tomorrow........"

Thank Jehovah.


Well, I'm sure Dame Edna is up to the role.

As to Rowan Atkinson, the animation you describe is interesting. Have to try to catch that sometime. Of course his range is much wider than just Mr Bean. In Blackadder 1 he is slightly Beanish, but by Blackadder series 4 he has become much more sombre and controlled.

Try this:


You'll be pleased to hear, old chap, that I was up-and-at-'em relatively early this fine Monday L.A. morn, and decided to click on your posted Youtube link (above) to a whole host of comic Rowan Atkinson's hilarious TV spots, including several old episodes/ skits from the much beloved Blackadder series.

Frankly, I was almost immediately in stitches, spending probably over a full hour jumping from one riotously funny bit, to the next. (Ain't the internet a marvelous invention?)

Picky, indeed, Atkinson's comedic range, as you put it, "is much wider" than just his eccentric Mr. Bean character. Unlike his mumbling, bumbling 'Bean', who is barely audible when he does happen to speak, in most of his other comic guises his elocution, and verbal articulation is comparable to a seasoned BBC announcer, or say a polished Brit lecturer at Oxford, or Cambridge.

I managed to check out the following classic skits, all totally brilliant:

1) "Courtroom Scene" (Where Atkinson, as a uniformed British military man, is on trial for shooting a pet pigeon. Looks like a death sentence by firing squad is his fate. Talk about overkill. HA! )

2) "Don't Mention Macbeth" (Shades of the Fawlty Towers episode, "Don't mention the war.")

3) "Tom, Dick, & Harry" (The spoof on the deaf, the blind, and dumb, and all possible
permutations thereof.)

4)"The School Master" (Who would think that merely rhyming off, in alphabetical order, the
names on a college attendance roster could be so darn amusing? I think Atkinson just
reading the local white pages of the phone book would be funny.)

5) "Funny Shakespeare" (With Hugh Laurie as a peevish Bard of Avon)

6) "Beekeeping" (John Cleese as the increasingly frustrated beekeeper, and Atkinson as
the constantly interrupting interviewer. Probably my favorite bit of the lot.)

7) "Amazing Jesus' (Where 'Pastor' Atkinson is allegedly reading a passage from the Gospel of John, where he has the Lord performing, not miracles, but illusionist feats of slight-of-hand, like pulling a rabbit out of thin air, or sawing his assistant Sarah (formerly Mary Magdelane) in two-----the stock-and-trade of the itinerant magician. This bit was slightly blasphemous, but a hoot nonetheless.)

I see Rowan Atkinson as kind of the missing 'Python', his style of comedy, not unlike the zany Monty Python ensemble, relying heavily on odd juxtapositions, sheer banality, doubles entendres, the absurd, and bizarre physical antics to hopefully generate loads of laughs from the audience.

IMO, Atkinson ranks as one of the greatest comics in the Western world (and Madagascar HA!) of the post-World War II era.

Shifting gears--------Picky, last evening I watched a great little BBC documentary based on retracing the route of the famed Orient Express luxury train line, starting in London, as depicted in Agatha Christie's suspense-thriller, "Murder on the Orient Express".

What was smashingly cool, fun, entertaining, and even educative about this breezy piece was that the fine Brit actor, David Suchet, who plays Inspector Poirot in all those marvelous TV adaptations of Christie's gripping mysteries, was our special tour guide throughout the whole journey.

Suchet, (sans his Poirot signature turned-up, twisty mustache), appears to be such a charming, amiable, most urbane gent. At times he was almost giddy w/ excitement and a sense of wonder, (like a kid in a candy store), as he discovered exquisite little original decor details in the various train cars he entered on his pan-European journey.

Destination wise, he was very taken by Venice, w/ the train station almost immediately adjacent to the famed Grand Canal. Suchet got a fairly quick tour of this historic city from a local lady expat-American scholar, who along the way pointed out that Agatha Christie never staged any of her many murder mysteries in Venice, which both she and Suchet felt was rather odd. But I digress.

Since he was a young lad, Suchet has had an enduring passion for photography, so in this 'doc' we rarely see him without his trusty digital SLR camera, capturing detailed images of all the posh, vintage interior elements on the various well-appointed train cars, including many that related to story points in Christie's novel. She was a remarkable detailist in her literary descriptive passages, and Suchet was loosely following her given 'script', as it were.

Of course, even without his Poirot mustache, folks along the route would invariably recognize Suchet, and almost to a fault, he was just so gracious, and friendly w/ all those excited admirers, and took time to engage them. Such a mensch. (Actually, his family roots are Jewish, although in the late eighties he became a practicing Anglican. Who knew?)

For all I know, this particular Masterpiece Theater documentary has already aired in the U.K., so you may have seen it. If not, be on the lookout for it. Just a marvelous production, all round.

Picky, thanks again for the Blackadder 'alert'. It really did make my day.

You Brits are truly a funny lot.............. when you want to be........... and sometimes when you don't. HA!

Ta! Ta!


We aim to please.

The finest acting I've seen from Suchet was his Melmotte in the BBC's serialisation of The Way We Live Now. In fact that whole production was splendid. A long time ago, now, I fear.

Picky-He's off on nudity again. I think I prefer him raving about the Scots. You have to watch him every minute. Too much Hollywood,I fear. Ta for now.

Could be that. Something deep in the psyche, anyway. Without access to the medical records it's difficult to tell.

His Pickyness and Her Terseness,

Actually my admitted multiple quirks, and weird predilections may boil down to being weaned much too early as an child, a nasty bout of chronic infantile colic, and the absolute clincher, being left-handed. It's been a challenge. (Cue the violins!)

As you learned folk might know, the Italian word for a lefty, or left-handedness is "sinistre", which has the obvious parallel to the English word, "sinister", meaning sneakily malevolent, which frankly, describes me to a "T". HA!

Now mind you, I'm fairly adroit in most artistic, and athletic pursuits I've chosen to tackle. Curiously, our English word "adroit" comes from the French root, "à drôit", which translated en Anglaise means "to the right'. (Not necessarily politically.)

(Let's get real, folks. The whole world favors the right-handed majority, at least in terms of the ergonomics of utilitarian devices, like scissors, and such. We lefties just have to improvise, grin and bear it, although in recent years there are some tools, and such that are designed w/ us oddball lefties in mind. Oh well.)

Major disclosure. I'm actually ambidextrous. Although I wield a sculpting mallet, draw, paint, and write w/ my left hand, I play golf, tennis, throw a ball, darts, and the occasional javelin w/ my right. Very strange, no?

Now, don't ask me any questions re/ my sexual 'habits', a props handedness. I plead the 5th on that one. HA! (Oh behave! Don't want to disturb our sensitive blogmeister.)

So alas, you are basically stuck w/ this imperfect, slightly sinister, ambidextrous, long-winded Canuck--- an unabashed Scottish chauvinist, an Obama fan, a huge devotee of British humor, an inveterate birdwatcher, country music lover, and PBS/ NPR snob.

Picky, indeed, copious medical records can be provided, on request. A modest honorarium would be appreciated. (NOTE: No monopoly script money, or whacky Euros accepted. Canadian 'loonies' and 'toonies' preferred.)

Ta! Ta!


Alex, you might be interested in a recent archeological study which concluded that ancient man (or was it the Neanderthal?) was predominantly right-handed. All this was deduced from patterns of scratch marks on bone. Some things never change.


I have 'a bone to pick' w/ you. HA!

But seriously, interesting archaeological data on early man's preferred handedness, as you say, going back to the Neanderthal era, showing solid empirical evidence from the character of hand-carved striations on collected animal bones, no less, that right-handers predominated, even at the dawn of mankind. (Life just ain't fair.)

Clearly Charles Darwin's interconnected major evolutionary breakthrough theories of natural selection, and 'survival of the rightest ' (HA!) have been borne out over all these millennia, up till our present day.

However, I would argue, w/ our younger generation, there appears to be a marked increase in left-handers, perhaps because unlike earlier generations (like our Great Depression era parents, and grand-parents) who were more-or-less forced to write w/ their right hand from primary school onwards, w/ the threat of corporal punishment if they even dared go over to the 'sinister' side---this X-generation, on the other hand, (pun intended) have few, if any, societal strictures, or suppressive anti-lefty bias, to contend with these days.

(Today's high tech savvy kids are likely more ambidextrous, or at least 'ambi-thumberous', w/ their apparent obsession with rapid-fire texting, and the fact that cursive hand-writing seems to be dying a slow, painful, and almost inevitable death.)

Interestingly, when I attended art college back in my hometown, Toronto, back in the early '70s, the percentage of left-handed fellow students appeared to be close to half the student body, which was likely over twice the number found in the general population.

Credible brain physiologists, and neurologist have discovered that a strong 'right-brained' person often favors their left hand as their dominant hand, and tend to gravitate, in high percentages toward creative areas such as the visual arts, the applied arts, writing, and performance.

The two greatest Italian Renaissance artistic masters, Da Vinci and Michelangelo, were both lefties, as are both former Pres. Bill Clinton, and our current prez, Barack Obama.

(Patricia the T., just one more strike against these two politicos who you, to put it mildly, are hardly too thrilled with. Clearly both sinister, social-climbing opportunists, w/ questionable futures.)

Dahlink, getting back to early man, it's interesting that the ancient spear-throwing device known as the "atlatl" (I believe a Nuatl/ Aztecan appellation), used by Neanderthals, Cro-Magnons, some of our own early Native American hunter-gathers, and Australian and Papua New Guinean Aborigines, is handedness-neutral, as it were.

The butt end of the spear would be cradled in this dorsally hollowed out carved bone, or wooden apparatus, which on casting toward either some prey 'item', or perhaps a threatening adversary, propels said pointy projectile w/ much more force and velocity than if the arm thrust were completely unassisted, sans the leverage power of the trusty atlatl.

So bottom-line, the atlatl essentially worked for either a lefty, or a righty w/ equal efficiency, and proved to be a great technological boon to early man's, 'homo hunterian's survival.

Needless to say, those Wooly Mammoths, Wooly Rhinos, Mastodons, and Giant Sloths weren't too pleased w/ early man's new-fangled spear-throwing thingy.

Well, enough 'amateur' anthropology for now.

Dahlink, have a super Memorial Day weekend.


Alex, our older son was ambidextrous for many years, so I can fully appreciate your comments. He was not forced to choose one hand to write with, but I believe some teachers "encouraged" him to use the right one. He did bat lefty at times when he played baseball, as I recall. He is, as you are, a very creative person, so I am inclined to agree with your observations about handedness and creativity. You have a great holiday as well.

I too am left-handed, but I use my right hand equally. My paternal grandfather was a lefty, but the school system somewhere made him change to using his right. I doubt it makes much difference, but I suspect that learning the piano helps strengthen off-side hand, as it were.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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