Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sinister Musings

Okay, I'm back. My favorite writer, Dorothy Parker, was an expert at writing explanations for her frequent disappearances from the Public Eye [she once covered up a two-year gap in writing for The New Yorker by claiming she had spent the time in Switzerland!]. I wouldn't even pretend to be able to come up with a story like that [though anyone who spent the summer in Niagara Falls, NY and thinks they saw me may be onto something. Then again, I live there...], so just accept my return, ok? Think of me as the less-than-acceptable uncle, fresh from drying out after an extended bender. It's as good a story as any...

It's probably safe to assume that, from Time Immemorial, there have been left-handed persons. Not that this was always a good thing. From the Latin word for left, sinistra, modern English derives the word sinister. Classical Latin, for what it's worth, frequently used "sinestra" to mean "evil" or "unlucky". Some traditions in the early Christian church, for instance, claim that Judas, the disciple who betrayed Christ, was left-handed. Nowadays, though, left-handedness is just considered a characteristic of anatomy, one shared by around ten percent of humanity [If you'd like a truly intriguing time-waster, check out this listing of notable left-handers. For those not fully comfortable in English, the page is available in Spanish, French and pig Latin! Grad students have way too much time on their hands...]. Famous lefties, for what it's worth, include Joan of Arc, Julius Caesar [wonder if anyone had the "stones" to call him "sinister" to his face? Besides Brutus, of course...], and W. C. Fields.

Kermit The Frog is believed to be left-handed [as was his creator, Jim Henson], as are Bart Simpson and Ned Flanders [and their creator, Matt Groening]. Left-handed artists run the gamut from Michelangelo and DaVinci to M. C. Esher and LeRoy Neiman. Musicians? Sir Paul McCartney, for one [also, reputedly, Ringo Starr]; add David Byrne, Cole Porter, Paul Simon, and Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach, among many, many others [I won't even mention any of the notable left-handed athletes].

There is an interesting belief in present times; namely, left-handers are believed to be more intelligent or creative than their right-handed brethren. Believers in this theory [probably lefties, but I digress] point to the fact that eight of the 44 US Presidents have been southpaws [including current office-holder Barack Obama. Then again, both he and principal challenger John McCain are lefties, so that one was a pretty safe bet]. I'm staying out of this debate, except to note the list includes James A. Garfield, whose sole notable act as President was to die about a month after taking office [reputedly due to attending his Inaugural festivities, on a rainy day, without a hat or coat, and contracting fatal pneumonia. Not the brightest crayon in the box...].

So why am I bringing all this up? Big news for left-handed men; namely, a re-design of the classic "y-front" male underwear [Underwear. Another great topic, Mikey. What a fabulous re-start for this blog...]. Having family and friends who are lefties [including one of my brothers], I can see the excitement this would cause. I must confess, though, I've never heard any left-handers complaining about this problem; then again, they may all wear boxers...
Anyway, it's good to be back. Hope you missed me...
-Mike Riley
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