Saturday: Hili dialogue

It’s a rainy Saturday here in Dobrzyn, but we need the rain to alleviate this year’s drought. And it’s August 13, meaning that summer has flown by quickly.  August 13 happens to be International Lefthanders Day, celebrated since 1976 to draw attention to the “special needs” of lefthanders, like proper scissors. There are festivities everywhere (well, in a few places); here’s one in the UK:


I’m surprised that left-handed students aren’t issuing demands for special accommodations in U.S. universities. We don’t talk enough about Right Handed Privilege.

On this day in history, in 1876, Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen premiered at the new Bayreuth Festspielhaus. I have friends who are fanatics about the Ring Cycle, traveling all over the world to see it, but Wagner doesn’t do much for me.

On this day in 1899, Alfred Hitchcock was born, and, on August 13, 1910, Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, died at the age of 90. Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I’m seeing whether Hili likes the new cat snacks that were bought for her (they’re also supposed to clean her teeth). Needless to say, she nommed them with relish.

Jerry: Look what I have here.
Hili: You must be curious about whether I’m going to like it or not.
In Polish:
Jerry: Popatrz co ja tu mam.
Hili: Pewnie też jesteś ciekawy, czy mnie to będzie smakowało.

And here are some “before and after” shots of Gus in Winnipeg (he now has a license to sleep in his box). In the background you see the remnants of the Ikea box he nommed to destruction, but for some reason he doesn’t chew on his new box.




  1. Posted August 13, 2016 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Don’t wish your vacation away, while I realize that Poland is a different time zone it’s August 13th in Chicago 🙂

  2. rickflick
    Posted August 13, 2016 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Oppression of left handers was quite serious – so goes the stories I’ve heard. Children were forced to prefer the right, even if they didn’t. Presumably, they wouldn’t fit in with society as lefties, so they were forced to be righties. It was said this cause stress and sometimes stuttering in later life. Can anyone confirm this experience?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 13, 2016 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Not personally, but I had a boyfriend who was forced to do stuff with his right hand as a kid. He sometimes stuttered, which he put down to that. It usually happened in situations that were stressful like public speaking.

      Left-handedness is mentioned more often in the Bible than homosexuality. It’s supposedly evil behaviour and a mark of the Devil. No one worries about that anymore but they’re still screwed up about homosexuality.

      • rickflick
        Posted August 13, 2016 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        “It’s supposedly evil…”

        A quick google finds that left handedness is not mentioned as explicitly evil, just secondary or weaker, in the bible. But your point is still made.

    • Posted August 14, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      This happened to me and other left-handers I know (Bulgaria in Eastern Europe, late 1970s and the 1980s). They forced me to write with my right hand. “Reformed” left-handers have a handwriting resembling that of a 2nd-grader.

      Times are better now. One of my children is left-handed and nobody ever tried to reform him.

      • rickflick
        Posted August 14, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

        “One of my children is left-handed and nobody ever tried to reform him.”

        That’s good news.

  3. George
    Posted August 13, 2016 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Wagner is central to one of the greatest sequences in movie history – The Ride of the Valkyries in Apocalypse Now.

    Not even sure how to describe it. Adjectives do not do it justice. But it does a great job of illustrating the sheer idiocy of the American war on Vietnam.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 13, 2016 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    As Norm Crosby, the malapropist would say, how about a day for the Amphibious (Ambidextrous).

    • Posted August 14, 2016 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      I suspect they are actually left handed, but I haven’t checked any studies on the matter.

  5. Chris G
    Posted August 13, 2016 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Oh no PCC(E), don’t joke about left-handed students making demands, you’re giving them ideas for free!
    I was surprised to find out only recently that the word sinister is derived from ‘on the left hand or side’, but not too sure why we link that with the idea of evil etc?
    Chris G

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 13, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      Sinister because left-handed is just naturally non-mainstream, therefore different, therefore suspect.

      Note also ‘gauche’ (French ‘left’) = clumsy.
      Dextrous (Latin? ‘right’) = skilful.
      Adroit (French ‘droit’) similarly.

      Some things – like cutlery – are generally non-handed and can be used equally well by lefties.

      Other things, like e.g. screw threads, by their nature have to be ‘handed’ one way or the other, and for interchangeability they all have to be handed the same way – hence almost all threads are right-hand-thread which is arguably just slightly more convenient for right-handers to use.

      Other examples – the pull strings on motor mowers, chainsaws etc. The handgrips on power tools of all types. And so on…


      • Chris G
        Posted August 13, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

        Interesting, thanks.
        I get the ‘left-handed is different’ part, and therefore suspect, but still not the evil bit?
        I also recall that cack-handed (i.e. awkward, clumsy) can also mean left-handed, another negative association.
        Just found a whole Wikipedia entry called ‘Bias against left-handed people’ – I won’t read it.
        My daughter is left-handed, but both her mother and I are not, nor any of our parents or siblings. I was intrigued to watch her draw and write as a young child, the way she had to bend her arm and wrist to prevent smudging ink with the trailing hand as she wrote left to right.
        I wonder if that has anything to do with my love of watching left-handed sports-people, particularly golfers? And left-handed guitarists too, Hendrix being the obvious one? Suspect the fascination may be due to it just looking so awkward (or, cack-handed!), but that would be way too handist of me to admit!
        Chris G.

        • Steve Gerrard
          Posted August 13, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

          When I was in rural Kenya back in the 80’s, the left hand was used for cleaning your bum, and the right hand for eating, as a matter of good hygiene. Being left-handed, this was awkward for me. I suspect this kind of distinction was more common in our past.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted August 14, 2016 at 4:09 am | Permalink

            … and the right hand was also the one used for shaking hands, in some societies.

            Obviously, for reasons of public health, it is necessary that everyone follow the same convention. It doesn’t matter *which* hand was selected, so long as everyone sticks to the same one.

            (A bit like which side of the road we drive on).


      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted August 13, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

        It’s mildly surprising that we right-handers haven’t found the time to perpetrate any historical genocides against our heterodexterous cousins, given the number of other historical atrocities that have been based upon similarly pointless outgroup differences. I’d be safe if the right-handed majority rose up and began persecutions, but not if they went after left-footed people too. And as daft as all that sounds, any such idiocy would still make more sense than the hatred borne of religious tribalism.

        I’d be interested to know how both handedness and footedness are determined. Is footedness just that person’s ‘frozen accident’, or is it genetically coded? I can imagine the explanation being different from handedness, since the ‘decision’ as to which hand you’ll primarily use for the rest of your life is pretty evolutionarily important, whereas footedness only really becomes relevant once we gifted football to the world, and even then it’s only important to the small proportion of the populace who actually play the game. I can think of ways in which handedness might be selectively important, but not so much with footedness.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 13, 2016 at 9:29 am | Permalink

          I’d guess the reason for no major genocides against left-handers is just that – unlike race – left-handedness is not a distinctive breeding characteristic. So you don’t get related groups of left-handers. They’re not visibly different enough to constitute a coherent minority grouping. And most tasks can be done reasonably well with either hand so they could ‘fit in’ to their society.

          I’d guess also that left-handedness was seen as a minor affliction, like lameness. So left-handers were seen more as people to be pitied, and they were never a threat to anyone else’s values.

          That’s my guess anyway.


        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 13, 2016 at 10:11 am | Permalink

          From what I understand it’s where stuff is in the brain. Yeah, “stuff” means I gloss over because I don’t really know.

          I’m close to ambidextrous and use my hands fairly interchangeably. I’m also left-handed for golfing and I suspect would be if I were to play guitar since that’s how I handle the instrument (and air guitar). I do write with my right hand though (hey didn’t mess up my homophones!!)

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted August 14, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

            Cool. That means you can write two Christmas cards at once, thus halving the amount of time spent. And it all adds up – if my calculations are right by the time you die you’ll have saved a total of twenty-two years that would otherwise have been spent writing Xmas cards slowly with one hand.

            Therefore: left-handed < right-handed < ambidextrous. All hail!

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 14, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

              I’m getting better with writing on white boards with my left hand but not so much on regular paper. Perhaps the reason my writing is okay on the white board is my writing is so atrocious anyway that it’s hard to tell the difference between horrid and marginally more horrid.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 14, 2016 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

                My writing is fairly atrocious. When I was at school they tried to teach us ‘joined-up writing’ and in my case the results were painfully slow and truly horrific. Also indecipherable. Some time in my teens I switched to ‘printing’ – writing each letter separately – which eventually morphed into a sort of cursive script that was marginally legible. It was far better than the original because it arose naturally.


            • Posted August 14, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

              Being a reformed left-hander, I can write with both hands. When I am writing something long on a whiteboard, I change hands. It indeed helps.

    • Athel Cornish-Bowde
      Posted August 13, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Yesterday I was having a long-overdue haircut. The lady who has cut my hair for at least seven or eight years is left-handed, but until quite recently I didn’t notice this, probably because I mostly see her in the mirror. Anyway, yesterday I talked to her about being left-handed, and she said that it used to be more of a problem than it is now. (I don’t mean “used to be” as 100 years ago, but before the rise of the internet). She said it was almost impossible to buy left-handed scissors: shops either had none or offered just one model that wasn’t what she wanted. However, now she can buy any left-handed item she wants on the internet, at much the same price as the right-handed equivalent.

      My mother (born 1910) was left-handed, but she seems to have escaped the worst things that used to happen to left-handers. She didn’t stutter, and she didn’t write with her hand curled all around as some left-handers do.

      Three years ago I met someone in Israel that I noticed was left-handed. I asked him if he thought that being left-handed was an advantage with a writing system that goes from right to left. He said he hadn’t thought about it before, but that probably writing in Hebrew does have some advantages for left-handers.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 13, 2016 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Yes, in Latin (and in Italian) the hands have distinct names. Dexter and Sinister in Latin. It’s where we also get words like “dexterity” and “ambidextrous” (literally “two right hands”).

  6. Posted August 13, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I’ve read that Stephen Hawking listens to Wagner at high volume while working.

  7. chris moffatt
    Posted August 13, 2016 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Got the worst case of buttitis ever at Bayreuth suffering through the ring cycle (on four successive nights) which is tedious beyond belief by lack of musical content (there’s about ten minutes of actual music repeated endlessly over eighteen hours interspersed with boring recitative) and a plot stolen from the Volsung saga). But it was kind of amusing to see Fafnir (in his dragon persona) being pushed around on a big pair of wheels by a gang of stagehands. Kind of suspended the willing suspension of disbelief. The Anna Russell version is more succinct and more musical at only eighteen minutes or so – I recommend it and if you listen to it you’ll know the whole story and all the music.

  8. Geoffrey Howe
    Posted August 13, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I’ve been thinking about left-handers vis-a-vis SJW for a while. Going by the definition of ‘privilege’ that they use, Right Hand Privilege is far more of a thing than even White Privilege. The world really is designed around assuming you’re right handed in quite a few ways, and unlike other minority groups, nobody seems to remember or care about lefties.

    I’m not left-handed myself, by the way, just pointing this out.

    So I find it amusing and telling that SJWs never talk about lefties. I guess they’re just not a particularly glamourous enough group to care about their oppression…

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 13, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I don’t doubt that left-handers have special needs, educationally and otherwise, and I certainly don’t begrudge them any extra assistance they require.

    But they enjoy a decided advantage in athletic competitions. Lefties give me fits on the tennis court; their slice and kick serves curve in the wrong direction. Sinistral bowlers get to roll on the side of the lane that’s not dinged up by the balls dropped by all those right-handed hackers. Southpaws also crowd major-league baseball rosters out of all proportion to their percentage of the population (even though they are essentially ineligible to play three infield positions).

    And forget about lefties in the boxing ring. There isn’t a right-hander ever climbed in the ring to spar with one who didn’t get discombobulated by the “southpaw stance” and walk into a stiff left fist.

  10. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 13, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    “The world really is designed around assuming you’re right handed in quite a few ways”

    I’d point out that in many cases, that isn’t just gratuitous bloody-mindedness, but inherent in the design requirements. For example a chainsaw *has* to be ‘handed’ one way or the other. So do many musical instruments. And so on… So the manufacturers obviously choose the ‘hand’ that suits 90% of their customers.

    Handwriting also is inherently ‘handed’, very strongly. In that respect, technology has fortuitously reduced the discrimination since keyboards are far less strongly ‘handed’ (maybe not at all, but I don’t know for sure) than handwriting is.


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 13, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Oops, that was a reply to Geoffrey Howe at #8.

      Hate it when that happens…


  11. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 13, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I’ve long experienced an inner tension between my fondness for Wagner operas and my avowed philo-Semitism (a word I picked up at the Jewish Museum of SF- I attended a public high school that was 3/4ths Jewish and all the girls I dated those years were gorgeous Yids.)
    Not a huge source of confusion in my life, but moreso than my being raised by a Christian father and a Buddhist mother.

    A fascinating 90 minute documentary by Jewish gay secular-humanist actor Stephen Fry struggling to reconcile his love for Wagner with his own Jewishness can be found here.
    (In this documentary a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz, states is is false that Wagner was frequently performed a concentration camps.)

    Larry Fine’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” has an entire episode on a dispute between Fine and a neighbor over whether or not it is OK for Fine to enjoy Wagner. The crucial opening clip is here (someone in a movie line is mortified that Fine is whistling Siegfried Idyll), but the whole episode is worth watching.

    A serious article about the history of Jewish admiration for Wagner is here.

    Woody Allen’s quip in “Manhattan Murder Mystery” remains hilarious: “I can’t listen to too much Wagner. It makes me want to conquer Poland.”

    Finally, Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” does something quite clever by using the “Holy Grail” theme from Tannhauser for BOTH the Hitler-like dictator’s dance with the balloon globe AND the final speech by the Hitler look-alike Jewish barber’s speech in favor of freedom and democracy.
    A terrific discussion of this dual use of Wagner (mostly a long quote from Lutz Peter Koepnick) can be found in Wikipedia here.

    And I link to the globe scene therein here

  12. kansaskitty
    Posted August 13, 2016 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Gus is smart – no one noms their sleeping quarters.

  13. Posted August 13, 2016 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    I still remember the day when my parents proudly produced a left-handed scissors for me. I was probably about eight years old, and I was thrilled. However, it’s inconvenient to carry scissors around with you, and they were never there when I needed them, so I learned to cut right-handed.

    For years I moused right-handed, until I decided that it was my own damned computer and I’d use the mouse in whichever hand I wanted. I don’t reprogram the buttons, though, just use different fingers to press them.

    In the grand scheme of things, about the only thing that was tough to deal with growing up (1960s and 1970s) was writing in ink without smearing. That doesn’t tend to be a problem with modern gel pens, and I hardly ever even think about it any more. I do tend to avoid spiral notebooks. and when I need to take notes my preferred surface is loose-leaf binder paper on a clipboard. But it just isn’t that big an [expletive] deal.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 14, 2016 at 4:18 am | Permalink

      That sort of confirms my conjecture that handwriting was strongly weighted against lefties (because, wet ink!) but keyboards are much less so.


  14. Dale Franzwa
    Posted August 13, 2016 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    Unlike Jerry and at least one commenter above, I love Wagner’s Ring cycle. I’ve seen several versions over the years but the best one ever (in my opinion) was the Met’s production just a few years ago using an innovative technical device they called “The Machine” for scenery changes (also employing visual projections) as the plot and action progressed. The story moved along almost like a movie. I watch The Met’s movie theater Saturday matinee telecasts which include English (and a couple of other languages) super titles at screen bottom so you can understand the dialogue as well. Hey, Merrilee, did you catch this one?

    I’ve seen a few of Wagner’s other operas, ok, except for his religious ones which bore me to death.

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