A Salute to Southpaws for Left-Handers' Day

Because the definition of left-handedness varies so much from study to study, it has been estimated that anywhere from 7 to 30 percent of the population is left-handed. It is generally accepted that around 10% of the population currently consider themselves lefties. Unfortunately, language and superstitions have led to misunderstandings and many people hide their left-handedness as a result.

In an effort to bring pride to the neglected and mistreated southpaws of the world, August 13 has been named Left-Handers' Day, and boy, are there tons of famous people who deserve some praise for surviving our world of biased right-handed tools, such as scissors, computer mice and guitars.

Presidents

Four out of the last five American presidents have been left-handed (all except George W. Bush), although Ronald Reagan largely hid his left-preference because his parents and teachers had urged him to suppress it.

While some people have dismissed this information as coincidence, others have recognized its statistical significance and tried to discover why such a disproportionate number of presidents (in recent years), Nobel Prize winners, artists, writers, architects, musicians and mathematicians are left-handed. Most people process language on the left side of their brains, but left-handers process language on both sides of the brain much more frequently than righties. Many people have theorized that this means there is an increased amount of space dedicated to language skills in these individuals. Some people have also suggested that this means these individuals are also capable of more complex reasoning.

Another theory says that left-handers have to find solutions to surviving in a right-dominated world, which provides these individuals with extra mental resilience.

Captains of Industry and Invention

Regardless of the reason that southpaws seem to rise to the top, a number of studies have proven that they are often more intelligent than their right-handed counterparts. In fact, one study showed that 20% of the top-scoring students in the SATs are lefties, which is double their representative population. Another study discovered that righties who attend college but do not complete their degrees are 15% poorer than lefties in the same boat. Of those that do graduate, the discrepancy increases to 25%.

Many successful inventors and captains of industry were left-handed, including Benjamin Franklin and Henry Ford, or ambidextrous, such as Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein.

Funny People

While sense of humor is probably not improved by handedness, the idea that lefties are better at communicating could also explain why there are so many funny people who are southpaws. Famed left-handed comedians include David Letterman, Jay Leno, Lenny Bruce, George Burns, Larry Fine, Drew Carey, Tim Allen, Dan Aykroyd, Carol Burnett, Howie Mandel, Harpo Marx, Richard Pryor, Charlie Chaplin, Don Rickles, Jerry Seinfeld and, although he's not technically a comedian, it's hard to deny that Matt Groening is a funny guy.

Theatrical Artists

Actors, of course, also need to communicate at a higher level than the average person, and there's an astounding number of celebrity lefties in this field as well. The list includes Matthew Broderick, Robert DeNiro, Richard Dreyfuss, Peter Fonda, Greta Garbo, Whoopi Goldberg, Cary Grant, Mark Hamill, Goldie Hawn, Jim Henson, Rock Hudson, Angelina Jolie, Diane Keaton, Nicole Kidman, Lisa Kudrow, Cloris Leachman, Shirley MacLaine, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Perry, Robert Redford, Keanu Reeves, Julia Roberts, Mickey Rourke, Christian Slater, Dick Van Dyke, Wil Wheaton, Bruce Willis and Oprah Winfrey.

Image courtesy of bryanearl's Flickr stream.

Musicians

Jimi Hendrix is perhaps the most famous lefty guitarist—he used a flipped-over right-handed guitar throughout his career—but he is by no means the only famous southpaw musician you know. Lefty composers include Bach and Rachmaninoff. As for rockers, a few popular left-handers include David Byrne, Kurt Cobain, Phil Collins, Billy Corgan, Dick Dale, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Robert Plant, Joe Perry and Johnny Rotten.

Artists

Similarly, some of the most gifted artists we know and admire are also lefties, including M.C. Escher, Michelangelo, Raphael , and Leonardo da Vinci. Renoir was not a dedicated left-hander, but he was known for painting for a bit of time with his southpaw anyway.

Athletes

While there are famous left-handers in all sports, baseball seems to have the honor of having the most lefty celebrities.

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Some famous lefty baseball players you may recognize include Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey, Jr., Tony Gwynn, Reggie Jackson, Babe Ruth and Darryl Strawberry. You might notice that most of these players are known for being great at hitting, and there's a reason for that: batters have an advantage when the pitcher is throwing with the opposite hand, and since most people are righties, left-handed batters have all the luck.

Boxers also have an advantage if they adopt the southpaw stance (the right foot in front of the left) against an opponent with a standard right-handed pose. That's part of the reason Oscar de la Hoya and Reggie Johnson have fared so well in the sport. And while he's not a real person, it is worth noting that Rocky Balboa was also a lefty.

Great Warriors

In the same way that many lefty athletes have an advantage over their righty counterparts, warriors also experience this, as most fighters will only be accustomed to fighting someone who is right-handed. It shouldn't be too surprising then that some of the best known military leaders in history were left-handed, including Alexander the Great, Joan of Arc and Napoleon Bonaparte.
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Are you a lefty? If so, how are you planning to celebrate? Might be time to treat yourself to that new lefty can opener.

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David Lynch's Amazon T-Shirt Shop is as Surreal as His Movies
Dominique Faget, AFP/Getty Images
Dominique Faget, AFP/Getty Images

David Lynch, the celebrated director behind baffling-but-brilliant films like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and Twin Peaks, is now selling his equally surreal T-shirts on Amazon.

As IndieWire reports, each shirt bears an image of one of Lynch’s paintings or photographs with an accompanying title. Some of his designs are more straightforward (the shirts labeled “House” and “Whale” feature, respectively, drawings of a house and a whale), while others are obscure (the shirt called “Chicken Head Tears” features a disturbing sculpture of a semi-human face).

This isn’t the first time Lynch has ventured into pursuits outside of filmmaking. Previously, he has sold coffee, designed furniture, produced music, hosted daily weather reports, and published a book about his experience with transcendental meditation. Art, in fact, falls a little closer to Lynch’s roots; the filmmaker trained for years at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before making his mark in Hollywood.

Lynch’s Amazon store currently sells 57 T-shirts, ranging in size from small to triple XL, all for $26 each. As for our own feelings on the collection, we think they’re best reflected by this T-shirt named “Honestly, I’m Sort of Confused.”

Check out some of our favorites below:

T-shirt that says "Honestly, I'm Sort of Confused"
"Honestly, I'm Sort of Confused"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with a drawing of a sleeping bird on it
"Sleeping Bird"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt that says Peace on Earth over and over again. The caption is pretty on the nose.
"Peace on Earth"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an image of a screaming face made out of turkey with ants in its mouth
"Turkey Cheese Head"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an odd sculpted clay face asking if you know who it is. You get the idea.
"I Was Wondering If You Know Who I Am?"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an image of a sculpted head that is not a chicken. It is blue, though.
"Chicken Head Blue"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with a drawing of a lobster on it. Below the drawing, the lobster is labeled with the word lobster. Shocking, I know.
"Lobster"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an abstract drawing of what is by David Lynch's account, at least, a cowboy
"Cowboy"

Buy it on Amazon

[h/t IndieWire]

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9 Things You Might Not Know About Maurice Sendak
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Maurice Sendak's books were shaped by his own childhood: one marked by the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the concentration camp deaths of most of his extended family, and parents consumed by depression and anger. When Sendak started illustrating and writing for children, he vowed that he wouldn't write stories of sunshine and rainbows, because that's not real life. In honor of what would have been his 90th birthday, here are a few other things about Maurice Sendak's real life you may not have known.

1. HE DESIGNED F.A.O. SCHWARZ'S WINDOW DISPLAYS.

Sendak and his brother visited Manhattan’s F.A.O. Schwarz in 1948 to try to get the company to purchase their handmade, fairytale-inspired wooden toys. Though the toy store declined to purchase the brothers’ work for reproduction, they were impressed with Sendak’s artistic eye and asked him if he’d be interested in a job dressing windows. He worked at F.A.O. Schwarz for three years while taking classes at the New York Art Students League.

2. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE WAS ORIGINALLY TITLED WHERE THE WILD HORSES ARE.

The book was intended, of course, to feature fillies, foals and mares. Editor Ursula Nordstrom adored the title, finding it poetic and beautiful, but there was one problem: Sendak couldn’t draw horses. When he told his editor that the whole horse thing wasn’t going to work out, he recalls her “acid tone[d]” response: “Maurice, what can you draw?”

“Things,” he said, and "things" he drew.

Side note: Ursula Nordstrom was also the editor of a few classics like The Giving Tree, Goodnight Moon, Harold and the Purple Crayon and Charlotte’s Web among others. Not a bad resume.

3. THE “THINGS” SENDAK ENDED UP CREATING WERE INSPIRED BY HIS IMMIGRANT RELATIVES AND THE WAY HE VIEWED THEM AS A CHILD.

“They were unkempt; their teeth were horrifying. Hair unraveling out of their noses.” Though the monsters were modeled after his family, they weren’t named after them; in fact, the things had no names in the book. They finally received monikers when Wild Things was made into an opera. “We had to have names to tell [the actors] when they were screwing up. They had Jewish names: Moishe, Schmuel. But the names were dropped after the opera. They never had names until they became movie stars.”

4. MOST OF HIS EXTENDED FAMILY DIED IN CONCENTRATION CAMPS.

It wasn't until he was older that Sendak realized how lucky those immigrant relatives were to be alive—and how lucky he was. Most of his extended family died in concentration camps, which his father discovered the day of Sendak's bar mitzvah. He attended the happy event anyway. When unknowing guests burst into "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" when Mr. Sendak walked through the door, Maurice knew something horrible had happened by his father's expression. "My father's face was vivid, livid, and I knew I had done something very bad, that I had made him suffer more than he had to. This 13-year-old ersatz man."

5. EVEN IF WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE HADN'T BEEN SUCH A HIT, YOU PROBABLY WOULD HAVE KNOWN SENDAK’S WORK ANYWAY.

Prior to the success of his own books, Sendak illustrated the popular Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik.

6. ONE OF HIS BOOKS IS FREQUENTLY BANNED.

Though many parents and libraries initially protested that Where the Wild Things Are was too scary for children, it was his later book, In the Night Kitchen, that landed on the American Library Association’s frequently challenged and banned books list. It features a little boy named Mickey, who is nude throughout most of the story, likely because he’s dreaming. “Have you never had a dream, yourself, where you were totally naked?” he said, when Stephen Colbert asked him about the nudity. (Colbert: “No.” Sendak: “I think you’re a man of little imagination.”) Because of Mickey’s full frontal and some of his nude antics in the book (he jumps into a milk bottle, for instance, and later slides down it), critics have deemed it inappropriate for children. It was #24 on the ALA’s frequently banned books from 2000-2009.

7. HE WAS DEEPLY AFFECTED BY THE LINDBERGH BABY KIDNAPPING.

Sendak believed that the Lindbergh baby kidnapping very much affected his childhood, his work and his views on life in general. Though he was only 3.5 years old when the tragedy occurred in 1932, he says he vividly remembers the whole thing, including hearing Mrs. Lindbergh’s tearful voice pleading with the kidnappers via radio to rub camphor on her infant’s chest because she didn’t want his cold to get worse. “If that baby died, I had no chance. I was only a poor kid, okay? [When the Lindbergh baby was found dead,] I think something really fundamental died in me.”

8. SENDAK HATED EBOOKS.

Waiting for a sweet Where the Wild Things Are app for the iPad so your kids can explore the book in a new way? Don’t hold your breath. To say that Sendak disliked eBooks is an understatement: "F*** them is what I say; I hate those e-books. They cannot be the future ... they may well be. I will be dead, I won’t give a s***!”

9. HE NEVER CAME OUT TO HIS PARENTS.

Sendak never told his parents that he was gay. “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy,” he told The New York Times in 2008. “They never, never, never knew.” His partner of 50 years, Eugene Glynn, passed away in 2007.

This post originally appeared in 2011.

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