And now… Forty-seven years after my first wife and producer, Laara Dalen, scraped the funds together to make my first feature, it’s now available on Amazon Prime for a month, free of charge. Don’t miss this opportunity to watch a bit of Canadian film history return from the dead. It may be a zombie movie, but I’m told it’s getting a great audience response.
Also, thanks to the attention I got from Gold Ninja with the BlueRay limited edition release, and the Hollywood Suite broadcast license, I was contacted by David Voigt to be interviewed for his In The Seats podcast program. David was a great interviewer who asked interesting questions, and that made it easy for me to have fun and sound knowledgeable, almost like I was there. Please give it a listen and let me know what you think in the comments.
*of course this title is ironic. I don’t consider myself a genius, and if I did I sure as hell wouldn’t admit it. I got lucky, is all. But it is really validating to get attention after all these years. I’m sincerely grateful to Golden Ninja and Hollywood Suite for making this happen. It takes a bit of the sting out of being an old hasbeen. Now I’m going to sit back and wait for the telephone to start ringing again.**
**Also ironic. It ain’t gonna happen. My enemies have long memories.
You might wonder how powerful people get away with doing disgusting things, particularly things like sexually harassing less powerful people. Why don’t more people who know about their actions blow the whistle on them?
There’s an easy answer. Nobody wants to get involved. It’s an ugly, murky business, often characterized by only he said/she said evidence. And powerful people are powerful for a reason. They control who gets to work, earns a living, and has a career.
Shortly before the end of the last century I directed a couple of episodic TV shows on the west coast. Like most episodic shows, the budget was squeaky tight and the shooting schedule meant that the director’s shot list had to be scraped to the bone. Bringing the show in on time and on budget was the usual struggle against time and circumstances. This particular series helped the directors out by providing a second unit camera crew to pick up shots the director simply didn’t have time to set up. In this case the second unit camera was operated by a very attractive young woman. She was doing great work, and I was grateful for it.
“You’re saving my life here,” I told her. “I don’t know how I could get this show in the can without you.”
And then she was fired.
I heard that the producer said she was incompetent. That didn’t make any sense to me, but maybe there was something she shot that the producer didn’t like, or decided was a waste of money. Producers can be hard to please.
I heard from the camera crew that the producer had hit on her. She had turned him down flat. And then she was fired. That would explain a lot.
Some weeks later I got a phone call from the producer. She had gone to the union and lodged a complaint against him. “She’s saying that the great Zale Dalen told her that her work was saving his life,” he told me, his voice an audible sneer when he said my name.
The implication, of course, was that he wanted me to deny telling her that her work was valuable. A lot of emotions were running through my body and tightening my breathing at this point. Chief among them was that I didn’t like this guy. Possibly there was a bit of pride in his sarcastic suggestion that my name carried weight in the industry. Also there was a slight annoyance at the woman for dragging me into this situation. By this point in my career I had learn that pissing off a producer, even a low level West Coast episodic producer, could be career suicide.
Case in point: I went to an interview with a PBS producer in Seattle. He told me: “I hear you are hard to work with.” and I knew exactly where that had come from – a producer I worked with in Toronto, almost on the other side of the continent. The movie industry is a small club. Producer talk, and don’t mind exercising their power and influence by killing a job prospect for a director.
I remember sitting in a sushi bar with George Lazenby. He told me that Albert R. (Cubby) Broccoli wanted him to do another James Bond movie after starring in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and he had refused because “the producer made me feel mindless”. Cubby Broccoli told him he would never make another movie, and pretty much made it stick. “After the Bond argument nobody would touch me,” George told me. “Harry Saltzman had always said, ‘If you don’t do another Bond you’ll wind up doing spaghetti westerns in Italy. But I couldn’t even get one of those. My agent couldn’t believe it. But the word was out – I was ‘difficult’.”
Being difficult is the kiss of death for a director, unless you direct a huge money maker. Then being difficult is not only expected, it’s essential. A director is expected to have a vision and fight for it. But even so, one must be aware of power and influence. Phil Borsos had a good run after making “The Grey Fox”, but his career did a steep dive into the toilet after he pissed off the producer of “The Mean Season”, David Foster, a man with a list of major credits as long as your leg and an entrenched member of the Hollywood industry elite.
So, what could I do? I certainly wasn’t going to deny that I said what I said. I told the producer, listen, this isn’t my business. I don’t know what went on and I wasn’t there. But what I saw of her work looked good. If anybody asks me, I’ll say so.
I later heard that the young camera person settled, i.e. was bought off. And, predictably, she became known as “difficult”. Though I managed to hire her for one small project, I don’t think she got a lot of work after that. Another reason why I don’t like the film business. It’s full of assholes who trash careers out of spite.
Strangely enough, I also didn’t get any work from that producer after that.
It’s really encouraging that the “casting couch” has been sent to the landfill and abusers like Harvey Weinstein are getting what they deserve. But it’s still an industry that lives on gossip, word of mouth, and reputation. Becoming known as difficult is the kiss of death, and that will never change.
What will also never change is that there will always be ambitious young women, and men, willing to not “be difficult” when a career advance is dangled in front of them. So that confuses the situation. And such compliance is fraught with danger and disappointment. “Did you hear about the Polish actress?” a disgusting Hollywood joke that manages to be both sexist and racist (plus a reflection of the bitterness writers often feel as their work is butchered by producers and directors). “She fucked the writer.”
Damn but it’s an ugly business. Makes me sincerely glad my phone stopped ringing years ago.
For that matter, who are you? Someplace back in my distant past, possibly during my teen years, I came up with a theory about my identity. It goes like this: I am a combination of three things – what other people tell me I am, what I tell myself I am, and what I really am.
Each of these are unknowable. I can’t know completely what other people are telling me I am. So much of it goes into my subconscious unnoticed. So much of it is a result of the culture I was born into. So much remains unexamined no matter how much I navel gaze or submerge myself in introspection. So much is open to interpretation. It was only fairly recently that I discovered that being left handed caused the world to tell me that I’m an oddball, that I don’t fit in, that I’m a weirdo. This became part of who I am through constant comments about my left handedness, through the pause on the first day of school while the teacher searched for a left handed desk I could use. Of course this is all trivial. Still, it became part of my identity, of who I am.
Similarly, who I tell myself I am can never be completely known. I am constantly revising my description of myself, usually when I make a discovery that is at odds with what I tell myself I am. For example, I tell myself that I am an honest person. Yet I am constantly reminded of occasions when I was less than honest, or when I tried to avoid having others see the truth of what I am. Lately this has taken the form of not wanting my wife to catch me taking a late night chunk of chocolate. Doing so while pretending to watch my weight is dishonest. Again, trivial. But still an indication of a tendency to be dishonest.
Finally there is what I actually am, which is an amalgam of these three things, what other tell me I am, what I tell myself I am, and what I really am. All of which is so tangled together that it is impossible to know what I really am. I continually surprise myself, or how I will actually act in any real situation. Will I be the man I would like to be, a paragon of virtue and courage. Or would I be the sniveling coward or succumb to temptation. I never know until the situation happens to me.
I remember, years ago, discussing a scene with a very well known and accomplished character actor. I think it was Ed Nelson in an episode of J.J. Starbuck. In the scene he would play, he would be threatened with a gun. He had been in so many movies in which he was killed that he actually made of show reel of clips – being thrown out of an airplane, thrown off a building, shot with a hand gun, shot with a machine gun, hanged, burned alive, drowned. He also made a show reel of him committing homicide in as many and various ways. He told me that he had always wondered what he would actually do in a real life situation facing a man with a gun.
One day he found out. He was in his Malibu bedroom when he heard a noise from the ground floor. He came down the stairs to suddenly find himself facing a burglar pointing a gun at his head. He told me that he would never have guessed how he would really react in that situation. He had always assumed he would be movie hero cool, perhaps coming up with a James Bond quip. What he actually did, he said, was to go into immediate hyperventilation. He lost all control of his body. He couldn’t catch his breath. He was helpless. The robber pushed him into a chair and tied him up, then proceeded to collect anything in his home that had resale value.
I was delighted to hear this story from my actor, and asked him to play the scene exactly that way. That’s television that nobody has seen before. But of course the actor couldn’t do it. It was just too far from his TV and movie persona. Too far from what the audience would expect or accept.
End of Digression
So there you have it. Three things that make up an identity: what you are told you are, what you tell yourself you are, and what you really are. All unknowable. It’s what makes self discovery so endlessly intriguing.
This theory of identity lead me to a governing principle of my life. As Kurt Vonnegut put it, “You are what you pretend to be, so you better be careful what you pretend to be.” Very early in my life I decided that I wanted to change the composition of what I am, to reduce the percentage that came from what people tell me I am, and increase the percentage of what I tell myself I am.
I wanted to be more self-created, less a product of my environment and culture and more a person who is really a self made man.
I was telling people that I am a movie director a long time before I had managed to direct anything at all, let alone anything of significance. I kept this up long enough that the world started to agree with me. If you Google my name today you might learn that I am a Canadian movie director. It’s amazing. Now it’s not just me telling people that I’m a movie director. The world is also telling me that I’m a movie director.
Is this a proof of concept? It seems that way. But of course if I hadn’t had the directing success that I’ve had, admittedly far more limited that I would have hoped, saying that I’m a movie director would just make me delusional. Maybe it takes a touch of madness to create yourself. I think I can lay claim to that too.
The big dipper is the only constellation I can recognize. Okay, sometimes I think I recognize Orion’s Belt. But the Big Dipper is unmistakable.
It was my father who showed me the Big Dipper. We were walking on the family farm on a warm summer evening and I had my son, a toddler at the time, on my shoulders. It was a clear night and the Big Dipper was very obvious. Dad talked about how you would learn to recognize it even when only part of it was visible. I’m sure he was thinking of the big sky in Saskatchewan of his childhood.
Since then there have been several occasions when I was anxious or under stress or depressed. And somehow the Big Dipper would show up in the sky.
I remember one occasion when I was alone at the wheel of a rather large ship, the Wawanesa, an old wooden fish packer and former rum runner with half the ribs removed to lighten it for races against the coast guard patrols. It was the end of the fishing season and the crew were celebrating and not much help with navigation. Standing at the four foot tall wooden wheel with the chain link to the rudder, I was feeling the stress and responsibility of piloting down from Prince Rupert through the inside passage. And there was the Big Dipper. It felt like my father was with me, a great comfort. Foolish, but there you have it.
To be clear, I am the last person to harbour woo beliefs. But confirmation bias is hard to avoid, eh.
Karma is hard to disbelieve. It seems so obviously true. Of all the irrational mystical, religious, and superstitious beliefs, it’s the one most susceptible confirmation bias. Karma loves to arrive with a good dose of irony. Karma seems to have a sense of humour. Karma begs us to be smug. Like believing that bad people will go to hell and good people go to heaven, karma is comforting. A belief in karma is hard to shake. Nevertheless, I don’t believe. At least not on the rational level. On the emotional level, that’s another issue entirely.
Take the situation with my sisters second, or was it her third, husband. Let’s call him Joe because that was his name. He was abusive toward my sister, and was sexually molesting their daughter, according to my mother who had an instinct for such things. My father tried to intervene during an incident with my sister. Joe knocked my father down and kicked him in the small of his back, right above the kidneys.
My father never had another comfortable night in a bed, but spent his nights in a Lazyboy chair. At least he did until the cancer gave him access to morphine. And then he died.
Joe walked about town with a bible under his arm, proudly proclaiming that he was born again. Butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. And then he also died – of a kidney infection that caused him excruciating pain in exactly the spot on his back where he had kicked my father.
Here’s the thing: HE DIED ON MY MOTHER’S BIRTHDAY.
Now that is karma writ large. How could I not believe in karma with an example like that in my own life.
And yet I stubbornly refuse to believe. It’s just a wonderful coincidence. And that’s all.
While I was in China I regularly published a blog, aptly titled “The Man in China“, which to this day can be found at www.themaninchina.com. It was widely read by my students, who were generally an intensely nationalistic bunch after absorbing government propaganda through their formative years, and often caused some pushback when my opinions were not in line with official policy. For example, I was sternly corrected by several students when I stated the land area of China without including the area of Taiwan. But generally I was allowed to give my personal opinions without any censorship from the administration. I only removed something once, when some nameless prude complained to the administration about the picture I posted of kissing my wife on the big Ferris wheel (Actually, to be clear, I kissed her on the mouth while we rode on the big Ferris wheel). I wasn’t told I had to remove that picture, but they did tell me about the complaint and I removed it because I did not want to fight over such a trivial issue. I also got a visit from the head of our department when I posted my opinion that China could score propaganda points by allowing a dissident, Liu Xiaobo, to accept his Nobel Peace Prize, rather than getting in a huff and trying to suppress the news. To keep the peace, I offered to take the post down if the administration was unhappy with it, but was told that the post could remain up, since it was clearly my personal opinion.
But to get to the point of this post, my best, and most successful (ever) April Fools Day joke was when I posted that Canada and China, after a series of top secret meetings by government officials of both nations, had agreed to merge the two countries to form the largest country in the world, a country to be known as Da Zhong Guo (Big China) in Chinese and Canadada (da in Chinese means big) in English. The advantages to both countries were obvious. China would get improved access to Canada’s immense natural resources and badly needed living space. Canada would gain access to the huge Chinese domestic market for Canadian resources, goods, and products. Win win all over the place.
What made this parody post so successful was that some of my students believed it, and told their fellow students about it with great excitement. More or less the definition of a successful parody. Also, for my students, an example of Poe’s Law, a parody that mirrors society so perfectly that one can’t decide whether or not it’s real or “fake news”.
I saw it as part of my job to make my students just a little more suspicious about news reports. Of course my students were far smarter, and less gullible or naive, than I thought. This was brought home to me when I learned about the Wu Mao Dang, or Fifty Cent Club, which allegedly paid Chinese students fifty cents to counter social media statements critical of the Chinese administration. A social media thread sequence often went like this: a social media post would criticize the government, followed on the same thread by a post supporting the government, followed on the same thread by a post proclaiming “Here comes the wu mao dang again.” My students were no dummies. The brightest people in China, as a matter of fact, despite their indoctrination.
By the way, I recently learned that one of my favorite poems, “You are Old Father William” by Lewis Carroll, one of the very few poems I can recite accurately even when in my cups (Especially when in my cups?), a poem I love for it’s wonderful rhymes, such as rhyming “suet” with “do it”, is in fact a parody of a rather sanctimonious didactic poem by Robert Southey which has been justifiably forgotten, “The old Man’s Comforts and How He Gained Them”
Amazing what one can learn by following Wikipedia links. I do love the Internet. I’m so grateful to have lived long enough to experience it, while remembering the drudgery of researching in the libraries of my youth.
To get back on track with this post, I can see an argument for limiting the free speech protection for parody. How is parody different from fake news? Can a person publish any disinformation they want if they merely insists, with no indication in the material published, that it was just a joke. A thorny question indeed.
I recall Sasha Fox’s mother telling me about how people behaved during the war, meaning during WWII. How there was a general devil may care attitude toward life and behavior, how a man she was walking with stepped into a pond without bothering to take off his shoes or roll up his pants, in a demonstration of how little he gave a fuck about anything. That is an attitude toward life that I admire, applaud, and to a certain extent, try to emulate. Because, really, when we come right down to it, how much does anything matter. Not giving a fuck can be a super power. Such an attitude can get you out of a jam, as it did for Don Scagel when the beer was dripping off the headliner of the VW and the cop was approaching. Such an attitude can also be wildly entertaining for bystanders, if not for those directly affected.
John Board was the first AD on “The Grey Fox” and, I think, wore several hats during that production. After the wrap on the final day of shooting, he took the cast and crew out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. When it came time to pay the tab, John presented the waiter with a thousand dollar bill. The waiter looked at it in shock, likely having never seen one before.
“I can’t take that,” he stammered.
“Well if I can’t spend it,” John responded, “What the fuck good is it,” as he crumpled up the bill and threw it across the room full of diners, causing a mad scramble by the waiter to retrieve it.
John was my first A.D. on “The Hounds of Notre Dame”, my second feature film. As an assistant director he was amazingly supportive, very high energy, full of opinions and helpful ideas. We became very close after working together on that film, and I often stayed at his home in Toronto when I was in that city. I ended up writing a script based on his recollections of his father’s final days, but like so many of the movies I tried to get off the ground we failed to find any support for that project.
John definitely had his moments of not giving a fuck. Sadly, in the end, it was just about the only thing I admired about him. He was a firm believer in astrology, and no matter what logical arguments I presented to him, he could not be moved in his belief. He also was firm believer in homeopathy and put together a selection of “remedies” he marketed as the “The Hollywood Survival Kit”. Again, no appeal to logic could shake his belief and promotion of that dangerous fraudulent nonsense. He’s gone now, and I suppose I should be more generous toward his memory. But all I felt when he died was relief. The bullshit was finally going to stop.
When I was a child, my father would tell us a riddle. Or, since he would give us the answer, maybe it was a joke.
Riddle: Why is a mouse when it spins?
Answer: The higher the few.
Of course this strange grammar made no sense to us children. Why is not a question one can ask of a spinning mouse. My father claimed that this was a hilarious joke, and when we got it we would laugh for days. Of course that never happened.
Some years after my father died, I discovered that the spinning balls on a steam engine or steam tractor were colloquially called “the mouse”. They regulated the engine’s speed, and the higher their speed, the further out centrifugal force pulled them and the slower the engine turned. So the higher the mouse balls rose, the fewer revolutions of the engine, or, in the words of the joke, “the higher the few”.
It still wasn’t good grammar, but maybe that was part of the joke. Maybe. I don’t know, and my father is long gone now so I can’t ask him. It was so like my father to never give the joke away. Or maybe he never knew. Or maybe that isn’t the joke.
People seem passionate about social positions that have nothing to do with their own lives. A perfect example is a man beyond procreation age taking a passionate position against abortion. I suppose you could argue that a potential grandparent has an interest in whether his daughter bears a child, but that seems to be a thin argument to me. For myself, I don’t believe that any man has a right to an anti-abortion position of any kind. That is one hundred percent a women’s issue. They are the ones with the bodies that will be be affected. We don’t have a dog in that fight.
There is one social issue that I do feel entitled to sound off about, and that is Medical Assistance in Dying, or MAID. I have metastasized prostate cancer. I have registered for MAID.* In theory, a phone call to Dr. F_____ will trigger a sequence of events – organizing nursing assistance and procuring the necessary drugs – that will take about three days and result in a team showing up at a place of my choosing to kill me. Should it go that way, it will be a pleasant and painless death, very much like the one we just purchased for our beloved GouGou after almost sixteen years as a member of our family.
It’s been a long and hard battle to gain this right in Canada, and I’m grateful for it. I very much do have a dog in that fight. I have watched several cancer victims die. Horrible deaths. Death that we would not inflict on an animal. I really see no point in going through that disgusting and undignified process myself, reduced to utter dependence and kept alive by medical interventions far beyond the point when the party is over and it’s time to leave.
So I consider our current laws on medically assisted death a sign of social maturity. I’m grateful for the change from previous legislation, mostly because I am likely to benefit from it. Still, I don’t think we got it quite right.
This morning I learned that several states in the U.S. allow doctors to prescribe drugs fully intended to painlessly kill their patient, but are forbidden from administering those drugs themselves. Now that’s an idea that I like. There’s something wrong with doctors administering drugs intended to kill. From a comment she made to me (“As long as nobody calls me a murderer.” -Dr. F___) while discussing her agreement to terminate my life, I’m pretty sure that Dr. F____ is not completely comfortable with taking on that roll. I’m sincerely grateful that she is willing to do it for me. But her direct assistance is not at all necessary. Give me the means to go quietly, at my own time, and leave the rest up to me. That’s what I would really like.
What the hell is wrong with that?
*Before you leap to the assumption that my death is imminent, please calm down. My death may be years away, and it’s very likely that I will die of something else, like old age, before the cancer gets me. My oncologist tells me that the situation with prostate cancer reminds him of the early days in his career when he worked at a hospital treating AIDS patients. Back then, AIDS was a death sentence, a guaranteed terminal disease. Today, after decades of research, AIDS is a chronic disease that can’t be cured, but a person with HIV or even full blown AIDS may live for decades. So it is now with prostate cancer. I’m definitely in decline, but I look good on paper. My PSA, (Prostate Specific Antigen, an indication of tumor activity) level is decimals below one and it could be years before you can mourn or rejoice in my death.
Being left handed has had a profound affect on my comfort in social situations, an affect perhaps equal to starting school at the age of five instead of the usual six, which meant that I was constantly comparing my abilities to children often a year or more older than I was. Sometimes these influences worked in tandem. I’ve only recently come to understand them.
I started school a year or two after converting left handed writers to right handed went out of fashion. So I was allowed to use my natural, preferred hand to write with. I suppose this was considered a kindness, but like many well intentioned educational changes, it had unintended consequences for me. Desks were designed to be right handed. Such desks were entered on the left side. Support for the right arm was provided on the right side, which widened to form the writing surface. Each of my first school classes began with a search for a left handed desk for me to use. This, along with constant remarks on my left handedness, caused me to feel that I was somehow different from the other students, somehow unusual, somebody who didn’t really fit in.
This was brought home to me a few years ago. We had purchased a telephone desk that sat by the door. It had a seat and a seat on the right on the side, with the table for the telephone on the left, situated so that it was natural to pick up the receiver with the left hand, leaving the right hand free for writing notes. It was very awkward to pick up the receiver with the right hand so one could write with the left. I was sitting at this desk one day with the phone in my left hand, and began casually doodling with my rright hand on the note paper we kept beside the phone. I started writing cursive letters, and realized how easy it would have been to learn to write right handed since I can do most things easily with either hand. (Technically I am ambidextrous, not mixed-handed, since I do everything with my left hand unless I was trained to do it with my right: mixed-handed people use the right hand for some things and the left for others, whereas the ambidextrous can use both hands equally well for most tasks. I learned to roll a coin across my right knuckles because the script required me to teach this trick to a right handed actor. Now I can do that with some facility, but it would take hours of practice to learn to do it with my left hand.) The realization that I could easily have been converted to writing with my right hand hit me with an emotional rush, almost bringing me to tears. The thought that came to my mind was “And then I’d be normal”. Until that moment, I had no idea how abnormal being left handed made me feel. Explains a lot.
I suppose I should be grateful that the social prejudice against left handed people is pretty much a thing of the past. In the middle ages, when lefties were referred to with such pejoratives as “cack handed” (shit handed) or “sinister” and assumed to be allies of the devil, the unfortunate lefties were often driven from their villages by the taunts and slurs of the ignorant bastards they had to live with.
This caused my favourite, and most ironic, result. Left handers became the traveling minstrels and entertainers, moving from village to village performing and bringing the news. They are the ones who developed virtually all of the stringed instruments – violins, guitars, mandolins, lutes, and all the rest. Now, if you think about those instruments, the left hand does almost all of the heavy lifting, the fingering of notes, stretching to make chords and, in the case of fretless instruments, developing perfection of intonation and vibratto. It’s only after the performer has developed considerable sophistication that the right hand does more than strum or saw across the strings with a bow, easy tasks compared to what the left hand must learn.
Right handers naturally assume that all these instruments are right handed, since almost everything else in this world was designed for their use. But no. The stringed instruments are naturally left handed. Many left handed but essentially ambidextrous people have been convinced that they need to reverse the strings on a guitar or violin to learn to play it. Not true and so sad.
I play guitar, mandolin, banjo and violin the way they were designed to be played – left handed. It’s the right handed musicians who should be reversing the strings. The jokes on them, eh.
So, being left handed made me feel like a misfit, weirdo, oddball in school. But now that I’m an adult, how do I feel about it? Mostly I couldn’t care less. Aside from my wife wanting to sit on my right side at a dinner table, or taking care to seat me on a corner when we dine with others, it really isn’t an issue in my life. I once owned a left handed can opener, and had one heck of a time trying to figure out how to use it, just like my right handed friends. Since I’d never held a left handed bolt action rifle, I recently bought one out of curiosity, a left handed Savage 300 Winmag. Worst gun I’ve ever owned (for me). Kicks like a bastard, and the knob on the bolt tends to bash into the knuckle of my trigger finger if I’m not careful. I never resorted to handling a right handed bolt action rifle the way the sniper in “Saving Private Ryan” did, so such rifles never gave me any trouble.
Apparently being left handed is associated with creativity and a greater ability to visualize in three dimensions, which fits. Recent studies show more lefties in the arts, and among architects. Lefties also have %15 greater lifetime earnings than the right handed. But these are just statistical averages and don’t mean much at an individual level.
I’ve come to accept that there is no such thing as normal. If being left handed messed up my childhood, it hasn’t messed up my life. Being proud of being left handed is as silly as being proud of being white, or tall, just another accident of birth. I’m proud of accomplishments, not of things I had nothing to do with.
UPDATE: I am now ready to reconsider my theory that all stringed instruments are left handed, having recently become acquainted with the lyre harp, one of the earliest and simplest stringed instruments which probably predates the guitar and most certainly predates the violin.
The lyre harp in one of its simplest forms, with no resonator chamber.
The lyre harp is held by the left hand and the strings are plucked with the right. So in that case, the right hand is doing all the work and the left is doing nothing but holding the instrument.
I can see how the lute, guitar, mandolin, and eventually the violin could have evolved from this instrument, with the expectation that the right hand would pluck the strings. It might have been an afterthought that eventually gave the left hand more to do, to the extent that the left gradually assumed the more difficult role.
Well, it was a good theory. The jury is still out. Whatever the origin of the instruments, switching guitar strings for a left handed player still makes no sense at all.