Remember that ticked-off world traveler – carrying his squash racquet, of course -- doing a double-take at the airport commercial?
“So easy a caveman can do it?”
That got his attention.
The terms blur in modern usage, but either way, the passenger takes exception to his ancestors being used in a derogatory fashion.
And he has a point.
A lot of contemporary “humans” carry vestiges of Neanderthal genes, from quickie hookups back in the day. The more I read about Neanderthals, the more I think this is something to brag about. Some people have the random 1 percent – meaning they are descendants of a race that ran in family packs, began to use some of the world’s natural goods, was able to improvise. (Friend of ours has a smidgen of Neanderthal, DNA -- and that lady is a lawyer.)
The latest discovery of Neanderthal accomplishment was by scientists who found sharpened shells in ancient ponds in Italy, meaning Neanderthals were able to dive in water over their heads, and fashion shells into cutting tools and spears for hunting.
The research was written up in the Times in this week’s Tuesday Science Section, although the essence had already been posted on the Web:
I have been fascinated by Neanderthals since I read the article by Carl Zimmer in the NYT Magazine in February of 2018, describing the talents and range of Neanderthals before they ran out of space and time, losing out to vastly superior homo sapiens.
As a journalist, I was hooked by Zimmer’s lead:
"It’s long been an insult to be called a Neanderthal. But the more these elusive, vanished people have been studied, the more respect they’ve gained among scientists."
That NYT article prompted me to read “Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past,” by David Reich. (Pantheon.) Here I learned about the species called Denisovans.
A Google search revealed a trove of contemporary forensic constructions of Neanderthals, many of them looking like faces you could see around the world.
As for the irate dude with the squash racquet, he has made a recent comeback in other Geico commercials, still feeling slighted by modern society, where superior homo sapiens can learn and remember and reason. (Wonder what he thinks, watching the impeachment “trial.”)
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(The music on the commercial: "Remind Me," by the very modern Norwegian duo, Royksopp.)
More and More, I Talk to the Dead--Margaret Renkl
NASHVILLE — After my mother died so suddenly — laughing at a rerun of “JAG” at 10 p.m., dying of a hemorrhagic stroke by dawn — I dreamed about her night after night. In every dream she was willfully, outrageously alive, unaware of the grief her death had caused. In every dream relief poured through me like a flash flood. Oh, thank God!
Then I would wake into keening grief all over again.
Years earlier, when my father learned he had advanced esophageal cancer, his doctor told him he had perhaps six months to live. He lived far longer than that, though I never thought of it as “living” once I learned how little time he really had. For six months my father was dying, and then he kept dying for two years more. I was still working and raising a family, but running beneath the thin soil of my own life was a river of death. My father’s dying governed my days.
After he died, I wept and kept weeping, but I rarely dreamed about my father the way I would dream about my mother nearly a decade later. Even in the midst of calamitous grief, I understood the difference: My father’s long illness had given me time to work death into the daily patterns of my life. My mother’s sudden death had obliterated any illusion that daily patterns are trustworthy.
Years have passed now, and it’s the ordinariness of grief itself that governs my days. The very air around me thrums with absence. I grieve the beloved high-school teacher I lost the summer after graduation and the beloved college professor who was my friend for more than two decades. I grieve the father I lost nearly 20 years ago and the father-in-law I lost during the pandemic. I grieve the great-grandmother who died my junior year of college and the grandmother who lived until I was deep into my 40s.
Some of those I grieve are people I didn’t even know. How can John Prine be gone? I hear his haunting last song, “I Remember Everything,” and I still can’t quite believe that John Prine is gone.
Jan. 30, 2023