Hit & Run: Let your finger do the talking

The dig to the ribs by the guy next to her told Rose Schlossberg her great uncle's funeral procession probably wasn't the best place to be seen giving someone the finger.

Footage shot during the ceremonies to commemorate Senator Edward Kennedy appears to show JFK's granddaughter raising a middle digit. It's not clear what provoked Schlossberg, 21, but the Harvard graduate joins a long line of pissed-off people who have raised eyebrows by "flipping the bird".

For rock stars or inebriated pop starlets, offering the universal and unequivocal signal (usually to the paparazzi) is no big deal but, in the wrong hands, the "one-finger victory salute", as George W Bush once called it, has the power to shock as well as embarrass. Bush gave the "salute" defence when he realised the cameras were rolling as the then Texas Governor flipped the bird at an aide (in jest, judging by his smile) before an interview. The clip emerged during Bush's presidency and provided ammunition for critics portraying him as a smirking frat boy.

As likely to be seen on the football terraces as in the Kennedy cortege, "the finger" has a remarkable ability to penetrate all levels of society. During a 1976 political rally, the then Vice President Nelson Rockefeller was photographed thrusting a particularly turgid finger at anti-Vietnam hecklers. Meanwhile in 2007, the Czech Prime Minster, Mirek Topolánek, had some explaining to do after he, too, was caught making a deposit at the finger bank – in Parliament.

Anthropologists have offered various histories of "the finger". Some authorities take the Freudian view that the raised finger is a phallic-aggressive gesture that predates Homo sapiens. More recently, there are records of raised fingers in Ancient Greece, and the Romans used a digitus impudicus (impudent finger) in much the same way we do. It does not, as countless websites attest, date back to the Battle of Agincourt, where British archers supposedly raised one or two digits at the French, who had threatened to cut off their bow fingers.

So if Schlossberg is compelled to explain herself, she can claim she is in the company of Roman emperors (Caesar is said to have dismissed entertainers with a wave of his middle finger), that she was satisfying a primal urge, or that she was being friendly; the Schlossberg-Kennedys have their home on Manhattan, where "the bird" is also known as the "New York hello". Simon Usborne

Marriage of convenience – and office essentials

As a way of raising the funds for starting a new business, it certainly beats having to plead your case in front of the bank manager. A Silicon Valley couple have decided to use their wedding as an opportunity to get their start-up off their ground, by asking their guests to forgo the usual wedding gifts – china, silverware, and a blender no-one will use – and instead donate money to the newlyweds.

Thankfully, Drue Kataoka and Svetlozar Kazanjiev, from Palo Alto in California, didn't abandon romance completely by demanding cash straight-up. Instead, their unusual wedding list consists of various items their new company, Aboomba, requires, together with a partnering price which well-wishers can then donate via PayPal. Therefore, guests are able to contribute the cost of their utility bills for a month ($53) or give them the money for a copy of Microsoft Office Professional Edition ($205.17).

They could also gift the rate for renting a friend's garage for a month ($250), or buying coffee for a week for a team of five (the price of this varies, depending on whether it comes from Starbucks or the slightly more expensive Peet's). Intriguingly the couple – who were married on Saturday at Stanford University – have not released any details regarding the company itself, although they say it won't be launched for several months. It's sure to be a success, though, with these keen business minds behind it. Toby Green

The Force will be with you... if you remember the batteries

Welcome, young Jedi. Today's lesson will be learning to control the power of the Force using only your mind. Oh, and a slightly dorky-looking headset plus a plastic tube with a ball in it. Confused? A Jedi is never confused. You see, these tools make up the 'Star Wars Force Trainer' (£99.95, Firebox.com), a kit that gives would-be Yodas the ability to make a polystyrene ball float using the power of the mind (EEG sensor technology it has). Hit & Run has spent some time trying to master the Force's secrets using it, but must confess that it didn't realise that the universe's metaphysical and ubiquitous power needed quite so many batteries to get going. Adventure, excitement, a Jedi craves not these things. But a packet of AAs would be nice. Rebecca Armstrong

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