Monday, August 6, 2012

DOG DAYS

One heat wave after another punctured by a drop into the 70s, all this accompanied by the late day thunder storm; some of petrifying magnitude. Thus the summer doldrums manifests itself over our thought processes. Originality of ideas gives way to routine boilerplate. The Dog Days are with us.

Anybody who ever had an old-hound dog for a pet and in the summer watched him sleeping in the shade to conserve energy has some idea of the dog days.

Those of us who antedate the Baby Boomers and themselves still wonder how we survived July and August. But somehow without air conditioning we managed. Of course the movie houses were a place of relief since they in the early depression days installed cooling systems.

The first one in Plainfield was the Liberty Theater which boasted of its “Refrigeration” interior. Of course the Liberty was ahead of the other three Reid theaters being the first to play ‘sound movies” using the  Videophone system which consisted of records that were suppose to be played synchronized with the picture. It was later that the sound track was incorporated into the film.

But whence came the term “Dog Days”?

The earliest reference probably was in early Egypt when the star we call Sirius appeared just before the season of the Nile's flooding, so they used the star as a "watchdog" for that event. Since its rising also coincided with a time of extreme heat, the connection with hot, sultry weather was made for all time:

It was the Romans who referred to the dog days as dies caniculares and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the "Dog Star" because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). Sirius is also the brightest star in the night sky.

The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as sunrise, which is no longer true, owing to precession of the equinoxes. The Romans sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.

In Ancient Rome, the Dog Days ran from July 24th through August 24th, In many European cultures (German, French, Italian) this period is still said to be the time of the Dog Days. The Old Farmer's Almanac  lists the traditional period of the Dog Days as the 40 days beginning July 3rd and ending August 11th, coinciding with the ancient heliacal (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. These are the days of the year with the least rainfall in the Northern Hemisphere.

There are some who insist that the ‘Dog Days” do not end until about September 5th.  This is supposedly noted in the lectionary of the 1611 edition of the King James Bible  which indicates the Dog Days beginning on July 6th and ending on September 5th

The “Dog Days have been feared from ancient times as a period of increased criminal especially violent activity. Time will tell if this will be one of those years.

3 comments:

  1. In my days growing up in NYC during the depression--the 1930s and 1940s--the only places that were air-conditioned during the summer were department stores and movie theaters. Movies were cheap, and we didn't have money to spend in department stores, so we went to the movies on these hot summer afternoons. Oh yes, and in those days every movie theater showed a double feature plus a newsreel and a cartoon. I still remember seeing the first pictures of one of the Nazi concentration camps in a newsreel. Some sixty years later it is still a vivid memory. Perhaps that explains why I was teaching about the Holocaust to my students during my days as a college professor (the 1960s and 1970s) before it became widely taught elsewhere.

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  2. ARE YOU SURE THE DOG DAYS DO NOT REFER TO THE PHILLIES FROM 1951 TO 1979 WHEN THE DOGS WERE DEAD BY DOGS?

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  3. Bob, the Phillies also have had their glory years. You should feel sorry for a dedicated BROOKLYN DODGER/Mets fan who always waits till next year.

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