Monday, August 10, 2015

Orion and Al Pacino

Dog Day Afternoon - the archetypal movie of the 1970s.  What does it have to do with Orion, the archetypal hunter of 1070 BC?
Dog days, that's what.
Those crazy, stinking, sultry, too-hot-to-move, too-humid-to-breathe days in July and August when you just want to throw yourself at an iceberg and marry it; when living in New York or Chicago or Rome is its own special kind of Heck on Earth, and the entire world seems to smell of garbage bags that haven't been picked up yet.
They're called dog days for a reason - they coincide with the rising of Sirius, the "dog star," the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major ("Big Dog," for you il-Latinates). Canis Major is the dog that accompanies the constellation of Orion, the Hunter.
People have been making the connection between Sirius and nasty weather at least since Homer and The Iliad:

Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion's Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity.
[The Iliad, 22:33-37, Lombardo translation]

Heat, pestilence, and madness. The old newspaper reporters'  "silly season," indeed. So let's be careful out there!

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