Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Days of Summer

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer

- Nat King Cole

Summer will be here in a couple of days, at least it will be in the Southern hemisphere. If Spring is anything to go by, it will be a hot one. Some Summer trivia . . .

The phrase dog days refers to the sultry days of summer. In the Northern Hemisphere, the dog days of summer are most commonly experienced in the months of July and August, which typically observe the hottest summer temperatures. In the Southern Hemisphere, they typically occur in January and February, in the midst of the austral summer. 

The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs 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 term "Dog Days" was used earlier by the Greeks. The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as the sun. 

The Romans sacrificed a red dog in April to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather. Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies." according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813

Mosquitoes, summer's pest, have been around for more than 30 million years.

Summers spent throwing a Frisbee back and forth owe their game to a pie maker.

Originally called Pluto Platter and Wham-O, they were additionally called Frisbees after the Wham-O founder Richard Knerr learned that college students were calling it that, the term "Frisbee" coming from the name of the Bridgeport Connecticut pie manufacturer the Frisbie Pie Company. That company had been formed in 1871 by William Frisbie. Schoolchildren, having discovered that the inverted pie trays were aerodynamically great for tossing and aiming threw the pie plates around and yelled "Frisbie" so they wouldn't get hit by the spinning tins. The game the children played made its way to nearby college campuses where college students took it up as well. The name was changed to Frisbee when used for the Wham-O to avoid copyright infringement.

Women’s Bathing Suits through the ages:

"Bikini girls" mosaic found by archaeological excavation of the ancient Roman villa near Piazza Armerina in Sicily

bathing 1
"Mermaids at Brighton" by William Heath (1795 - 1840), c. 1829.
Note that wagons transported the women into the water for maximum decency.

Bathing Suit 1858

In 1907, a scandal erupted when Australian swimmer, Annette Kellerman, the first woman to swim across the English Channel, was arrested in Boston for wearing a form-fitting, one-piece suit. Her form-fitting suit paved the way for a new kind of one-piece, and over the next couple decades, as swimming became an even more popular leisure-time activity, beach goers saw more arms, legs, and necks than ever before.

Seven female swimmers at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., 1920

In 1915, Jantzen, a small knittery in Portland, broke new ground by making a “swimming suit” from wool and officially coining the term six years later. Not long after, the company introduced its “Red Diving Girl” logo that was just risqué enough for the time to embody a specific point of view from the Roaring 20s. The Red Diving Girl became an enormously popular image and turned Jantzen into a powerhouse by commercializing femininity at the water’s edge.

Jantzen’s diver was puritan in comparison to what French engineer Louis Réard first called the bikini in 1946. As the story goes, Réard chose the name because of recent atomic tests at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. His idea was that this new suit would have the same explosive effect as splitting the atom did on its island namesake. 

Micheline Bernadini modeling Réard's bikini. It was so small it could fit into a small 2 by 2 inches (51 by 51 mm) box like the one she is holding. July 5, 1946

At first the effect was too explosive. It took some time to catch on but eventually the bikini was all over the beaches, and popular culture. By the 1960s, even Annette Funicello, onetime darling of the Mickey Mouse Club, wore a two piece swimsuit on the screen.

More recent developments include the thong:

(sorry to disappoint the male readers)

..and the burqini for modesty, particularly for followers of Islam and for health by protection from the sun:

but not all swimwear innovations have caught on:

The summer solstice occurs once a year in Australia in December when the Sun's track across the Australian sky reaches its highest point. It is the day that has the most daylight hours of any in the year. The summer solstice usually occurs on 21 December; the winter solstice is the day of the year that has the least daylight hours of any in the year and usually occurs on 21 June.

Neo Druids, New Agers and Neo Pagans like to celebrate the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge on 21 June each year.
A druid recites an incantation during the winter solstice at Stonehenge on Salisbury plain in southern England December 22, 2010.

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