In which Jason is joined by Atlanta writer Chris Hassiotis for a review of the trailer for Season 2 of Game of Thrones.
J: According to Wikipedia, Mark Twain was born during a visit by Halley’s Comet, and predicted that he would “go out with it” as well. Slow down, Mark Twain. You can’t just tell a comet what to do.
This isn’t caveman times. With the cavemen dragging women around by their hair. Or in this case, comets around by their tails. Good luck, cavemen. Now your hands are on fire. This is probably why there aren’t any half-human half-comets walking around in modern times. Because our cavemen ancestors were unable to drag comets back to their caves. And they were unable to get regular women with their charred stump hands. I hope it was enough that you tried to tame the sky, cavemen. Sometimes the things we do for love (lust?) leave us more alone than when we started.
Actually, it turns out that Mark Twain died the day following the comet’s subsequent return, so I guess he’s the boss of comets after all.
C: Let’s comet as we see it—a fiery ball of ice in a vacuum is nothing to mess with. So yeah, Twain was born when Halley’s visited. Halley’s also visited Earth on April 1, in the year 374. “Game of Thrones” comes back to HBO on April 1, 2012. I probably won’t watch the second season—I haven’t seen the first one yet. But I did see the comet Hale-Bopp (you know, the Nike-sneakers-mass-suicide cult one) when it passed over its perihelion on April 1, 1997. The perihelion is the point when the comet is closest to the sun. The sun, incidentally, is worshipped by some Hindus on the same day as the celebration of Prince Rama’s birth. That festival day, called Rama Navami, falls this year on April 1.
So basically this is all to say: since we’re talking about April 1, do you know about the Swiss Spaghetti Tree Hoax of 1957? The BBC news show Panorama broadcast an April Fool’s story about how families in southern Switzerland grew spaghetti on trees to harvest. A good number of Brits called the BBC to inquire about growing their own spaghetti trees; it’s hard to imagine that only half a century ago our knowledge of foods was so provincial.
J: To be fair, the people of England were having a huge “Lady and the Tramp” problem in 1957. Half of their trees were filled with dogs who were ladies and the other half were filled with dogs who were tramps. And the British people were like, “Ugh. How are we going to get these dogs together, romantically?” Getting upper-class dogs to fall in love with dogs from the wrong side of the tracks was very important to British people back then.
The obvious solution was to get the lady dogs and the tramp dogs to fall in love, via some kind of pasta delivery system. That way, they’d vacate the trees and the citizens of England could once again have a place to hang their Doctor Who Christmas ornaments and origami shaped like The Queen.
The British Minister of Pasta and Dog Relationships signed a stopgap measure to import seven tons of spaghetti from Italy every day, but a more permanent solution was needed. Then the famous Panorama episode was broadcast and England rejoiced. Finally, a way to grow our own Swiss Spaghetti Trees and get these goddam wealthy dogs and ne’er-do-well dogs to just have sex already!
But it was revealed to be a hoax, and the traditional Japanese art of paper folding fell out of fashion. Eventually the dogs themselves just fell out of the trees on their own, because they are dogs, and have no place in the treetops.
The British Minister of Pasta and Dog Relationships went on to become Ringo Starr. Later, he revealed his abandoned Swiss Spaghetti Tree plans to Ed Sullivan, who privately funded his own spaghetti tree research, but was only able to produce a Ficus tree that blooms Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.
C: So according to the Online Etymology Dictionary—which has a winged lion holding a shield? quiver of arrows? birthday cake? as a mascot, saying to me “supremely trustworthy”—the English term “hoax” is probably an alteration of the word “hocus,” which in the 1630s meant “conjurer” or “juggler.” Like I said earlier, I’m still not up on this “Game of Thrones” business. I tell myself I’ll wait for the books to wrap up first, and maybe I’ll read ‘em. I gather this may take years. And I gather that Peter Dinklage is pretty spectacular in the series. But yeah, he’s Peter Dinklage. And does he play a juggler? I ask this only because he’s small, and that seems like the sort of thing he would play in a show set in a fictional Middle Ages. Is it set in the fictional 1630s?
A few years before then, the (very not-fictional-at-all) Elizabethan satirist Thomas Nashe wrote a pamphlet called Pierce Pennilesse, His Supplication to the Devil. In it he outlines the “eight kindes of drunkennes.” Me, I might tend towards the “mawdlen drunke,” the “goate drunke” or the “swine drunke,” depending on the night. But Dinklage, I bet he’s “fox drunk.” Craftie, y’know?
And: Hocus-pocus! Do you know the etymology of the term Dinklage? It actually has to do with the tail of a comet. It was coined in 1531, 60 years before Nashe wrote Pierce Pennilesse. A noted astronomer observed one night that particles trailed the comet’s core. He was sheepe drunke, however, and when trying to describe it to a bartender could only blurt out the words “sem sort ay bryte dinklage baehind et” before passing out. That bartender? Thomas Nashe’s grandfather Ben Nashe. Hocus-pocus!